Thursday 31 January 2013

What I learnt on my year abroad, semester 1 AKA the season finale

Currently having my weekly Thursday-afternoon-sit-down-to-recover-from-the-huge-lunch-consumed-at-my-school's-restaurant. Last time I promised you a retrospective and insightful post to sum up my time in Austria. I have literally been INUNDATED with requests for this to be published! My inbox has reached it's capacity - I've had to go back to emails I received in 2007 inviting me to come and hang out in West Park on a Saturday afternoon and delete them!

The snowy view from my window (now all melted). Fritzl's house is just round the corner. 

As I have been saying goodbye to all my classes, colleagues and friends (I am choosing to call people friends even though they have not permitted this), people keep asking me if I've enjoyed myself in Austria. They are always very happy when I say yes. My landlady was very proud, she said (unexpectedly) "Well this area is very good for foreigners. Not like Tyrol. In Tyrol if you're not tirolean, you are NOTHING."

I have enjoyed my time here, but I've also found it REALLY HARD. Being a random foreigner under the age of 35 in a small town like Amstetten can be quite isolating. German is not an easy language to understand at the best of times, let alone when it's spoken in dialect. And it gradually became apparent to me that, although on the surface Austria and England are really very similar, actually everything here is different. The differences might be subtle, but they are there and they are so multitudinous that I can't list them all. I often found myself whispering my fancily edited version of a quote I found on the blurb of a book which I chose not to read (my daddio identified it as 'The Go-Between'): "Austria is a different country: they do things differently there." Examples include: tipping for a meal, greeting friends and acquaintances  paying for things in shops, the school system, shop opening hours, attitudes towards foreigners. This all taught me two things. Firstly, I'm a lot more 'British' (or 'English', I guess) than I ever thought (yes, okay Mr. Stereotyper, I DO like to queue. But you know why!? BECAUSE ITS THE FAIREST SYSTEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Secondly, we don't really do things the way we do them in England because it's the best way (except queuing , we just do it that way because that's the way we do it. Same with Austria.

Right, so, let's recap. There were several moments when I had to stop and think "oh my god, my mind is being blown." Here is a list of things which BLEW MY MIND in Austria:

  1. The Viennese Opera. I rate this Austrian experience as a 5 star, must see, two-enthusiastic-thumbs-up winner.
  2. Spar (the supermarket) is called Spar because 'sparen' is German for 'to save'.!!!!!!!!! This is literally my favourite thing ever, I was SO AMAZED!
  3. When I saw Melk for the first time and realised I would be working in a medieval palace. The other thing about Melk that blew my mind every time I had to go there was the giant mountain I was forced to climb to get to the abbey. And when it snowed, it blew my mind that the local council chose not to grit the path but instead let it form itself into a kind of ice-covered death slide.
  4. The therma in Loipersdorf. It was just so GREAT! Which was a relief as it was quite a trek to get to.
  5. Which brings me nicely onto the Viennese Underground. This blew my mind in a BAD way. During my last trip to Vienna, on Sunday, I stormed around the station, swearing under my breath and chanting "I will NEVER come back to this city. I will NEVER come back to THIS CITY!" I love Vienna, it's so beautiful, and I know there are hundreds of underground maps floating around the city, but WHY do they make them so hard to find!?!?!?! In London there are huge tube maps at every corner of ever underground station I've ever been to, as well as about five million leaflet versions dangling from the doorway as you walk in. But I can never find any underground maps at Viennese underground stations! The only place I can find them is ON the actual trains, and by then it is simply far too late to have access to a map! All maps on trains do is suddenly make it shockingly clear to you that you have got on the wrong train. Why did you get on the wrong train? BECAUSE THERE WERE NO MAPS AT THE STATION AHRFHRUSZOA!!!! I rant about this again and again, but the truth is, every time I experience it, it makes me even more frustrated, and one day the anger may well kill me.
  6. The restaurant at my hospitality school.
  7. Dirndls and Lederhosen
  8. The school balls
  9. And last but not least, CHOCOLATE BANANA CAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Chocolate banana cake, I'm going to miss you so much. I just wish I'd met you sooner (I didn't meet you until day 7 of my four month trip). Then we could have spent more time together. I wish I'd appreciated you more while  you were here - I know sometimes I swayed, i couldn't help but be tempted by the delights of Sachertorte and Strudel and Poppyseed cake and those giant cream filled balls (lol), Mohr im Hemd, Pallatschinken and even, on one remarkably regrettable occasion, knodl. But, Chocolate Banana Cake, you always knew I'd come crawling back to you. Some things come and go, but my love for you is never ending. I love you, Chocoalte Banana Cake. Don't forget me.
After hitting a rock bottom -15 degrees this weekend, it is positively spring-like outside and about +7!!! I've got the window open and the sky is a BEAUTIFUL blue colour - the weather is so mild it's almost British! Symbolically, the snow has now all melted away (to my delight!) and I shall be flying home in under two days! This is my last Austrian post, so thanks to everyone for reading and I sincerely hope to keep ALL my fans updated once I'm in Cuba. Although I am sad to leave, I do feel very proud of myself for getting to the end of the semesteer, so here is a celebratory song to reflect  my mood. 

"You a bad girl and your friend's bad too!"


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