Unlimited Toast

Homework and Halloween

November 5th, 2009 · No Comments

Well, I had a lovely picture of the tree I can see from my window all pretty and orangey-yellow, but my computer won’t let me upload it at the moment, so you’ll all have to take my word for the fact that fall in Salzburg is gorgeous. That is, when it’s not grey and rainy and disgusting outside as it seems to be frequently. We’ve been hanging around Salzburg for the passed two weeks getting caught up on homework and marveling at how fast our semester seems to be speeding by. Last week we had some classes canceled so I had lots of time to eat Halloween candy and hide away in the library doing research for my impossible asylum law research paper. I must say that the libraries here do not make research easy. We’re very lucky that so many of the books are in English, but a trip to the library really shouldn’t be such an ordeal. If you ever do manage to find the book (and the library! There’s one for pretty much every department.) you’re looking for you might not be able to check it out for more than a week. Blargh. But we’re managing. Taking a break from studying, Rachelle and I adventured all across town on Friday to find a Halloween store. Halloween is celebrated here, though it’s not as popular as at home. She bought a witch hat and I got some silly glasses that, when paired with my tie-dye shirt, improvised a fairly decent hippie costume. We put on our costumes later that day to have a little mini Halloween shindig with some friends, but I ended up spending actual Halloween working on the same ridiculous paper. And eating candy, so it counts as celebrating.

The rest of the weekend (and an added holiday made it a four day one) I probably didn’t leave the dorm more than twice. I was going a little stir crazy by the end of it, but when I look at the calendar and realize I don’t have another free weekend until December I knew I had to get as much work done as possible. This week the students here in Austria were protesting budget cuts that were affecting higher education so they were staging sit-ins in some of the classrooms and posting signs around the university. Our Austrian Culture had one of the students come in to explain the movement to us, and it was really interesting. They don’t pay any fees at all to go to a university here in Austria, and the threat of implementing even 300 Euro a year tuition prompts outrage. Such a strange concept to all of us who pay so much to go to school, but very interesting to get a real world example of how the Austrian welfare state plays out in reality.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the room by myself when an Austrian man (a maintenance main perhaps?) came in and started speaking German to me. At first I assumed he was going to fix our only just barely functioning heater. Wrong. He actually wanted to measure our bed frames. Hmm. He had me help him hold the measuring tape and everything. He even measured mine twice. He kept mumbling to himself in German, and then he was gone just as quickly as he’d come. No idea what that was all about. Then last night instead of making dinner with the girls like a normal Wednesday, some friends and I decided to take advantage of student night at the Salzburg opera and went to see The Marriage of Figaro. It was very entertaining even if we had little concept of what was going on most of the time. Unlike the Vienna Opera, Salzburg’s only has subtitles in German so we had to rely on our German skills and my friend Kirsten, who had wisely read the story before we went, whispering basic plot points every so often. Of course any understanding we might have had went out the door when the show ended with random villagers coming to attack the main characters with pitchforks. Pretty sure Mozart didn’t write that part. Today I did laundry and rather than fight for the one dryer we have for our entire complex I now have clothing strewn about the room. I just hope some of it dries before I need to pack for Florence later this evening or I may just be breaking out the hairdryer so I have some dry sock. But that leads me to Florence! Italy! Rachelle, Rachel, and Kirsten and I have an overnight train at 9:15 tonight. Here’s to three days of pasta, pizza, gelato, and lots of wonderful museums.

Tags: Salzburg 09

Surviving Classes and Oktoberfest

October 3rd, 2009 · 2 Comments

As friends back at home studied for midterms, us AIFS kids in Salzburg finally got around to starting classes this past Monday. Classes are sort of strange in that our schedules are all over the place, with some classes being early, some late, some once a week, and some twice a week but at different times and/or in different places. Strange. I’m crazy enough that I’m facing three independent study courses this semester, so I have three fairly large research papers due in December. My time management skills shall be tested as I attempt to get all of that work done, plus other schoolwork, while still traveling and just being in Salzburg. We’ll see how that goes. But really, all of my classes (all political science and history courses) ought to be very interesting, especially as taught from the European perspective. But one class on Tuesday evening somehow took it upon itself to test my fear of heights as well. Immediately after class had ended around 6:45, all of the lights in the building went out, and a group of us discovered the front door was locked from the inside. The building had closed for the night with us still inside. So, being the resourceful/completely moronic students we are, a few of us decided the best way to get out of the building was to climb through a second story window and jump down to the sidewalk below. In full view of the main street and the people waiting at a nearby bus stop, we did just that. A few minutes later we discovered the rest of our group had calmly walked through the unlocked backdoor. Duh.

During the week we continued to find time for fun stuff in between the schoolwork and the ill-advised escapes. Wednesday morning we went for a pastry tasting event that left all of us in sugar comas. We drank hot chocolate and stuffed ourselves with generously-sized free samples of five different Austrian pastries, all of which were wonderful. I hardly ate for the rest of the day. That is, until much later that night when Kirsten was lovely enough to cook dinner for several of us at her homestay apartment. We squished ourselves around the table and had a fun few hours of eating and laughing, even after the light in the living room went out and we found ourselves eating by candelight. Thursday consisted largely of homework, capped off with karaoke night at the local Irish pub. Always an experience.

Dirndls
On Friday (we only have classes Monday-Thursday) we woke up early and got on the train to Munich. We wound our way through rainy Bavaria until we got to the main train station in Munich and started our tour with Andreas, the same entertaining tour guide who had us climbing mountains during our Salzburg tour weeks ago. He showed us many of the major sites of the city, including the old Nazi parade grounds, the Residenz, and the Frauenkirche. We made it to Marienplatz at exactly noon, so we were just in time to see the glockenspiel play and witness the Bavarian knight knock out his French opponent just as he does high up in the clock tower everyday. We ate lunch at a market that sold everything from pretzels to horse meat, and then Andreas took a handful of us to a store that sells reasonably priced Tracht, traditional Bavarian/Austrian clothing. We had been drooling over all of the brightly colored dirndl dresses at the Salzburg festival for days, so some us were super excited to buy one of our own. Probably ridiculous, and probably something I’ll be hard pressed to find an excuse to wear once I’m back at home, but they’re coming back into fashion over here (as are lederhosen, which some of the guys bought as well), and they were fun to wear around in Munich all day and will be fun to wear here in Salzburg over the next few months. Though I do feel a bit like Little Bo Peep in it. Finally dressed like we belonged there, we then set out find Oktoberfest. We followed the crowds to a huge festival grounds full of carnival rides, games, food stands, souvenir stalls, and of course the requisite beer tents that went on forever. There were so many people that we never did find a place to sit inside a building. We did sit outside for a while though, and it is very surreal to have been a part of such a massive international cultural event. We caught the 9:48 train back to Salzburg having successfully avoided leaving any member of our group of friends asleep on park benches or in the clutches of some drunken Polish creepster, a feat I had deemed improbable at the start of the day. Long, long day, but one brimming with amusing events. This weekend we all have homework staring us in the face, but there is a special event at Salzburg’s museums tonight that we’re going to try and check out. Next weekend Croatia!

Tags: Salzburg 09