Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Update, Finally

I believe I left of while I was preparing for the mountains in Tauplitz. I took the train there with the other exchange students staying in Vienna and we met up with everyone else at a different station. It was great to see the other students, I felt like it was the perfect timing because it was just after the second week of school and everyone was trying to get settled in. We spent the next day on a six hour hike (which is considered very short by Austrians), then we crashed at the hostel nesteld in the mountains for a couple hours before going out again for a 'night walk'. everything was just absolutely gorgeous. The old coniferous and deciduous trees mixed with the strong mountain tops and grayish blue sky is like no other landscape I have seen before. During the hike we came across a couple lakes and a stream that I got the chance to drink out of. I could not believe how clear it was! I could honestly see the stones on the bottom, it just made you want to stare and stare at it.  By one of the lakes was a cave and I, with several other exchange students, climbed over very unstable/steep stones to reach it, and once we got there it was simply amazing. Some people said there were even cave drawings still inside. But by the end of our 'short' excursion everyone was muddy and tired. So we spent the afternoon talking or playing cards. In the morning we packed and then we were brought to the train station by a bus and we sad our goodbyes until the next time.

A couple weekends later my two of my friends from France stayed with me and we attended what is called the 'Museums der Nacht' which translates to 'Night of the Museums'. Basically what happened was that all of the museums in Vienna were open from 6p.m. to 1a.m. and you could visit all of them for 11 euros. The french girls and I also went with two latino boys. We saw six museums in about five hours. First we stopped by the Albertina to see the Picasso exhibition, then it was on to a very famous building called Secession. It has a couple of art exhibitions, including a permenant mural by Gustav Klimt that is based off of Beehtovans 9th Symphony. But the most amazing part of the building is that it has a gold dome that looks like vines and leaves entwined together to make a half sphere. After pushing our way through yet another crowd of people we went to the Mozart Haus and we got to tour his home in Vienna and even see some of the artifacts from when he lived there, including some of his compositions. We also saw two other art musuems (the Leopald and MUMOK, which is modern art) and lastly we saw the planatarium. We had skipped dinner to spend as much time as possible at the museums so we bought a kebab (like a gryo) at about one in the morning, feeling very satisfied with all we had done that night.

Then another weekend came up with all of the other echange students. This time we were in Vienna so I did not have to travel very far, about thirty minutes to the hostel that we were staying in. For the first part of the day on Saturday we toured Parliament and saw some other sights in Vienna that I had mostly seen with my host family. But that night we went to the opera and saw the '  Der Zauberfloete' whcih means 'The magic Flute.' I rented binoculars with one of the other exchange students and thouroughly enjoyed it. Even though I couldn't understand much of the storyline the music was good and it was just kinda.awsome knowing I was at the opera in Vienna. On Sunday we went on a bus tour around The Ring (a circle of all of the most famous cites in Vienna). My faveorite part of that was the Hundertwasserhaus because it is probably the most unique and artisitic architecture I have ever seen. But once again we had to say goodbye but we will be seeing each other again in November in Salzburg.

Just last weekend I was in Graz visiting a girl from France (Lea). I took the train there by myself, which was nerve-wracking but I got about five different people to explain the process to me. On the ride there I was once again awed by Austria's scenery. The trees have changed color so it was like looking into a sea of brown and gold. I arrived on Friday so that night, after her host-mother made us delicious fried apples, we went to a brithday party of a girl that Lea new. It was actually very fun because I am up to the point in my german where I can have slightly more complicated conversations. The next day we met up with two other exchange students and we did a little shopping, saw the Kunstlerhaus of Graz ( it is one of the wierdest buildings I have ever seen) and then we got coffe and the Moor Insel (not sure if that is how you spell it) but it is another very interesting building the sits on the river and sells exceptional coffee. Then we decided to see a movie at the english theater (we saw Moner Never Sleeps) and bought bagels and milkshakes from a very cozy shop tucked into one of the side streets. After the movie Lea's host mother picked us up and we enjoyed some tea, bread, and cookies. In the morning Lea's host-mother took us to two famous churches, one that I do not remember the name of but the artist(s) that designed it made it look (either intentionally or unintentionally) a little like the castle in the 'Little Mermaid". And right next to this masterpiece was the house that Arnold Schwarzenagor grew up in. The second building was much older and was called something like the "Maria Theresia", and just around there we went for a short walk (this time it was actually short) and I was even more amazed by Austria's beauty (I dont think I will be able to emphasize that enough). But the time to leave came too soon (my host mother drove me back to Vienna) and I deprted, promising to plan more adventures with Lea.

