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|Sunday, August 3rd, 2008|
This will be my last entry until my next foray into the international scene, because I've gotten home and am no longer abroad. The flights were okay - my luggage got torn as I pulled up to the Vienna airport, but nothing slipped out and it got back to Richmond okay. Still don't really like Chicago O'Hare Airport... it seems like a lot of stupid stuff happens there. S'where they lost my luggage last time, and yea.
Anywho, am home safe and sound. :)
|Friday, August 1st, 2008|
Here's a short tour of Cultura Wien. You'll notice I have to tell people "Ich mache ein Film fuer meine Eltern und Grosseltern," which means "I'm making a movie for my parents and grandparents". I also say it frequently in the next one.
This is a clip of my classes. Though it's empty when the class started, by 9:20 everyone but Ilia (who rarely showed up at class anyway) was there. But yea. You can get a better grasp of what I've been doing with videos - especially considering that in both of them, I keep switching from English to German and seem to forget to switch back.
|Wednesday, July 30th, 2008|
Today is Wednesday. I'm proud to say that I've timed my laundry properly, so that I have more than enough clean clothes to see me back Stateside. Funds are also running high: I may return with 150 Euros out of the original 600-ish. Since the program originally called for 1500 dollars, I find it particularly funny. Essentially, I survived comfortably on half that, even with trinkets and frequent dinners out.
The taxi is also booked and paid for. Ben and I (Lauren may come along) drive out at 7:30 on Saturday to the airport. There, he will pick up his girlfriend and head back into Vienna, while I (and possibly Lauren) will enjoy a leisurely breakfast before my (or our) flights. Then it's only a few hours before I get back home. I'm looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation when I get home. My recliner never seemed so good. :D And that's saying something.
My final is today - actually, in less than an hour. I'm not worried. It's mostly grammar stuff, so I'm set. Soon I will be out of Vienna and back home.
|Saturday, July 26th, 2008|
So, I last posted on Monday. I actually took a midterm, of sorts, that day, which I did fairly well on. Since we got an email from our director with a little warning at the end about how those who have been lax in their studies still have a chance to make it up, I'm guessing a few people might possibly be in trouble for partying a bit too much... but I'm reasonably sure I'm not in that group.
So, one week left here in Vienna. I fly out of the Vienna airport around 11, and will be back stateside in... Chicago? Cincinnati? Some C-city, at least, fairly soon after that. I think technically my flight gets there at like two or three, then I've got a couple hours layover to chill and possibly grab some dinner before a little flight back to Richmond. I'm rather looking forward to getting home, to be honest. I think I'll miss the classes the most, though - my professor is awesome, and they've been, for the most part, the high point of this (mis)adventure.
Also: I had been planning on going to Graz this weekend, but decided that it wasn't worth the hassle (though, I admit, the fact that train tickets + hotel/hostel + sundry expenses would have cost a couple hundred Euros by myself did have something to do with it - not as much as the hassle, but it was still a factor). So I'm staying here in Vienna for the weekend, where I will do laundry and hopefully go to the Aquarium to see fishies and the like.
Ben, Caroline and I went to a Vietnamese restaurant to eat tonight - the cost was comparable to a Friday's or an Olive Garden dinner, but it had a high-class feel to it. I ordered cuttlefish with onions and mixed vegetables in a spicy sauce (with a side of rice), which was a rather welcome change from my usual meal choices. I usually prepare either sandwiches or cheap pasta when I'm in the dorm, or just eat fruit and vegetables; they're tasty, don't misunderstand, but sometimes it's nice to get something a bit more hearty. :)
It also reminded me of the spicy squid legs I get at Mama's Kitchen, a little Korean restaurant near VCU. Though the dish here had a more lemony taste - probably the lemongrass and cilantro - it also had a nice heat I'd come to associate with the squid legs. I guess that strong flavors like that go with tentacly things! But again, quite tasty.
Hm... I think that's all for now.
|Monday, July 21st, 2008|
Here are a couple of videos that I've uploaded for your enjoyment. I don't think I'm going to post the Melk ones, though.
