So, the week had been fairly stressful, but I’d made it. I finished my final lesson on Thursday with a sense of exhausted pride. Thankfully I have every Friday off, and the long weekends will mean I have enough time to go and do something fun and plan my lessons for the next week.
On Friday morning, Eva and Willig were heading into Linz because (if I understood correctly), their grandson’s boiler had broken but he had to go to university, so they offered to go to his house to greet the repair man when he arrived. Eva grumbled about this a little bit, and when I asked why she had to do it, she just threw her hands in the air and said, “Weil ich Oma bin!” – ‘because I’m grandma!’. She’s so sweet.
They offered to give me a lift as well, so on Friday morning I packed my weekend stuff into a plastic bag (because I didn’t have an appropriate weekend bag) and rode with them to Linz. Eva forgot her phone so we had to turn back halfway, amidst Willig’s exasperated cries of ‘Women!’. Willig speaks a few words of English, so my conversations with him mainly consist of him pointing at objects and naming them (‘Roundabout!’ and ‘Traffic!’ were the themes of this week’s car journey) while I nod encouragingly.
They dropped me off near the town square and on getting out of the car, Willig handed me his business card which has a picture of the Taj Mahal on it and reads (in English): WILHELM AUBERGER: ENDLESS VACATION AND OUT OF WORK. He pressed it into my hand, insisting I call him straight away if I had any problems. “SOS Willy!” he smiled, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that that has quite different connotations in English than in German. I would like to hereby declare Willig (I can’t call him Willy, I just can’t) to be the International King of Banter.
The weekend commenced with a quick wander around H&M looking for more warm clothes (it’s suddenly freezing here). I know it’s an effect of globalisation and all that, but there’s something quite comforting about the fact that almost wherever you go in the world, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be an H&M there selling the exact same clothes as every other H&M.
I was joined by Emma and Bryony and together we managed to find free ‘samples’ (AKA an entire glass each) of free beer and a shop selling ‘Chocokebabs’ which tasted even better for not having eaten proper food all week – everything is just too expensive! Luckily, Bryony lives near a Lidl and it was with immense pride that we bought the evening’s dinner and a night’s worth of alcohol for a party on Saturday for a mere 3.30€ each.
Proud, that is, until we discovered that Bryony’s student accommodation is not furnished with an oven. So we microwaved three frozen pizzas one at a time and shared one plate between three of us because our budgets don’t stretch to multiple plates or cutlery. #studentlife
In the evening, we went back to the Uhrfahr market and beer tent with Emma’s new Austrian flatmates, who were very sweet to us and bought us a lot of shots which all came in similar little glass bottles, this time without the pornographic pictures on them.
You might have got the impression up until this point that I wasn’t having such a great time in Austria. That’s not necessarily true, I suppose I’d just been having such an unexpectedly stressful time at school that I hadn’t really had the chance to fall in love with the country yet. Friday night gave me that chance, and, true to form, I fell in love quickly and completely.
I’d always thought that national dress was a funny stereotype. It isn’t a stereotype, but it is funny. Dirndls and lederhosen stretched as far as the eye could see in the beer tent, which was not actually that far as Austria hasn’t got as far as banning smoking in enclosed areas yet, so the tent was full of cigarette smoke that stuck to my clothes and hair for days afterwards. The live band played a mix of horrendously cheesy German and English songs with an exaggeratedly bouncy beat for optimum tankard swinging – and everyone had a litre of beer. A litre may seem like a lot, but you only end up drinking around half of it because the other half sloshes everywhere as you climb up onto the wooden benches to dance and sing. This is obligatory and the Austrians went ahead with gusto, cheerfully ignoring the fact that the benches were creaking and buckling under the weight of hundreds of beer bellies, and started jumping around and bellowing the lyrics to ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Neunundneunzig Luftballons’. It was pretty much exactly how you’d imagine a beer tent to be and I thought the whole thing was hilariously endearing.
We headed home early because of our early start the next day for a day trip into Gmunden, which, despite its ugly name, was stunningly beautiful. It was a cloudy day but that just made it even more atmospheric.
We spent the morning exploring, and when hunger got the better of us we found a café where we could eat pretzels and sausages made of an unidentifiable white meat with mustard and cake for dessert.
We continued wandering in the afternoon and stumbled across several dirndl shops, a church featuring the creepiest Jesus statue I’ve ever seen and an antiques shop that genuinely had a pot of Activia for sale. Then the incessant rain got the better of us and we headed for home, where we promptly fell asleep.
After our power nap, it was time for a party with the other teaching assistants in Linz. We cracked out the gin and tonic (which was sorely needed) and made our way to Tim’s flat, only getting lost once on the way. The party featured homemade cookies, a game of Ring of Fire, lots of singing and adding Nigel Farage’s name to the list of profanities on the wall before the actual POLIZEI turned up and shut the party down – at which point, it truly started to feel like a year abroad.
We all felt a bit worse for wear on Sunday, which was a shame as it was the least rainy day of the week so far. We spent the day going to McDonald’s, finding out to our dismay that they were only serving breakfast, returning 45 minutes later for chips and then settling into Emma’s bed to catch up on Bake Off (#SelasiForPresident) and eat our bodyweight in carbs.
Until next time, auf Weiderschauen!