Thursday, February 14, 2013

Staatsoper

My friend and former college roommate, Laura, has been visiting me the last couple of weeks. In addition to traveling to Poland together, we have seen all of the typical sights of Vienna: Belvedere, the first district, Schönbrunn, Demel, etc etc. We even went to an opera at the Staatsoper

Laura and I

The State Opera in Vienna sells 600-some standing-room tickets at three and four euros allowing even budget travelers and teaching assistants alike the chance to experience some good ol' Austrian culture. We opted for the four euro tickets and this was our view:



Before the performance, a little slanted from my camera

We even managed to stay for the entire performance. I thought that I'd lose interest about a third of the way in, but being sandwiched into the corner and no intermission made for a speedy breakaway unmöglich (impossible). That said, I'm glad that I stuck it out, as the ending was a bit twisted and thus suddenly piqued my interest.

Health Foods Gone Awry

In an attempt to boost my immune system (thank you children at work), I tried to make one of those detox/immune-system-boosting smoothies that I've stumbled across now and again on the internet. Let's just say, without a recipe, it was pretty much an epic fail, and I'm pinching my nose as I drink this brownish-greenish-purple slop. Lesson learned: when delving into the world of kale and smoothies, follow a recipe.

Doesn't that just look gooooooood? 

Krakow

Last week, while everyone was off skiing in the Alps during the semester break, I headed north to Krakow, Poland with two friends. Krakow was never very high on my list of places to visit, but it was, nevertheless, on my list of places to see and one city that my friend and I had both never been to. Seeing as it is February and really cold and snowy in Krakow (who wants to travel to Poland in the winter?), prices were far too low to pass up an opportunity to visit the land of pierogies.

So we boarded a Polish train, scrambled around a very confusing train station in Katowice while trying to find our connecting train, boarded a second (somewhat sketchy) Polish train, crawled at a snail's speed and stopped several times in the middle of nowhere, and finally, nine hours later with a delay, made it to Krakow. We were upgraded from a three-bed private in our hostel to a two-bedroom apartment with beautiful views of some desolate brick building and with a TV that smoked when we tried to turn it on. 

Our view

Thankfully first impressions aren't always what they seem, as Krakow is a very charming city with extremely friendly and hospitable folks. Lots of churches, open squares, and tons of cafes, restaurants and bars. I read that in Krakow's old town there are more than 750 cafes, restaurants and bars alone! Sadly we only had a four days to take in as much as we could, but we should have devoted one night to just cafe/bar-hopping.


Market Square

On our first night, we had a couple of drinks at one of the more interesting bars I've ever been in the Jewish district, Kazimierz. We even met a couple of friendly locals who gave us lots of useful tips and advice amid nice Polish company. That's one thing I noticed about Poland: the locals were very friendly and helpful-- something I'm not always used to in stuffy Vienna. 

Our trip was a good mixture of trying local food, taking naps, going for drinks, church-hopping (sooo many churches), exploring the castle grounds, and shopping. We booked a daytrip to Auschwitz on the last day, a haunting, yet memorable experience.

Although I definitely enjoyed my time in Krakow, I would recommend to visit in the summer when the weather is more favorable. Most of the attractions are outdoors, and we made the mistake of leaving our boots in Vienna. At least Krakow is the city of shoe shops, and I was able to get a beautiful pair of boots for half the price that I would have gotten in Vienna.

Also, did you know that Krakow is basically my city?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gay Marriage Through the Eyes of a Five Year Old German

Today at school, as I herded the children in rows like sheep from point A to point B, a little boy, L. was having a very mature conversation with another little boy, J.

L: You need to be careful who you marry when you are older. If you marry a man, you can't have children. A man and a woman who are married can have children, but a man and a man can't, and neither can a woman and a woman.
J: But women have children. Why can't a woman and a woman have a baby?
L: Because the man carries the seed. And if a woman marries a woman, she won't have the seed.
J: But what about if the man marries a man who has the seed?
L: That doesn't work. Only women can carry the baby in their belly, but they need the seed from the man. So if you want children, you have to marry a woman.

Oh, the interesting things I hear at work. I'm so glad I can speak German fluently and eavesdrop on their conversations.