Tagged: Expat

Austrian Achievements for 2014

Its end of year list making time! Don’t tell me you’re not excited at the thought. Rather than a list of my personal highlights (Bali, Tomatina, skiing with my family if you’re wondering). I thought I’d reflect on what my ‘Austrian Achievements’ have been for 2014, with an eye to keeping track of my progress for the next year.

So, in no particular order here’s a few Austrian skills I’ve adapted this year – if there’s something you’d like to challenge me to do in 2015 please do so in the comments!

Bike Time

I was never a great cyclist. I learnt on the bike paths of the outer Melbourne suburbs with my Dad and siblings on a mountain bike, but never really got the hang of being a ‘city cyclist’ back home. It seemed too intimidating and involved – do I have to know how to fix a bike chain? What shoes do I wear? More importantly, how flat will my hair be after wearing a helmet to ride to work? All of these factors meant I had no notion of the sheer joy of riding a bike everyday, helmet free in a well-equipped-bike-friendly city. Austria changed that for me and now, even in -3 degree temperatures bundled in gloves and scarves I love riding my trusty bike around the city. Austrian Achievement unlocked!

Biking Selfie

Bundled up to ride in my awesome Urban Legend cycling jacket which I looooooove

Supporting Winter Sports

Winter sports were always kind of an entertaining joke to me – like ‘Oh, they have winter Olympics, how cute’ with barely a thought given beyond that. Here in Austria of course its another story. Ski racing is watched religiously on a weekend morning (at least in our Tirolian influenced household) and the Winter Olympics are serious business. I graduated to all-out winter sports support in January of 2014 when we were lucky enough to get a hold of tickets for the Four Hills Ski Jump tournament in Innsbruck. We got to witness the absolutely batshit-crazy-insane ski jumpers launch themselves ridiculously high into the air and float down to earth with skis attached. Its mental…check out the video below:

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It was terrifying, breathtaking and so so much fun. The crowd was rowdy but in a friendly way and, natürlich, we had to hike a wee hill in order to witness the event. Completely Austrian experience. I’ll be backing it up in 2015 by visiting the world famous Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbühel for the first time!

Uncovering the Indie fashion of Vienna

Just over a year ago, I bemoaned the lack of ‘fashion’ in Vienna in this particularly popular post. Just over 12 months later and I am pleased to say that things have definitely turned around. I’ve uncovered a few golden gems with a mix of nordic and local fashion offering an alternative to the High Street chain stores. A few favourites include Kauf die Glucklich on Kirchengasse, the stretch of indie stores along Schönbrunner strasse in the 5th district and the occasional indulgence from Massimo Dutti in the 1st. Definite advancement in Austrian fashion stakes this year – but I still need a fix of Black Milk tights every now and then. Lucky for me a generous soul got me some for Christmas!

opening-wien-kauf-dich-gluecklich-2The hipsters of Vienna were pretty excited for it to open

Conquering Deutsch through Tatort

After some wonderful tips and advice from you lovely readers on this post, I started watching Tatort. The opening credits alone are worth it for their 70’s kitschiness, but the different accents, not-too-complex-storylines and social themes have really helped my German vocab and understanding. I don’t think i’ll be needing to solve any crimes in German anytime soon, but its been fun to muddle along in Deutsch on a Sunday night. I’ve heard there’s a Bar/Cafe in Wien that shows the episodes on a big screen to a huge crowd, so as soon as I get myself there I think I can rightfully claim to be pretty on track to Authentic Austrian status!

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 Nothing says ‘mystery’ like suspicious eyeballs

Es ist Wurst – Conchita Wurst!

It seems silly, but it took a ridiculous song contest to make me feel, even momentarily, that I was a true Austrian. When Conchita won earlier this year, I was screaming, whooping hopping and clapping for joy. Our little Aussie posse who got together to watch Eurovision in all its camp glory were thrilled to see it unfold and banded together in celebration. I walked home that night along the city streets ready to embrace anyone, to see people pouring out of bars with grins on their faces and felt there was hope for all of us in an Austria that supported Conchita, and dammit I was proud to be living in that kind of country. My gushy explanation immediately following the event itself is here.

10881591_1012449668770195_5357570469149393116_nBetter than my average mirror selfie (see above!)

All these little pieces are helping to build my Austrian lifestyle – but I couldn’t do it alone. This blog and our little community here have done more than you can imagine to keep me excited about my emerging Austrian life. Thank you to anyone and everyone this year who shared a post, told a friend about the blog, Tweeted about it or to me, shared my posts on Expat forums, liked it on Facebook, left a comment, mentioned it in a bar, wrestled their partners to read it or generally got involved. I really appreciate each and everyone of you and cannot thank you enough. Let the madness and growth and love and sharing continue in 2015!

DSC03768We can celebrate with THIS MUCH wine!

With continued growth in mind, what Austrian activities should I challenge myself to achieve in 2015? I think trialling Latella is definitely up there, along with improving my skiing and maybe mastering the fine art of baking a Guglhopf…tell me your best ideas and I’ll rally to the challenge in this new and exciting year…Guten Rutch!!

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Our Italian Roadtrip

Italy in the summertime is about as close to a picture perfect holiday as you can get. Beautiful people, ancient ruins, tasty gelato and beaches of bronzed bodies, all of them talking with big hand gestures and oozing European cool. Wine, antipasto and long lazy evenings are the order of the day.

Roman gif

Life is always this fantastic in Italy – breadsticks, wine and beautiful people

As a last-minute birthday surprise in August, we headed to the Venezia region with two close friends, planning to indulge in some wine tasting, stroll the Piazzas of Venice and live the bella vita – what could be easier?

