Wednesday 10 October 2012

Several Exciting Things

[NB: I have been accused (more than once) of ‘overusing’ CAPITAL LETTERS for DRAMATIC EFFECT, so I have decided to limit myself and have only used Capital Letter for the beginning of words which are Important. I hope you appreciate and enjoy this change in my writing style.]

Several Very Exciting Things have happened over the past few days. First of all, I had my First Interaction with an Austrian Builder 2k12. I found him lurking in the basement which until that point I did not know existed. He had a strong local accent so I didn’t understand a word he said, and had to resort to smiling politely and slowly backing away.

THEN I went on a pre-arranged outing that my mentor teacher signed me up for. This wasaorganised by the English department of the Grammar School next door and involved a trip to a traditional pub that was celebrating ‘Knudltag’, or, for monolinguals: “Dumpling Day”. “Knudl” sounds a lot like “canoodle” so I have been saying it as much as possible! We drove up into the mountains and when we arrived the waiter shook all of our hands and the owner of the pub came out to greet us extremely cheerfully! “Gru╬▓ Gott!” he hollered, and we all hollered back! We sat in the baking sun, looking over views of the mountains. I was served three courses of dumpling based dishes, starting with Liver Dumpling Soup, which I dutifully finished, despite a flavour and texture I would not recommend you try unless forced to by politeness. Then we had a main course of savory dumplings and ‘sauerkraut’, which is basically a very disappointing version of coleslaw. The weirdest thing about Dumpling Day is that all the Dumplings are the same and only the filling changes. So we had plum and Nutella dumplings that were made of the same dumpling as the meat and lard dumplings (!!!!) but I ate them all anyway. I was treated to the meal by one of the English teachers and I certainly enjoyed the nice traditional experience, even though I don’t know if I’d eat so many dumplings again ever again. Nobody had a satisfying explanation of why Dumpling Day existed; in fact they found it strange I even questioned it.

The most exciting thing about Dumpling Day was that [SIGNIFICANT DRAMATIC PAUSE] I made a New American Friend!  My New American Friend works as a teaching assistant at the Grammar school and has been here a year. After Dumpling Day she showed me some of the sights of Amstetten, which were a statue of a wolf and…well, that was it, actually, but we also had some coffee at a little coffee shop and treated ourselves to some ice cream.

When I was wondering home, I fantasised about how pleasant it would be to pee as soon as I got in, as all the dumplings were pressing on my bladder and I needed the ‘WC’. However, I was soon beckoned from my path by a dark, mysterious figure, rather like the wolf in little Red Riding Hood. As I approached I soon realised it was my Dear Old Landlady, who was waiting to go into the Grammar school, where she used to work, to attend some kind of event. She couldn’t really explain what exactly the event was, but she encouraged me to come in with her, so I did, keeping a beady eye for the toilets. It soon became apparent it was an evening held for the ‘friends of the school’ and it’s beneficiaries, and not everybody was entirely delighted to see me tagging along. Everyone was dressed very smartly and I was still in my Dumpling Day outfit. We went upstairs and they promptly began giving long speeches in fast and complicated German. This, and the fact that there was no toilet break, meant I was eagerly awaiting it all to be over. However, when it did end, they presented us with alcohol and nibbles, and Dear Old Landlady introduced me to all the important people. I spoke to the music teacher who’s in an orchestra, and I asked if I could join too, and then he told me about trips they made to the opera and to musicals in Vienna. Dear Old Landlady left then, but made me stay because I think she (rightly) thought I needed to make some friends. I spoke to one of the girls who had provided musical entertainment during the talks, who had just graduated high school and is now studying medicine in Vienna. She was completely fluent in English, and it turned out that because her mum was an English teacher and they both loved period dramas. This gave us a LOT to talk about – they’d even seen Cranford! They gave me loads of tips of German books and poetry to read to help me improve, and then gave me a lift home.

I took this photo with my camera!
On Saturday, New American Friend and I went to Vienna for ‘Night at the Museum’, where you buy a ticket to for 13 euros which lets you go into about 122 museums that stay open until 1am. We met at the train station, but by the team we’d gotten tickets and got ourselves sorted there was only one minute until the train left which meant we had to RUN through the underpass and down the platform. A woman with a scooter leapt to our assistants and held the door open for us, and we jumped on as the train was starting to leave the platform. It was So Cool. The excitement, thankfully, did not stop there. The train was like a modern Harry Potter train. After being screamed at by a very irate young lady in the corridor, we went into the only compartment with spare seats where Mr Charistmatic was stting. Mr Charismatic told us that it was a compartment for ‘retired people’ only, (by which I think he meant disabled people), but if the ticket lady asked we could say we were with him as he had a poorly foot (NB: the ticket lady did not ask). Mr Charismatic then left us alone for a while, but once we started talking about the general election he got interested, and spent the next 40 minutes animatedly telling us about himself and how much he loved America. He was Russian, but originally Spanish, but born in Austria (?) and runs a jewellery shop with his father and a property business. I know all about him. He even showed us pictures of his family, and told us about his visits to New York. Then he gave us valuable life advice, especially on choosing a spouse, and some tips about Vienna. Eventually we reached Westbahnhof and Mr Charismatic bid us farewell.

A blurred image showing me contemplating a  marzipan gogo dancer. Regular followers may be interested to not how long my hair is! I'm wearing an unusual selection of little known high street brands (i.e. Primark and H&M) and orthopaedic shoes designed for the elderly. The woman is wearing marzipan.

Vienna is a tiny capital – it only has 5 different colours on the underground map. We started in the centre, where there’s a cathedral, and had Sturm and pancakes in a restaurant, followed by The Best Kebab of My Life. We didn’t really have a plan for the museums, but started at the Natural History Musem, were me met Other Teaching Assistants. The Natural History Museum was MANIC, there were people everywhere. There were little stalls with demonstrations and samples, where people got especially bustly. We then made a very poor decision and queued for an inordinate amount of time for a very small and rubbish marzipan experience, where they gave us free boiled sweets and NO marzipan. We left dejected, disappointed and desiccated (like a coconut!) then My New American Assistant Friend and I went to the art museum, which was INSANELY GOOD! All the walls were ornately decorated, with painted ceilings and alcoves and marble pillars. The very top had murals by Klimt, which we climbed up 3 gazillion steps to see, but it was really worth it. Then we went to the Ancient Egyptian area where there were loads of mummies, and hieroglyphics painted all over the walls. It was really, really cool. In fact it was so cool that we couldn’t drag ourselves away until we abruptly realised we had 20 minutes to get back to the train station in time for our train at 23:50, which was three tube stops away. By this time we were hobbling and wheezing from walking too much and lack of hydration, so we hobbled to the underground station and waited for the next train. When it arrived we had 10 minute left before the train left. When we got to the train station we had about four and a half minutes left. Naturally, the underground train was under the ground so we had to haul out tired, aching bodies up three escalators to get to the normal train station, where we fumbled about getting ourselves tickets from the horrid little machines. We got the tickets at 11.49. Then we had to run up another flight of stairs and to Platform 5 where the train was. We ran to the train door, but realised that this train was actually some kind of cruel ruse that Wasn’t Going Anywhere and was positioned there to confuse and upset people. The train we needed was actually the next one down the platform. This was about a 100m sprint to the doors, which we managed in I’d say about 25 seconds, which considering everything is pretty good, especially as we’d already run about 55 miles. When we got on the train we were panting heavily, I was sweating and I thought I might faint, so I went to sleep.

A: MELK(!!!)

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