Kim's Austrian Adventure

My year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Graz, Austria. Yes, there are other cities in Austria besides Vienna.

30. Oktober 2006

Confusing the Austrians, part 8 billion

  • Reading: Roman Sandgruber: Das 20.Jahrhundert - Geschichte Österreichs (History of Austria in the 20th century)

  • Listening to: Of Montreal: She's a Rejector

  • German Word of the Day: Tixo

  • Translation: Tape (Austrian German)

  • Example: Reichst Du mir bitte das Tixo?/Please pass me the tape. (Only in Austria.)

I generally try to avoid my American tendencies while over here, but my love for Halloween shines through. Chrissi and I carved our pumpkins yesterday and it took no less than three hours. I think they look fantastic. T minus 21 hours and counting until the Austrians learn how to celebrate properly. Chrissi is so excited that you would think it's Christmas.

26. Oktober 2006

Why, Bob? Why?

  • Reading: Schedule

  • Listening to: My screams of "NOO!" echo through my apartment

  • German Word of the Day: We already had one. See, this is the benefit of posting twice in one day. Convienently, it also had something to do with screaming.

  • Translation: -

  • Example: -

I'm all for humane treatment. I am, you see, an Ambassadorial Scholar. Diplomatic. I see both sides of the story. However, this... this is too much for words. The creator should be brought before a tribunal, tried and voted off, or get his license revoked, or however they do it on Broadway.

Click here to see an extremely disturbing (yet safe for work) sight. Scarier than anything on Halloween.

Why is he singing and dancing like Elvis? Did he confuse the two? Why is his guitar (which is only a prop) so hideous? Why is he barefoot? Why is he wearing suspenders? Why are those people bouncing on balls? Do they think this is a workout video? Who's playing the harmonica I hear? Why why why?

What terrifies me the most is that Dylan gave this the green light. But then again, I suppose lurking in the background of Victoria's Secret commericals is a slippery slope....

If the dough doesn't behave, just yell at it

  • Reading: Postcard list

  • Listening to: The Blow: Parentheses

  • German Word of the Day: anbrüllen

  • Translation: yell at

  • Example: Wenn es mit dem Teig nicht klappt muss man ihn einfach anbrüllen./If the dough isn't working you just have to yell at it.

Chrissi and I have been cooking together once a week for while. She's from the Austrian state of Carinthia (Kärnten), which is kind of like Texas or Bavaria, where, when you hear someone is from there, you nod your head knowingly and everything about their behavior (ten gallon hats/liking Bayern-München/voting for the FPÖ) seems to make sense. I find the differences between the states in a country the size of Maine fascinating, so I asked Chrissi what we could cook that is typically Carinthian. Her answer was

Kärntner Kasnudeln

250 g flour
1 dash of salt
1 egg
125 ml milk
500 g boiled potatoes
500 g curd cheese (Quark)

1 teaspoon salt
50 g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 dash of mint
1 dash of chervil
1 dash of parsley
1 dash of marjoram

Mix together the flour, salt, milk and egg to a not so firm dough.

Prepare the filling: peel the potatoes and smash them with a fork. Saute the onion in butter. Let it cool and mix in the curd cheese, salt and spices, then form 16 balls with the filling.

Roll out the dough and cut 16 equal pieces. Lay the balls in the middle of the dough and wrap them, leaving an edge of about a finger's width. Make sure the edges are pushed together well.

Boil water, put the noodles (I keep calling them Pierogies) in and cook for about ten minutes. Serve with melted butter.

Sure, it sounds easy. Much like when we tried to make veggie patties, our first results were terrifying. The filling was fine, but the dough was just not working. Our small kitchen left much to be desired. Searching for a place to roll the dough, we decided to put down some baking paper and...well... we ended up with a mess. Scraping half-liquid dough off of paper isn't on my list of fun things. Chrissi and I took turns soiling our clothes/faces/hair. I continued making the filling until she said, "You try! This is annoying the crap out of me!" (In German, of course.) I begged, pleaded and finally started yelling at the dough. I, being the Grammar...well, I don't want to say Grammar Nazi, you know, so we'll just say the Grammar Stickler that I am, had to ask Chrissi if the article for dough -Teig- was der, die or das. After that it was on, and I released my rage with the aid of a rolling pin (das Nudelholz).

