Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Soave (So-ah-vay): A fantastic land of chocolate, wine, and castles


I was feeling a little apprehensive when we woke up early to go to Soave. After all, the only planned event of the day was a wine tasting, and I was pretty sure I had drunk all the wine in Verona the day before. However I am not a quitter so we got up and out the door with enough time to spare for Dr Husband to do his Italian impression of drinking espresso at a counter. Meanwhile I did my best American tourist impression and got a Coke (which Dr Husband drank some of thank you very much).

You may have noticed that Soave and Verona do not have the same letters in them, that is because they are two different towns and thus have two different names. In order to reach Soave we had to tackle the local bus system. Unfortunately, the bus sign was in Italian but we figured out where and when we needed to be. When we finally got on the bus we were surrounded by the type of people who would take public transportation to get to another town, it was scary and the driver's driving was very scary – but that's a part of Adventure. 

When we finally arrived in Soave we were not sure which bus stop to get off. So after the first stop in town we hit the button and hoped for the best. Luckily our stop was across the street from the Castle Wall – exactly where we wanted to be. The enormity and antiquity of the town were amazing. We walked through the gates and onto a street which was bustling with people setting up booths of various shapes and sizes. It was upon closer inspection of these booths and the signs around town that we realized that we happened to be there for a chocolate festival. We got second coffee (well a latte machiatto and cappuccino) and decided to get something in our belly before our wine tasting. Since there was a chocolate festival happening the answer was simple, that's right, a chocolate filled croissant. But just not any chocolate filled croissant, it was the best chocolate filled croissant in the world (or so I think). It was chucked full with gooey chocolate, I ended up with chocolate all over my face and my hands, and I'm normally a pretty neat eater. Dr Husband ended up the same, but he likes to eat like he's five, so this was not terribly unusual. They really should have given out wet wipes with those. Then it was time for us to go to the wine tasting at Cantina di Soave.

Our tour and tasting was with two American couples from Indiana who didn't have much to say until after their second glass of wine. I think they were intimidated by our knowledge of fermentable beverages. Our tasting lead us through five healthy pours of wine. The other two couples were headed toTuscany to re-create “Under the Tuscan Sun,” or at least that's what I imagined. To be honest, I really wasn't paying much attention as we were drinking lots of wine. After the wine tasting we got lunch at a place Dr Husband approved of, meaning the menu was in complete Italian and the servers had to attempt to speak to us in English. The restaurant, Enoteca il Drago, was beautiful. We sat outside on the patio under the roof  in the shade (because I get burned in the sun, even in October). We picked food seemingly at random, and ordered more wine (Soave white wine, of course). It was there that I had my epiphany: Italian food and the restaurant atmosphere is amazing. And I went to live under the Tuscan sun with my new middle-aged American friends. I got a little emotional and told Dr Husband this and he suggested I drink more water.

After lunch Dr Husband decided he wanted to go on a 10 mile hike to the Castle in town. I wanted to go into a store and drink more wine, but for some reason (maybe because we were celebrating our one year anniversary) I decided to stay with him. While it may not have actually been a 10 mile hike it was certainly up a large, steep hill, and it wasn't long before I became thirsty and tired and (somewhat) irritable. I couldn't understand how no one had thought to set up a rest station filled with water... and vino. It was a dynamite idea. I shared my business plan with Dr Husband, and he laughed at me. That's okay; more wealth and prosperity (and vino) for me, I thought. Once we reached the castle, it was closed because the custodian was still on his lunch break. So Dr Husband wanted to hike to the top of the vineyard which was obviously on a hill which meant walking further uphill. I wasn't really a fan of this, but I decided to go anyway instead of sitting on the side of the road with the rest of the tourists.

When we made it back down the castles was finally open. However, the price of admittance was 7€ each which would obviously be spent better on food (and vino) so we walked back down to the city. We wanted a small snack after all that walking so Dr Husband got a cannoli with chocolate sprinkles, and I got a gelato. His cannoli must have been really good because by the time I got my gelato it was gone. He claimed it was the best cannoli he'd ever had, but since I only had one tiny bite (and am unfamiliar with the cannoli flavor ranking scale) I can neither confirm nor deny this. After that it was almost time to catch a bus (or so we thought).

We waited for over an hour until a kind bus driver explained what the small subscripts on the bus schedule meant in English. There wouldn't be a bus for Verona for another hour. So we ended up waiting for close to two hours to go back to Verona. I told Dr Husband that I wasn't really in the mood for another fancy meal when we got back so we decided on pizza for dinner. After we got back and relaxed for a bit we went to a smallish local pizza place where they served a popular pizza that had french fries on it. We didn't see it on the menu because the menu was in Italian, but three or four people ordered it while we were there. Overall it was a nice last dinner in Verona.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel and did a farewell wander around Verona. We half-heartedly looked for the “Juliet Balcony,” that was added on to an old house in the 1930s, but we didn't see it. We ended up at a cafe where Dr Husband got a farewell cappuccino, and I got a farewell glass of wine with a side of judgement-- 11am seemed like an appropriate time for wine. We then went to the train station to catch our ride back to Innsbruck.




