5 things I miss about life in Austria

My time in the land of the lederhosen and ski-high alps has drawn to a close.  After just three weeks of being back home I’m already starting to miss a couple things from my life abroad.  Here’s a few: 1.  … Continue reading

Caving under the streets of Budapest

One of the highlights of Budapest is literally an underground secret… the Pál-völgyi Caves.  After three days of strolling around yet another grand, centuries old European city (as fascinating and beautiful as they are), I was ready to escape the busy … Continue reading

Australian Slang that should never leave the country

I’ve collected a list of Australian slang words to avoid when travelling through Europe.  All words have been learnt from very awkward personal experiences: Mozzies/Sunnies Or pretty much any word we’ve shortened and added ‘ies’ to the end of… which … Continue reading

Day trip to Cesky Krumlov

 While in Prague, I took a day trip with my cousin to the picturesque old town of Cesky Krumlov.  Much of the town has not changed since the 18th century and as we wandered around it felt as if we … Continue reading

Eishockey: Graz 99ers v Salzburg

I went to my very first ice hockey game here in Graz.  On a lightly snowy Friday night 1500+ showed up to watch the Graz 99ers play Red Bull Salzburg. The field was less than half the size of a … Continue reading

Spontaneous Solo Slovenija Weekend: First stopover Maribor

Oh the joys of living in Austria:  After catching up for a drink with my Slovenian classmate, Katja, on Tuesday, I was inspired to take a trip down to the coast of the neighboring country.  So Wednesday night I booked … Continue reading

Austrian’s in water: like fish out of water

When I decided to take my first visit to the local pool here in Graz, I did not expect it to generate enough interest to suffice an entire blog post.  But how wrong I was and how humorously eventful it was!

I had conveniently found a large swimming center within a 5 minute walk from my flat, with multiple outdoor pools and an Olympic sized indoor pool with diving platforms of varying heights. There was a club training across seven marked lanes and an open space, 4 lanes wide with no barriers, for the general public.  After my first lap I was so confused I had to ask someone catching their breath at the end of the lane “Do you swim on the right or the left?” to which he replied “Neither”.  Apparently its a free for all over the entire space and you just weave around the other swimmers and hope you don’t bump into anyone.

Back in Perth, we may not have the same courteous and calm driving etiquette as the generous Austrians, but at least we have pool etiquette!!  First there was the lane thing; then every time I came to the end of a lap I would have to detour two or three lanes over to get to the wall.  After a lap or a set, swimmers pick a spot on the wall to catch their breath and don’t move for anyone or anything, making for very awkward tumble turns during long distance sets.

Now please allow me a moment of a vanity.  I am far from my peak swimming form and would struggle to make the times and distance I did back in my club and competition days, but I felt like a swimming sensation next to the Austrians.  Even amongst the public lanes back in Australia there are always more accomplished swimmers leading the lanes, but here I felt like king of the pool – or the non-club lanes at least.  I was swimming laps around a group of fit muscular young men. I finally see what my coaches had tried to explain in all my years of competitive training: “technique is so much more important than strength or physique”.  I had better not go too often or I won’t be able to keep my big egotistic head afloat!

Every time I get back into swimming I remember how much I enjoy it and wonder why I ever stopped, this time I had a legitimate excuse: travelling and moving to a new country.  But without the consistency and commitment of being in a club I always start off strong then slowly decrease my personal training sessions until out of nowhere a couple of months have pass before I’m back in the pool again.  Here in Graz, one of the other universities operate a swimming club open to all students, but it is at a pool on the other side of town and I was a bit put off when I read the prerequisite for the ‘advanced’ class  was “100m breaststroke without pause”.  I will have to look for a club a bit closer or a swimming partner to keep me motivated.

Settling down in Graz

This post is a bit late sorry, was meant to post two weeks ago but it got lost in my writings…

8th September 2013

The highlight of my week was finding a yoga studio within walking distance of where I live!  Having not been to a class since I left Australia, I was quite the eager beaver and arrived half an hour before class.  But it gave me a chance to speak to Swami, the instructor and owner.  He is a lovely Indian man, he has been in Austria for 7 years but we bonded over our mutual coyness of speaking German in public.  He usually takes the class in German but gave me the English translation of each pose – he wouldn’t even take payment for the first class, saying it was free to try out!  It was a small little studio and there were only five others in the class with me, however Swami said more people attend when the school term resumes in October.  He offers different types of yoga, (a basic course, hatha/prana/chakra yoga) and classes with varying difficulty; I can’t wait to do them all!

I had the apartment to myself for most of the week.  My flatmate Daniel was in Germany from Tuesday morning to Wednesday night and left again Friday morning to spend the weekend in Upper Austria with friends.  Tuesday was sunny and hot so it was nice to be able to walk around the house in my bikini and tan on the balcony and on my bed, but after a couple hours I started wishing there was someone else in the house.  I can’t wait until everyone else arrives so I won’t be so alone… I think I have a co-dependency issues.

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Sunbaking on my bed… not quite the beach but it’ll have to do now I’m land locked

Most of the week was spent doing boring real-life stuff like registering at the council and uni (and everything in between!), setting up a bank account and grocery shopping.

 It didn’t take me long to find myself a new Yelo (my favourite coffee shop back home and practically my second home).  It doesn’t have the ocean views or English words on the menu board but you can see the mountains from the outside seats, with cool decor inside and best of all: free wifi!!  It is opposite my uni and takes about 2 mins to walk to from my room.  The Asian owners are so friendly and always happy to see me in the mornings (they must be drinking a lot of the coffee).  They already know my order and we have laughed many a time over our mutual struggle with the German language – they have even taught me a phrase or two.

Buna

Buna, on the street floor of the left building.  Photo taken from my university campus.  Notice the green mountain towering in the background at the end of the street.

I must admit it has been a bit of a lonely week.  I had the house to myself, Nadine was at a theme park in Germany with her family from Tuesday to Friday morning, when she popped in and said hi, and then left again to go to her hometown for the weekend and Sonja had a huge assignment due.  Johan was busy settling in himself, although we did visit the Schloßberg together on Saturday (post to come).  So I am looking forward to starting the German course next week, to learn more of the language, meet new people and to actually have something to do!

  Excuse my modesty, but I am already a wiz when it comes to number double triple and even quadruple numbers (anymore and I wouldn’t have a clue) and I am getting better with each day at ordering coffee but that’s probably the extend of my German knowledge.  I’m looking forward to the day i can actually hold up a conversation, but I think that may be a distant reality… but it WILL happen!

 On Friday evening I met a Canadian guy in the supermarket, who turned out to be a visiting lecturer who is teaching International Law at FH Joanneum this semester.  He told me that after spotting from a distance that my shopping list was written in both English and German, he thought it would be a safe bet to ask if I spoke English and if I knew the German word for ginger (ingwer).  I think we were both so happy to have found another native English speaker we spoke for quite a while and exchanged numbers promising we’d catch up for a drink.  Romantic, I know… pity he was middle aged and balding.

Don’t get me wrong the Austrians have excellent English skills and making conversation has been easy, it is mostly the older people who may not know English.  Even those that don’t are still very hospitable (unlike some of the French I came across last year) and try to communicate through a mixture of German, English and animated hand gestures.  However it was good to be able to use slang, talk with a bit of speed and not have to explain my sarcasm or jokes.  I think I was a bit too happy because I found myself babbling on – even more that usual!

I am looking forward to the day I can babble on in German.