My next couple of weekend will probably be just as busy but I will try and keep everyone updated better this time!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ich bin eine Austaushulerin

The end of sommer was great. For my last weekend in Altmuenster I walked with another exchange student (from Canada) to the neighboring town, Gmuenden, where there was a pottery fair. All of the crafts were very unique and beautiful, and we were able to take many more pictures (despite the bad weather) of the lake/shore. We searched for a Mcdonalds but settled for a traditional snack of Wuerstel with Sauerkraut and Semmel from an Imbisstand (like a food stand you would see at the state fair). When it was time to turn around we got icecream to eat while enjoying the scenery and I chose the flavor smurph. I'm still not sure what it was supposed to taste like. But the next day I returned home on the train to Vienna and spent the week meeting up with some other exchange students that are also staying in Vienna or just exploring the town. However the night I got back my host mother brought me along to a dinner on the Danube. That night I also met my host brother for the first time and we have been pretty good siblings ever since. For my last summer trip I went to the Schoenbrunn Castle with another girl from France. To say the least it was amazing. We toured the gardens (and attempted a labyrinth1), which still have pristenely kept flowers and shrubs around historical walkways, fountains and statues. We were then able to tour inside with audio guides that told us a lot about the legendary Sisi who had ankle length hair, and Maria Teresa (mother of Marie Antoinette i believe). But nonetheless this castle is also where Marie Antoinette grew up, and countless other famous monarchs lives, including Naploean Bonaparte I. Walking through all of the rooms that they used to live in was definatly very surreal. We finished the day with pizza and a little walking around Steffansplatz.

Finally Monday came and for the first day of school my host mother rode the U-bahn with me and helped me find my teacher and class (6B). At first it was intimidating, but then I learned the phrase 'Ich bin eine Austaushulerin' and I was able to explain my presence and my slightly sloppy german. Plus it gets me a lot of help sometimes! But that phrase has really been the theme of the week. The friends/aquiantances that I have made so far enjoy asking me questions about the U.S. and how I like Vienna; and the teachers always begin by aksing how much German I know or where I come from. So everything is new but I am also settling in.

School here is a lot different. Most of the time the teachers change classrooms, not the students, and I have a lot more free time. So lots of times school ends and noon or one so I go with some other girls in my class to a place called Happy Noodles for delicious fried food. For the first  week I had no idea what some classes were, and whenever we play games it is really humorous because I generally have no idea what to do. Especially in gym class when everyone starts running and balls are flying and I just have to stop and watch for about five minutes to figure out whats going on. However I really do think my german is improving just from hearing and speaking it all day, everyday.

The Sunday after my first week of school my host family and I had (what I like to think of it as) a little celebration for a successful first week of school with Wiener-Schnitzel, potatoe salad (much different from the kind you find at Minnesotan potlucks and Lutheren gatherings!), salad with Kaerne-Oeil (pumpkins seed oil and regular mixed togeter, my host-brother makes it and its unbelievably good!), and finally Himbeer-Traum (direct translation Raspberry-Tree) which was Raspberries, whipped cream, and shortbread cookies soaked in Raspberry sauce, then all stacked togeter like a torte. Everything tasteed simply wonderful. And I got to help make it, so a little cultural experience thrown in there too!

And now I have entered week two of school, but this weekend I will be seeing all of the other exchange students again while we hike in the mountains! Better bring my guitar and clothes fashioned from curtains!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back from language camp, and summer is coming to a close

I got to language camp via another exchange student's host parents. It took about two hours to get there, and the whole way we were able to admire the beautiful scenery. Our destination was Altmuenster, a small village. However when we arrived nobody knew where the language camp was, but thankfully after a phone call and a very convienient sign left by rotary, we made it the the correct school that housed us.