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Ready to conquer Italian living

Turns out, everything. Everything could have been easier. We chose one of the wettest summers on record (according to our chatty cab driver) to visit. We ended up driving laps of the highway entrance to Venice. We lost €100 buying a single slice of Pizza.We got stuck in traffic trying to find Jesolo. We spent 1.5 hours on a local bus because we left it too late to get the direct connection to our hotel. We managed to visit Venice on possibly the greyest day I’ve ever seen there.

View of clouds from Bridge of SighsView from the Bridge of Sighs with storm clouds approaching

And every disastrous minute of it was wonderful.

They say travelling is a true test of a relationship, whether that be with your partner or your friends. I’ve seen some pretty epic bust-ups over my years of working in travel, especially when people are tired, hungry, confused and frustrated. All 4 of us were at one point suffering from a combination of those emotions, but managed to make it back to Vienna having not killed each other, which was a minor miracle.

The weekend started well:

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Roadtrip selfies! Whoo!

The itinerary was Vienna – Padua – Venice. Padua was the exciting part for me, mostly because I’d never been, plus it appealed to my inner Shakespeare nerd (The Taming of the Shrew was set in Padua, I guess I was hoping for a theatrical bout of witty banter in the city square?). The icing on my nerdy cake was that Padua boasts the second largest city square in Europe and who can resist an architectural wonder? Not I. The square was so big in fact that I couldn’t fit it all in one photo:

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Untitled It was pretty damn impressive as far as giant city squares go

Padova was classically Italian and beautiful. We even managed to find a favourite restaurant and time our visit with their epic fireworks display for the Festa di Ferragosta*. Although we got a bit lost at some points, we spent most of the afternoon discovering picturesque squares, attempting to speak Italian, taking the occasional ridiculous selfies and eating. Oh the eating.

Ridiculous Italian Dessert

This particular monstrosity could only exist in Italy as a legitimate dessert option

Day two was Venice discovery day and depending on your point of view, it was either an unmitigated disaster or an hilarious shambolic success. Despite losing €100, getting caught in the rain, killing my knees wearing stupid shoes and being frustrated by the fact that a group of 4 people on holiday take at least 15 minutes to make any kind of decision, I had a fantastic time.

St Marks Square

 Note ridiculous shoes, grey skies, the smudge of rain on camera lens…and us, blatantly ignoring it all.

I’d been to Venice so often as a tour guide that it was a delightful change to relax, go to the outlying islands and switch off my brain to meander like a tourist for once. Oh, and did I mention the wine and eating?

UntitledGelato eating in particular. This may be my favourite photo of all time. 

By Sunday we were ready to go home, having gorged ourselves on Italian life – I’m pretty sure my metabolism is not built for endless plates of pasta, bottomless wine glasses and prosciutto by the boatload. S had one last birthday surprise in store for me though. He talked us into a slight detour, which seemed like a disastrous decision when we were crawling through the Italian countryside, stuck behind campervans, geriatric Austrians and cars full of Italian families. The payoff was worth it though. After a 2.5 hour detour we arrived here:

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That my friends is a beach. An honest to god, sand in my toes, 35 degrees in the sunshine, salty ocean water beach. My Australian heart leapt at the site – it had been a long, long time between beach visits and it’s the one thing that Austria can’t offer me. Family can visit, friends can Skype but Austria just doesn’t have the long sandy salt-water beaches of Australia. Except for this particular Sunday – we found Jesolo beach in Italy. On this Sunday, with my close friends, it was just about damn perfect.

 IMG_1707The face of sheer joy, right beside the squint of a man without sunnies

*History nerd note: This festival allegedly began with Emperor Augusta from Roman times encouraging people to celebrate a ‘lazy summer break’ in reward for the hard work of harvesting agriculture. BONUS FACT in the Fascist era it was a 2 to 3 day holiday break where lower social classes could cheaply get access to the Italian mountains or seaside through Government organised trips. Nerd fact win!

Getting healthy & nude in Austria

I may joke about it often, but when it comes to healthy living, Austrians really do have their priorities straight. Getting up early on a Sunday to go for a hike in the woods was never, ever my idea of an ideal Sunday morning, but here it seems to be a regular family habit. There’s a few ways that the Austrian attitude to healthy living, traditional home-made meals and body image in general has started to impact my own attitude to fitness and, shockingly, shifted my Sunday focus to hiking instead of brunch. Well, at least to hiking a little bit BEFORE brunch. Here’s why:

1. Austrians think about exercise socially. Throughout my life (and maybe this is different for the dedicated fitness fanatics) I always thought of exercise as work. Not a fun pastime, but hard, time-consuming work and effort. You HAVE to go to the gym screamed TV, magazines and (loudest of all) the guilty voice in my head. Sports and P.E class in school were enforced – despite my very clear lack of skills in the ball-throwing department. Running was about the most tortuous thing I could imagine (still is). I tricked myself into exercise by doing fun things, like dance, ballet, calisthenics and running around in drama classes. But here, exercise is a means to a social end. Hiking is something done with a group of friends with beers to celebrate afterward in a local hut. Volleyball teams spring up at the drop of a hat in summertime. Skiing is about the most social sport I know – with the little breaks for schnapps making it a particularly appealing ‘sport’ – generally done in friendly groups. The point being, Austrians don’t see sport as work, it’s a natural extension of their interaction with their mates. Genius.**

DSC04737The views when hiking on a Sunday don’t hurt

2. Austrians accept their bodies. When I did join a gym my first year in Austria, the number one thing I noticed was the ease with which the women around me accepted their bodies. Not in a flaunting way, but in a very ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ nonchalant manner. It was incredible. They were of course in a gym to exercise, but there was none of the ‘I hate-my-x-body-part’ and ‘oh I wish I was a size ten like you’ negative type of conversation and behaviour that is so ingrained in Aussie women. Australian (and I think Western) female body culture is primarily about shaming yourself for being fat or not having a thigh gap, or not being ‘curvy’ in all the right places. Here, women of all shapes and sizes were comfortably wandering around the change rooms naked- young, old, fat, thin, hairy, freckled, you name it. This is a society completely at ease with its human form. Either that or I was deeply misunderstanding the old ladies’ german conversations. Why and how did they get so confident? Well, I think it’s because…