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Verona Part 2 – and whence I tried to drink all the wine in Verona


 We woke up bright and early so that we may thoroughly concur Verona before sundown. We ate an American sized breakfast at the buffet downstairs and headed out to take in the sights (and foods and drinks). We started at the Roman Arena, which was beautiful and old. Then we walked around the streets, which were also beautiful, old, and narrow. We saw the different Piazza’s which were beautiful and old. Then around 12:30 we decided it was late enough to start drinking in this beautiful old city.

            Dr Husband fully of disdain for all things touristy and Anglican finally found a restaurant which he deemed worthy after searching for 45 minutes. Café Monto Baldo fit all of his strict requirements. Our first course of action was to order wine. I got a pasta dish, which was okay. Dr Husband ordered a Verona regional dish “carne di cavallo in umido con polenta” (I wouldn’t look that up unless you are really sure you want to know what kind of meat that is). It was very good and tasted very much like stewed beef (but of course, it was not beef).





          
  I’m not sure how they do it but we sat next to people at both restaurants that did a full course menu, and ate everything: Antipasta, primi piatti, secondi piatti, dessert, and caffe. It was awe inspiring to watch and neither couple were overweight. Maybe the espresso burns up all the calories?! I stuck to one course and enough wine and I was quite full.
          
  After lunch we walked about 10 meters and decided we were still thirsty so we went to Archmivio Juice Beer Bar. We ordered several glasses of wine and then Dr Husband had the smart idea to hydrate by drinking a beer. I kept drinking wine because hydration is for quitters. After walking around for a bit longer we went to a small wine shop on a side street, Cantina dal zovo vini and liquor. It was floor to ceiling wine bottles. They ranged in price from 8€ to 799€. The owner was an elderly Italian man who spoke no English, who was very enthusiastic about wine. Dr Husband bought a nice bottle of Gewürztraminer von Südtirol (the German speaking part of Northern Italy near Austria). We drank a few more glasses of wine and then decided to go back to our hotel to relax a little bit before dinner.






We hadn’t planned on drinking the bottle of wine unchilled – but sometimes in Verona when you’re sitting on your 5th story balcony enjoying the view wine demands to be drunk. After a bit of internet research we decided to go to a local husband/wife owned restaurant, Enocibus. We got a bottle of wine for 10€, a primi piatti each – one cheese ravioli and one beef – and a secondi piatta each. Dr Husband ordered rare roast beef filled with three cheeses. I ordered herring over polenta. We were both very happy with our meals (and the price). 

The owner of the shop and even came and talked to us several times during the evening. We couldn’t really understand each other too well, but nonetheless it was a wonderful experience and I would recommend Enocibus to anything in the Verona area. After that we stopped by a popular local watering hole where we had the first beers I’ve had while in Europe that tasted like they actually had hops in them. Since it was getting pretty late and we had to get up bright and early for our trip to Soave in the morning we went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Part 3 - Soave - coming soon!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Verona: Land of Beauty, Wine, and Food – Part 1

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook know that this past weekend, Dr Husband and I traveled to Verona in order to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We left on a Thursday evening after Dr Husband got off from work in order to maximize our time in Verona. We traveled via train which was very easy and convenient. There is a direct line from Innsbruck to Verona. Dr Husband did some quick research before we boarded the train and discovered some basic tips about Italian culture:

1.) It is customary for there to be a table/cover charge per person (usually between 1€-
2,50€/person). It is usually stated on the bottom of the menu.

2.) Using bread to wipe up the leftover sauce from a dish is a sign of appreciation to the
Chef and not an insult like it may be in other cultures.

3.) Breakfast is from around 7 am – 10 am; Lunch 12 pm – 3 pm; Dinner 7 pm – 11 pm

4.) Cappuccinos are for breakfast only. Don’t order after 10 am unless you want to look
like a total noob/dork/tourist. Feel free to order espresso (i.e. “caffè” in Italian) whenever
and where ever, however.  

Since I now knew everything there was to know about eating and drinking in Italy, I was ready to get to know Verona through the most direct path – my belly.

Some things to note about Dr Husband and my travel eating habits: we don’t like to eat at chains, we try to stay away from “touristy” eating establishments, and we try to eat reasonably priced food (i.e. we rarely if ever do fine dining or gourmet restaurants). Dr Husband gives bonus points to places without any English translations on the menu while I’m ok with knowing exactly what it is I’m about to eat.

So now that you have a little background information allow me to continue. We arrived in Verona late in the evening and after we checked into our hotel we were looking for a place to eat. Luckily we were in Italy (and not Austria) because people don’t starting eating dinner until after 7:30pm and everything in Austria would have been closed. For me proximity to the hotel was paramount as I was starving (and it was around 9:45pm). I’m not sure all Dr Husband was doing on the interwebs but it took awhile, and he finally found a restaurant nearby for us to eat.


