"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."


~C.S. Lewis




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In which I prepare to run away from an Austrian shopkeeper

They don't yell at you here.

Yesterday I was walking in the Old City in Innsbruck, Austria, shopping by myself, browsing through the dozens of tourist shops with their mini cow-bell keychains and Edelweiss jewelry. In Israel, that would have been a problem waiting to happen: the Old City. Narrow street. A young woman. By myself. Obviously a tourist. Going into a shop, of all the scandalous things.

The first store I walked into in Innsbruck, there was a man about my age at the counter, and all my Israel instincts went off -- as soon as he opened his mouth, I cringed and unconsciously prepared to fend him off and flee back out into the street while he shouted after me waving some scarf or souvenir asking whether I was single, if I wanted anything, how much could I afford, wasn't this scarf lovely, where was I from, how beautiful I was (and did I want some coffee?), how he had the best prices in town, and would I please come back.

As I mentally prepared for this, the Austrian shopkeeper looked at me calmly and said something that nearly made my jaw drop.

"Can I help you?"

I gaped. He wanted to help me?

I smiled and declined, then waited for more -- protests, exclamations about his skirts or scarves or silver jewelry -- but instead, he nodded and went back to his work behind the desk.

Amazing.

As I stepped back out into the sunny street, I realized I hadn't heard those words -- "Can I help you?" -- for weeks. I enjoyed the Israeli shops and culture -- I truly did -- but despite being only a few hours' flight from Austria, the mentality of each is worlds apart.

I am glad to experience both. And tomorrow it starts again -- Spain, France, England, and Scotland await!

The view from outside my bedroom window...