When we entered the building we were immediatly told to put our luggage in our rooms and then we met in a common area where we were told to wait to be interviewed (in German) to determine our knowledge level of the language. Gradually all 63 students trickeled in and we began to ask each other the basic questions of 'where are you from', 'where are you living in Austria', and then the conversations spun off into airport tradgedies, horrors, and joys.

Before dinner we had a short orientation, then we had free time until our cerfew at ten. Most kids went into town to explore (I being one of them) and along the way we saw a fantastic castle (yes, an actual castle) that loomed over the hillside. Beyond this was a massive lake, called the Traunsee (the deepest lake in Austria), that had a beautiful mountain just behind it that screamed 'Maria!' and 'Lederhosen!'. The small town had public docks so we could swim and many cafes and backery's for us to hang out at after classes.

Class started at 8:00 and ended at 3:00, with ten minuten breaks every hour (during which I became an excellent fussball player) and lunch inbetween. I was placed in the advanced class (there were three levels, beginners, intermediate, and advanced) because of my three previous years of German in school.

 Almost everyday I took off for the lake with several other of the exchange students, even when it was rainy and overcast out. The water was, of course, freezing, but it only made it all the more fun to push someone off the doch whilst they were unawares.

The first day of camp was also my seventeenth birthday. In the morning all of the students from South America greeted me with a song (I assumed it was happy birthday) in their language (I'm really not sure which one it was) and then proceeded to give me several hugs and nutella. After classes that day I was invited by the three french students (whom I became very good friends with) and a girl from Chicago to a cafe in Altmuenster. We ordered ice cream and I saw one of the french girls leave the table and speak with the waiter. I asked what she had said but she told me it was nothing. However, when the ice cream was served mine arrived with a grapefruit, pleasantly cut and arranged in a wine-glass like bowl with a candle sticking out of it and a happy-birthday song to accompany it. Later that night my birthday was again acknowledged by the wonderful Ingrid Zeller (who works with rotary) who gave me a cake and a gift of memo-notes (they don't have post-it-notes here) with wallace-and-gromit looking characters on it. I also recieved another gift from the people that I went to Altmuenster with that day, which was two braclets. One red and yellow and the other green with beads that look like strawberries. I thought it was very sweet of everyone to celebrate my birthday with me, and my cake was simply delicious. It was similar to a chocolate moose with strawberries on top. But, of course, it was gone in a whirlwind of plates and forks.

The first week was slow, but during the weekend we hiked up and down a mountain (Saturday) with all of the students from Austria who had been on exchanges previous years. The scenery was of course gorgeous, as if it were straight out of a movie. On Sunday we went to another excursion to Hallstatt where we were able to tour an ancient salt mine. For thousands of years it was in use and now it is an archeological site where they find humans, animals, and other artifacts preserved in the salt. It was very hot and humid outsided that day but the mine was like an icebox, so we were required to where either a red, blue, or green suit (depending on size i think). We all walked far into the mine and waited in a room (groups rotated for the tour) where we listened to a brief history of the mine and the people who survived off of it. On the actual tour we had to wear yellow helmets with lights on top, so of course we broke out in 'Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work we go' from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. We even had to walk in a single-file line! We were able to enjoy some more scenery because we walked down the mountain (we took a lift up) and at the bottom there was a small town that we got to spend a few hours in.

The next week went much faster and on the last night we put on a talent show, in which Thriller was performed. My class presented a skit in German, based of off a fairytale called the Hexa Baba Yaga. We had an extended cerfew that night so we spent it out in Altmuenster at the few places that were open. The next morning was filed with goodbyes, but we will be seeing each other in about three weeks at the next rotary event. I took the train home with some other students and was back in Vienna around noon on the 29th. School starts on Monday, so I have just been at the apartment or out with the other students in Vienna. But I have just become to realize that I REALLY do live right downtown, and I am beginning to love the city more and more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Saturday in Vienna

Unfortunatly I overslept so i was not able to go with Kathrin to the market, but maybe another day. It is apparently open every Saturday. But when she came back we had a late breakfast that included food she had just bought, so it was very fresh! A little later we left with the bikes so she could show me more of the city. We went past a branch of the Danube that had a Freibadeplatz (I think thats what she called it, but it is an outside pool) and a resturant floating stationary near the riverbank. It looked like the deck of a cruise ship. We went on to many places including a park, which they call the Stadtpark, several museums, some famous sights, and a few historical places.