Here's us walking to the Traumsee.
Here's us on a river tour of the Danube.
Here's us going through a maze in one of the palace courtyards. (I usually don't like my voice in the videos I make, but I think I sound great in this one.)
|Sunday, July 20th, 2008|
This entry was originally written on looseleaf, because I did not want the memories to fade and bleed into one another. After I arrived here, I considered calling in sick on the Gmunden trip to have some time to myself - time to relax, time to catch up on basic and sundry things like mailing postcards. (I hope to do that tomorrow.) But ultimately I decided to go; when this entry was written, I was actually sitting on a wooden bench in a farmer's cabin, listening to some of the group members playing Yatzee.
Honestly, I wish I had called in sick. While I won't make the claim that it was all bad, I can't make the claim that everything went well, either. I do admit that the hike to the lake was breathtaking - I have pictures and videos to show, one of which I'm considering getting blown up to poster size and framed for my wall. The lake itself was gorgeous, with pleasantly cool waters.
But it turns out the 'hour hike' we were told about was more like two and a half hours. I took up the back of the trail because I walk fairly slowly; a girl slipped down the trail and hurt her ankle in the last leg of the trip, but because most of the group (including our director) had all but abandoned the back group, we really had no choice but to keep going. My knee held up fairly well, but it was aching something fierce in the morning. We also very nearly got lost because no one told us where we were going or how to get there, and the road branched in a variety of places.
Ultimately, though, we got to the end and drove out to this farmer's house. He showed us his farm and garden, as well as a heating system/energy source for his farm that he claimed companies from Europe and America are interested in, because it runs on wood instead of expensive gas. It did look fairly impressive, I have to give him credit for that.
He then led us to the cottage, where he cooked us dinner and served us drinks. We got lots of Kase Kleiners - essentially sausages with cheese inside them - and pork chops, along with tomatoes and onions, peppers, and lots of bread. He had a beer tap in the kitchen of the cottage, and served us beer, wine and a special plum schnapps he brewed himself. It was more like moonshine than anything else, to be honest, but it had a good, brandy-like burn to it.
Though I only had a few drinks, a lot of people decided to drink fairly heavily. This does not exclude our director: at one point, she was playing a drinking game and had her ten-year-old son telling other people who had to drink on her turn; she followed this up later in the evening by applying subtle pressure on one of her students to drink (the farmer offered one of the guys in the group a drink, he refused politely, and she chimes in with a fairly strong "Only a little, only a little!" I suppose it's possible that she was telling the farmer that she
only wanted a little more, but that's not what it sounded like in context) and, in the end, making out with the farmer, whose wife had already gone to bed.
I like our director as a person. She's nice, she's funny, et cetera. But it really feels like she's here on vacation, and not as our guide. She told us that she would make us personalized lists for things we were interested in while we were in Vienna - she even went so far as to have us write down things for her to look for - but she never followed through with it. Mom was excited about the fact that she promised to cook dinner for us once a week... again, never happened. I can understand not wanting to or not being able to provide food for twelve people... but if it were such a problem, why promise it to begin with? She also doesn't show up at some of the Cultura Wien events that we're required to attend (as in, for our VCU grade), and more than once I've heard her talking - almost bragging - about how she didn't sleep at home this night or that night because she and her girlfriends were talking and drinking until the wee hours of the morning.
But I keep telling myself that it's all downhill from here. Two more weeks and I'm back home. I'm also giving serious consideration to going back to Graz for a restful weekend on Friday, since that's the week we have off for our own stuff. My funds are still high, so really it all depends on how tired and/or motivated I am come Thursday and Friday... and if the yodeling chipmunks at Stephansdom are the genuine article or the irritating ones I've found more than once.
