It’s been about three weeks since I wrote a blog post about Austria. The happenings of those three weeks can be summed up in a few brief sentences: I went for lunch with one of the Spanish teachers and Marina. The school put on a play called ‘Schwein Gehabt’ and the students baked pastries in the shape of pigs to celebrate. One of the students I’ve been doing extra lessons with won a national English competition because he’s better at English than I am. Willig finally showed me his pigeons. Eva constantly brings me food and often invites me down for lunch, where I nearly always end up getting a little bit tipsy in the middle of the day because Willig is a terrible influence.
The only slightly noteworthy thing that happened is that I taught an RE lesson in German. I’m not entirely sure how this came to be, since I am not a trained teacher, I am embarrassingly ignorant about religion, and I don’t speak German very well. But there you go.
I was so nervous about doing the lesson that I almost backed out, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t. It was one of the younger classes I teach, who were surprised when I came into their RE class and asked if we were doing a lesson in English. The teacher explained that I’d be teaching in German and they protested that that was impossible – I’ve told all of my classes that I don’t speak German so that they are forced to practise English with me more. They obviously didn’t believe him because they’d never heard me say so much as ‘Hallo’ before, so when I started the lesson in Deutsch their mouths literally fell open. It was the most satisfying reaction I’ve ever experienced and it made all the nerves worth it. I bumbled through a little speech full of errors about religion in the UK – but the wonderful thing about low expectations is that they’re very easy to exceed, and consequently the class broke into applause when I finished while I took a dramatic bow. The teacher told them they could ask questions – I think he meant about religion in the UK, but instead the girls erupted into ‘Why didn’t you tell us you could speak German?’ “How many countries have you lived in?’ ‘Did you study German at university?’ ‘Do you miss your friends?’ ‘Do you like Austria?’ ‘Can you understand our dialect?’ and ‘Do you want to come clubbing with us?’.
The upshot of all this is that I’m now part of a Whatsapp group of twenty 16-year-old girls who are deciding when we’ll go to the ‘disco’. Apparently this is allowed in Austria. I have no words. The RE teacher gave me some fancy organic coffee as a thank you gift, which was very sweet of him and made me feel appreciated, which, it has to be said, is not something I feel very often at the school.
But anyway, to the point of this post: my brother came to stay!
After picking him up from the airport, we went for a wander round a surprisingly sunny Linz, where there happened to be a flea market happening in the Hauptplatz selling everything from books to wavy garms (clothes) to samurai swords (no, really) to piles upon piles of other, unidentifiable rubbish.
After a quick stop at Madame Wu’s (would have been rude not to) we jumped on a train to Salzburg, a town that is infinitely prettier than Linz. I was excited to see it again, as the last time I visited Salzburg with the Squad it was snowed under and we couldn’t see much of it. We also spent way too much time drinking tea in Martha’s flat, buying tracht and jumping off mountains to really see much of the town itself.
When we arrived, we spent a lovely warm afternoon wandering lazily through the Mirabell Gardens and Altstadt.
In the Altstadt, we managed to find the world’s fanciest McDonald’s and a bottle of ‘Bling Water’ in Spar that cost 39,99€ because the bottle was decorated with Swarovski crystals, which I think should give you some idea of the kind of tourists that visit Salzburg.
He didn’t get the hat though :(
We also came across a shop selling thousands upon thousands of hand-painted eggs in every colour imaginable, and suddenly mum’s penchant for painting eggs and hanging them on twigs in the living room made more sense. Austrians are obsessed with Easter trees and take their egg painting very seriously.
After a quick coffee stop, we met up with Martha and her friend Janessa to do some serious pizza eating. Once again, we couldn’t finish three pizza between four of us, despite Bill’s claims that he could eat a whole pizza on his own.
We were knackered from our early starts, but the hostel had given us a voucher for a ‘free Apfelstrudel shot’ which I assumed would just be Apple Sourz (grim) but was actually vodka, apple juice and cinnamon and was delicious! We washed it down with a beer and had a nice chat with an Australian and an Irish girl who were travelling through Salzburg before heading to bed in our 8-person dorm. It felt like interrailing all over again.
