My machen is morphing into mochen, hallo has been replaced with griaß di and I no longer commit the cardinal sin of using Brötchen to describe bread (Semmel is the way forward, guys). Am I Austrian yet? I’d like to think so, but I’ve still got a fair way to go in terms of both my linguistic and cultural knowledge. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve successfully completed some of those mundane tasks which would be a piece of cake in the UK but a real hurdle when you through a foreign language and country into the mix. Think buying train tickets and opening a bank account!
It’s difficult to believe that I start my third week of school tomorrow. Wasn’t it yesterday that I was on the fanciest flight ever to Munich? Oh wait, that was a month ago… Anyway, my first two weeks at work have been brilliant. Last week I visited my second school, which is in a town called Wörgl, and did my introductory lessons for all the classes. As well as teaching in the main school, which is business-orientated, I also taught a couple of hours of evening classes for adults which was again extremely interesting. Welsh has proved a real talking point and while walking between classes, students have found it amusing to try and say “Llandudno!” and “Diolch!” to me, which is very funny but sweet. That said, I’m not sure what their teachers would say about Welsh becoming their second language rather than English!
When I was at school (back when dinosaurs roamed the land…), our language assistants would take small groups of students aside and hold conversation classes. The requirements for a language assistant in Austria, however, are very different. Out of the 26 different classes I work with over each fortnight, I’d say only a quarter involve conversation classes. For the rest I have to assume the role of the teacher, but luckily Herr/Frau Professor sits at the back in case I get stuck. In some lessons, I have simply been handed a textbook at the beginning and been given free rein. This was admittedly intimidating at first, but after a couple of lessons I really got into the swing of things.
With working just 13 hours a week plus preparation time, there is lots of time to explore Austria. Last weekend, my friend Katie (check out her blog at http://erasmusexplorer.com) from Lancaster came all the way from Graz to visit little ol’ Kitzbühel! After what probably felt like the longest train journey known to man, she arrived at the snowy station and we headed for a traditional Austrian meal pizza in the town centre. Katie could not believe how cute and traditional everything was! Next up was a trip up to the top of one of the many mountains, the Kitzbühel Horn, in a cable car. The views were ok… *understatement of the millennium*
The trip was a bit of a white-knuckle ride, with both of us fearing the worst at every lurch or unprecedented stop! But, of course, we safely arrived at the top of the mountain along with an army of skiers. After a few hours of sunbathing – yes, sunbathing – we headed back to the valley floor for a well-deserved hot chocolate. We deserved it, honest!
That evening, we headed to the cinema to watch a chick flick called Traumfrauen. It was like Girls for German speakers, except Hannah was a coffee-shop-owning Berliner called Leni. It was refreshing to hear Hochdeutsch rather than dialect and although I didn’t understand everything, I was really pleased at how much I could.
The next day, we headed to the beautiful lakeside town of Zell am See which is about an hour from Kitzbühel. I have been once before by myself to walk round the lake, so it was lovely to go with someone else this time. We explored the old buildings and cutesy shops including the most amazing cuckoo clock shop.
Of course, cafés were also on our agenda and we ended up having some delicious Kaiserschmarren – chopped up pancakes with apple sauce – before Katie sadly had to head home.
Yesterday I headed off to Salzburg, where a lovely fellow teaching assistant called Clare had offered to show me around and play tourists for the day. Have I mentioned that I’m a huge Sound of Music fan? Yes? Well I’ll say it again. We headed straight for the cheesiest tour bus we could find and took a trip around the city. I would like to say that I acted like a sane, restrained person, but as soon as the first strains of The Lonely Goatherd came through the earphones I switched into full-on fangirl mode.
The bus took us to all the main sights from the film, including the Mirabell gardens, Schloss Leopoldskron, Schloss Hellbrunn and the Nonnberg Abbey. Sadly the two palaces were not open but the Abbey was, and we were very lucky that we were the only visitors. There were lots of other tourists in the city itself, though, and we heard a few British accents in the mix.
Clare showed me round the adorable old town and gave me insider tips on where all the best bakeries were – the important stuff! Of course, shopping was also involved and I nabbed some obligatory Mozartkugeln from a chocolate shop. These are dark chocolate balls filled with marzipan and nougat goodness. We finished off at a cute vegan coffee shop called The Heart of Joy before I had to hurry back to the station to catch my train.