Elizabeth Hiatt
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz

Well I guess you could say that a new post is well overdue! I have had the busiest, craziest, most exciting couple weeks of my life! Late on Sunday night about two weeks ago I got back from my two week Easter Break from classes, and all I wanted to do was collapse into bed – I didn’t even finish unpacking.  For the vacation, first I spent a weekend in Vienna with two of my classmates (since we were flying out of the Vienna airport on Monday), and then I went to Hannover, Dublin, Amsterdam and Eindhoven, and finally Zilina and the mountains of Slovakia.  It was absolutely incredible, and I had the time of my life.

First stop:  Vienna.  Vienna is an absolutely incredible city, and it really wasn’t enough to stay there for just a weekend.  I’ll have to go back.  The first exciting aspect of the trip was that I got to ride a train for the first time! I was very happy – and I loved it!  One of the people I traveled with to get there was from Italy, and when I told him it was the first time I had ever been on a real train he looked at me like I was from another planet.  Then the other girl I was with, Sarah, and I had to explain that we don’t really have too many passenger trains in the States.  I honestly love all of the public transportation here.  When we got to Vienna we checked into our hostel, which was absolutely fabulous! It was clean, modern, and had great accommodation.  Sarah and I were in a private room with two other women: one was older and only spoke German, and the other was only a bit older than us and spoke English and German (and probably some other languages too).  As we talked to her, we found out she was from Germany and actually coming back from Slovakia.  She was getting her Masters in Cultural Anthropology, and she had just come from Slovakia where she was researching some minority groups that have settled there.

After that, we met up with Stefano again and we walked into the city center, which was quite a journey!  We went to the Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and it was truly a magnificent sight! After touring the inside a little and taking a tremendous amount of pictures, we went to the Sacher Hotel.  Stefano’s favorite torte of all time is Sacher Torte, and this was the place where the recipe was originally developed. We had to wait in line to get in to the place, but it was absolutely worth it because the torte was delicious.  Then, as Stefano was staying at a different hostel, we split up and did some shopping.  I had to be careful though – I would be flying with Ryanair and I can only have one bag (I didn’t want to go to the trouble of checking anything), so I had to choose my souvenirs carefully.  Mostly I got postcards to send to people, as those travel really well.  When we got back that night we got to talk to our roommate again, and we found out that the next morning she would be going to a local church to see the Vienna Boy’s Choir! Even though we would have to get there super early we decided to tag along, because how many times do you get an opportunity to do something like that?

We both slept like the dead that night and got up early to go to the church the next morning.  It was freezing, and it actually started to snow a little bit! After going past the church and getting a little bit turned around we found it and went inside.  We sat upstairs and didn’t actually have a good view of the choir or the mass, but we were provided with little TVs to see the whole scene.  The mass was mostly in German, of course, so I only understood a very little bit, but I really enjoyed listening to the choir.  After that we had to say goodbye to our roommate, who was leaving to go home, but I’m so glad we got to meet her.  We had to stop back by the hostel, but then we went to see Schönbrunn Palace, property that belonged to the Habsburgs! It was constructed in an absolutely astounding Baroque style, and was very fascinating to tour.  We saw the inside of the palace and then went out to explore the beautiful gardens that were on the property.  Again, lots of pictures were taken!  We ended up staying there for about a total of five hours or so, tour included and all, so by the time we got back to the hostel all we could do was collapse until dinner.  I had an early flight to Hannover, so I had to go to bed as soon as I could.  Even though I was a little sad to leave Vienna, I was extremely excited because I was going to visit Madison!

Madison Elkins
Leibniz Universitat Hannover

                                        Things You Will Miss that You Never Thought You’d Miss

1.  Your cat.  You have no idea how much you will miss your cat.
2.  Publicly accessible drink machines.  You never realize how blissful that sprite-on-the-go can be until you aren’t allowed to have it.  In public places your eyes will always seek the fluorescent back-lit image of a sweating coke bottle that cries, “Refresh yourself!” Your ears will forever strain to hear the gentle hum of refrigeration that whispers, “Oasisss.” Let’s imagine that you have been running errands all day.  You are parched.  You’ve probably never been this thirsty in your life.  You think maybe no one has ever been this thirsty. Your tongue is crying dry little tears of sand.  So you decide to find a drink.