Among other things yelled at: wasps who mistakenly buzzed in and met their doom aka my dishtowel and the flour, which disappeared entirely too quickly.

Still, they were delicious. I suggest you try them. If anything, the yelling is fun.

17. Oktober 2006

New meaning to "Up in Smoke"

  • Reading: Travel plans

  • Listening to: FM 4 (Beck is artist of the week!)

  • German Word of the Day: einleuchten

  • Translation: to make sense

  • Example: Es leuchtet mir ein, dass so einen Vorschlag von einem Deutscher kam./It makes sense to me that such a suggestion came from a German.

Forget the smoking section. Try the smoking airline!

It makes complete sense to me that a German would suggest a smoking-only airline. I was just thinking about it today while walking around -- I went into a combination cafe/store and was amazed at all of the people smoking while eating. Be overweight? Nooooo. Smoke a pack a day? Well, of course!* The number of people who smoked just to keep their weight down while I was at the Gymnasium was around 80%. I think I was one of maybe 5 (from our class of 40) who didn't smoke.

The smoking itself doesn't bother me that much. In fact, it feels strange in America when I'm at a cafe and people aren't smoking. I still remember how astonished I was the first time I landed at the Frankfurt airport and people were walking around, cigarettes in hand. A breath of not-so-fresh air for my naive American self. Now I snicker at them at the airport, as there are (technically) smoking sections. Snicker, that is until I stop paying attention and wander into the smoking section where they huddle, post-transatlantic flight, enjoying their nicotine fixes and eyeing me like the outsider that I am.

Luckily, smoking is one of the European habits I haven't picked up.

*I know that not every German feels this way, but the number of those who do still astonishes me.

15. Oktober 2006

Evil squirrels

  • Reading: Neon, October edition

  • Listening to: C+C Music Factory: Gonna Make you Sweat (being played by the people up on the roof. Hey, at least they're moving on to the early 90s instead of playing 80s David Hasselhof. Or worse, current David Hasselhof.)

  • German Word of the Day: das Eichhörnchen

  • Translation: squirrel

  • Example: Es hat Monate gedauert, bis ich "Eichhörnchen" aussprechen konnte./It took months until I could correctly pronounce the German word for squirrel.

Today I went for a hike, astounded at the fact that it was mid-October and I could hike in capris and a t-shirt without dying of frostbite. I'm so glad I'm here instead of in MI. The squirrels here must feel bad for you Michiganders, though, because as I was marveling at my fortune, an acorn conked me on the head.

I still love fall, though. It's my favorite season, mostly because of Halloween. The Girls are excited because we're having a party. Halloween really isn't celebrated here, but, much like everything else American, it has infested various corners of the globe. Chrissi and I are going as vampires. I just bought vampire teeth and I have the wardrobe (anything black) in spades; the only problem is my garlic consumption. I'll have to abstain the week prior to really get into character.

We're going to be celebrating Thanksgiving. Yay for celebrating, boo because I'll be doing most of the cooking. This is where I get off my high "I'm not here to meet Americans" horse, though, because we're getting an American roommate as of 1. Nov.! Yay! At least she can help with the cooking. So far on my list I've got turkey (have to find a non-turkey option, as Eva doesn't dig on meat), green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. Am I missing anything?

We don't have access to any football that day, which makes me sad. I never thought I'd say that. I'm sure there will be soccer on somewhere in the world.

8. Oktober 2006

Boo-dapest and Prague

  • Reading: Flickr tags

  • Listening to: PJ Harvey: Down by the Water

  • German Word of the Day: "Ins Bett gehen"

  • Translation: to go to bed

  • Example: Ich gehe letztendlich ins Bett!/I'm finally going to bed.

I'm back after lots of sightseeing and not nearly enough sleep. Uni starts tomorrow. Yay.

I've just started organizing my pics on flickr, and I would like to share with you one of the reasons it is fun to travel where you don't know the language: you can't read the advertisements! Now, some of them you can understand from the context, but this? Do they not like Dachshunds?

And this? Is it Freddie Mercury? Is it Jesus? I suppose I could translate the signs, but it's so much more fun to make up your own meanings...

Here are some more pictures. More details tomorrow.