The Vienna Fluss (River) was especially beautiful, which was situated next to the park. next was an architectually intersting building with a long dome that was used to house butterflys. Next to it was the Hofberg, where Hitler gave a famous speech.  Next we saw a set of museums (of science and art) with a monument of, i believe, Maria Teresa in middle, that I think are my faveorite because of their blatant historical beauty, but i have yet to go inside.

A parade was going on at the time (I am not sure why) but the streets were filled with people and music. When we were almost home from our bike ride we stopped at an ice cream shop and I am sorry, Hogan Brothers, but my tastebuds now belong to another. It is called Gelatiana Italiana (if I remember right). The flavors i got, on one cone, was Tirimisu, Nociocolone, and Hasselnuss. The second is chocolate with nuts, but the last was definatly my faveorite.

I went around the some of the same places with Rafi (Kathrin's nephew) and I learned that the 'city' that he refered to was actually the first district. He took me to the Rathaus (in smaller towns it is similar to a city hall but i think this one is bigger than that) where we ate at the Würstelstand. It is their equivalent to fast food. Würst is sausage and we got cheese filled ones with a type of roll. It was like a thanksgiving meal wrapped into a link. That is how heavy it was to me.

On Friday night I went with Kathrin and her sister, Anette, to the top of a small mountain where a cafe was located. We ordered some Lemon drinks that also had mint in it. The first sip honestly tasted like lemon Colgate, but I got over that and the rest was delicious. We were able to overlook the city all lit up at night, and in another district it was storming so I could see the lightning (Blitz) cracking over the city, which was a haunting but beautiful sight.

Tomorrow I leave for language camp, and will be driving there with some other rotary students. So my next post will be all about that!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Traveling and the First Day

For all the Norwegians out there, I now know the meaning of uff-da. Sitting in the Chicago ariport, finally at the correct gate after my previous flight landing late, completly by myself, is uff-da. Getting off of a shuttle, that just wound through the streets of London while you are standing, at a terminal that you forgot the name of is uff-da. Finding out that your luggage has not made it to where you are is uff-da.

But aside from those minor mishaps I would consider my travel experience very successful. I met a troop of eagle scouts and a group headed back to Arkansas from India along the way. I arrived in Vienna at about 1:30 P.M. here, which is early morning in the midwest. I had not slept on the plane but Kathrin, my host-mother, and I (Lionel happens to be on a tour of Europe right now, so I will meet him later) planned to visit the police station to register me right away. So I showered and then ate a quick lunch of bread, cold meat, cheese, and tomatoes with mozerella, which is unbelievably delicious.

I then met Kathrin's nephew and we walked back to the apartment to grab some bikes and we road around district to of Vienna, which is so beautiful I think I might die. We road through the Fußgängerzone (a street that cars are not allowed on) and there is a special lane for people and their horses. I expected something of a large park, but that is a very big understatment. This park went on, and on, and on. People just chill there, lay down in the grass, children play on the abundant park equipment, and I even passed a man flying his remote control hovercraft. Next to this very green, open park is something of an amusment park. Which basically looks like Camp Snoopy (now Nickelodeon Universe) on LSD. We walked through it and I enjoyed observing my unique surroundings but I have not had a chance to go on the rides yet.

We went home after that to eat dinner, which was around 9:00 P.M and my next plans are to go into the city (I thought I was already there but apparently not). We'll see!

Friday, August 6, 2010


Putting my belongings in 2 1/2 suitcases this week, hopefully they make it to my new home with me. I fly out Wednesday, August 11, starting in Chicago and winding my way to Vienna, where I will be living. My host-family consists of three people, Kathrin (host-mother), Lionel (host-brother who is my age), and Vanilla (host-sister who will actually be in the U.S. during my exchange). They live in a flat near downtown Vienna, apparently a historic section. A few days after I arrive I will be attending a two week language camp, then school begins in early September. So stay tuned, the adventure begins soon.