Archive for August, 2009

First Full Week

August 24 2009

I’ve had a pretty full week in Austria.  We’ve been having meetings as a group every day, which is different than how things were going in Durham.  We’re trying to get into the habit of making dinners instead of going out all of the time, but it is so easy to go out when there are so many heurigen around the place!

I bought a bike this week.  The Winora Jade bicycle.  It’s a bike made in Germany:  (Last one on the page for the CityLine of bikes.)  At the store it was marked as 399, but I paid 300 (euros).  I feel that was rather expensive … but it was the cheapest option. Then, less than a week later, I traded it in for the Weekend (first on the page). Turns out that the Jade only has 3 gears (the Weekend has 7). It was impossible to go up and down the hills around here with the Jade. So far (2 days into it), I am happy with my new bike.

I taught my dad and brother how to use skype. Too bad I can only use skype in the 2nd floor hallway of the building I work in. By october, we are promised internet in our apartments.

We went to a party on Saturday night in Vienna.  Paul made friends with a woman on the plane, and she invited him and friends to her husband’s birthday party.  It was neat to meet some “locals” (most had actually come from other parts of austria).  I tried to strike conversation with two guys that were sitting near Amit and me for a while, and they would have nothing of it.  I asked them their names and where they were from and I got one word answers.   A couple minutes later, I asked where they worked and got the response “not near here” and “nowhere special”.  Very odd.  But other than that, everyone was really friendly and willingly spoke to us in English.  There was a half Austrian half English little boy at the party, and he was quite adorable.  Someone who was an architect found it fascinating that we were from IST Austria.   We are those strange folks up yonder who moved into a mental institute.  Haha…. I also learned that IST Austria has the nickname “Elite University” which I found pretty funny, becuase it caused some issues between IST Austria and the press.

Today, Amit and I went into Vienna (right near the Opera house) to sign up for the German classes. But, we both took the “german language test.” We did so well on the first test that we had to take the second level test … and then were told that we were placed in the 1A level (very lowest level). Haha… must have been my fabulous pronunciation during the oral part that convinced her of that. In the end, Amit decided not to take the class since (1) he needs to write his dissertation and (2) he leaves in January. I decided to take the class because it is only 4 weeks and I could really use it. lol. Since the DeutchAkademie is right across the street from the opera house, Amit and I picked up a pamphlet while we were there. Hopefully, this will help me learn german and meet some people. The one-way trip down there is an hour, so it will be 5 hours of my day four days a week for a month … a bit of a drag. But, hopefully it will pay off in the end.

When I came back from that trip, I wanted to do laundry but couldn’t figure out how to use the machine. (either that or it is still broken?) When Paul and Amit return from dinner I will need to have them help me figure it out. I need clothes, and we are leaving for a workshop on Wednesday morning.  After I decided that I couldn’t do my laundry, I took a bike ride to St Andrä.  It was a cute little farm town half way between Vienna and Tulln.    In fact, I could see Tulln as I was biking into St Andrä.  There was really nothing much in the town:a town church, a pharmacy, a billa, fields for playing sports, a gasthaus, a cafe, and a couple small places to eat that didn’t even have signs.  Throughout the town, there were tons of religious statues.  I did find a nice gasthaus not too far from here (2 km), and the site of the 2009 Weltcup .. a grass ski competition that will happen this weekend.  I am going to go check that out.

Ok, I am hungry for dinner now, and I am hoping to figure out this washing machine problem.  Wish me luck!


Walking through Vineyards

August 16 2009

So, yesterday Paul and I started out eary to walk to Vienna from the middle of the town of Klosterneuburg. All together, we walked about 18 km that day! (it took us four hours to get there). The mountainous hill seemed to go up and up and up. Going down on the other side wasn’t easy either. Too bad it’s not snowing yet, we probably could have sled down quickly.  We found a field filled with flowers, and a sign that said how much they cost.  Picking the flowers was on the honor system.  I find it amazing how everything is on the honor system here. Somewhere in the middle, we took a shortcut through the forest and found St. Josefskirche (  Then, we wound up walking through vineyards until we entered the city.  Of course, we sampled some of the grapes.  Link to our walk

When we got into Vienna, we went to Naschmarkt, but didn’t find the produce section.  We’ll have to go back.  We did both buy new jackets though. I also got a German wind-up alarm clock.  It was very much like a flee market (or Rice’s market), but way more chaotic.  Most of the vendors look like they dumped out their own closets onto the floor.  There was no organization.  Last night, I realized that it was a holiday and I had not gone grocery shopping.  That was an unpleseant suprise.  I went to another Heuriger for dinner where I had Knodel, lamm & bread. The bread was almost like a pretzel … delicious!  After dinner, I went into Klosterneuburg church.  Inside, everything is decorated in gold.  It is very ornate.  I also found a tourist info center, where I learned that there is a 24 hour supermarket at the end of the trainline.

Today, I decided to go to the Klosterneuburg church.  Although I understood nothing, and need to figure out what Austrians say during the sign of peace, I was able to follow along somewhat in the booklet of hymns.  Then, I went to the 24 hour Billa that I learned about yesterday.  I got on a train, and it took me one station up and then returned to the station that I got onto the train.  When I started going in the wrong direction, I was quite startled.  So, I tried again on the next train (30 min later), got off and switched trains.  I thought all trains went to the end of the line, but that does not seem to be the case … at least on Sundays.  This Billa was packed.  It was worse than stores at home on a Sunday afternoon.  When I got back, I went for a jog to explore the immediate area a little more.  I found what looks to be a place to eat nearby, but could have just been a benefit for firefighters.  I also found a little stand that sold eggs and squash… again on the honor system.  When I ran up the hill, I could see the farms and forests on the surrounding hills.  It was truely beautiful.