We had a breakfast an the hostel the next day, and, true to interrailing form, we stole rolls and cheese to have for lunch (all hail the continental breakfast buffet).
We spent the morning wandering back and forth around the town. We found more original Mozartkugeln, loads of chocolate shops with their beautiful Easter chocolates on display, and some churches which looked especially gorgeous against a cloudless blue sky and surrounded by pink blossoms.
We stumbled across a sleepy little graveyard totally by chance which was really peaceful, and decided to visit the catacombs since it was only 2€ each. As it turned out, ‘catacombs’ was a strong word. To be fair, the kind of catacombs I’m used to are pretty epic and I wasn’t expecting anything quite as spectacular as that – but at least a skull would have been good. Instead, we just stood in a little room built into the side of the hill for a bit.
We also had a little wander around the cathedral which was pretty, and got weirder when we went into the basement and there was a random assortment of shadow puppets – but the more I see of Austria, the more I’m used to it constantly making things a bit weird.
Then it was time to head up the hill to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, from which we had a beautiful view of the mountains. The mountains which, incidentally, are the mountains that the cast of the Sound of Music supposedly cross over to get to Switzerland in order to escape the Nazis. However, as Martha pointed out, Switzerland isn’t behind those mountains – Germany is. So that would have been an awkward arrival for them.
We used our extreme stealth skills to secure a table with a view where we had a beer in the sun and it was at exactly this second that the feeling of summer really began to set in.
We thought we should probably have a look around the museums that were up there, but in the same vein as the Schlossmuseum in Linz, it turned out to be a seemingly random collection of objects more than an actual museum. There were WW1 weaponry and uniforms, instruments of torture, a strange photo exhibition of people looking out of windows on buses at unremarkable walls or fences, puppets, and yet more wardrobes.
Austria, get your shit together please. With love, the rest of the world.
We got the cable car down and passed a statue of a man standing on a golden ball (whut) before catching a train back to Linz and then a bus back to Rohrbach.
The bus journey home was intense. The bus driver decided to wait 20 minutes for one of the passenger’s mates who was running late (!?) and then spent the entire journey trying to make up for lost time by driving along windy country roads in the pitch black at top speed. I swear, when he went round corners only two wheels retained contact with the ground. I spent most of the journey staring out of the window, trying to ignore the 12-year-old girls in front of us who kept turning round to shout DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH and FROM WHERE COME YOU and concentrating hard on not throwing up. Despite making unplanned request stops every 2 minutes, the driver still arrived only a minute later than planned which would explain why I felt so ill.
I had to work the next day (boo) so I got up at my usual ungodly hour, having left Bill with instructions on how to use the antique coffee machine. I arrived home in the afternoon to hear he’d bumped into Eva in the morning who had spoken to him in English, and my reaction was similar to that of my class when they heard me speak German – why hasn’t she told me she can speak English!? (The answer to that is because she can’t really, but on questioning her later I discovered that she can speak a few words. I also discovered that she is in love with Bill, as she said about ten times ‘He’s so handsome! No really! Such a handsome young man! Your parents must be very beautiful!’ Look out Bill, Cougar Eva is on the loose).
We went on a walk to the Mosthütte for cider but found it closed (because Monday) and so went for a ramble through the forest and up to the creepy Church at the top of the hill.
We tried to head to Villa Sinnenreich but it was also closed (again, because Monday), so instead we just lay on the grass, catchin’ rayz until the sun started to go down and it got a bit chilly. We headed home where I cooked dinner and we settled down to watch The Shawshank Redemption with some Weissbier and Apfelstrudel (AKA Netflix and Bill).
I was sad to be left on my lonesome again on Tuesday morning when I put him on the bus to Linz – but cheered up at the thought that in five days I would be heading off to Dublin with school on a trip, which I’m told will feature a bus tour in viking helmets. Watch this space.
Until next time, Wiederschauen!