        We decided on l’Orologio because it passed my near-ness test and didn’t look too expensive. Little did we know what awaited us. Wine by the glass was fairly inexpensive (about 2,50-4€) and our server spoke enough English for us to understand each other. We got the bruschetta, I got the meat stuffed ravioli and Dr Husband got swordfish. It did not matter that we were there to celebrate our first anniversary, had my ravioli been a man I would have commenced with a torrid affair complete with clandestine meetings in bathroom stalls and stairwells. It was incredible. I suspect Dr Husband had a similar feeling because his swordfish was not as good and almost twice as much. I should note here that meals in Italy consist of an antipasta (Antipasti 3-10€) a small first course (Primi Piatti 6-12€) and a meat as the main course (Secondi Piatti 10-20€). If you are not terribly hungry primi piatti should be fine. Plus wine helps.


We were offered espresso, but since it was 11pm and we wanted to sleep that night we declined. We wandered around a bit and found a bar that served ½ liter of wine for 4,50€. They also served liters of wine for 9€ but that was just a little too ambitious for us at that point (though I gave it serious consideration). We went back to our hotel to prepare for our first full day in Verona.

Part due coming soon!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Addendum to My Previous Post

I feel the need to add that Dr Husband and I buy the "S-Budget" brand cheese as you can literally get a kilo of it for 4euro. Do not be mislead though. This cheese is in no way better than the slightly more expensive cheeses available. We just like it because there is a lot of it for cheap, and it is pretty good. Keep in mind that we are from America, birthplace of  those processed cheese squares, "American cheese," so our diary expectations are considerably low. So I would take my "pretty good" recommendation with a grain of salt which is literally how every American food is taken because we like flavor and heart disease.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some Tips That Will Help You Save Yourself from Sprained Wrists (and Other Maladies)

Since Dr Husband and myself have been living in Innsbruck for close to two months, I feel pretty confident about my ability to share wisdom on these subjects. The first hard hitting subject I’m going to cover is soda/pop/cola/coke. As an American and someone who grew up in the state of Georgia, I love me some coca-cola. If left to my own devises I would be the size of a house due at least in part to this wondrous beverage. Around junior/senior year of high school I realized that I had to start paying more attention to the


calories I consumed so I started drinking diet soda with occasional “treats” of regular. Before we left the States for Innsbruck, I would normally drink at least one diet soda a day. The thing is that soda in Innsbruck is expensive. Like a 6 pack of .33L (a little more than the 12oz commonly found in the US) is 4.50€. That’s more than a 12 pack in the US! I have bought them a couple times, but they are really more of a treat/dessert for us now. I was wondering what other (preferably cheaper) nonalcoholic beverages people in Innsbruck drank because deep down I knew Americans couldn’t be the only ones that liked to drink sugar. I summoned the spirit of the great Obese to show me the way. That was when I found the syrup section. Pay dirt. I grabbed a raspberry and lemon flavored syrup and a mineral water and headed home to try my discovery. Tip: the orange flavored syrup + mineral water = orange soda. It will suffice to fill your cola hole.
The second is more of a cautionary tale from my own experience. A lot of sauces (mayo, mustard, tomato puree, etc) come in tubes similar to toothpaste instead of tubs. I speculate that it has to do with storage room because our refrigerator is much smaller than those commonly found in the US. Anyways the sauces range in size and price of tube, and since we had already learned that you should always go at least one step up from the “Budget” brand whenever fiscally feasible for flavor purposes, we got the next step up which was in a metal tube. Do not do this. Please learn from our mistake. The metal tube is fine at first, but once you start really trying to get the sauce out it becomes painful. Literal physical pain comes from doing this. I nearly sprained my wrist trying to get some mayo on bread. Try to buy the plastic tubes when possible or become comfortable throwing away a tube that still has quite a bit of sauce in it. Or, you could try to cut in to the container but because it’s thin metal you’d probably end up eating metal which probably isn’t good for you. Seriously though the plastic tubes are maybe .60 more, and they are well worth the extra cost.
Lastly, you can get used ski equipment on Innsbruck’s version of craigslist: www.willhaben.at. Skills you will want to hone before contacting people from this site include: price negotiation (although most people have things priced reasonably), quality assessment from small blurry photos, stranger danger radar, and google translate. I got a pair of old beginner skis for 30€. Dr Husband assured me they should be at least as good as strapping my feet to logs (although those would be more expensive). I’m such a novice that I hope I don’t flatten any 4 year olds on the bunny slope so I wouldn’t know the difference between skis and logs on my feet anyway. The Green Circle is a distant goal for me.



Additionally, and I cannot stress this enough: Buy above the Budget brand when and if you can.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stalkerbait

I think I have fixed the issues people have been having posting comments by allowing everyone to post comments (including “anonymous” oooooOOOOOoooo). This should be listed as the “Hufflepuff” setting, but apparently my blog manager lacks imagination and a boner for all things Harry Potter (unlike myself). So anyways, I will leave the comment section open and available to everyone provided it doesn’t get too spammy and 4/chan-y down there. It’s ok to be creepy because I am also creepy and we can be creepy together (forever). So let’s get weird, y’all!