G'night. Current Mood: aggravated
|Friday, July 18th, 2008|
So, tonight is the night where everyone from Cultura Wien meets and brings a dish from their homeland. I had planned to bake Grandma's famous Applesauce Cake, 'cause I think it demonstrates Virginia flavor very well; while we don't have an oven in the dorm room, our director offered the use of her oven if we wanted to bake something. What I didn't count on, though, was being unable to find allspice and cloves. I can find the words
for them easily enough (cloves are Nelken, allspice is Piment - which, actually, also shares that name with pimentos), but I've been to grocery stores and outdoor markets and have been unable to find them.
So now I'm trying to figure out something else to bring. My backup was Rice Pudding, but I have no way to carry it unless I figure out where they sell cheap, plastic bowls. If I can't, I might end up making the little fried apple slices with honey and cinnamon - or, I might try to convert the applesauce cake into applesauce-cinnamon-raisin pancakes, because more than one person has requested that I make pancakes.
More as more develops.
Also! I'm sorry that I haven't had much time to post here, but even with the time that I got off from the schedule change, I've been swamped. I had hoped to post the little videos of the abbey tour, but have not been able to. :( And I'm going to Gmunden tomorrow, where I will not have internet, so it might be Sunday or Monday before I get anything more up.
|Wednesday, July 16th, 2008|
If I had decided to buy a cell phone, I would be 2400 Euros richer right now. I'm watching a show where you call in with the answers to little puzzles for money. This one is looking for a car maker which does not have any of the following letters: B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.
GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH I CANNOT CALL!
As far as money goes, I'm actually doing fairly well. The schedule in Graz made it so that I was eating two meals out a day, which I'm sure you can imagine... gets really expensive. Here, I might eat one meal out a day - and that's once or twice a week, when I see the other group members. It has a little bit to do with the fact that they changed my schedule, and a little to do with how the classes here work to begin with. While I still have a mental block against liking going to Cultura Wien, studying for three hours, then going home, only to come back a few hours later, I admit that it gives me time to do other things I need to do.
Like cook meals and do laundry. I wasn't feeling well this morning, so I decided not to go to my first class - but about a half-hour into class time I realized that I really needed to do laundry. To do that, I needed a Quik-Karte, which the University of Vienna sells... from 9 to 12. Whoo. I knew roughly where it was, but not exactly, and ran into some students who didn't have morning classes from VCU. We wandered around. I had left at 10; they had left at nine. By twelve, we had purchased the card, and found a bank - because even though they say they can, not all Bank of Austrias can - in which we could put money on them. I bought one, a guy named Wes bought another.
I'm doing laundry now, and thinking about cooking myself up a little bit of pasta. Since some peopel mentioned that they liked seeing the prices...
1 kg curly noodles: 1.09
1 large jar tomato sauce: 1.19
Small containers of Basil, Thyme and Garlic Powder: 1.49 each, so 4.47?
250g of fresh parmesan cheese: 1.59
It's 8.34 for that, but I've eaten three pretty decent meals off it so far, and will probably get two or even three more out of it. (Of the cheese and tomato sauce, I mean - the kilo of noodles looks barely touched and, unless I decide to do some amazingly complex and herbalicious dish, the basil and so on will probably end up coming home with me.) I just boil the noodles, and heat up the sauce with some of the herbs... and when the noodles are ready, pour the sauce over and sprinkle the cheese on top. Nom nom nom nom!
My laundry detergent cost a bit more - 2.89 - but I'm not going to use all of it, so I may rent it and my Quik-karte out to people who want to use it. Make a bit of my investment back. :) While I don't intend to cheat anyone, I do want to recoup some of the seven Euros I spent for the card itself; if I had thought about it and realized I would be going in the future, I would have asked Professor Skolnik if I could hang onto one of the ones from last year. Although I mentioned that we might have needed them to our director, I think it might have been bumped out of her head by more important things like "When is everyone arriving?" and "Will everyone get to the dorm safely?"
|Tuesday, July 15th, 2008|
I do have to give credit where credit is due: I really enjoy my classes here. The professor, Sebastian, knows what he's talking about, and while he corrects all of our mistakes - and I mean all of them - he does it in a friendly manner and doesn't make us feel lesser because of them. He makes the classroom just a little bit brighter. And he's not afraid to go into risque topics, either: the best example is when he told us that the second district was well known for its prostitutes and the like, but there have been other things. I don't mean we have explicit talks in class, but subjects that might be taboo in VCU classes are open topics here.
