Sunday, June 6, 2010

Niederösterreich Tour

On Saturday, Elsa, Josef and I made a nice little tour through Lower Austria stopping in Waidhofen an der Ybbs, Hohenlehen and Lunz am See.  The sun was shining and I got to see Austria in all its glory - mountains, hills and valleys.

Josef und Ich in Waidhofen an der Ybbs

One of the main sites in Waidhofen is this tower, which was built in 1532 when the people of Waidhofen, at precisely 11:45 a.m., deafeated the Turks.

Stopping for lunch (leftover schnitzel) up on the mountain at Hohenlehen.  This is where Josef will be taking the school students this week to practice cutting down trees.

 The cows didn't disturb us too much, mooooo.....

Elsa and I resting on the 180 year old tree (Josef counted the rings so we can say with certainty just how old it is) 

After lunch, we drove on to Lunz am See and took a little electric boat ride around the lake. This, of course, was followed by ice cream.

As you can see, it was an echt schöner Tag!

We've also been cooking and baking every day.  Needless to say, I think you'll all be impressed with what I can do when I get home!  Elsa and Josef made us a cookbook of their (and our!) favorite Austrian recipes so now I'll be able to recreate all of the recipes anytime we'd like.

Lately, I've also come to a few new realizations, including, among others:
  • I no longer find it unusual for people to drink a beer at noon
  • An after-lunch coffee break is second nature now
  • The Austrians have a good thing going with their handshakes.  There's never that ambiguity of how to greet a person. You simply ALWAYS shake their hand when you arrive and when you leave. It's understood. It's simple.

It's hard to imagine that we'll be leaving in just two short days.  I really hate to think about it, and the anticipation seems almost worse than just saying goodbye and getting it done with. There have been simply far too many memories and good times had to sum up the whole experience. I best not write too much now or I'll start to cry just thinking about it. We've grown a lot this year, and we will often and fondly think back on our time here.

Chances are good that you won't hear from me again until we're in the States (we arrive Wednesday night).  Thanks to all of you who have been faithful readers!  It's been a great year :)

Love, Angela

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How have I been spending my last days in Austria?

Snuggled up by a warm fire, that's how.  The weather has been nothing but miserable for the last several days, and, quite frankly, I'm getting sick of it.  Some people have been blaming it on the volcano, but I'm not sure if I buy it.  Regardless, it's no fun.  Fortunately we've moved over to Elsa and Josef's now so we've at least got some luxuries like a TV and dishwasher - not to mention, good company.

At 6:00 this morning Michael left for Belguim with the men's choir. I heard part of the sending off ceremony included beer with breakfast.  Hopefully they can still sing at the EU Parliament this afternoon! Today is their only official concert on the program. Then they have four days to explore the country. I must say, ich bin sehr stolz auf ihn.  (I'm proud of him) for joining the choir and really becoming part of the group.  It's been fun for me to meet the men in the choir too. They're quite the family.

On the home front, tomorrow's another Austrian (rather, Catholic) holiday - Corpus Christi.  That means no work, no school for the Austrians. This is literally the 5th or 6th holiday in the last 30 days.  We finished up at our schools on Monday, but the school year goes into early July.  Last weekend we cleaned out the apartment in Pöchlarn, so things are slowly winding down.

Along the Danube near Grein.  
 Riding bike in Vienna.

During the last holiday weekend (Pentecost, May 22-25), we spent some time in Vienna and also toured the Mostbirnhaus in Lower Austria. This relatively modern museum took us through the process of making the 'Mostviertlers' favorite drink, Most (an alcoholic cider, usually pear cider or sometimes apple) which you drink like wine. We also enjoyed some richtige spring weather in Vienna and rode our bikes around the Ring Street until our legs fell off.  Then we took in a concert from CSB/SJU, the choir is touring Europe at the moment, and also went to a recital of another teaching assistant living in Vienna.  In the evening we went to My Fair Lady with Matthias at the Volksoper and got to sit in those fancy box seats that line the side of an opera house.  

One of the other highlights from our time in Vienna was Dialog-im-Dunkeln. Basically what it is is an exhibition where you experience daily life as a blind person experiences it. You're led by a blind or visually-impaired tour guide and walk through simulated daily experiences, such as walking through a park, crossing the street, ordering a drink at a bar/cafe, etc. You learn how to use the walking stick and really become in tune to your other senses. Our guide said we rely on our vision for about 80% of what we do. We chose to do the tour in English and lucked out being the only two to sign up. We figured if we can't see, we will at least want to understand what's going on in the dark. Our guide was from Croatia but has been living in Vienna for 19 years working also as an opera singer.  She really got a kick out of Michael and me, and we got a kick out of her too.  The tour was half in English, half in German because she had just started learning English.  We had a great time helping each other out with words we didn't know, and she was insistent on me learning how to pronounce the German "ü" sound.  She even went so far as to try to form my lips and mouth and push in on my diaphragm but to no avail.  I think she would have given me a passing C grade, but I still have some work to do.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hello Goodbye - the remix

The end is fast approaching. While today I can say that I will be ready to come home, I know it will still be tough when the day actually comes. As the end nears, however, it seems only natural to think back to the beginning. Lately I've been having flashbacks to when we first arrived. All I can say is, we've come a long way, baby!