3. Austrians are around naked bodies from a young age.  I haven’t yet written about my first European sauna experience. That story deserves a post all of its own, but suffice to say, it was my third date with S and definitely more than I bargained for! What I’ve discovered since that shock introduction to nude-friendly folk, is that Austrians are much more comfortable with their bodies. Whether they are in the sauna, or sun baking at a nudist beach or even generally sitting by a lakeside, there is a 95% chance that someone nearby will be naked. Not gratuitously. Just straight up enjoying the sauna/beach/lake with their kit off. Austrian kids are surrounded by this attitude their whole lives. I’ve seen families swimming in a lake all completely naked, together with their young children. Rather than being creepy – which would be the classic reaction of my repressed inner-Englishwoman – it seemed natural and normal. In fact, thinking on it afterwards, I wondered if our ‘western’ repressive, overly-politically-correct attitude to nudity may contribute to the high rates of anorexia, bulimia, not to mention obesity in Australia and the US. If kids see realistic human bodies in their own backyards or beaches with their scars, flaws and rolls, instead of bodies that are photoshopped or distorted from plastic surgery, surely that can only be a good thing? I’d love to know what you guys think…

Non-gratuitious and most definitely non-sexy nudity by the lakeside (stock photo imagery used!!)

4. Have you seen older Austrians?? They are a hardy, hearty bunch. Whittled from years of hiking, being outdoors and I can only assume a super-human strength to digest and process metric tonnes of pork and potatoes over a lifetime, older Austrians are extremely healthy. It can’t hurt that the government helps support retirees by sending them on yearly ‘health and wellness’ retreats for 2 weeks, known as ‘Kur‘. This is part-funded by the government and from the look of Austrian retirees I’d say a worthy investment.

old arnie

 This is, uh, not quite what all older Austrians are like….but ridiculous Arnie photos are the best!

5. Incidental exercise is easy. In Vienna safe bike lanes are plentiful. Elevators in old-buildings are slow, or non-existent, so you take the stairs. The city is flat and well-designed enough to walk around it without excessive exertion. You can get by without owning a car at all, which removes the temptation to sit in it for ten minutes instead of walking for twenty minutes to get to your destination.

All in all, Austria makes enjoying exercise feel easy, rather than like hard work. This weekend they even had an entire festival in Heldenplatz to celebrate and encourage people to play more sports, the ‘Tag der Sports’, full of different sports clubs promoting their specialties:

 

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 Where Judo suits were accepted and cool

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 Simulated skiing on grass

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I have no idea what sport this is, but it looks totally badass and ninja related

In short, the Austrian attitude to sport is teaching me the simplest of lessons – to finally enjoy it, and embrace the body I have. To find the form of exercise that works. For me that’s a mix of cycling to work, early-morning Blogilates sessions and yes – hiking on a weekend with S. And if you need the lure of a delicious brunch at the end to keep you going, that’s ok too.

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Home-made brunch is the best brunch!

**NB perhaps this is true of any country, but as I am, ahem, a slow developer in the ‘enjoying sports’ realm I’ve only noted the Austrian penchant for it!!

Eurovision & Austrian Pride

I shouldn’t enjoy Eurovision as much as I do. Us Aussies can’t even enter into the contest – the best we can hope for is a guest spot appearance during the semi-finals (see this cringe inducing intro – the song is not too bad). Somehow though, the spectacle of trashy euro-pop and over-the-top theatricals has always been a part of my life and understanding of Europe.

Straya

We were a bit overly enthusiastic with our cliche’s. Here you can see a surfboard, footy players, akubra hats and a giant kangaroo bobble head. Maybe a touch too keen!

Being a theater student in Melbourne, watching Eurovision every year was a cult-like event among our group of friends. We would stay up to ridiculous hours, host Eurovision themed parties and enjoy the drama and outrageous performances, while passing expert commentary and awarding our own votes and points to each finalist.

When I first travelled through Europe in 2008 I vividly remember watching Eurovision in a trendy hostel in Lisbon, being so thrilled to have actual Europeans watching it with me – Turkish, French, Belgian and British backpackers crammed into the one television room. This was where I learnt about the political ‘alliances’ and underlying meaning of the way countries voted. Of course the free sangria supplied during viewing meant we were especially enthusiastic about the performances.

So when Eurovision rolled around this year, I had already been primed in the history of the competition and knew the gleeful joy of watching singers perform with acrobats and fake flames in the background. I knew that winning performances were those that had an equal balance of musical talent, over the top costumes and outrageous stage antics. And I love every ridiculous thing about Eurovision.

Romanian Dracula

Just a Romanian Opera singer dressed as Dracula – nothing ridiculous to see here. This was my favourite entrant in 2013!

Not at all ridiculous entry from Poland this year.  All about the music.

Eurovision

Circular piano. Wonderfully ridiculous.

I was invited to a fellow Aussie expats place to watch the contest with Margarita’s in hand and fellow Eurovision-enthusiasts. We’d of course seen the Austrian entrant Conchita Wurst in the papers all week in the lead-up to the competition and lots of positive press was hinting she may perform well, but no one was game enough to claim that she would definitely win.

A funny thing happened when the results were being finally being revealed – for what I can safely say is the first time, I was sincerely cheering and screaming for Austria, each time Conchita was awarded a point.  It became vital that my adopted country performed well – I had my first real spark of Austrian pride!