So, there is that.
Oh! And their chocolate is good. I picked up a little piece (from the store, not the ground) today, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
|Monday, July 14th, 2008|
This is a video clip of Viennese breakdancers on the street in front of the Stephansdom. More coming later: it takes a long time to upload videos.
So, it turns out that the neighborhood I'm living in is renowned in Vienna for its prostitutes.
My professor asked me whereabouts I was living, so I told him here on the Molkereistrasse; he asked me what I thought, and I basically went "Well, there are a lot of prostitutes walking around. I'd never seen one before." He informed me that, in fact, that's what the neighborhood's pretty well known for. Great.
I really wish I knew why I can't seem to find a whole lot of good to talk about on this trip. At best, I find myself neutral about the whole situation. There's a part of me that's frustrated with myself about it - I mean, I'm in Vienna
for a month! I should be having the time of my life! But... the other part of me feels like I shouldn't just ignore the fact that I'm not particularly impressed with the trip's director, that I'm not really a fan of the city, and that this is nothing like Graz.
I remember getting ready to go to Graz and being amazingly excited. I remember being in Graz... and being really excited. I remember being torn about going back to Richmond, 'cause while it meant I got to see my family and friends again, I really enjoyed the city. I think some of that had to do with Professor Skolnik, but the two cities also have a very different atmosphere. But Vienna doesn't really have that. It's big and commercialized, there are a lot of people... for all that the Viennese claim it's a "small city", it feels a lot like NYC. And not really in a good way.
I would have been posting more, but our travel schedule is pretty jam-packed. Most of the time I get off is because I got my schedule changed. But I have not forgotten the videos of the Abbey - which I admit was pretty cool - and will post them fairly soon. I think that's enough complaining for now, at any rate.
I will say that the weather is gorgeous. It feels like late September here, and the windows are designed so that even when they're open, water doesn't seem to get in. So that's pretty cool.
|Saturday, July 12th, 2008|
Oh! So... who all reads this? I know that my parents and grandparents do, and possibly my brother... and I know Karen does (Karen's my cousin; hi Karen!), but is anyone else here? It doesn't really affect what I'm gonna post, but I'm kinda curious now. You can either email me or post a comment, if you want me to know. :)
So, it's been a couple of days since I posted. There were issues Thursday night - nothing significant, just frustrating enough to keep me from the computer - and on Friday, we went to the Prater for a while, then went to dinner and then back to my room where we hung out until like 11:30. Since we had to be up this morning at 7:30 to be out the door by 8:15, that meant no postage.
I also have to be up tomorrow around the same time, because we're going to the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. I might have spelled that wrong. And then I've got to figure out a way to do laundry, because I'm running low - not out, just low - on shirts and such. Hopefully it'll only take a few hours for the tour, 'cause I only have enough clean clothes to last until Monday or Tuesday.
All right. So today we took an hour train ride out of Vienna, which apparently cost 44 Euros from the program fee. (In other words, the 44 Euro trip was included in the program fee; we didn't have to pay extra.) I was a little frustrated by our director in the morning. It seems like she'll tell us a definite time to be at Place X... only to always get there late, and usually end up having not given us the greatest directions to Place X. This morning she was running a little late and told us to go to the Information Desk - but didn't tell us the Information Desk she was referring to was the train station one going out of Vienna and not the one inside Vienna. So we (Caroline, Ben and I) almost missed the train.
The program only described the trip as Wachau, which was neither particularly descriptive nor particularly interesting-sounding. It turned out that she took us to an ancient Benedictine Abbey, which was actually quite entertaining (videos to be posted later). I tried to ask the woman in the gift shop if she knew about any strife between the Benedictine monks and the Carmelite monks, because I have a friend who's a Carmelite monk and didn't want to offend him with a postcard of a Benedictine church, but she just walked me first to the postcards and, when I said that wasn't what I was talking about, walked me to the books on Benedictines. The frustrating part about it was the German I used to ask her was actually rather clear and grammatically correct! So she just didn't know.
