Friday, September 23, 2011

"Kinder und Narren sagen die Wahrheit"

Kids say the darndest things. I've been learning that very well the last three weeks at work.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting the full small-town Austrian festival experience: Dirndls, beer tents, rides, and silly carnival games (pictured above is our results from shooting a toy gun)

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Week Completed!

I survived my first week of work at the preschool. I cannot believe how quickly the week went! Working with five and six year olds definitely keeps me constantly moving, and before I know it, the work day is already done! Plus it helps that three out of the five days I'm finished at around 1pm. The other two days I have to stay until 4pm and hang out with the kids whose parents are still working.

So far I really enjoy working with the kids and my colleagues. I'm impressed as to how quickly the kids are picking up English, especially those who have had little previous exposure. The teachers are very good about reinforcement through song, dance, and the like, so the kids are learning very quickly. Unforunately I even leave the school humming the various children's songs sung during good morning rounds.

(Sung with hand actions to teach the parts of the hand) --> "Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin? Here I am, here I am. How are you today sir? Very well I thank you. Run and play, run and play." Yes, songs like that. Running through my head-- all day.

My friend told me to turn on booty-shaking hip hop when I get home to get the kids' songs out of my head. I think I'lk take his advice.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sommer Ticket Day Trip 3: Hallstatt. Fail.

Ever since I came to Austria I’ve been told time and again that I need to visit Hallstatt, supposedly the most beautiful place in Austria, located on a lake and in the Salzkammergut (salt mine region). Although it’s a good 4 hours with the train from Vienna, my friends and I decided to spend an entire Saturday day-tripping to Hallstatt. We left Vienna dressed for the 80 degrees that was there, and four hours later arrived in cold and rainy Hallstatt. It was literally 54 degrees and downpouring the whole time we were there.

One of Hallstatt’s main draws is the nature and scenery. Due to the downpour and fog, we could hardly see any of the mountains surrounding the village. After the 15 minutes it took to explore the town (it’s tiny), we retreated into a warm and cozy café to dry off. Unfortunately the weather never let up, but we forced ourselves to check out Hallstatt’s second attraction, the bone house. Because the village cemetery is so small, tradition was to dig up the bodies after 10 years, paint their skulls, and put them on display in a public house/chapel thing, so as to free up more space in the cemetery. Now it’s open to the public for a small fee of two euros.

After about three or so hours in Hallstatt, two of which were spent indoors, we got ourselves some dry socks at Schlecker (souvenir!) and headed back to Vienna. That day we actually spent more time one way on the train than we did in the city we visited. Fail. Lesson learned: check the weather report more carefully.

Back to School --> Back to Work

Get your Schultüte ready—tomorrow is the first day of school in Vienna!

My life is about to change as of tomorrow; I’ll be going from working a mere 13 lessons a week with Austrian teenagers to working a (nearly) fulltime job at 30 hours a week with four to six year olds. Despite my friends’ and family’s own personal reservations of working with children (“Amber, I could never do what you’re going to be doing” or “Yah, have fun with that”), I am very excited for the change in scenery and to be able to work with a bunch of adorable children.

I spent a bit of time at the school this past week helping the teachers prepare for tomorrow and getting a glimpse at what some of my duties will be like: laminating, cutting, coloring, cleaning, gluing, crafty crafty crafty. But I did get a good impression of my working environment, and I think it will be a good year.

Here goes nothing!

Bye Bye Summer

Where did summer go? It stretched across two continents, three countries, four Austrian day trips, two English camps, lots of sun, and lots of fun.

I like to think of my past summer in three parts:

Part one- Crazy work/travel month of June

June consisted of spending a few days in Vienna, a few days somewhere else, a few days in Vienna… etc etc. The first week I taught at an English camp in Mauterndorf, then it was back to Vienna for a few days. Then I flew to Norway to visit Erin for five days, and then I was back in Vienna for a few days. At the end of June I went to another English camp in Radstadt, and then I came back to Vienna only to move out of my apartment and into my new apartment. It was an intense month.

Part two- Heimreise (USA homecoming) July

On July 6th I said Bis bald Austria and spent 4.5 weeks in the USA. Heat wave, food, friends, TV, family, shopping. Twas great.

Part three- Settling back in to Vienna/Day trips—August

I returned to Vienna to an empty apartment (my roommates have been gone the whole time and probably won’t be back for another couple of weeks) and an emptier, yet fuller, city. What I mean by that is that many of my friends were still on vacation, or had moved back to the US permanently. But it’s tourist season, so trying to walk in the city center was a nightmare of weaving through giant tour groups.

