Summer without air conditioning

Living in the Alps means summer is quite different from what I’m used to. Oppressive heat and humidity are nowhere to be found. The Biergarten culture is alive and well under mature chestnut trees. I love spending time in Kelchsau during the weekends, picking strawberries and raspberries off the vines and going on hikes cooled air coming off the rivers. Last weekend Reini redeemed a birthday gift certificate from his sister and we (Reini, Kathrin, Cousin Eva, and I) went to a high ropes climbing course! Surprisingly I did much better with the heights than Mountain Man Reini, but we had a great time zooming around way up in the Alpine treetops. I wish I had some pictures of us in our gear!

There are lots of activities in Innsbruck too. My girlfriends and I like to bike ride to the Baggersee lake just on the outskirts of the city for some swimming and sun lounging. Evenings are filled with open air concerts and under the stars movies. Innsbruck is such a great small city. It has plenty to offer but is small enough that it really feels safe and comfortable.

It’s often hard for me to make time for all the fun things that an Alpine summer has to offer because I am still taking classes. The regular semester finished at the end of June and then I started to take summer classes. Because I’m classified as a “local Austrian student” (haha) I get to take the same classes as the kids from UGA and the University of New Orleans who come to Innsbruck for their summer study abroad, but I get to do it all for free. So I’m taking max advantage of that! I’m taking three classes which are all smushed into 5 weeks – pretty intense! Many afternoons we have field trips around the region, so I’m staying very busy. We first took a day trip to the Dachau concentration just outside of Munich to learn about some history that will not soon be forgotten. Next I went with my Management course to the BMW plant for a private factory tour for glimpses into the future. The robots they use are so cool! We also went to one of the region’s big banks and engaged in a strategic planning activity. Next week we will be headed over to one of the big GE locations with my Marketing class.

Immediately after my finals next week, I head to Munich again to catch a flight for my first trip back home since I arrived here for school in October! I look forward to being reunited with family, friends, and air conditioning ūüôā

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Linz

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With so many interesting cities just a short drive away, weekend trips in this part of the world can be awesome. So Reini and I decided to make a cultural exploration of the city of Linz! Linz is a city right on the Danube river. We had a view of the river from our hotel and loved watching the riverboat cruisers.

Linz¬†is now largely a university town with great restaurants that don’t break the bank. DSCN5337Reini had been a few years ago, so he had some idea of what we should see. We bought the Linz city card, giving us access to all the city’s museums for a low price. After wandering a bit through the old town, our first stop was to the H√∂henrausch exhibit. Its tagline ‘Art about the Rooftops’ was very fitting. You climb a wooden tower that leads you to bridges which peek into the tops of various buildings. One of the churches had its top windows removed,¬†allowing for a platform to be inserted. I don’t know if I’m describing it very well, but if you find yourself in Linz, it’s worth a visit! H√∂henrausch allows for great views of the city and sneaky vantage points of some historic sites.

Our afternoon break involved finding a spot with some surprisingly tasty nachos and then heading back to the hotel for some sauna time! Hotels in central/northern Europe tend to have pretty small rooms, but many make up for that with nice sauna facilities! Once refreshed, we headed for dinner at Wirt am Graben which was totally delicious. Their ingredients are as locally sourced as possible. The Europameisterschaft (European Championship) soccer tournament had just started and there were viewing parties everywhere. On our way to the hotel from dinner, we took the long way and wandered through their main street. Everyone was happily carrying gelato or sipping a beer at the outdoor cafes with TVs. We stopped at a Greek cafe, but because we were full up from our dinner, just ordered a couple of glasses of wine and cheered on England as they pulverized Russia.

DSCN5346The next day we focused our efforts on the Ars Electronica Center. It’s a really huge interactive science museum focusing on energy, which was definitely Reini’s thing! My favorite part was their gigantic “Deep Space” show that made us really feel like we were zooming through space with our 3D glasses. We stopped for lunch at a fun Asian noodles place, where the rain met up with us. We ran to the next museum, the Lentos Kunstmuseum, just across the street (I had a small umbrella but of course Reini did not). We did not stay too long, but enjoyed looking at their variety of artistic offerings before heading back west.

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Not at the ocean! Just by the Danube!

