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!
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!
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:
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!!
Its not how it sounds, really, I swear! Ladies and Gents, its been a blissful, busy, bright and brilliant three weeks off. I got my itchy feet out of Vienna and returned to an old love – the Road. That enticing mistress of adventure, uncertainty and joy that I thrive on.
Officially I gave up my Topdeck job last year, after two incredible seasons – moving on to my new life in Vienna and consequently a new, grown-up, real life job. Topdeck was my employment-ex. The much beloved, always wistfully mentioned, ‘dream job’. So when the email came through three months ago, asking if I wanted to do just one cheeky trip…well what’s a restless girl to do?? Topdeck & Trip Leading have been the ‘what if’ spectre hanging about in the back of my brain and secret chamber of my heart for months and I had to find a way to get it out of my system. Not only for my own sanity, but to really and truly start my life here in Vienna, I needed to shake the feeling that I was ‘missing out’. Essentially banish my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for those who don’t speak the slang of Youths these days!).
A short and sharp 11 day trip was the answer – not so long as to cut into my annual leave, and just long enough to hit all the high points of a good solid lap around Europe. The itinerary? Paris – Lauterbrunnen-Venice-Munich-Rhine Valley-Amsterdam. Two nights everywhere except Munich and Rhine Valley where we had one night each. Stunning.
A small visual guide to what I got up to in my spare time. As in, when not managing 46 mostly drunk/hungover hilarious and fun loving passengers that had a fairly tight itinerary to see 9 countries in 11 days!!
Paris – I hired a bike and rode around the sights, stopping in at Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop for a few treats – hipster bliss!
View over the Trocadero Gardens and some old, iconic structure
This is the Eglise Dom where Napoleon is buried, he’s a subtle kinda guy.
Switzerland. Got my inner Austrian on for a hike up the Grunnenwald, I must be integrating better than I thought because I actually enjoyed this kind of excercise!
Up close with some local cows, not as friendly as expected
View of Jungfraujoch Mountain from little Cafe Hut
Italy – Skipped the hot, sweaty crowds wandering the sunny streets of Venice and caught up with some old friends beside the pool. Heaven.
The coolest place to be in Venice – on water. View is from Accademia Bridge
Munich – Beers in Hofbraühaus. Apparently we were having an excellent time ‘cos I have no photographic evidence of this!!
Rhine Valley – managed to take the optional River Cruise down the Rhine River, sipping beers in the sun with some of my favourite passengers. Incredible countryside!
Oh, this was the view from our Hostel room in St Goar, which was, ahem, a Castle.
Amsterdam – Got into the facepainting spirit and night then enjoyed my free day bike riding, visting the newly opened Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandts Night Watch AND got some gifts in the Heinekin Museum. Winner!
National monument – Dam square, Amsters
Brugges – always the final day slog, but this time around, we were on time, relaxed and oh so happy to have such a wonderful last day together.
Final city stop, treated myself to a lunch in the main square. Job well done.
The result? A perfect trip. I honestly could not have asked for a better group, easier itinerary, nicer driver or happier experience. It was the universe gifting me one last hurrah. What I came to realise though, was that as great as the job is – I’ve moved beyond that lifestyle. The thing I love most about it is sharing the excitement of travel with young people who are equally interested and keen to learn more, see more and enjoy everything about their journey. That includes the partying nightlife alongside the historical stories and architectural marvels. I love getting people excited about travelling, sharing their experience the first time they see the Eiffel Tower, or taste Italian Gelato, or try and lift an authentic Stein. Its other traveller’s enthusiasm and joy that I love, above and beyond the job itself. Which means, I’m finally ok with leaving that Job and that life behind.
I have one delightful group of people to thank for this…these guys:
Adorable group shot in the Netherlands
That madcap bunch of people made my trip unforgettable. I am so greatful to have such enthusiastic, excited passengers who were up for any-and-everything! Calling any one trip a favourite is impossible, because each and every single one is special, but this will, I think, be memorable as the final fun one!