Then we took a boat ride - it turns out even our director wasn't exactly sure where we were going for this one - on the Danube. My camera ran out of power about halfway through, but I still got a few good pictures and the like. It was also gorgeous, but I got sunburn on half my face. S'all good, though. After that, we went to a little typical Austrian Winegarten, where we got fresh meats, cheeses and vegetables from the area, as well as home-brewed juice and wine. (I had nearly a litre of fresh white grape juice, which was delicious.) Then we went back to the dorm.
Going back to the dorm took a little work, though. I was telling everybody that there was a quicker way to get back - there's a newly-built train station about two blocks from the dormitory, so we decided I would show them where it was. Except one person got off at the wrong stop, because she was on another car of the train, and we didn't realize it until the train closed and we passed her. So we get there and go back to the dorm, thinking she'll show up 'cause she knows the way.
Only it starts to thunder.
The girl who had gotten separated from us is afraid of lightning. And she didn't come back to the dorm after a few minutes, wasn't answering her phone or her door... and when we last saw here near lightning, didn't seem to be much interested in moving. We thought she hadn't left the train station, but had bunkered down in fear. So after we made sure she didn't go past us in the elevator, I went out to look for her. I walked - in the rain - to the far train station, looked around, went back up, and took a train gback to the one by our building. By that time, the rain was coming down so hard that my umbrella only really kept my torso and head dry. Except it turns out that the girl had gotten back all right without us, and had actually been in her room.
So, interesting day.
|Thursday, July 10th, 2008|
I'm leaving for my next class about 12:30 or 12:45, 'cause it takes a good 35 to 45 minutes to get to Cultura Wien from Praterstern (that's where my dorm is). Not complaining about that, though - it's actually a fairly straightforward trip, once you get used to it. Plus, I've got the most awesome professor ever. He's a German named Sebastian, with a either a Master's or a Doctorate in Philosophy. :) When he saw my Schroedinger shirt last night, 'cause I have him for my evening class as well, he burst out laughing - and laughed even harder at the back of it.
Gudrun was a good professor, don't get me wrong: she knew her stuff, and did her best to make things interesting. But it just happened to be true that I'd already studied all the stuff she'd been teaching, fairly extensively. Plus, it seems like Sebastian will be teaching more along the lines of High German than Austrian German, which will be more helpful for me in the long run.
Also: nectarines are quite tasty, and large cartons of juice are inexpensive:
1 Carton Apple Juice (1.5L): 0.85 Euro
1 Carton Orange Juice (1.5L): 0.99 Euro
1/2 Kilo Nectarines: 1.99 Euro
Loaf of Sliced White Bread: 0.49 Euro
Container of Nutella knock-off, 400g (about the size of a small thing of peanut butter): 1.19 Euro
Total: 5.51 Euro, *1.5 = 8.25 US Dollars, roughly, for that.
|Wednesday, July 9th, 2008|
Today is Wednesday. The class they originally put me in was a bit too easy for me - we were going over reflexive verbs and the genitive case, which I learned rather well in high school - so they're moving me to a more advanced class. That's the good news. The bad news is that my schedule changes: instead of having classes in the morning this week and the afternoon next week, I have them in the afternoon this week and the morning next week. What that basically means is that unless I catch the VCU Crew on the streets of Vienna, I'm pretty much cut off from them except for certain Cultura Vien-related events.
But, it means that my German will get better. Gudrun, my original professor, was nice, but even she said that my German was too advanced for me to really get a lot out of her class. And since the others can't really go much faster, she agreed that it would be best for me to go to one of the more advanced ones. So there we have it.
