What’s been keeping me occupied all this time you might ask. One weekend I went to Graz to see my favorite Austrian blues musician, Sir Oliver Mally. I had had the date planned for weeks and he had the nerve to cancel! But the weekend was good because I got to hang out with my friend Inge, see some former students, go to the Christmas market, and buy some gifts that I couldn’t obtain in the Enns Valley. We also had our first Writing Club meeting, much to the dismay of our waitress who tried to kick us out of my favorite restaurant in Graz. We stayed another hour just out of spite.
Friends have invited me to do some wonderful things in the past few weeks. Irene and I went to Salzburg with friends to see a performance of the Wizard of Oz. Low budget, but very imaginative! I was invited by students in the 8A to see an improvisational show (like Whose Line is it Anyway?) in Graz, and surprisingly I understood about 85%. Gitti invited me on a day trip to Bad Gleichenberg, a charming town with a multi-million dollar spa in the middle of it. Her friends and family were very welcoming. We ate lunch in Slovenia!
Gitti, Ria and Herr Dr. Hofrat
There have been lots of Christmas activities: a couple of school related Christmas parties, a Christmas concert by Quadro Nuevo in an unheated church, a Christmas tour through a salt mine in Altaussee. Christmas time in Austria is very romantic, and somehow the true meaning of Christmas isn’t lost in the commercialism.
Hackbrett Carols at the Salt Lake, Altaussee
Christmas Eve at the Mörsbachwirt
I spent Christmas Eve with Irene. We went sledding, then to Christmas mass in the cloister church around the corner. Irene made a pot roast for dinner, then we shared presents and watched an adaptation of Adalbert Stifter’s Bergkristall on DVD. The next day Kurt and Annemarie whisked me away to Lienz to celebrate with her family. We ate Schlipfkrapfen (like pierogies only better) and went sledding, played our dice game and generally relaxed. We celebrated St. Stephen’s Day (Dec. 26) with Annemarie’s brother’s family. Erich made a special meatloaf for St. Stephen’s Day, filled with frankfurters, boiled eggs and pickles. Then we went hiking in Kals am Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria. That evening we met Annemarie’s cousins for drinks in town.
Kurt, Annemarie, Antonia, Andreas, Erich (Doesn't this picture look like something out of the LL Bean Catalog?!)
After a couple of days in Vienna, shopping and taking in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Burgtheater, I returned to the Enns Valley for New Year’s Eve. My friend Elfi rents a vacation house in Donnersbachwald with her friends from college and their families. We had a fabulous dinner, then watched Dinner for One and saw fireworks from the balcony at midnight. We then did lead (actually tin) casting, where you melt tin over a flame, then pour the molten metal into cold water where it forms an unusual figure. By identifying the shape, Austrians predict the tenor of the coming year. Mine looks just like a viking ship, and ships mean "lust for life." Then my new friends tried to teach me a new card game, but it involved trumps which I can never seem to master, so I excused myself at 2:00 am. The next morning Elfi and I went sledding (1 hour to walk up the mountain, 6 minutes to sled down!) – taking the traditional Austrian greeting for New Year’s (guatn Rutsch! or "Good slide!") a little too seriously!
Wishing you all the best for 2009
in life, love and health!