I have been practicing driving a bit, so Reini let me drive a little of the way home. The manual car issue in Europe seriously sucks, but I’m learning to accept it (sort of). I feel much more comfortable driving on the autobahn (the Austrian one has speed limits unlike the German potion) because you don’t have to shift gears. But driving in the city! Forget it! Too many gear changes makes me so nervous. It’s time for these silly Europeans to just accept that automatic cars are superior.

A very busy break

My Master’s program had the month of February off for a break. We could either choose to complete our final exams at the beginning of the month or at the end. Thankfully, I finished all my exams and projects at the beginning so I had the whole month to “relax.” Some of my girl friends and I signed up for a Zumba class for the month through our University’s athletics department. I still don’t know much German, but it really didn’t matter. We danced our hearts out, though not so skillfully, to fun Latin music. We had such a great time sweating off calories that we’re all planning on signing up for a whole semester’s worth of Zumba. The girls and I have been enjoying our break time. I invited them over for “Galentine’s Day” and they’ve hosted some fun dinners too.

Other than hanging with the girls, I’ve been preparing for my parents’ visit!¬†It was their first time here and first time to meet the Fohringers. In addition to hanging out with Reini’s parents, I kept my family very busy touring the highlights of the area. They flew into Munich so we started their tour there. We checked off a few items from their guidebook (Hofbr√§uhaus, Glockenspiel, Nymphenberg Palace, and their Olympic park). My mom and dad realized pretty early on that the German they learned as children wasn’t coming back to them after the years of nonuse. Luckily we had Reini’s help for the tricky parts. We were able to find some really nice restaurants online and ate very well while we were there. (A tip for the foodies out there, Hofbr√§uhaus is to be enjoyed for the atmosphere and not necessarily for its gastronomy) My dad learned about the panorama feature on his new iPhone and had fun using it at all the pretty sights!

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More info about their trip will follow in a later post!

Austrian Autumn

I made the big leap. I moved to Austria. It actually happened. If all goes according to plan, I will be working toward a Master’s degree¬†at the University of Innsbruck for the next two years. My flight landed Sunday and classes began the next day. It certainly has been a whirlwind of a few day!IMG_3626
We stayed in the village all Sunday. Reini’s mom made us tasty turkey schnitzel and his Oma invited us over for some homemade cake. Opa Fohringer was quick to show us the beautiful sunflowers that he had been growing. All the ladies had some fresh picked ones on the tables and Reini cut me some, too!

The next day we went to a bunch of different registration offices to work on completing various forms. I was afraid of hitting some traffic as we drove around early Monday morning. The only delays we encountered were from some cows crossing the road! IMG_3628

I did end up going to class, too. Reini and I rode bikes (a very difficult task when you haven’t ridden in a very long time) to the school to meet up with one of his friends who is a current student who agreed to show us around a little. My school is in an ultra modern building – it’s all glass on the outside. We found where the “library” is and where the “student union” office is. The library has a weird ‘no backpacks’ rule which I don’t appreciate. They make you put your backpacks in lockers outside the library and then carry in your notebooks and other items in a plastic basket. Makes no sense to me. And their student union office is nothing like Elon’s grand Moseley Center. But at 5% of the cost of a semester at Elon, I guess it’s understandable. Then the guys left me and I went to my very first class. I think it will go pretty well. The professors seem passionate and I can understand them reasonably well. We will see how the rest of the semester goes!IMG_3630

The End

After a very long Wednesday of travelling, I am now back home in good ol’ Marietta. I miraculously did not get charged for overweight bags, and they both arrived at my destination this time. I call that success!

It’s nice being home, but I am missing parts of the European life. Though my Italian¬†escapades¬†are over, this blog will hopefully get used again for a future adventure abroad.

Thanks for reading!

Tying up loose ends

Artisan adding initials

So little time and so much to do! I feel like I’ve had to cram a week’s worth of events into this very abbreviated week. Sunday I finished up some essays and did my last bit of grocery shopping. Yesterday was really exciting. I went to the Leather School to pick up a couple things a friend asked for. The Leather School is really cool. Florence is known for its leather work, so of course there would be a school here just to teach the artisans. This school is really old, though, and is literally attached to the old Santa Croce church. While I was waiting, I read that it has its origins as a school for orphans. Now it attracts aspiring leather artisans from around the world! The school, of course, has a big showroom where you can buy pieces of their work. My friend went to Florence when I was there also in January, and she had already been to the Leather School so she knew just what she wanted and asked to have initials put on them.