I did take some pictures yesterday, but not on my digital camera.   I need to find a place to develop the film.  Hopefully they’ll have an option to get a photo CD so I can share.


August 14 2009

So … I am in Austria.  Let me tell you about my journey that brought me here.

When I returned from Aruba on Saturday, I started to have a shoulder pain that was very intense.  I went to a Phillies game and a concert with my brother on Sunday.  It was fun, but very painful.  My shoulder was hurting so much that I took a trip to the urgent care on Monday (I was hoping it would go away).  After they prescribed me a painkiller and muscle relaxer, I began the arduous task of packing.  I found it easier to pack the bags for what I wasn’t going to take then to pack the bags of what I was going to take.

On Tuesday, I was happy to have Julia and Alyssa stop by after they were done work.  We had burgers for dinner with my wild and crazy family, and then they left me and I continued to pack until my relief, Kathy and Diana, came to my rescue.  My bags for going to Austria were half packed when the arrived, and there was a giant pile of clothing, shoes, and other things that I wanted to bring with me.  Within a half an hour, they rejected half of my clothing and had the bag fully packed.  I hope they are waiting by their phones for me to call yelling that I don’t have any clothing in 2 weeks.  I need selection, ladies!  The big blue suitcase was so packed that I had to take out 6 kilos of items at the airport, because it was over the overweight limit.  I figured taking out an additional 10 kilos (for a grand total or removing 16 kilos) to bring it under the overweight limit would be a bit much.  I think my mom was grateful that I didn’t attempt that.   I opened the bag and started throwing things at here, Nanny and Devon for them to shove in their purses.  That wasn’t enough removing, so my mom’s arms became quite useful.  I also found out that my carry-on was both too  large and too heavy to be a cary on, and so they complimentary checked that bag for me.  So, I wound up carrying a duffel bag of textbooks and my ski helmet onto the plane.  Nanny, Dad, Mo, Devon and I had a snack at Chili’s before  I entered the “passenger’s only” zone. The security was really fast.  There were only about 2 people in front of me in the security line, and then the gate was right there.  By the time I got onto the plane, my family had already gone to cake boss in hoboeken and were passing the airport again.

My flight was relatively with ease.  We waited on the tarmat for a bit before taking off becuase we were ahead of schedule and Dusseldorf will not allow planes to land before 06:00 a.m.  And, when we finally got in the air, we went slowly.  In fact, 2 planes actually passed us during our journey.  It was fun to see that.  I didn’t get any sleep during the 2 hour “night” on the plane.  Then, I went through custons in Dusseldorf and shortly after borded a plane for Vienna.  I got off the plane and went to get my bags … they were already on the belt!  So, I met with Herbert and had a glass of water before we jammed my skis into his car (about a foot to spare with both the passenger seat and one back seat down.  I sat behind him in the car, and we drove to Klosterneuburg (about a half an hour).

There is a monastary with accompanying vineyards in the nearby town of Klosterneuburg.  In fact, Amit and I ate dinner at a Heurigen (wine bar/restaurant).  I had flesh-???? (basically a meat dumpling with meat sauce) and a salad and glass of wine (Grüner Veltliner).  All for under 7 euros!  The, we went to the town center (Rathaus) and hadsat outside for an hour talking.  Then we returned home, and I fell asleep immediatlly! I woke up around 2 a..m., but was able to go back to sleep for another couple of hours.

This morning, I had nutella on bread and a half a grapefruit for breakfast.  I was sad when I relized that I forgot to get juice.  Herbert, Paul, and I went into Klosterneuburg to open my bank account and get Paul’s bank card.  We tried to get me a bike too. … but they are on vacation today.  Next week, I will return!  We worked in a coffeeshop for a little, and now I am here 🙂

The offices are brand new feeling, and the building always seems empty.  I have a very large computer screen, so it makes me happy.The lights are on sensors, so as you walk through the building the lights start going on.  It is actually kinda spooky.  Especially when you think about what happened here during WWII.  There is a lot of construction going on around the campus.  In fact, to get to my house, I climb over some red and white barriers.  Everyone on campus is friendly, and we all eat lunch together, so it is nice.  Actually, I have to put my order in for next week before I leave today.  The campus is on the foothills of the alps, so I am climbing the alps all the time 🙂  (they are really just hills here, but still…)  And, the scenery is beautiful.  Very green.  We are right next to the Vienna forest.

In my apartment, I have a bathroom, kitchenette with fridge, microwave, and dishwasher, a pull-out couch (actually quite comfy), and a balcony. Oh yeah, there is a large closet and tons of bookshelves.  It is comfortable and affordable, but it is quite lonely living out here.  I need some noise.  Amit is definateyl moving into vienna (he is currently living int he guest housing which is like a hotel room … with a maid!  I said there is a lot of construction, and I am not kidding.  My radiators are still not installed, so when I went to take a quick nap after I arrived, the workers rang the bell.  Not understanding what that ringing noise was, I ignored it.  Then, I realized it sounded like a phone, so I continued to ignore it.  After  a couple more rings, I started to get annoyed at the loud rining and got up to answer it, but I couldn’t find the phone.  The next ring, I found it, but nothing happened when I picked up the phone.  After lying back down and getting up when it rang a couple more minutes later, and repeating this twice, I relized the rining wasn’t the phone.  I went to the door out of confusion, and I saw the guy standing there.  Then, I realized that was the doorbell.  God knows how long this actually went on, but I do know he was quite persistent.

I hope to explore Wien a bit this weekend.