I DID manage to get my parking pass today. I was camping the VCU Parking Department's website, so when I saw the button I immediately clicked it and got my West Main Deck decal. Woot! Now I just hope I remembered my license plate number correctly, 'cause I couldn't exactly peek outside and check it.
Hm... what else...
Oh! My roommate, Mike, goes to Harvard. "But how did that come up?" You might ask. (You might. You know you might. Shut up.) Well, we were talking about politics and the like, and I mentioned a guy I went to high school with: Jack Reed. He apparently had a class with him at Harvard. Small world!
This was originally posted on Sunday, but I accidentally posted it to my personal journal instead of my travel journal, so it didn't end up here. So... here it is!
So, I have both good news and bad news. The good news is that my bag arrived at the dorm, unscathed! It's fourteen hours later than I would have wanted, but now I have clothes, bathing supplies, towels and other various and sundry things which will be nice for a traveler to have. I've unpacked it completely into my little closet, and it looks pretty good.
The bad news is that I did end up forgetting to pack something: my ethernet cord is frustratingly absent, which means that the message my parents got (which I sent from one of the other students' computers) is all that's going to get posted until tomorrow. Tomorrow evening, from the look of it. I'll pick up a small one... it's just frustrating, 'cause I know exactly where I left it - even though I could have sworn I brought it with me, stuck between two pairs of jeans.
So, as I'm sure you can tell, my last post was... rather irritated. I left out a few minor things, but I was Not Happy with big, angry capital letters. But now that everything seems to settle down, I feel pretty good. I'm going to grab a quick shower and head to bed, and hope tomorrow will be a better day.
It will be, though: I got raspberries for breakfast. :)
I just took a shower and brushed my teeth (another lesson for the future - when I travel, my toothbrush is coming with me, because I was worried about my breath most of the day today); I feel much more relaxed. I've prepared my bed (yes, pictures forthcoming), and am gonna bunker down for the night and listen to the rain.
Yes, it's raining.
|Tuesday, July 8th, 2008|
Here is a brief tour of my dorm, where I'll be staying for the next month.
Here we have Lauren, one of the VCU Crew, trying to find Nate, another of the VCU Crew. We decided to surprise him, since he got here before any of the rest of us, so I grabbed my camera to get his reaction. Only he wasn't there. But the video is still amusing. :)
|Monday, July 7th, 2008|
The First Day
Okay. I'm back from my first full day of classes. After going over reflexive verbs in the first few hours (read: 9-12), we went wandering with Jessica Lonnes. First, we turned in some papers to the local authorities, letting them know that we were in Vienna for a month and telling them where we were staying. They handed us back a piece of paper which we need to turn in the Friday before we leave. I'm hoping not to lose that. Then we grabbed lunch - which Jessica paid for, for all of us - at a local cafe. I had chicken with mushrooms and onions, with a side of rice. For those of you familiar with my schnitzels, the sauce tasted somewhat similar to that, which makes me rather proud.
Then, we went shopping for a bit. I got an ethernet cable, which is why I'm now back online, an umbrella, because it started raining, and a few nectarines and strawberries from a farmer's market we were shown. It's reasonably close, but I think I might end up just buying stuff from the stores around the dorm this time around.
Oh, and by the way - I bought a little thing of Nutella knockoff while I was in some stores... and it's delicious. If Nutella tastes like this stuff, I may have to get some when I get home. And I may be living off Nutella and fruit while I'm here, to save some of the moneyz when we're not going to restaurants, 'cause it seems like aside from student specials, Vienna's a bit more expensive than Graz.
I went back for the evening class tonight, which despite my reticence was actually fairly engaging. We spent a good minute working on how to say 'Kueche', or kitchen, because I couldn't seem to grasp it at first. I thought I'd been saying it right... but I was misinformed. Then after that, I came back here to the dorm, where I'll probably be spending the rest of my evening. 'cause my feet hurt from the stairs and the walking. Current Mood: busy
Here's a short clip of six of the VCU group here in Vienna, when we were standing around in the airport for four hours.
It might take a bit to load, especially on a dial-up connection.