 Equivalent level of my pride

Of course I’ve seen Austria win medals in the winter olympics and perform well in world skiing championships – but none of those ‘world stage’ events meant anything to me. Eurovision however, was a game I knew. I understood the high-stakes, the glory and the impact that a winning Eurovision contestant meant. So, that night, if you were in the 2nd district you probably heard a mad bunch of Aussies and Expats squealing every time another 12 points was awarded to ‘the Queen of Austria’, Conchita Wurst. We laughed, we held our breath, we may have even teared up a little bit when she was announced as the winner – and my god did we cheer for her!

Conchita winning as a bearded, cross-dressing sultry diva (with a killer tune) was the icing on the cake. Watching her genuine shock and honest acceptance speech made me miss all my LGBT, cross-dressing and theatrical friends from home – I wanted to run out to the nearest gay bar in Vienna and immediately join the wild celebrations!

The best part? Her win means that in 2015, Eurovision is coming to Austria. Whether its in Vienna or the countryside, you can bet your arse I’ll be fighting for tickets to make a lifelong dream of going to Eurovision finally come true!!

shock

The shock and excitement of seeing Eurovision in Austria got to Conchita too…

 

P.S Not only are we looking forward to Eurovision next year – but I’m now a shameless Conchita fan, we saw her live in Vienna last week and she is, indeed UNSTOPPABLE!! Some home-made videos to give you an idea of just how beloved she is now to Austrians…

 

 This is the crowd of Austrians singing along faithfully to their new Queen

The Queen herself showing us how its done!

 

 

 

 

 

Sprechen sie Deutsch? The best Deutsch to English phrases

Although I’ve been in Wien for over 18 months now, I’m slightly ashamed to report that my Deutsch levels are probably not where they should be. I can follow conversation in groups of friends just fine, but spitting out phrases in return I’m still a bit clunky and basic. However, in my efforts to continually learn more I’ve collected quite a few phrases that when translated into English are brilliantly adorable and fun.

This is by no means an extensive collection and its likely the sayings are quite regional to the groups of people I spend time with. So, apologies for the dominance of Tirolian and Pfalz-ian phrases – they are what I’m regularly surrounded by. If you’ve got some equally brilliant and amusing translations please feel free to share and add to my collection. These are a few select favourites of mine that I encourage you to integrate into your every day lingo….

  Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift!

Translates to: I think my pig is whistling!

Real intention: I think I’m going crazy!

pig is whistling

 

Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei

Translates to: Everything has an end, only the sausage has two

Real intention: A philosophical phrase, spoken when something sadly comes to an inevitable end

 

Sausage

I have no idea what is happening here, but it is hilarious

Das ist großes Kino

Translates to: That’s real big cinema

Real intention: That’s really, really impressive/cool

Es ist gut Kirschen essen mit dir

Translates to: Its good cherry eating with you

Real intention: I’m thoroughly enjoying this conversation with you

 My sister and close friends enjoy some seriously good cherry eating at Christmas!

Das Leben ist kein Zuckerlecken

Translates to: Life is not a sugar licking

Real intention: Life isn’t always easy

Choccie Cupcakes

  Sadly life is not always cupcake…

Geh dahin, wo der Pfeffer wächst

Translates to: Go where the pepper grows

Real intention: Kindly, er, rack off!!

To round out, these are three of my favourite sayings, guaranteed to always make me giggle because I adore them so much!

Du alte Wursthaut

Translates to: You old sausage skin

Real intention: Ah, you reliable old friend of mine. This became a catch-cry of our family over Christmas once the English speakers found out the literal translation, so much so that nearly every sentence was being finished with ‘You old sausage skin!’ and a hearty pat on the back.

 Du bist der Deckel zu meinem Topf

Tanslates to: You’re the lid to my pot

Real intention: You’re my perfect match. A very sweet phrase to use when describing your partner…..slightly cheesy but completely adorable! Who knew Deutsch could be so cute??

The lid to my pot

The lid to my pot – who will no doubt hate that I shared this ridiculous photo!

Du frech Dachs!

Translates to: You cheeky badger!

Real intention: You cheeky little so-and-so. This is now a popular phrase in our household for any number of crimes, whether it’s stealing the last piece of chocolate or ‘forgetting’ to put your shoes in the cupboard. Incredibly useful in most domestic scenarios.

Badger cam
Evidence of actual badgers stealing chocolate – the threat is real.

One of the best things that all these phrases have taught me is how the German language (with its Austrian dialects) is always referring back to nature and food – the two great loves of the Deutsch speaking world!!

I’m sure there’s many more regional and gorgeous Deutsch sayings out there and I can’t wait to learn more. I’d much rather spend a day discussing dialect phrases than an hour in Deutsch school learning grammar rules so please, feel free to share your favourite phrases in the comments below.

 

Sausage image credit:

photo credit: Mr Jaded via photopin cc

Cupcake image credit:

photo credit: FUNKYAH via photopin cc

28 ways to be Austrian

In honour of the fact that this is my 28th post, on the week of my 28th birthday I feel its appropriate to celebrate that number with a short guide to the hilarious/awesome/crazy things i’ve noticed from my first year living in Austria. These are the little things you need to embrace to truly uncover your inner Austrian!

1.Be on time. They really, really like being on time. The Germans and the Swiss have the more famous reputation but God help you if you’re not on time to meet an Austrian. For an Austrian, to be 5 minutes early  is to be on time. You have been warned!

2. Speak Austrian Deutsch. The language spoken here is technically German, but an Austrian variety. So a Potato is an Kartoffeln in Deutsch, but Erdäpfel in Austrian. German apricots are Aprikose, Austrian ones are Marillen, German tomatoes are Tomaten, and the Austrian (specifically Viennese) tomatoes are Paradeiser….you get the idea.  These tricksy little differences seperate the Deutsch from the Österreicher!