Piccolo door

On my walk over to the Leather School, I passed this very special door, made just for my favorite Italian family – the Piccolos!

Neptune water dispenser

On the way back, I stopped at the public filtered water dispenser. This this is even better than the fresh milk vending machine because it’s free! Florentines will bring empty water containers and fill them up with clean, cold water – either still (naturale) or bubbly (frizzante). I think it’s fitting how it’s right next to a big neptune fountain.

A little later I went to my last public speaking class. We just had to turn in our essays (low on ink, mine was printed with pink words). Then we went back to Piazza della Signoria and talked about good old Savonarola and had a big group hug before our professor got a little emotional and left. I guess we’re not the only ones who are sad about leaving! After that, I headed back to the Leather School (to pick up a little something for one of my family members).

My friend Amra and I with our politics professor at dinner

Monday night was wonderful! We had a great big farewell dinner with everyone in our program and all of our professors. We went to Il Gatto e la Volpe and had a great big family-style feast! They brought out a huge antipasto platter consisting of mozzarella, turkey, prosciutto, salami,¬†zucchini, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. I’m sure you can guess that my favorite part was the mozzarella! But oh my goodness, the turkey was also a show stealer. Yum! Then we got 3 different pasta dishes. First out was a risotto with spinach and chicken. Cheese was melted all throughout. Second was spinach¬†tortellini filled with ricotta and topped with a truffle sauce. Last was penne alla vodka. All-around deliciousness paired with, of course, red Chianti.¬†We then got to mingle and take pictures with all of our friends and professors as we said our goodbyes. It was a great way to conclude a wonderful semester of classes.

My last Florentine sunset

Today I did some heavy duty packing. I started yesterday, but mostly did everything today. I was so worried I’d have to buy a third bag to check, but by the grace of God, I think I can skirt by without it. Then we had our apartment “inspections” which consisted of our landlord coming by, asking us if anything was broken, and telling us to leave our keys on the table when we leave. Right after, we headed up to Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset. It’s already been a lovely week.

Now I’m preparing for the early morning and crazy day that will be tomorrow. I am not looking forward to my alarm going off at 4 am, but I am super excited to get to be home for Thanksgiving!

 

Coming to a close

This has been the most odd finals week yet. During this point in the semester, I normally check out 15+ books from the library and stress eat ice cream as I work to finish essays and study for final exams. This week has been much less taxing.

I worked on a group video project for my Italian class. It involved a search to find a giant squirrel (our teacher dressed up), love lessons, and the top places for “planking” in Florence. During our night of compiling our footage, we picked up pizzas from Gusta Pizza (I had the most delicious spinach, ricotta, and mozzarella creation ever) and sipped a bottle of prosecco (because we’re all about class here). Yesterday evening we had a big premier of all the videos done by Elon’s 2 beginner Italian classes. It was a really fun way to culminate the semester.

I’m done with my three written finals (Italian language, politics, and history). The language was, of course, the easiest. The other two involved me writing about both the European Union and Berlusconi. Both are an interesting part of Italy’s past and present.

Mercato Centrale

In the middle of all that studying I, to my father’s dismay, have done some more shopping! Let’s just say I battled the San Lorenzo leather market and came out victorious.

I also picked some super special (and delicious) gifts at the Mercato Centrale.

Instead of stress eating ice cream, I enjoyed pear and extra dark chocolate gelato from Grom for lunch, and then picked up a chocolate dusted cappuccino from the school’s coffee vending machine. For only 60 cents, that thing is pretty great. For dinner, I continued the chocolate theme and went to Neri to pick up caramella mou gelato, topped with chocolate mousse. (Side note, if I don’t develop diabetes or lactose¬†intolerance¬†from this trip, I deem my body¬†indestructible.)

I was hoping to finance some of this by selling my books to the English bookstore here in Florence. They took quite a few of them and offered me a fairly good price, but it was only in store credit. So, I exchanged 6 books for one Italian cookbook. Oh well, less weight to bring back in my suitcases!