Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Red Indian

How did I get sunburnt during the coldest Austrian winter in 20 years?

A Beetroot

I went skiing on Sunday to Hinterstoder, and being preoccupied with the prospect of broken limbs I didn't take suncream. Wow. REALLY regretting that. The worst thing isn't the pain I get from so much as smiling or frowning, or even the loss of feeling in my top lip; it's the ribbing I've had at work! People have been coming from different offices just to see me, The Giant Tomato (tm), and chuckle at my misfortune. Gerhard has taken to calling me "The Red Indian", and now greets me with "How" whenever I see him. Hilarious. Whereas the Damen have been offering sympathy (with a few sniggers), the Herren have been taking every opportunity to rub it in.

Andreas to Gerhard, within earshot at lunch: "Are you going skiing this weekend?"
Gerhard to Andreas: "No, I think it's too hot at the moment!" (wink to Jon)

Me (talking about ATP with another colleague): "I'm going to a music festival next to a beach this summer"
Colleague: "Are you going to survive??"

That's quite enough of that, thank you.

The skiing itself was painful, yet strangely rewarding. After a day of falling on your backside, frontside, and sideside, getting even one turn right feels like a huge achievement. Having never been skiing before, I was expecting Mario et al to teach me a bit more about the basics before they took me to the top of the highest slope and told me to ski down.

"Don't look down". Of course I'm going to look down now, aren't I??

Having said that, the only way to learn is to try doing it yourself. Skiing is one of those impossible things to teach, it's all about balance and how you react to the conditions and your own physique. This does mean that you do fall over A LOT when you start to learn. Thankfully, Mario has seemingly unlimited patience and spent most of the day picking up my ski poles while I floundered in a snow drift 10 metres off the piste, watching 7 year old children ski in circles around me.

I didn't take any photos while I was up there because I was busy either skiing far too quickly or lying face-down in the snow, but the scenery was amazing. I haven't been up a mountain since Mont Blanc when I was 10, so the views were a nice distraction from the pain when I was lying in the snow, cursing.

I can't wait to try it again!

Signing off, Jon Van Tomato

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Worthy Cause

It's been a long time since I thought about how priviledged I am.

Pictures speak louder than words.

Boyz N The Hood

I'm coming to the end of my tenure in Linz, and it's time for reflection. Although moving out here was in some ways a pretty selfish decision, it's something I really wanted to do. I'm glad that I don't feel distant from my family & friends despite being away for a long time, and I count myself lucky to have friends that have gone out of their way to stay in touch and visit me. Thank you.

In my last week here I have Kat's last visit to look forward to - we're going to Innsbruck (although I don't think I'll be doing any more skiing!) and perhaps Liechtenstein. It's been five weeks since we saw each other, but it feels like a year. I really miss seeing her smile (I'm not allowed to mention the cute dimples...oops) and those eyes.

The weekend before last, Nick, Rich and G came to Linz. It was great to hang out with them again properly after so long. It been a funny year what with one thing and another, so it was comforting to know that we can still chill out, drink heavily, and discuss topics ranging from 90s dance music to the architecture of Ashford and have lots of fun doing it. Here is a list of things we did:
  • Played frisbee on the roof
  • Smoked shisha
  • Drank Eggenberg, to name but one strong continental lager
  • Ate no Austrian food whatsoever
  • Had a snow fight on a restaurant terrace overlooking the city
  • Saw a HEAVY "art von rock" band from Vienna
  • Watched Les Dennis lose all dignity
I hope for many more times like this in the future. Resumption of drunken idiocy shall comment after the 8th April!

I wanted to post photos, but for some reason Mozilla won't let me at the moment. Follow the links above to check out my flickr stash...

The weekend before last, Jay came to visit. We ate and drank A LOT. The snow was perfect too, freshly settled and ripe for snowman making. Jay arrived on Friday evening, and immediately we went out with the ERASMUS students from here in Raabheim on a pub crawl around Linz. This included a number of cool bars, but also sadly a horrendous Rammstein-obsessed metal club. We also spent a lot of time in coffee houses, eating cake and drinking Mélanges which gave us time to catch up, and for Jay to tell me about her current dilemma which involves FOUR boys. Wow. I don't know how she does it! Jay's visit culminated in a "lightsabre" fight with icicles; the perfect end to a weekend!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Winter In Salzburg

Another update! I have more tales of intrepid adventuring. Read on for the latest installment in Austria: Van Tango's Visit...

My Valentine and I spent a delightful weekend in Salzburg - the most beautiful city in Austria and home to Mozart's birthplace. Another train journey through the Salzkammergut together gave us an opportunity to catch up and snuggle after 2 weeks apart. Needless to say, Kat was looking rather gorgeous (see "mischievous" photo), so I spent much of the journey gazing gormlessly into her eyes, with jaw fully lowered. Even the heavy snow outside (nearing 2 metres in some parts!) couldn't distract me from this romantic start to Valentine's weekend.

Snow was quite a feature of the weekend - the previous night we'd been out to an Italian restaurant near my place in Linz. Even in the city, the snow had reached Ice Age proportions; a graceful jump into a snow drift left Kat with a knee-high covering of snow, while I discovered the cushioned joys of sitting on a bench that appeared to be more snow than wood.

There are so many amazing sights in Salzburg. I won't post all the pictures here, because frankly I took far too many, but if you're interested you can see them on my Flickr page.

Here are some of the highlights...

The Mirabell Gardens, leading to Salzburg Castle.

"Easter In Salzburg"

This is a fantastic shop; 3 rooms full to the brim with hand painted eggs. Some even had embroidered pouches!

At the Haus De Natur, they have fish that can travel at the speed of light...

And the views from Salzburg Castle are wonderful.

We even managed to stumble upon Narnia up by the Modern Art Museum...

To sum up: Salzburg is great. Visit at all costs, at least once. For such a small city (c.200,000 pop) there's loads to see and do, plus the place is steeped in culture and history. Add it to your "next place to visit" lists!