I remember our first meeting with the landlord. I understood absolutely nothing while I sat there watching the flies catch on the sticky roll hung in the kitchen. Gross. I remember the first days in Pöchlarn cleaning out the apartment and trying to adjust to living in a small town thousands of miles away from familiarity. I remember eating noodles with pesto and frozen pizzas until we got used to the different kinds of food at Spar. And I remember being able to speak and understand zero Deutsch.

All that was eight plus months ago. Since then, I've proudly conversed with the landlord (ohne Michael), come to really enjoy the pace of small-town life, and greatly expand my cooking repertoire.  One of the main reasons we've had such a great time in Austria is because of the hospitality of Familie Schagerl (Elsa and Josef) and Matthias. Both helped us acclimate to Austrian life in different ways, and our experience wouldn't have been the same without them. Michael joining the men's choir and both of us getting teaching jobs also helped us feel more a part of the culture and experience authentic Austrian life. That being said, I still definitely feel like an outsider. People often still stare at us like we're aliens, but that's just how it is. Maybe we should make crop circles when we leave to mark our territory?

When we first arrived, I realized just how important is was to "get comfortable being uncomfortable."  That hasn't changed during our nine month stint here. I think we've both embraced the philosophy and will hopefully be more adventurous and confident people going forward.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


With less than a month to go in Europe, we decided to have one more big hurrah. Destination: Prague, Czech Republic.  The weather was perfect the entire weekend - 60's and sunshine.

After spending Saturday morning walking in circles, we finally got a handle on our directions and were able to explore the Old Town and some of the other historic sites in Prague.  Since it was marathon weekend in the city, we also checked out the race expo and signed up for the "mini-marathon", 4.2 km. Unfortunately Michael got pretty sick Saturday so I had to take on the world's best alone.

There was no getting lost on Sunday morning; I just followed the people with the nervous-looking faces and athletic gear. They took me right where I needed to be in the heart of Prague and the starting line of the marathon (

I have to say there's something so exhilarating about race day. It's fun to just be there and soak up the sights, sounds and smells.  You see old people, young people, fat people, skinny people, people who've had major surgeries, and people who just can't get enough of running these races.  As I walked around and saw people warming up and rubbing down, I got the occasional whiff of icy-hot and bengay. Couple this with the pump-you-up music and beautiful weather and the stage was set for a great race.

I kicked butt in the mini marathon, dodging little kids left and right in an attempt to beat them to the finish line. I did beat most of them, but unfortunately there was a backup at the finish due to all the people getting their medals. After getting my medal, I grabbed as much swag as I could and headed back to the hotel.

On my way back to the metro, an African guy who definitely looked like a runner but didn't have a race number, asked me if I knew where the elite changing area was.  I can only reason this out in one way that makes sense, and that is that he asked me because he thought I looked like an elite runner! :)  Of course, I didn't even know that an elite changing area existed, but I tried to play it off cool.  I said which general direction he should head, gave him my map and said good luck. I did feel pretty rockin' awesome for the rest of the day though imagining myself as an elite athlete, ha!

After Michael recovered a little, we spent the rest of the day exploring the Prague Castle and Charles Bridge areas before grabbing a beer (the Czechs are the biggest drinkers per capita) and ending the night with some jazz music at the AghaRTA jazz club. It was a really small, intimate venue downstairs in what was kind of like a cavern. It was really great music and a great way to wrap up our trip in Prague.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Frühling in Wieselburg

It's spring in Wieselburg, and as part of Familie Schagerl, we get to partake in all kinds of fun spring activities, such as grilling, chilling, eating ice cream, fishing and mowing the lawn! 

 Master chef Josef

Michael, Elsa, Judith and Josef enjoying lunch on the terrace

Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for Reschinsky ice cream.

The fish, they just weren't biting.

"Now son, please don't mow over that baby plum tree I just planted."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Der April, der April...

"Der April, der April, er macht was er will."

"April, April, it does what it wants."  Ok, so it doesn't sound nearly as cool in English, but you get the point.

Yesterday we took advantage of April's generosity with a beautiful bike ride through the Wachau with Matthias. I'm happy to report that Matthias has never ridden his bike through this portion of the Wachau. What that means is that we, two Americans, gave him, an Austrian, an authentic Austrian experience. How the tables have turned...

At top right, castle #1.  We have taken this exact photo with all of our guests. We could make an entire album of just this shot, but that's because it's such a perfect photo spot. Wouldn't you agree?

Ships passing on the Danube. Tourist season has begun!

Pit stop an der Donau; Matthias walking on water.

Weingut Polz, wine for 1 Euro per glass.  That's ridiculously cheap.  The food was pretty cheap, too. The problem is you never quite know what you're gonna get.       I gambled with Presswurst.  It looks pretty weird but tastes ok.  It's basically pressed chunks of different types of meat held together with a jelly of sorts and floating in oil and vinegar.  It took some getting used to, but it was ok.

Speed demons rounding the bend. 
One of many peach trees (not to mention, apricot trees, apple trees, pear trees, grape vines) ; Matthias pretending he's a bee. 
Durnstein - ein schöner Ausblick

Playing frisbee in the park near Krems an der Donau.