Let’s weigh your options.
  • You can stop in a restaurant to “purchase” (aka “donate left arm”) a drink. In a cute little glass.  Let’s call her Half-Pint.
  • You can stop in a market to buy a water/juice/soda the size (literally) of your lower leg. I’m talking anklecalfknee. The same proportions of a newborn babe. This is sold at a reasonable price.  But you must carry this bottle (until you finish it, which, I’m telling you now, will be next week) in addition to the purse and books you are also carrying, through trains, shops and crowds of people.  When you aren’t whacking these people in the hip with your anklecalfknee newborn babe, whispering “Entshuldigung” like a fervent prayer, you’ll be dropping it in front of tiny old German ladies whose walkers and temperaments are simply not constructed to withstand that kind of shock.  And then, entshuldigung (all-purpose German for “excuse me”) just doesn’t cut it.
  • You can cry. Drink your tears. Repeat.
  • You can find a bathroom, where you will sip tap water from the sink.  But given the fact that public bathrooms are also lacking, you’ll either have to go to a restaurant (and buy something), or to a major train station, where you will be charged 1.50 to 2 euros for entrance into The Loo.  So you might as well buy a Half-Pint Sprite at McDonalds. For about the same price.
  • You can die of dehydration. If at any time you think you’re going crazy, be comforted by the fact that you are correct.
  • You can go home, where there is a faucet and a mug and a refrigerator.  There, you will manufacture your very own chilled tap water. Huzzah.
The last is the least unfavorable, because you will (probably, at some point) go home.  And if Indiana Jones can go without an ice cold bottled water for three days, you can do it too.  For three hours. But wouldn’t it be nice to see just one coke machine peeping around the corner, waving hello?

3. Publicly accessible bathrooms that don’t require a $2 donation or a meal or a tearful supplication.
4. Baking soda. You will try to find it.  You will be convinced that it is around here somewhere, that it is simply eluding you, that you don’t have its correct German name, that you aren’t looking in the right places.  Stop blaming yourself, and repeat after me.  Germans. Do not use. Arm and Hammer.  They use something else entirely, and it isn’t worth scouring the city for it. (but it is worth making puns about.)
5. Krispy Kreme Donuts.  You knew all along there was no alternative, you just didn’t want to face it.  This is a time for moral support and listless consumer choices meant to fill that donut-shaped hole in your heart. (They won’t, but you can try.) I suggest the chocolate-covered coconut marshmallow fluffs. The pink ones. I like to call them bon bons.
6. Your car.  Nothing says, “I CAN!” like a Honda Accord. Nothing says, “I CAN’T!” like public transportation workers on strike.
7. Quality canned soup.  At least, canned soup that you know from years of consumer experience to be good quality.  You may have a very clear internalized hierarchy of American brand names, you may speak and understand the language of logo design (nothing says crappy like comic sans), but all that amounts to jack squat when you’re operating on foreign soil. Perhaps Germany possesses the most delectable canned soups of all the world.  But I wouldn’t know; they all look the same, and one looks as chintzy or as exotic as the next.  It will take you 20 more years to establish another liquid lexicon.  In the meantime, you must either do without, or purchase at will.  Just select the one that sounds the best when you slosh it around a bit.
Madison Elkins
Leibiniz Universitat Hannover, Germany

I haven’t had Internet access for quite some time now, due first to a faulty Ethernet cable, then to a broken laptop, and now to an incorrect IP address. The very narrow office hours of the Internet guy here have been difficult to work with.. I always have class during his hours. Finally, I just handed over my laptop to a friend, who will go on my behalf.

In the meantime, Ive decided to write when j can (which isnt often), the logic being that it is better to have some blog posts rather than none at all, even perfunctory ones, with typos, without pictures.

Thinking that stereotypes are almost never true, I assumed the typical German would not actually eat that much bratwurst.  Oh, my naivete.  It is literally everywhere. Cheap, portable, and usually delicious (no matter how much you may want to deny it), bratwurst is the lifeblood of the young and the comfort of the old. Bratwurst is definitely the hamburger and french fries of German cuisine.

I’ve found that a few other stereotypes also grew from a grain of truth. The idea that Germans are never, ever, ever late, for example, is usually true.  In fact, let’s change it to: “Germany is never late.”  Perhaps there are one or two Germans out there (kindred spirits of mine) who tend to believe that arriving 1-2 minutes late is still basically “on time.” But they are few, and we have not met. It’s been a great practice for me. Everyone who knows me knows me to be at least a little late. Im never late for work, but in all other aspects I am perpetually behind. Here, the mentality is more like: you are committing a tiny crime against your fellow humans if you make them wait on your behalf. Also, you lied if you said you were going to be on time, and aren’t. I absolutely agree (only where my own lateness is concerned-I don’t mind if others are late), but it’s taken German punctuality to make my actions accord with my opinion. Friends and family at home, watch out! Im all kinds of on time now.
Next post, I’ll update about my travels so far- hamburg, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Tschüss!