To fill the time before school starts, I decided to purchase an Austrian Rail Summer Ticket, an amazing deal which gets “youth” under 26 unlimited travel on all trains within Austria. More on my day trips soon to come.

Time spent in Vienna consisted of lying out in the sun, avoiding shopping centers, reading books (no internet), watching movies, hanging out with friends, and avoiding spending unnecessary money in general.

So, in conclusion, I’ve had a very interesting and chaotic summer. I can’t wait to find my routine again once work starts.

Krems and Dürnstein


Beautiful Wachau region


Unpreserved path up to the castle ruins: Good shoes are a must

Castle ruins in Dürnstein

On the castle ruins with Dürnstein and Wachau region in the background

Heuriger/Wine Tavern

Sommer Ticket Day Trip Four: Krems and Dürnstein-- SUCCESS!

This past week we finally had a wonderful day trip back out to the Wachau region, a UNESCO world heritage site… also highly recommended by Rick Steves as a daytrip from Vienna. We did what we do best once we got in to Krems: wandered around, got a bit lost, and took lots of photos. The city is rather cute and has one of the best preserved old towns in Austria. Translation: lots of cobblestone, town walls, old buildings, etc.

After a couple of hours in Krems, we took a bus to Dürnstein, probably one of my favorite places in Austria. It’s only a few miles from Krems, and the bus takes you right through the vineyards. The Wachau region is well-known for its white wine, and there are vineyards everywhere.

Dürnstein is also known for the ruins of a castle where English King Richard the Lionheart was held captive for some time during the third crusade. The village is located at the bottom of the hill (or mountain if you’re from flat Minnesota like me), and is adorable with its cobblestone road, apricot and wine stores, and Heuriger (vineyards where you can drink extremely fresh wine). We climbed up the slightly dangerous path to the ruins, where one can walk around, stand on, possibly even fall off, the ruins of the castle.

After the hike, we spent some well-deserved time at a local Heuriger, where I’ve had the best white wine of my life. We had perfect timing, too. Once we sat down under the covered outdoor patio, it started to downpour. We even ordered an assorted cheese plate and pretended to be wine connoisseurs.

Rainy Hallstatt

Hallstatt across the lake

Sums up our trip: Umbrellas

Hallstatt situated on the mountain


Bone house


Melk Abbey

Library in the Melk Abbey

Sommer Ticket Day Trip 2: Melk

Melk is located on the Danube river in the Wachau region, about one hour from Vienna. We chose the right day to visit the city, as a special touring Italian market was in the city center, and we tried probably thirty different kinds of cheeses, breads, oils, etc. After we got our fill of cheese, we headed up to the main attraction of Melk, a well-preserved monastery/abbey from centuries ago. The grounds itself is something to admire with orange, yellow and gold baroque architecture. Inside was impressive as well, with the informative museum, painted frescoes, large library, and church. Sadly we didn’t see any monks.


Emily's excited about our day trip
View of Graz from the top of the hill

Waving hello to the Glockenspiel dancers

Clock tower in Graz

Sommer Ticket Day Trip 1: Graz

At roughly a 2.5 hour train ride away from Vienna, Graz is situated in Styria and is the second largest city in Austria. My friend Emily and I day-tripped it down one sunny and warm Monday afternoon. Since it was a holiday, there wasn’t much going on in the city. We were lucky to even find an open supermarket at the train station once we arrived to pick up some lunch.

We spent about four hours wandering the city center, lunching on a park bench, and climbing up to the town’s see the town’s famous clock tower.

Impressions of the city: much bigger once you climb the big hill and can see out into the distant, but a bit of a snooze for being the second largest city in Austria. On the other hand, it was a holiday, so perhaps I need to give it another shot and have friends who live there give me the full Graz experience.

ÖBB Sommer Ticket

Best investment ever: the Austrian Rail Summer Ticket. Although it's valid for about 2.5 months, it has paid for itself the one month that I've had it. For Vorteilscard >26 holders (a card for "youth" under 26 that gets you half off all Austrian train travel), one can purchase a Sommer Ticket for 70 euros and enjoy unlimited travel within Austria.

When you've got a few weeks with nothing to do, why not explore?

No Internet

I've been MIA for a while, since I don't have internet. STILL.
I’ve been in my new apartment for almost a month, and somehow I have survived this whole time without having a real internet connection. I’m waiting for my roommates to get back, and then we’ll install wireless internet. Thankfully I can tether my phone to my computer and get internet from my 3G data plan, something I don’t do all the time, as it tends to suck my data pretty quickly.