Monday, September 22, 2014

What will BSD be doing in Innsbruck, Austria?/Das Hauswifen

            I know if I were an outsider looking into my current situation I would want to know: but what is that woman going to do in Austria since it’s her HUSBAND that got the job?? Don’t worry, I am my own biggest hater (and fan -- because I’m totes awesome… you just don’t even know sometimes I make myself laugh so hard I don’t even need no one else) and have asked myself this question too. Sometimes when I really want to throw shade I’ll tell myself that I’ll never work again, and I might as well start working on macaroni friendship bracelets to sell on etsy. Only to remember that I am really really bad at arts n’ crafts, and the only people that would buy bracelets would be family and friends that felt pity for me, and they would probably lie about how theirs got lost in the mail when in actuality the bracelet just doubled up as a snack. Joke’s on you, I lacquered those bracelets up! Otherwise they would have rotted! You probably have toxins in you now!
            Anyways I have compiled a list of things I may end up doing while I’m here:

1. Go to graduate school (again). One master’s just isn’t enough! I might as well take some more classes to see if I can ever become a respectable person. Pros: I will have something awesome on my resume as to what I did while here, and it may even help my future career. Cons: Graduate school is stressful and sucky. Also careers in hard science are limited and getting a graduate degree in hard science seems more costly than beneficial. That is, if I even get in ;-)

2.  Do housewifey things. Like cook, clean, and run errands like the daily grocery shopping that needs to be done here. This is good because it allows me time to nurture hobbies like reading, writing, and trying to braid my hair in new and fascinating ways. I’m looking into doing some freelance at home work as well as taking some online classes. The only problem with this is that I have seriously never wanted to be a housespouse/stay at home type of person so that is a lot of change for me.

3. Find a job in Austria. Are you hiring? I don’t speak any German, but I can smile like a dumbass while people prattle on in their anger-speak. I’ll send you my resume.

4. Run another marathon (or two). I may be slow, but I got time on my hands.

5. Learn German. This is happening-ish. Starting classes in 2 weeks!


So I guess the answer is that I don’t have an answer. Not yet, anyway. I’ll let you know what I did here while I’m doing it. Until then I’m just going to live my life and take opportunities as they come. So now you (don’t) know.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hiking/The only thing to do on Sunday near Innsbruck




As I write I am aware of the soreness that is my lower body, and back, and chest. So really most of my body is sore. It’s my fault, actually. I had the idea on Saturday that on Sunday we should go for a hike. I had this idea because I didn’t feel like going for a run, and there really isn’t much else to do on Sunday in Innsbruck because most things are closed. Even though I didn’t want to go for a run I still wanted to get a decent workout – so I devised a secret plan to hike from the bottom of a mountain to a toppish location. Lift tickets can be expensive(ish) anywhere from 10€-30€, and you have to pay to get there. Since we aren’t sure when Dr Husband is getting paid my plan would be more frugal also.


We planned on getting an early start to the day, but the bed was feeling particularly needy that morning so I spent a little extra time with it so it wouldn’t feel put out. So we headed out early(ish) to find our bus and start our hike. We knew we wanted to go to a Muttersblargleblarg, but there were like 6 different Muttersermgigawds. So we bought our tickets for the one we wanted, and went to the bus stop to wait. We boarded our bus and set off into the Austrian Alps! To adventure we come! Unfortunately, we were headed in the wrong direction. Dr Husband knew almost immediately. I didn’t realize until later. He didn’t want to alarm me by telling me sooner, but I’d like to think he was pleasantly surprised by my adaptability and adventurous spirit. Also I wasn’t upset at all so I think that helped.
A couple quick decisions later, we exited the bus in a town with a ski lift (and trails), Fulpmes! Dr Husband was interested in taking the lift, but I convinced him it would be ultimate-hike-workout-Sunday if we hiked from the bottom to somewhere towards the middle-ish toppish. Also it would be cheaper so we’d have money for a snack and/or beer when we got there. I’m not sure if the prospect of beer or the prospect of learning me a lesson was the motivating factor in him humoring me but about a half a mile up the mountain I was wishing he hadn’t. Or, I could just roll down. Or die.
We made it to a Middlestation about an hour of huffing and puffing and wishing for sweet release from my soft squishy body later. Because we had only been hiking for a little over an hour we continued up. The views were spectacular, and we noticed we were in a different area than we would have been if we had taken the lift up. After another 45 minutes of walking we made it to a panorama water/pond place that was really neat. I got the impression people would go in the water if it were warmer out. We walked about another 30 minutes and made it to a hotel/restaurant. It was very quaint, and Dr Husband thought the ski slopes looked promising. All in all we had walked over 4 miles uphill. We were pretty spent, and the food we brought tasted pretty amazing. As did the second food and beer we got at the restaurant.


