17 December 2010

Holiday Itinerary

 Although I may not be able to update the old blog very frequently in the next three weeks, curious parties can always consult the following schedule to figure out where I am, what trouble I may be in, and which consulate to call in order to post my bail.

Train tracks with an unrealistic
amount of snow

December 18 - Vienna
December 19-21 - Genoa
December 22 - Vienna
December 23 - Waidhofen an der Ybbs
December 24 - Salzburg
December 25 - Salzburg
December 26 - Munich
December 27 - Munich
December 28-31 - Vienna
January 1 - Hamburg
January 2 - Hamburg
January 3-5 - Berlin
January 6 - Vienna
January 7 - Budapest
January 8 - Budapest
January 9 - Waidhofen an der Ybbs

And today's word, just for fun, is der Dudelsack - bagpipes.

15 December 2010

You May Care, But It's Sausage to Me!

Sausages in Austria do not usually
have legs, clothing, or, notably,
One of the most useful and versatile words that I've learned in Austrian dialect thus far is Wurst.  As you might guess, the word literally means "sausage," yet in Austria it is often used to communicate that the speaker doesn't care or doesn't know about a given topic or question.

Although I knew upon arrival that Austrians liked their sausages, it took me several weeks to realize why Austrians were always responding to my yes/no questions with the same cryptic reply - "sausage." 

According to unverified internet etymologies, this peculiar use of "sausage" has several conceivable origins.  Theory One states that the symmetry of sausages symbolizes one end of an issue being equal to the other.  Theory Two states that, because sausages are made of left-over or otherwise useless meats, "sausage" became an appropriate verbal response to anything you just don't know what to do with.  Theory Three states Austrians are always thinking about sausages, so when they are at a loss they simply say "sausage."

In order to insert this practical use of "sausage" into your English lexicon, here are some examples of its effective use:

In a restaurant:
Hostess: Smoking or non-smoking, sir?
You: Sausage.
Hostess: Thank you for being flexible.

Going Out:
You: What should I wear tonight, pants or a skirt?
A Friend: Mmm, sausage.
You: Yeah, I guess you're right.

On an airplane:
Flight Attendant: Would you prefer the fish or the beef for dinner?
You: Sausage.
Flight Attendant: And to drink?.
You: Also sausage.

Unfortunately my blog, like everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.  Wurst.

14 December 2010

Braving Bratislava

Body heat from the mass of Slovakians
at the Christmas market raised the temperature
to a nearly bearable level.

The weekend before last I made a trip so brief that I nearly forgot to make a comment about it on the blog.  During a weekend visit to Vienna, I took advantage of the fact that European countries are packed onto their tiny continent like sovereign sardines in a multi-cultural tin can and decided to check out Bratislava - a completely different city with a completely different language just forty-five minutes away!   

Admittedly, the timing for my day trip was less than ideal as the temperature was creeping down toward zero (Fahrenheit!) most of the time we were out and about and it finally reached that frosty barrier after the sun went down around 3 o` clock.  The bitter cold surprised me as Bratislava and the comparatively tropical Vienna are at roughly the same latitude.  Seemingly, just crossing the former Iron Curtain reduces the temperature by ten degrees.  Nonetheless, I wanted to cross Slovakia off of my list of Austria's eight bordering countries and I'm happy I did so, even if my fingertips and nose were not appreciative of my efforts.

The so-called UFO Bridge is one of
the worst mistakes I`ve ever seen.
At its core, Bratislava is like a Mozart Ball candy with a minature marzipan center surrounded by unsweeted Soviet chocolate and served in a bowl of hideous architecture (left).  But to be fair, the city's tourist-laden center was truly beautiful and its charms were reminiscent of, but also unique from, those of its more-celebrated neighbor Vienna (fun fact: the two metropolises are the two of the world's closest capital cities).

