By Zack Huffman
It was just less than two weeks ago that Stockbridge teenager Zach Baer stepped onto a plane bound for Vienna Austria to bowl as a sports ambassador for People to People International.
Two TransAtlantic flights later and the Woodland High School rising junior is back home with no shortage of fond memories.
According to Baer, the long trip to Europe may have been a difficult venture, but it took very little time for him to adjust to his new settings.
"My hotel was part of an old castle and it didn't have air conditioning," he said. "The first day I was thinking the trip was horrible because everything was so hectic, but after that first night, I thought, this was amazing. I took almost 300 pictures of buildings and stuff. It was a really cool experience."
According to Baer, he placed 22nd among 88 total bowlers and he placed fifth among American bowlers.
In his final round of the bowling tournament, which consisted of six games, Baer scored 217, 145, 151, 151, 210 and 219, with an adjusted series score of 1123.
Among the other competitors were bowlers from Russia, Austria, England and Germany.
"They would have their own little chants for when people made strikes," he said. "Some of the US kids were cheering for other teams and we game them lots of high fives."
For Baer, the trip to Austria was also an educational one.
"I feel like I've acquired more leadership skill and different bowling techniques. I've just become a different person," he said. "I've acquired new traits that will help me when I meet new people."
He was humbled by his visit to the site of Mauthausen Concentration Camp from the second World War.
"It was horrific. You can't even imagine what they went through until you hear it from a survivor," said Baer. "When we went to the concentration camp and we were in the gas chambers, I felt scared because of all the people that died there. It was freaky."
Although it may not be easy, he hopes to return Vienna someday to bowl.
"We were talking about maybe doing this again in two years, so we have enough time to save up enough money," he said.
His bowling league will begin again in Sept. Until then, it's back to school for Baer.