When we started to head downhill we decided to take a “more direct” route. This trail was a bit more difficult and followed a mountain spring downhill. There were parts of the trail that were flowing with water runoff. Since we don’t really have hiking appropriate shoes, the water on stones added an element of “will I slip and die?” to the mix that had been missing on the way up. We were exhausted by the time we made it off the trail. We found the bus stop again with no difficulty and only had a short wait before we were headed back to Innsbruck. Overall, it was a fun day, and as long as the weather is good I’m sure we’ll have many more Sunday hikes.

I should note that this was actually our second Sunday hike. Our first was to Patscherkofel. We took the lift up there, and it was very touristy. We had a good time and made it to the summit, but I think we both had more fun this time around. Also, I think our butts are gonna look way better after this one. At least I hope so cause it hurts. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Challenge

If you’re reading this you will have noticed that I have resurrected my once defunct blog into something I update occasionally. This is indirectly due to the fact that I and my husband, Dr. Husband, have moved to Austria. It is directly due to the fact that I have moved to Austria and am therefore half way around the world from my little brother, Jacob. We devised a plan to keep in touch in a way that more suitable to our personalities and relationship than just writing back and forth. Our challenge is for me to write at least one blog post a week and for him to do a youtube video a week. Sound kind of nerdy/geeky? Welcome to the family!

So I hereby dedicate this post to Jacob. Here ya go kiddo! Don’t go spending it all in one place ;) The challenge is officially accepted. I’m not sure what else to say so I will just mention that Jacob is the raddest little brother ever, and I wish I had half this kid’s smarts and talent. Love you, bro! (Link to Jacob's first video here)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I’m a München?



It was a cold and rainy morning, so early in fact that the nearby homeless people had not starting begging for change yet. We had gotten up and packed our things in less than thirty minutes in order to have enough time to find the bus station, bus, and get settled. However, once we reached the bus station we realized two important things: (1) being we had absolutely no idea where our bus was; and (2) we had absolutely no idea how to go about finding our bus. We wandered around a bit, going back and forth, checking and re-checking signs. Our comfortable cushion of time slowly dwindled down to an almost urgent situation. About the time I was ready to hit the freak-out fan Dr. Husband decided to look at a side street that appeared promising. Lo and behold, our bus was parked right there.

We boarded and were hit with the realization that we would be traveling in comfort (except that it was exceedingly stuffy and warm, is this why the train was 30 Euro more a person?). After a little over two hours we reached our destination – Munich! We weren’t too enthused when we saw it was still rainy and cold in Munich despite the sunshine we were promised, but we were excited nonetheless. Since it was very early when we arrived, we decided to do things Hobbit style and get second breakfast. It didn’t take long for us to realize the café culture in a large metropolitan German city like Munich is completely different than a small (German-speaking) Austrian city. We also noticed the inordinate amount of Shisha, and Kabob places near our Hotel. While this wasn’t upsetting, it was not what we wanted at 10am. After we procured second breakfast (latte macchiatos and very tasty crossants!) it was about time to our friend at the Hostel where he was staying. We waited outside for a while then decide to check inside where he had been waiting for us.

Now that our Fellowship was complete, it was time to explore Munich. Our first stop was Augustiner-Keller (biergarten). The food and the beer there are very good, but the atmosphere of the garden is the impressive feature. We had very traditional German soups. It is one of the largest beer gardens in Munich, and while thankfully it wasn’t very crowded when we were there, it was really something to see. I think if we go again however, we will do self-service so our waiter doesn’t take his espresso break in the middle of our meal. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I definitely recommend it. As a side note, I participated in a ritualistic stag/bachelor party leg waxing…of the groom. He was wearing Lederhosen. I’m not sure how frequently this happens but I like to think I am truly one in a million now.


Next we journeyed to Altstadt (old town) where we found the rest of the tourists in Munich. It was really busy and crowded, however that is where many of the old churches are located. They are not to be missed! To name a few: Frauenkirche, Heiliggeistkirche, and Bürgersaalkirche. These buildings had some of the most breath-taking craftsmanship and art I have ever seen. The pictures don’t do them justice. We also went to the Hofbräuhaus (Hofbrau beer house). This place is certainly better visited in the winter due to more indoor seating; however after visiting Augustiner we were not nearly as impressed (and the pretzels weren’t free like they were at Augustiner-Keller). However, because Hofbräuhaus was built as an extension to the brewery in 1589, I have now drunk in a beer hall older than America! Check that off the Bucket list. After a bit of wondering around and checking (and cross-checking maps) we found a place to eat.
Yada, yada, yada the next morning we slept in a bit and journeyed to Altstadt again to do some more sightseeing. We went to the München Residenz (palace of the Bavarian monarchs and House of Wittelsbach). It cost 7 Euro to go in, but it was really an amazing place with a lot to see. Again the pictures do not do justice. It definitely awakened in me a desire to see Castles while we are here! We decided to call it an early night after walking 5 miles around the city. We got up early the next morning to catch our bus back to Innsbruck. Our bus was much more easily found this time around, however the return trip took an extra two hours due to construction. We decided to buy groceries on our way home and ended up with some weird Austrian dessert thing for dinner (Mohnnudeln).