Like any good relationship, Topdeck made me grow as a person, figure out who I really am and what I really want. It challenged me, made me happier than I’ve ever been and more exhausted than I ever could have imagined. It was at once uplifting, traumatic and hugely satisfying -sometimes all in one day. To anyone even considering a change of lifestyle or career I can only say DO IT if you have the strength. Its not easy, and its not always fun, but it will change you for the better. It taught me to be selfless, to savour the small moments you get for yourself, to be more helpful, to be thankful everyday for every opportunity. It will always be the most significant ex for me, because it changed my life so completely. I left Australia with a one way ticket, on the hope of getting a job – I really had no idea of what I was in for. Three seasons later, I’m living in Austria with the love of my life, I’ve experienced the best Europe has to offer – counting Rome, Florence, Berlin and Paris as my office – and made friends with the most incredible people along the way. Lucky? No, I worked damn hard for it. Grateful?Hell yes, and always will be.
For now though, I can say (with 98.99% certianty)that my Trip Leading days are done. I’m putting down my roots here in Wien, starting new challenges, and finding a new way to share my love of travel – online here with you guys, and soon, out in the real world with a new venture that’s shaping up to be pretty exciting! Mostly though, this is for myself and S, to banish all talk of ex-loves and truly begin our new life here, together.
The new beginning…
Confession time guys – I am a MASSIVE history nerd. You may have noticed from the posts on all things traditional, plus the fawning over Austrian architecture, but recently I got to indulge my über geek to a whole other level.
MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL IN A REAL LIVE CASTLE FROM THE 1300’S!!! YESSSS!!!!
Here’s the thing, Australia didn’t have Medieval times – white folks didn’t make it over to the island until the 1700’s by which time Knights, Chivalry and y’know, the Plague were long gone from Europe. So, when I get an opportunity to get amongst something so historically geeky but cool I got a leeetle bit excited.
Kufstein is the closest big town to my misters home village in Tirol, and we were lucky enough to be visiting relatives when they were hosting this wonderful festival. I hadn’t actually been inside Kufstein Castle either so it was a good geek-out opportunity all round.
What I hadn’t expected to find, was an entire community of ‘medieval’ performance folks who legitimately live their lives like its the 1600’s. These festival folk setup their tents on the grounds of the castle or location where they’re performing and all live on ground in ye olde fashioned way. Shared tents, benches to eat at, sleeping on truckle beds, it was cool to see but an interesting lifestyle choice to say the least!
Two kids swordfighting, living the Knight life!!
The festival itself was really well organised (naturlich in Österreich!) and had roving performers, a big mainstage, food stands with ye olde style sausage, mead and ale!! I got to drink mead surrounded by Knights!! Life success!! Entrance was free if you came in costume, so it felt pretty authentic all day. There was storytelling for kids and they even staged one of the famous battles that took place in Kufstein castle, setting off the old cannons on the drawbridge, plus some super realistic fighting…..
Pretty much exactly how the battle looked originally…..
It was really cute and loads of fun. Even though I couldn’t always understand what a lot of the performers were saying, medieval style comedy is mostly visual jokes and lots of prop gags with ‘dimwitted dudes’ being confounded by their sidekicks
Half naked men dressed as bunnies is funny in any era!!
The museum itself inside Kufstein castle had the worlds oldest organ inside (resisting all urges to make inappropriate pun there…) and loads if info on life in the castle. I’m calling it a castle, though technically (as I was told multiple times by the ever-precise Austrians!) its a fortress, and a pretty impentrable one. It was never infiltrated and was the focalpoint of all Tirolian defences throughout history. When you see the incredible views across the countryside from the windows, you can see why enemies never really had a chance to ‘surprise’ the locals.
Pretty sure I can see straight across to Germany through that Valley
Also in the museums, we got to see loads of fancypants outfits of soldiers, and big ‘ole impressive flags of their former armies:
In short, it was the perfect, most nerdilicious way to enjoy a castle I could’ve imagined!! This is what living in an incredibly old country is all about – and why my mother is sure I won’t be home anytime soon when I can enjoy this on a weekend. Sorry Mum!!
So what I’m wondering is, has anyone else come across these festival medieval types? I know they happen in England but the Bavarian ones I don’t know much about. I’m trying to find out more info, but I’m guessing all details are probably in German, and though my Deutsch course is good, I’m not quite up to that level of research!! Let me know if you’ve seen stuff like this, or feel free to just share your nerd-out indulgences, especially if they’re as geeky/awesome as mine!!