Funny characters such as this smiling
sewer worker are spread around
the city center.
My friends and I spent less than four hours in the city including frequent thawing breaks, but we managed nonetheless to see all of the sites represented in the first twenty Google Image Search results.  Of these my favorites were the many bizarre characters cast in bronze to be found in and around Hviezdoslav Square (right).  We hustled from site to site and overall the trip had a very "we came, we saw, we photographed" feel.  The city would make an ideal day trip during nicer weather, but doesn't really warrant much more attention.

Today I've picked two of my new favorite wintery German words, both of which are in today's frontpage headlines in Austria.

Der Vorweichnachtsstress is the pre-Christmas stress familiar to many anxious Americans, less prevalent here.
Erfrieren means "to freeze to death," which felt like a real possibility in Bratislava.

09 December 2010

Sample Dialogue #3

In a cafe in Waidhofen, in German

Waitress: (friendly) Are you new?  Where do you come from?
Scott: (happy to talk to someone) Yes, I'm from the United States.
Waitress: Oh, you should meet my boss.  She's from Florida.
Scott: Cool.  Why is she in Waidhofen?
Waitress: Why are you in Waidhofen?

der Einwanderer - Immigrant

07 December 2010

Where the Future is Still in the Future

An Austrian friend of mine once joked that if the world came to an end, Austria wouldn't notice for five years.  Although a disco house track inexplicably titled "Barbara Streisand" has somehow become far and away the most popular song in Austria, the world has not yet come to an end.  Nonetheless, I have noticed that Austria is slow to pick up on some of the latest trends, at least when it comes to personal technology.

Austria certainly has an extraordinary standard of living and an advanced energy infrastructure, but when it comes to technology use in everday life, Austrians seem less cutting edge than Americans.  As I tend to be slightly techno-phobic, this is relieving for me at times.

While in America people are enjoying a new iPhone App that allows them to see what's in front of them while they are walking and typing, Austrians are more likely to send letters and almost always pay with cash.  Older Austrians tend not to have internet access and newspapers here are not facing the same budget crises as their American counterparts.  During a lesson on technology and new media, many of my students laughed at me for suggesting that VCRs were obsolete and few responded kindly to my crack at landline telephones.  In a country where most university-track students are still required to learn Latin, perhaps this conservative approach to technology is not surprising.
In Austria, old things work
and old people don't
I have also noticed a major divergence with regard to technology in schools.  While American education wonks are gaga for Smart Boards, PowerPoint, and standardized testing, both of my schools still rely on chalk (albeit chalk of many different colors) to hold students' attention.  Austrians teachers still write and grade their tests by hand and many scoff at the idea of Scantron machines.  But sometimes older technologies are the most reliable; as I've discovered, overhead projectors malfunction less frequently than computer labs and their finnicky projectors.  In fact, I've developed an unlikely romance for the overhead projector and I find it's really quite useful for teaching ESL.  Plus, as any student could tell you, there's just something about seeing your teacher's magnified spit froth on the big screen as he vigorously rubs the Vis-a-Vis off a slide with his many-colored thumb.

And a relevent relevant word of the day is die Zukunft, or "the future."  In German, I sometimes like to add the phrase der Zukunft, or "of the future," to nouns to make them sound more exciting.  For example Architekt der Zukunft - "Architecht of the Future."

01 December 2010

Atop City Hall

der Stadtturm, or "City Tower"
In the center of town here in Waidhofen there's a nice-looking clock tower attached to the town hall that I walk by on most days.  Recently  I noticed that it has a message written on it in Gothic script:

"Im Jahre 1532 schlugen Bürger, Schmiede, und Bauern die Türken in die Flucht und erbautern zur Errinerung diesen Turm.

Which translates to:

"In the year 1532, townsmen, blacksmiths and farmers beat back the Turks and built this tower in their memory."

When I first read it I found to be a truly bad-ass message, although slightly incongruous with the Turkish kabob stand on the same block.  Given the anti-immigrant fervor of Austria's far-right political party, I thought it might also make a passable campaign message.