Overall, the Munich experience was a positive one. I learned a lot about myself, and I learned a lot from myself. We will definitely be going back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

IKEA the Bully

I am not even sure where to begin. My feelings and emotions are so tangled and twisted when it comes to the subject. IKEA did things to me. Bad things. This is only made worse because everyone always talks about how wonderful IKEA is. No it’s not. You’re a liar. IKEA is a liar. And I hate them. I hate them so much. Won’t stop me from going back there to get more cheaply priced goods. But isn’t that how most dysfunctional relationships work?

Immediately after setting foot in Innsbruck and quickly getting acquainted with our apartment we walk 1.4 miles (which felt further due to jet-lag) to IKEA. We are hopeful and naïve. Thinking IKEA would take care and love us. And it seemed that they would. Until we found out the soonest delivery date for our bed and futon was two days. We weren’t excited about this news, but maybe it would be like camping?

Surely our tired bodies wouldn’t complain once we put them to rest. Our Friday morning delivery time comes and goes and we hear nothing from IKEA. Dr. Husband decides he wants to walk down there and find out what’s going on. They put him to the side and didn’t tell him anything. So after a time he decides to walk back.

That night we prepare ourselves for another night on the floor, when suddenly our chime goes off. A man speaks to me in rapid German, all I say is
            “IKEA?”
            “Ja, IKEA.” He says.

I am elated. I knew IKEA wouldn’t let me down. Dr. Husband goes and helps the man bring the offerings to our apartment. But something is wrong. Some things are missing. We are led to believe more things might be coming later. But we mostly console ourselves that we have a mattress to put on the floor to sleep on. Nothing else comes that night. This was Friday.
 
Monday rolls around and I walk to IKEA again with a hand written note in German explaining that all of our items were not delivered. I am told Wednesday and a time, triumphant I return home.


Wednesday rolls around and nothing.

Thursday we both returned to IKEA with the same note. We are told we would get delivery service that day. But do not know a time. We decide to use the internet in Dr. Husband’s office, and while we are there we get a call from IKEA. We are told the items would be delivered between NOW and within FOUR HOURS. So we IMMEDIATELY return to our apartment and wait. Like we had be doing for days! Six hours later Dr. Husband gets despondent when IKEA hasn’t shown or called. He decides to walk down to a corner where he may get Wi-Fi service to distract himself. He says that while he is down there he sees men in a GLS truck pulling into random driveways and circling around.
            “IKEA?” He asked.
            “Ja, IKEA.” They said.

He leads them to our apartment like the Pied Piper with the rats, or mice, or whatever those vermin were. We are excited once again. Maybe IKEA just couldn’t find us those other times – it really does care. Then we check our items – one short.

Since it is just the futon cover I decide to go down to IKEA the next day (a Friday) to gather our missing sheep and lead him home. Alas, when I get to IKEA on Friday my sheep is not in this pasture. It’s in the warehouse a ½ mile away. Taking the word of a girl speaking broken English I get on a bus and miss my stop. Funny thing, if you are not sure where you are going you end up walking more (this is because of all of the doubling back you have to do). I finally make it to the warehouse and gather our last item. I think about catching a bus but alas, the bus stops on this side of town do not have maps, so I’m not sure where I would have ended up. I decide to start walking. Eventually I make it home carrying the 15 pound futon cover the entire way back – at least 3 miles.

I am tired and sore but happy to be done with this saga. That is until I find out Dr. Husband missed the delivery of our table and chairs and coffee table (because he was once again on the corner trying to get Wi-Fi). Ironically, these were also IKEA items that we had ordered from Amazon.

So we had to pick those up at the local model train station / place you go to pick up missed deliveries (?), over a ½ mile away. We wait patiently while someone buys a remote-controlled truck so we can pick up our final sheep. Although I think, I would have rather picked up a sheep because I don’t think it would have been nearly as heavy as the things we carried for a ½ mile. It was really heavy. And stupid. And then we drank and built our furniture for hours.

All in all, 2/10 would not repeat.

Beer/Bier

Something you have to understand about Austrians and their beer is that it is life. Similar to Ambrosia and nectar to the gods, beer is the lifeblood of the people. You will see 80 year old women smoking a cigarette and having a beer at 10 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday (we actually saw this). And that is okay. That is normal.

I have only seen one drunk person in the park (and he was homeless). So, that makes me believe that Austrians have a wooden leg that they pour the beer into – because they seriously drink all the time. Dr. Husband and I went out to an “Irish pub” and a group of four guys sitting next to us had six 0.5 liters of beer in the time it took us to drink three each, and I only knew they were drunk because they starting singing drinking songs. It was kind of like a dream come true.

