What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?
Gollum in ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R.Tolkien
They are still there. They are always there. Only when the clouds come down are they temporarily lost from sight, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Innsbruck is just like any other city.
You would be mistaken.
In any case, today is not one of those days. I am sitting at the window, watching the sky grow light behind the mountains. Day by day, the snow on the summit gives way to the spring; but, for now, there is still a touch of white between rock and sky, and the snowboarders and free-ride skiers still wander through the city on their way up to one of the local snow-parks.
This side of the window has just as much to offer. I am living in a shared flat with three lovely girls, Clara, Jana and Franzi, who study full-time in Innsbruck. It is such a pleasure to live and spend time here, especially after the limited diversity in Scheffau. What’s more, for the first time in nearly two hundred days I have a room to myself.
You will probably not be surprised to hear that, once again, I am studying Russian; I have about fifteen hours of classes a week. This time, however, I am studying it in German – in other words, a brain workout. My first grammar class was particularly memorable. I walked in to a class of twenty unfamiliar faces, and only after repeating my name five times (because the Bosnian teacher was unfamiliar with the English pronunciation of the name ‘Rebecca’) was I allowed to sit down. He then proceeded to quiz me about Brexit.
Thankfully, it’s not just my brain that is keeping fit. One question kept returning in the days before I moved here: what sport to take up? Rowing is impossible on the fast-flowing glacial melt-water that courses through the city, and the ski season is drawing to an end. Perhaps climbing? I soon found myself on several waiting lists with no ascent involved.
If you have ever met my brother, you will without doubt know that he is a triathlete. Well, now I am too. A few emails and I had a bike, a couple of swim training sessions and it became clear that I was the slowest. I am reminded of the cross-country skiing club I joined in Tomsk: new city, new sport. There is a lingering feeling of uncertainty, of being an outsider; but above all the comparison makes me realise how much easier it is to communicate with my fellow sportsmen and women in Austria than it was in Russia.
I have also been made to feel incredibly welcome by the Christian community in Innsbruck. Family in the spiritual sense, men and women who love and serve Jesus, can be discovered the world over. Perhaps that is why I already feel so at home here: I know that my God is with me. I certainly don’t feel as though I have only been here for three weeks. And yet the time is flying…
The sun has risen above the mountains now, flooding them with light, and reminding me that Innsbruck is far from being just like any other city.
For a spectacular view of Innsbruck (more spectacular than the one featured) please click here.