3. Get used to Smoking. Austria is one of the few countries that has been sloooowww to take up any kind of smoking laws, because Austrians adore smoking. For a country that’s so modern in so many ways the smoking habits  here make me feel like its still 1960. Bars, restaurants and streetside you can buy super cheap packs of smokes. Its legal at 16 meaning half the population is addicted by 17. Its gross.

Even their healthiest export is into it!

4. Get nude! This is so normal here as to barely* rate a mention. Topless sunbaking is the norm at all public swimming spots, be it beside the Danube, at a public pool or with your kids at the local swim spot. Nuding up is par for the course, particularly beside lakes, and while some areas are specifically reserved for this, people don’t tend to look twice at folk of all ages nuding up. Stay tuned for a later post about this and how it positively affects body confidence throughout the country – I reckon us English speaking folk have a lot to learn!

*sorry (not sorry) for this terrible pun!

5. Eat Dairy. There is dairy everywhere. Austrians love any kind of Dairy product – cheese, milk, butter, buttermilk, cream, creamy spreads, creamy sauces on meals, mayonaise in every salad….  it’s endless. I reckon its  from their rural tradition of farming and loving their cows so much. So versatile is their love of Dairy that they literally invented a drink made from  ‘cheese juice’ – as in leftover juice from the cheese making process. Its called Latella. S loves it. The thought of it makes me wanna vomit in my mouth

Milk & Fruit and CHEESE JUICE!! Belurgh!

6. Embrace Pork ‘n Potatoes. The diet of Austria is built on the back of a Pig – always served with generous helpings of Potatoes. More often than not, the potatoes are in salad, the famous Kartöffel Salad . Natürlich, the best Kartoffel salad is always made by Austrian Grannies. Pork cannot be avoided – they sneak it in Schnitzel, in Salad, in Cordon Bleu,  even in breakfast as a spread ( the fat of the pig is made spreadable). Basically for Austrians, Pork = life.

7. Be Neat & Tidy. The enitre country is an OCD dream of cleanliness. Crossing the border into Austria I swear the fields get more organised, the streets are neater and everything is more orderly. There’s a woman on our street who has been spotted sweeping leaves from the footpath at midnight. No joke – cleanliness is imperative. If cleaning your house isn’t enough, they have city wide initiatives in Spring to help clean the city for incomiung tourists…very serious business!

8. Holiday Often. Most Austrian work contracts have 5 weeks annual leave built in. Add to that the many many public holidays throughout the year (at least 14) and the ‘swing days’ ( if a public holiday falls on a Thursday you get the Friday off too) and you have one very relaxed country. Being smack in the centre of Europe means you can holiday in Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic or just enjoy some of the stunning lakes of Austria. Tough life!

Danube Relaxation

Viennese Day off – very tough!

9. Be Polite. Normally, in any English speaking country when I get in an elevator,  I avoid eye contact, clutch my phone and pretend i’m not surrounded by 20 other people in an enclosed space. Entering and exiting buildings I look busy, stride quickly and leave everyone the hell alone to do the same. Standard human interaction, no? Not so here. Every office I walk into someone greets you with a cheery ‘Gruß Gott’, you step out of a lift and a hail of ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ sends you merrily on your way. I think this  is  part of Austrias very strong  formal culture. In the villages of Tirol, if you walk past someone on the street its extremely rude to not say ‘Servus’ or ‘Gruß Gott’ in greeting.  I personally love this – it gives your day to day interactions a little more cheer!

10. Get a Dirndl/Lederhosen, This is not mandatory, but super fun! I got my first Dirndl last weekend for a local ‘mini-Oktoberfest’ in Tirol and I loooovve it. Dirndl’s & Lederhosen are the traditional clothes of Austria, known as Trachten. They’ll lend you the air of authenticity while holding a beer and speaking broken Deutsch in a beer hall. Apparently Trachten are making a comeback in the fashion stakes so you can get yourself ahead of the game, like so….

Dirndl!

Advising others on the benefits of a Dirndl…

11. ‘Where are you from?’ is a mandatory conversational topic. I don’t just mean asking which continent, or country. The first 15 minutes upon meeting anyone new is generally spent dissecting which particular reigon a person hails from. Points are gained if this can be picked from a speakers accent, double points if a specific village can be named. Maybe this is a European habit, but for Austrians its seems to be a particularly rewarding game – where if you guess correctly, friendly jibes and stereotypes are exchanged about each respective persons village.

12. Get Fit. Austrians love a good walk, or hike, or mountain bike, or rock climbing or going for a ‘Wandern’ – which is a hike that can go for hours. All this incredible countryside encourages outdoor fitness freaks. Then in winter there’s skiing, snow boarding, ice skating, or ‘touring’ which is hiking (again), but this time in snow, up a mountain. Yep. They’re bonkers about getting up those mountains.

Eisreisenwelt

No idea why they’d want to get all the way up here!

13. Love Winter Sports. They are waaayy more important here than any other sporting codes. It may seem obvious when you think of the climate, but still surprises me. I’m slowly getting used to the idea of watching ski races on a Saturday afternoon instead of the footy. Because Austria kind of sucks (on a national level) in popular European sports like soccer, they tend to embrace the stuff they’re good at, like skiing. Just don’t tell them they suck, you may be kicked out 🙂

David Alaba: Alle lieben unseren SuperstarSuperflous shot of Austria’s best soccer player, Alaba, looking dreamy.

14. Daily Kaffe & Kuche. The greatest Austrian habit of all – mid afternoon coffee and cake. Any & every day around 3pm is Kaffe & Kuche time. You need no justification to stop your day, get yourself a coffee and slice of Cake – Sacher Torte, Apfel, Marillen, Shokolade, whichever – then sit and enjoy 20 minutes of pure bliss.