Beer here is about the same price as soda, sometimes cheaper, even if you get a 0.5 liter of it, and if you got soda it does not come with ice. This makes the choice much easier to make on hot summer days in August. Or alternatively, since this is Austria, the choice is even easier when it is 58 and raining in August. Or really, any other time. Every beer I’ve had here has been amazing. You can get beer anywhere. There is a place here that sells beer 10 feet from a child care service. And that is okay. That is normal.

What is not normal is finding chilled beer in the grocery store, and I think that is some B.S. Because it makes you have to wait to drink your beer once you get it home (or you drink it warm). Turns out, a lot of the beer is pretty good warm too!

This is my first post about beer, but I am sure I will be writing more in the future.



 BSD

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Things I’ve Noticed Thus Far/Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Of all the emotions I expected to feel during my first few days in Innsbruck (sexy and cliché ones like: excitement, fear of the unknown, boastful of my American swagger and girth, and unease at a different culture), shame was definitely toward the bottom of the list. I knew intellectually that most of Europe spoke at least some English, but I didn’t comprehend what that would mean for me. What it means is my transition here has been much easier than it could have been. Most customer service people and servers speak passable if not very good English. They are also (for the most part) kind and patient while we try to practice our German with them. It is very easy to feel out of place when you do not even understand basic greetings and questions. It is also very humbling to have a person who is close to ten years younger than you explain how to order a bed in her second language (or possibly third) when you can barely ask if she speaks your language in her own country. This is even after a couple months of trying to learn some basic German. Let’s just say that after this experience I will have more sympathy non-English speakers in America because that ish is scary, yo.


There are a number of things I have noticed thus far about the culture here that I find different in good/bad ways. I did not expect the multitude of cafes and culture surrounding all of them. They are very different than the US and you will have a very hard time if you don’t understand two basic things: 1)Do not be in a hurry when going to a café and 2) You will never see your server again if you are shy. Number one is pretty self explanatory. From what I have seen in Innsbruck, there is usually one to three servers for indoor and outdoor seating. They are usually busy especially if you are in a touristy part of town. It will take a while to even get your drink order let alone your food order. It is preferable if you know your entire order when they come by if they are busy. You must chillax. Enjoy the scenery. Look at the menu so you are prepared when they do come by. Talk to the people you are with. My second point is if they come by and you need more time to look and decide, you may have to flag them down for more service. This is not considered rude. It is very different than America, and it is not necessarily bad. It is definitely relaxing and you never feel you are pushed out of your seat to accommodate the next guests. However, it can be very off putting to people accustomed to the service in America.    

One thing I really like about Innsbruck is the lack of waste in the packaging of products and the ready availability of recycling. I was super concerned when I saw one bin for our entire apartment complex’s (11 apartments!) garbage. However, it is expected you sort through your garbage into the different recyclables, biodegradables, and landfill items. This makes your waste much smaller than just doing recycling and garbage. Also the packaging is less conducive to waste such as the toothpaste we purchased only had a small film over where the toothpaste came out of the tube and the garbage bags only had enough paper around them to keep them from unrolling.


One thing I don’t really care for is the amount of shopping you have to do over here. You seriously have to go to the grocery store every other day, and if you do not have a car that means you are hoofing it to the grocery store and carrying things back every other day. I mostly complain because they sell beer by the 0.5 liter and six of those bad boys are heavy. A lot of other items are heavy as well. The bread (and a lot of other items) here don’t have the same preservatives as in the US so while that makes them super tasty it also means you’re going back more frequently if you don’t want to eat super stale/bad bread. The produce here is pretty cheap and tastes amazing so there is that. In addition, beer is literally the same price or cheaper than soda. I haven’t had a soda in close to a week, but you can bet your sweet bottom I’ve had a beer almost every single day! My people!   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: Exploring Innsbruck: The (budget) Grocery Store Edition


- Dr. Husband

Some things are not always what they seem.

As luck would have it our apartment is only a 10-minute walk from a large grocery store and small mall. It works as any supermarket in the states would, aside from bringing your own bags and ensuring you keep 1€ for the shopping carts. I was happy to see a large produce section for a Target like store, as well as learning new words for things like Peaches and Blueberries.

Happy seeing grapes were only 2,99€/kg (or about $0.80/lbs) we picked some up. Bread, produce, cheese, and beer are slightly cheaper while meat and eggs (3,50€ per dozen! We are a long way from free fresh eggs in Georgia) are more expensive.

A few hours later, we prepared our first little meal in our (currently unfurnished) apartment. We had a nice plate of baguette, cheese, salami, blueberries, and Zipfer – an Austrian beer. Everything was quite good despite one thing: the grapes tasted like strawberries! Have we traveled to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory where they are now experimenting with fruit?

Perhaps my taste buds got lost during the 6-hour time zone change. I took a swig of my beer and went for another grape. Alas, strawberry flavor once more. We enjoyed the rest of our dinner and thought nothing of it except that it was rather strange.

