Sunday 30 September 2012

“Today is a true Odyssey” – Austrian Man on Train, 28th September 2012

[DISCLAIMER: after mixed feedback on my previous blog posts, this entry will have fewer jokes and more facts. I’ve tried to actually highlight the facts so that they’re easier to find. I didn’t highlight the jokes because that ruins the fun.] 

IM IN AMSTETTEN!!! I don't have internet at home yet but my lovely mentor teacher has let me into school so that I can come online :-) This is what happened to me so far. It's really long because I'm over-excited.  I’ve separated it into little bitesize chunks for those with short attentions spans.

Odysseus has long been known as the great voyager. Forrest Gump, Columbus and Jane Ward are a few other travellers who have also made great journeys, but nobody has ever managed to survive such time consuming and cripplingly expensive adversity with as much gusto and positivity as Odysseus…

UNTIL NOW!!!! [I have now achieved that]

One week ago mother and I ‘google mapped’ the route to Stansted, and it suggested it would take 3 hours. We were like, as if it takes that long, and thinking we were much cleverer than Google maps, left the house at 7.17am for the 11.20 flight. *****FACT ALERT: THIS WAS UNWISE!****** There was really heavy rain and we got stuck before we’d even reached Walsall. It turns out the residents of Walsall are not only ‘slow’ in the figurative sense of the word, but also happen to be slow on the roadways. This was FAR from ideal. Even after we had broken free of the Midlands, it was like time was slipping through our fingers like the sand in the hourglass Jafar conjures to try and drown Jasmine once he’s a genie. Even though mother was driving like a little hooligan, by the time we saw the first sign for Stansted informing us we had 30 miles to go, we had 5 minutes to get there. I felt the following emotions:
·         Mortification
·         Stress
·         Frustration
·         Panic
·         Hunger
We got to the airport about two minutes after check in closed. As mother pulled up to the airport, I leapt out of the car and pirouetted through the revolving doors in my brand new leather brogues. Deftly noting the long queues at check-in I went straight to the ticket desk, where I waited in another queue, slowly losing the will to live. Even when I reached the front I had to wait for the small toad-like lady with huge eyes to fill in her little form before she acknowledged me, and as I checked my watch I knew the game was up – it was 10:50, the time Ryan Air cited as when the Gate would close.

Toad Lady told us that we were too late for the plane, and our only option was to transfer and fly to Linz. She was not sympathetic about this. Surprisingly, I was unable to handle the situation with the grace and stiff-upper lip of a true Englishman and was too busy boo-hooing to even respond to what she was saying, or read the map she was shoving at me, and I had to go and have a sit down and a little rest until the overexcitement had passed. It cost £110 to swap my flight and book the one to Linz, along with a train ticket to Graz. I spent the next hour being very careful that I didn’t miss the flight to Linz as well, and stood at the gate for ages waiting for them to let me on. [I also posted a very successful facebook status.]

Things looked up a bit then, the flight was okay, I had a little sleep because I was very tired from getting up early and all the excitement. Once I got to Linz, I experienced my First Interaction With an Austrian 2012:

I actually initiated this interaction by approaching an Austrian Lady who was working at the desk. “Hello.” I said. “I have ticket and I need that train station. Where…?” [NB: I was actually speaking in German but I’ve translated the conversation for English-speakers]
“I’m sorry, what?” she replied unhelpfully [NB: she was also speaking German]
I showed her my ticket and she ran away (!!!!!) But then she came back and led me outside the airport to the bus stop.
When is your train?” She asked. When I failed to respond she threw her hands in the air and cried manically “WHEN IS YOUR TRAIN?!”
“It’s at six o’clock.” I stuttered. [NB: What I actually said was ‘es a las seis’, which is actually Spanish, and therefore helped neither of us. She was very confused.] I eventually managed to muster ‘sieben’, which means ‘seven’, and therefore was completely wrong, but anyway she seemed satisfied and left me there, and I did in fact make it to the station on time. So, overall, a complete success!

My Second Interaction With an Austrian 2012 went even better. The lady at the train station chattered to me for a bit, and I left with the impression that the trains were experiencing a power cut, and so I would have to get a coach half of the way to Graz . This is what then actually happened, which means I understood her correctly! ******VICTORY DANCE********

I finally got to Graz at 10.35pm, and another Austrian Lady invited me into her taxi, which actually wasn’t dodgy as we shared the fare and she made sure I got to the convent okay. She even wished me ‘Alles Gute’, which I thought you just used for birthdays but apparently not.

We stayed in a convent in Graz and got shipped up to a seminar in a ‘palace’ every day. There were one gazillion Americans and about four British people, some of whom weren’t even English (!!!). Thankfully I did manage to find a couple of people from Sheffield.  Their dulcet tones made me feel safe.

Our seminar was run by an English teacher called Bernhard who had an Austrian/Glaswegian accent, which turned out to be an excellent combination. The main event of the week was that we had to go and teach a lesson in a local school, causing a lot of hubbub and angst amongst the group. I was BRICKING IT but it was actually all right. We taught a class of 12 year olds, who didn’t really understand what we were going on about, but they ran around a bit and jumped up and down so it can’t have been too bad. Some of them had that evil glint in their eyes, letting us know that they could massacre us if they chose to, but their teacher was there too so thankfully that didn’t come about. 