15. Coffee must always come with a glass of water on the side. This is genius to the perpetually thirsty, like myself. I adore it so much and notice the lack in other countries now. The Austrians literally invented the idea of modern coffee in the 1500’s – when the fleeing Turkish Army left behind bags of coffee beans, the Viennese added milk, sugar and deliciousness – and have been perfecting coffee ever since.

Note  all the Dairy heaped on top!!

 

 16. Dance Like no one is Watching. Dancing here is less of an art, and more of a group activity in clapping, hopping, jumping, flapping your hands and cheering along to lyrics. They may be famous for the Vienna Waltz season, but thorough research in many bars has revealed Austrians are much more partial to Macarena-like sing alongs to folksy music, with corresponding dance moves that an entire dancefloor will bust out. Its a thing of beauty to witness!

 17. Grow a Moustache. The moustache ratio here is definitely above average, the most magnificent ones are  tended to like 1940’s masterpieces. Its inspiring & hilarious to see them in the wild. My favourite moustache of note was spotted in the gym, on a be-muscled man who was sporting the very traditonal ‘handlebar with a twirl’ look. I wasn’t stalky enough to take a picture, but trust me when I say it was definitely a descendant of this guy:

Sadly, he was not wearing a leopard print onesie that Tuesday.

 18. Hide your Office. Most offices are hidden in converted grand homes. Any Doctor, Dentist, or everyday appointment can occur in a gorgeous old apartment building, rather than purpose built, soulless concrete block. The buildings here are incredible, and finding the re-appropriated Optician’s office hidden in an apartment building from the 1890’s is an everyday architectural adventure!

 19. Avoid the Viennese Attitude. Ah the Viennese reputation for gloom. Renowed for being grumpy, unhelpful and all round sad sacks, I can say this is only half-true. The true Viennese outlook on life tends to be more ‘its not so bad’ rather than ‘life is great!’ but you can find friendly people, and if you attempt a bit of Deutsch, they  open up more.

20. Get used to Churches & Catholicism. Though changing with the new multicultural population, Austria is still very much a traditionally Catholic country. Most of the public holidays are on Catholic religious holidays, festivities are built around Catholic traditions and every second village in the countryside has a Catholic Kirche as its architectural focal point. Not such a bad thing when the Churches are as pretty as this:

KircheThat’s me, being overwhelmed by all the  goooooold in a small Kirche in Tirol

21. Classify Water. Water is more than just wet stuff from a tap. Here, it has a number of classifications – prickelnd, mild & ohne. And there’s allegedly a difference in taste between tap water depending on what side of the Danube you live. This, more than anything tells you how much Austrians love a good classification process! Water is very sacred here as they treasure the good, clear product fresh from the mountains.

22. Love The Hoff. Yes, they are as mad for him as the Germans. No one is entirely sure why he’s so successful here. He came through Vienna in March and was still given VIP treatment at Volkgarten club and the Austrians (including S) went mad for seeing the original Knight Rider vehicle. They even nominated him to be a Governor for Styria! Check the article here http://www.artofeurope.com/news/hasselhoff.htm  allegedly the photo to go along with his nomination was something like this…

There are no words for this….

23. Enjoy Explicit Radio. Like anywhere, commercial radio in Austria is pretty repeptitive. Unlike anywere else, there isn’t a lot of censorship going on. You will hear full, explicit versions of everything. In the middle of the workday there’s Old school, full length Eminiem alongside tracks like ‘What’s my Motherf**in Name’. I’m no prude so it doesn’t really bother me but for those sensitive to swearing, beware!

24. Sunday Funday!! There’s no shops open on a Sunday here. So adapt your grocery habits accordingly, or you end up starving on a Sunday evening. Sunday is traditionally a ‘family day’ used to socialise doing non-capitalist activities, like long lunches at Grannies and playing in a park. Its a delightful way to force you to find something outdoorsy to do on a weekend. Number one choice of activitiy is to…

25. Wash your Car on a Sunday. The neat and tidy thing extends to vehicle maintenance, specifically spending your Sunday’s vigorously cleaning your car. This is regardless of weather or if the car actually needs cleaning.  The gigantic queues at Carwash outlets can attest to the popularity of this pastime. The secondary church on a Sunday is the carwash.

26. Sit Down Boys. I’m talking about boys bathroom etiquette. They pee sitting down. Legitimately, taught from a young age to pee sitting down. I only realised this when I never had to put the seat down in our apartment, and upon some delicate quizzing established that its a non-issue here. Boys pee sitting down. Hallelujah!

27. Fashion Rules. Fashion here is…..classic? I’m still a bit bemused by Vienna’s fashion choices. I say ‘classic’ when what I mostly mean is a teensy bit boring. Classic cuts, nothing too zany, nothing too colourful (unless its fluro which, ick) and not a lot of risky choices. Wearing my Black Milk tights feel positively rebellious! (see my heaven here http://blackmilkclothing.com/) However, Vienna fashion week is in September so I’ll withhold complete judgement until then. There’s also an adorable blog at http://www.sissisecrets.com/ that’s helping uncover the inner fashionista’s of Wien!

28. Learn to drink Beer.  Austria is hovering up in the top 3 for biggest beer drinkers in the world. They knocked Germany off the perch recently and have some delicious varities of beer to back up the claim. My personal favourite is Weißbier, but the variety and cheap prices mean you can discover your personal favourite. Proßt!!

Weißbeer

Some extremely Austrian things here – Weißbeer, cigarettes, mountains & a lake. Oh and the human too.

So how Austrian are you??? I think I’ve still got a long way to go, so any other Austrian traits you can think of, let me know!!

Wachau Wine Weekend

It was mini-adventure time this weekend, so despite the weather being less than summery, we set out on a daytrip to explore the Wachau. What is Wachau I hear you cry? Well for starters, its this….