Making coffee the following morning, I went into the refrigerator to investigate this grape situation again. There it is in big bold letters right on the front of the blueberry package – “Moyen: Strawberry”. Mystery solved, sorry Hardy Boys.

Some things are not always what they seem…until you read the packaging, and then they are.


BSD note: I read the packaging in the store but thought it was a mistranslation. They seriously looked like grapes. Look at the picture!

The Incredibl(y)e (Long) Journey/Willkommen in Österrich


Our journey abroad started about the same way most trips to the airport do… with incredibly overpriced beers. Seriously what is up with the food/beverage situation in airports? Afterwards, we walked to our gate to await boarding and departure to Düsseldorf, Germany, where we would catch a flight to Munich. It was exciting to hear the conversations around us spoken in German. How exotic! How interesting! Oh how my perception of the world was about to change! My culture shock began when the stewardess directed me to the side of the plane I would be sitting in a string of incomprehensibly quick German. Luckily, she was pointing so I deduced what she meant. I was excited to see what the food offerings would be on the flight. Would we get strudel? Weinerschnichel perhaps? You can imagine my surprise and slight disappointment when we got to choose between mac and cheese (as the entre!) and chicken strips with “south western” sauce. I think my mac and cheese was better than Dr Husband’s chicken. There were also some sort of cold potatoes au gratin, cheesecake with strawberry sauce, roll, and spreadable brie cheese. Something I found very interesting was not that the sodas were served without ice (although I was expecting that), although if you ordered a soda you would get a small glass and that was it. However, if you ordered a beer you got the whole can! It was amazing! My people!

 The plane ride itself was… uncomfortable. The seats were too small and close together to do any satisfactory sleeping. I may have gotten 2-3 hours of sleep and Dr Husband may have gotten 1-2. We did the best we could to get up occasionally and stretch our legs by going to the bathroom. We also drank a lot of water, and I set my watch to European time before we left so I had an idea of when we should be trying to sleep. We were served a breakfast of strawberry yogurt, deli meat, cheddar cheese, and roll about two hours before we landed which was about 6:30 in the morning! One excellent thing about the flight was the entertainment. There were many movies and TV shows to choose from to watch. I watched Anchorman 2 (which I feel asleep during the last 15 minutes) and The Lego Movie, which I had already seen but wanted to watch again because I am 14 years old. Dr Husband (being the gand ol’ age of 28) watched more critically acclaimed movies such as 12 Years a Slave and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

After we landed we had just enough time to get a coffee for me and a cappuccino for Dr Husband, and to go to the bathroom – which really made me realize we weren’t in the US anymore. The bathrooms are just different: the stalls have more privacy for one, and you will know if a door is locked (i.e. someone is in a stall), similar to the way airplane and port-o-potties work. There is a color associated with the locking mechanism. However, the buttons on the wall of the stall made me feel the way Stalone’s character in Demolition Man must’ve felt upon encountering the three seashells. I figured it out quickly, but it was definitely a reminder that I was out of my element!


Once we finally got to Munich we walked about a mile (seriously) with our entire luggage (this included 4 large roller suitcases, 1 small roller, 1 backpack, a briefcase, and a large hand bag) to the “totally easy to find” bus/taxi rendezvous. Once there we waited 40 minutes for an estimated 25-30 minute wait to board our taxi bus to begin the final leg of our journey. After dropping a few of our other passengers off at nearby villages we were dropped off in Innsbruck near where our apartment should be. Luckily, our landlord was here to meet us or who knows where we would have ended up as our apartment is not visible from the street at all.

P.S. The above picture is after our 8.5 hour flight from Ft. Myers to Dussledorf. Not bad, right?       

Monday, July 28, 2014

I've got some news...

We’re moving to Austria!
The land of The Sound of Music! (For one horrifying moment the only movie that came to mind was The Hills Have Eyes – definitely not the one I was looking for.)
And amazing beer!
And strudels!
And the Alps! (which is great for skiing… apparently?)
And the German language! (I have looked into learning this. I’m totally boned.)

We are specifically moving to Innsbruck, Austria which is the capitol of the state of Tyrol, nestled a stone’s throw from the Alps and home to approximately 120,000 persons. By train it is less than two hours from Munich. It is also very close to northern Italy, Switzerland, and Czech (lol you don’t want to know how I tried to spell that) Republic. Brent will be working at the University of Innsbruck as a researcher and lecturer. Meanwhile I will attempt to: learn Deutsch, drink all the beers, and become gainfully employed. Challenge accepted (; Did you know Douglas Adams’s inspiration for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came while he was drunk in a field in Innsbruck? Don’t believe me? (ask the dishes! Hahaha… ugh.) Fact check it, froods. I am certain I will also be struck by inebriated genius in a field in Innsbruck. But which field? Obviously I will have to give it a go in all of them. Just to make sure. Something something something about perseverance makes you drunk in a field. Or success is part perspiration and part beer. Or whatever. The end result will be the same, I’m sure.       


Needless to say I am quite excited.