You probably won’t be surprised that I was late arriving in Amstetten. You may well be surprised that it wasn’t my fault (!!!) A train had run off the tracks, so everything was delayed, and a friendly but misinformed local took me onto the wrong train which meant I had to change in St. Pölken. There were youths everywhere on the trains, but I didn’t feel nervous because there were also soldiers everywhere… [this is a cliff hanger – to find out why so many soldiers, read the next bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111]

I thought Amstetten was going to be a tiny place because Wikipedia told me it only had about 20,000 inhabitants, but once I’d spoken to a few other TAs [that means“Teaching Assistants”. Just some lingo I’ve picked up!] it turned out 20,000 was quite populous. Once of my new TA friends has only 4,000 people in her town!! WOAH! The people in Amstetten actually think they live in a city! This may sound comical to you or I, but when you’re here everyone’s spread out a bit so it does look quite big. We went into the town last night and there’s a big shopping centre and some restaurants, and a town square and everything!

I’m living in a mini-flat in the ground floor of a reasonably large, detached house owned by a retired couple. The husband is quite ill, so I mostly talk to the wife (Lore Lindenhofer). She’s very friendly and accommodating, and this morning gave me breakfast and a rendition of ‘Thank You for Being a Friend’, which she learnt at English Conversation Class. Last night we went to a military parade. *FACT ALERT!!!:::: Young men in Austria have to do military service when they leave school* This year a load of them are staying in military barracks just outside Amstetten, and they all arrived today. They stood in lines and a military band played some traditional Austrian music. Mr Lindenhofer used to be a drummer so he drummed along with his walking sticks which alarmed some people, but I quite liked. Then the soldiers marched up and down and everybody applauded until they left. After we went for hot chocolate and salty cheesy pretzel which was WUNDERBAR!!!! *****FACT ALERT!!!!::: In Austria when you order a hot drink they always give you some cold water too. It’s very refreshing!****

In my flat have a bedroom with a sofa and a TV (and a bed too! LOL) then a kitchen/diner with some appliances that I believe were made in about 1965. There’s also a super-funky telephone table that I promise I will get some photos of, and lots of ornaments. The school’s round the corner, as well as the NATURBAD (OMG!!) and a big supermarket, where I went and did my first shop and bought some chocolate spread, pasta and an air diffuser. The air diffuser smells very strong and I kind of regret it, but I panicked in the shop and just bought it without thinking it through.

So now I have to decide what to give my host as a gift. I have brought the following English delights: two bars of Cadbury’s, a box of English breakfast tea, a plastic bag of Chai tea, some lavender soap (which is temporarily lost), postcards of Wolverhampton, National Trust notecards and a copy of the Black Country Bugle (only 60p!). The tea and Bugle was actually going to be for class, and one of the chocolate bars is for me. I think I might give her the soap, one bar of chocolate (I’m not being stingy because it’s like 200g worth) and some chai tea. OR MAYBE THE BREAKFAST TEA!?!?!? OR MAYBE she actually would prefer me to give her some rent than some gifts. Hehehehe!

****FINAL FACT ALERT: [very important] In Austria you wear your wedding ring on your RIGHT hand! You need to know this if, like me, you’re scouting for a husband and only usually check the left hand for relationship status. If you usually check facebook for relationship status then this is less important.*****


  1. Notes and Corrections.
    1. We were meant to leave at 7am.
    2. The fact that we didn't was partly due to the mammoth packing, weighing, unpacking, repacking triple exercise the night before, trying to accommodate to Ryanair's weight limit.
    3. I don't think you give enought prominence to the fact that the road delays were due to monsoon like conditions on the motorway.
    4. Your mother never drives like a hooligan but did drive closer to the speed limit than she would have normally done under the prevailing conditions.
    5. The train actually cost another £40 so if they made you go on a coach I should demand a refund.
    6. Your digs sound very like my rooms in Bath at the top of a four storey house, owned and occupied by an elderly lady, with a Baby Belling and jug and bucket for getting water up stairs. She asked me to leave after one term beause a) I used too much hot water, b) I left talcum powder on the bathroom floor and c) I moved furniture around at night. As I had been wondering why she moved furniture around at night, and there was no-one else in the house, I packed up my bags and left. Be warned!
    7. I'm surprised you haven't eaten the chocolate yet.
    8. Why is your typeface so pale?

  2. Well the coach was extremely luxurious, with a lot of leg room, wide seats and live tv - in many ways preferable to a train!

    1. Found this really funny - like your writing style! Lots of questions. My daughter (18) has been offered a job as an au-pair for friends of ours living in Blindenmarkt. Can't find anything on Blindenmarkt. but Amstetten is apparently only 10km away so would be interested to hear anything you can tell her about the place. Will she be able to find friends her own age easily? Doesn't yet speak German! She loves to skate - did you ever use the local rink? Is the local skiing any good? Anything else of use/interest to an 18 year old, heading off for her first stint away from home? Are there many Brits in the area? Would she have any chance to volunteer at a local school, helping with English reading or something? Can she do German classes there?! Thanks! You can email me at if that's easier. Hope Cuba going well!

    2. Hi Joanna, so sorry about the lateness of my response. I don´t know if your daughter is already in Blindenmarkt but if so I hope she´s having a great time! I didn´t do any skating or skiing, Amstetten is in the flattest part of Austria but there are slopes so she should be able to find something. I didn´t find any other Brits but if she wants to meet people she should ask around for people to introduce her to someone (i think that´s the most effective way actually), join a gym or an activity like the orchestra, get out and about, there are a few bars in Amstetten where all the young people hang out and everyone is very friendly to British people! Most people speak fantastic English. I don´t know about any courses but I´m positive she could find a private teacher, and I do know the community college does a course for German for speakers of other languages, but I don´t know details. Good luck!