Only a big glorious beautiful area about an hour’s drive out of busy Vienna, completely hidden a little further down the Danube from the more famous Melk Abbey & Krems. I was gobsmacked. I know Austria is beautiful, but the countryside keeps hitting me in the face with just how stunning it is, right when I start taking it for granted…

Countryside in background, badly done selfie in foreground

We had a pretty little drive to get out there, through lots of cute little villages, even saw a few weddings en route – but the effects of recent flooding were still evident along the sides of the road.  The spot where we took the photo above would have been completely unerwater a few weeks ago. So to revive local tourism, S had a surprise in store for me, in the form of a Giant Castle!! I love castles! On top of A Mountain! Beside the Danube! Glorious!

Aggstein panorama

Lost the pointy bit on top, but you get the idea, no? CASTLE!!

Aggstein Castle is a big, reconstructed Fortress that was first built in 1350. Most of the roof has gone but a whole heap of the original rooms and castle walls remain. Its been really well restored and you can roam about freely to get a good feel of the place as it would have been in its heyday. Battlements, wells, cellar’s and original kitchen elements are all still there.

Huge stretch of castle to frolic in!

And if geeking out over historic details isn’t your thing, then the views alone are worth it!

Note adventuring Austrian’s paragliding in background

Peeking through a lookout point

We spent a good two hours here, wandering about, enjoying the views, pretending to be from Medieval times and, of course, snacking. Austrian style snacking which is…large:

yowze

Blurred photo and half demolished plate due to marauding hungry Austrian & Australian

The cafe restaurant is very traditional style Austrian, super homely and lots of wood. Because the weather was a bit scheisse we headed for a table indoors, where they had dellightful bay window seats and kitschy posters.

retro ad

cafe Aggstein

The manager/waitress revealed the upstairs area had been a hostel in the ’70’s. Can you imagine staying here as a backpacker for about ten bucks a night??!! Luxury!! I was tempted to request an overnight but S is yet to stay in a hostel (travel princess much??) so I thought this was maybe not the best induction one could ask for.

After conquering the castle our next mission was to cross to the other side of the Danube to the adorable village of Spitz. This proved harder than expected as the regular ferry was non operational after flooding. We had to loop around a bit but this took us past a few different kinds of street vendors selling fresh peaches, cherries and natürlich, schnapps.  I got to taste my first Steckerlfish, which was, hand on heart as a seafood lover, one of the freshest, tastiest best spiced fish I’ve had:

Taste’s better than it looks, I swear!!

We rounded out the day at a local Heuringer, which is like a winery but on a smaller scale, where you sit in someone’s home. Basically, for different periods of the wine season, local winemaker’s open up their backyards or courtyards as a place to drink and eat while tasting their produce. They only have a licence to selll their wine, no beer, spirits etc, and only cold food. Which, as you may have gathered by now is more than sufficient when Austrian Granny’s are making the snack plates!! We went to one owned by a friend’s family, and it felt like we were in Italian Wine country – stunning views, sunset, delicious cheap wine, and good chats with the locals

good cheap wine

                            I can never go back to Australian prices for wine….

spitz kiche

Spitz Kirche from Heuringer terrace

After whiling away 3 hours ‘tasting’ the beautiful wine the weather came in on us, but it had definitely been well worth braving it all day!

For those who want a visual on where we were, try this handy dandy map:

map wachau

If that doesn’t help you, stay tuned, because I think we’ll be headed back here soon, hopefully with friends in tow!!

Explaining Aussie Politics

Yesterday was a tough tense day. First, for some unknown ungodly reason, I skipped my morning coffe. Secondly, I’ve been torturing myself this week with early morning gym sessions in the hope that my ‘summer body’ will magically turn up there at 7:30am and I can slip right into that skinny tanned skin. Weirdly, it hasn’t worked yet!! Then, checking Twitter mildly on the U-Bahn to work, this happened….

And before my eyes, the whole political landscape was shifting, Australia’s first female Prime Minister set herself up for a literal poitical death-match against her arch-nemisis, Kevin Rudd. Or for those who remember it – Kevin ’07. As in, gained success in 2007, Kevin ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ Rudd:

If none of the above words make any sense to you – well, then you are now on the same page as my fellow work colleagues and friends here in Austria!! I was inadvertently thrust into the position of ‘political correspondent’ to try and explain the intricacies and attitudes of Australian Politics. 

This is….interesting to translate. How to describe a political landscape where the party in power devour their own, for the second time!! 

A quick refresher for you: Kevin Rudd came to power as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party in 2007. When things started looking bad in the Polls for the Labour party, Julia Gillard, backed by some powerful party members, called a ballot and ousted K Rudd as leader of his party, and therefore as Prime Minister of the country. It was, at the time, quite shocking and unheard of in Aussie Politics. I still remember Rudd’s emotional farewell speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5kUwpeNUtY

The family standing behind him, the tears. Terrible. At the time. In 2007. Other things that happened in 2007 – the last Harry Potter came out, Anna Nicole Smith died, the iPhone was first released.  Point being it was a LOOOONNNGG time ago. For me anyway, and I think, in the minds of the Australian Public.

Kevin Rudd held onto this, played the party game for a few years and then yesterday, exacted his long held and burning revenge. Outing Julia Gillard in the same spectacular and backstabbing surprise inter-party ballot that felled him. All over Twitter there was comparisons to the Game of Thrones – like brutality of this. Rudd even had the nickname amongst other Pollies of ‘Kingslayer’. The circus of Australian Politics made headlines around the world. And to try and explain this, to other nationalities, from a far off viewpoint is….almost heartbreaking. To experience it here, watching the drama unfold over Twitter, tensely following like a football match the ultimate denoument was almost unbearable.  

 

The head on Cersei’s body is K-Rudd, the other guys are Opposition leaders!

 
Its heartbreaking because of the rightful disillusionment in politics across the board in Australian society this kind of behaviour engenders. When antics like this occur, 3 months out from a federal election, you can’t help but feel that politicians are all just egomaniacal, petty, power fiends. That’s how I feel, now, on the other side of the world, thousands of kilometers away. I’m not even there, where the decisions these politicans make will impact my everyday life. The decisions will however, impact my decisions to move back – decisions on Visas for immigration in particular. Decisions left to a bunch of power players with no loyalty. That’s what leaves you feeling hollow inside. Compared to moments like these, that leave your spirit soaring, and reminds you why politicians matter:
 
 
 On the world stage Julia Gillard will be best remembered for her Misogyny speech and rightly so. It rang out to women everywhere for its honesty and emotional truth. She copped it hard in her time as PM. For most of her time in power I was overseas, so experienced a filtered version of her kind of leadership. I can’t say who should lead Australia, I can only say I hope its not Tony Abbott, a man known for his archaiac views on women:
 
 
Because if that happens, I may lose all hope and faith in the way Australia is headed. And that would truly break my heart. 
 
The takeaway lessons? Coffee is necessary, always and everyday to get through troubled times.  And politics? Well today I’m seeing politics the same as those early morning gym sessions – a difficult, ugly, sweaty, mess of a thing. Sometimes it hurts, but in the end its just as necessary to try and make the future better. 
 
I’m now going to step down off that soapbox (oh god political speeches full of cliche’s are contagious!!) and want to know what you think. How does Australian politics translate to you? What would you like to see happen? Is it all madness? Are all politicians the same? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN!!
 
And for extra insight from people much more articulate than I, check out the following articles:
 
 
 
This one may make you tear up if you know the background: 
 
 

Spring Awakening!

Its been a glorious few days here in Wien and I am loving the sense that the city is awakening, stretching its limbs for summer and preparing to thrive and hum in the coming months. I wanted to quickly share with you all the last few days’ exciting and inspiring moments. Defintely falling in love with the city right now….

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 1. This mini palace (Schloss? Palais?) I found en route to a lovely little wine and cheese bar  after Deutsch class on Tuesday. I loved it because even though I see the grand architecture of the city every day, little corners of the city like this can still take me by surprise with how stunning they are, completely out of nowehere, and still useful in the modern city. Absoloutely gorgeous.

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2. Walking towards the Hofburg last night down the back of the Ringstrasse…you can’t see it in this photo but I was looking at the sunset behind the Rathaus (pictured), to my right was the Burgtheatre and to my left was the Volksgarten. I was literally surrounded by history, gardens and managed to be there at the perfect time of day. A little moment but its these moments that still make me pinch myself for being here!

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 3. This was sitting on Heldenplatz, out the front of the Hofburg waiting for the free Symphonic Orchestra concert to start. They were holding it in celebrative memorial of 68 years freedom from the Nazi’s. It’s actually the first time the Austrian’s have ‘claimed back’ the day. It used to be an excuse for modern day Neo-Nazi’s to gather here and ‘celebrate’ but to combat that kind of negativity the city of Vienna in association with the Mathausen Trust organised a free concert in the park, and as you can see it was glorious. Happiness, beers, frankfurter stands, smiles and celebration of a ‘new’ Austria, one that is no longer a victim of Nazism, but a survivor. We lounged on the grass, a beautiful collection of Austrian, Swedish, German, Australian and Dutch expats and locals all enjoying the sunshine and stunning surrounds. Couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate freedom. The weather really turned it on as well!!

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 Just look at that picturesque sunset!! Unreal!!

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4. Lastly our own little corner of heaven. We had a bit of an Ikea splurge recently but the results have been well worth it. This is our new setup on the back porch – cushioned corner seat, little bench for food/games/glasses of wine and a new plant setup. It gets the sun in the morning and is cosy and protected from the wind in the evening. This was our Sunday brunch, and I can’t think of a better brunch spot in all Austria!! Am I getting a bit domestic in my old age?? Surely not! But I sure as hell love a sunny Sunday brunch….

In short, this week I am absoloutely loving my Viennese life!!

Walk in Wien

Walking was something I only ever did to reach a destination, not an act in and of itself. There was always a goal to be reached, an object to achieve or somewhere else to be.

 Panorama of National Park

Panorama of National Park

Not so in Austria. Here they walk for fun, for exercise, for the sheer joy of it……

River Wetlands

River Wetlands

With landscape like this not 20 minutes outside of the city centre, I can”t really fault them!

Walking Track - fairytale much?

Walking Track – fairytale much?

I was feeling a little worse for wear on Sunday, due to a surprise party the evening before that ended in the trashiest of all places – Bettle Alm. But that”s another post. Suffice to say Sunday was a bit bleary, and despite my protestations we dragged ourselves outside to walk off the pain. Dammned if it didn’t work too!

IMG_0275

Once I stopped looking for the “point of walking” I realised I was actually enjoying myself. And maybe, that’s what I need to do a little bit more of these days – stop looking for the goal, the point, the ultimate aim, and start enjoying what”s right in front of me. The simple pleasure of walking, for no reason at all.

Dead tree pose!

Dead tree pose!

One thing I have definitely noticed from the Austrian’s, and am trying to add into my psyche is their joy of outside, their lack of definition by work. Everything in life here is built around your life outside of work, spending time with your family and enjoying your everyday life. Simple, effective. Look how much this lot are enjoying it! Er, you may have to do some extreme zooming….

Swimming Island

Swimming Island

Double points if you can spot the nudie rudie’s….but I”ll be discussing that particular inclination next post!!

My new aim? Walk more, to enjoy what’s happening around me here and now. So simple. So easy to forget.