Archive for February, 2012

Der Frühling ist da!

Spring is here! I know we’re still in February, but it feels a lot like it… most of the snow has melted, it’s warmed up a bit, and the sun is shining. That was enough motivation for me to go outside and finally take some photos of Linz.

View over the Danube, which flows all the way out to the Black Sea!

A claim to fame that Linz likes to make is that Nirvana played in its Kapu club in 1989. Here is the setlist from that show spray-painted on the side of an electricity box.

Another fact about Linz is that it was Hitler’s hometown. However, I only know this from reading it in a guidebook, and you really wouldn’t have guessed it just from being here (because it’s not exactly something to celebrate). In fact, probably the only testament here to that time is the Mauthausen concentration camp which is just a few miles from the city. After the war, Linz was divided into two zones, belonging to the USSR (north of the Danube) and the USA (south).

Linz was the European Capital of Culture in 2009, which meant lots of events and art installations were on throughout the year. Even though these are gone, there seem to be many opportunities to experience art and culture, which I look forward to discovering. I almost feel spoilt for choice… there is so much more to my taste here than in Liège. Sorry, Liège.

Oh, this week is Karneval, which is like Mardi Gras… everyone dresses up outrageously and goes out. I went to a party at the student union and it was pretty fun! I wish I could have blue hair always, actually.

And next week I begin my placement, which I look forward to immensely!

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First impressions of Linz

Getting to Linz was a rather tough experience in general, really. Not only did I go there on virtually no sleep, but a certain low-cost airline deemed my checked baggage 5 kilos over the limit and I had to pay a charge of… wait for it… one hundred pounds. Not a great start.

And I was absolutely right in assuming that the style of spoken German here in Austria would not be the same as in most of Germany. Even the simplest of words, such as ‘Ja’ , ‘Zwei’ and ‘Klar’ sound more like ‘Jå’, ‘Zway’ and ‘Kwoh’ respectively, and it would seem that some of the words used here are different altogether. I have to listen very hard to understand what’s going on and I daresay it will take a lot of getting used to.

Despite that, since getting here I have successfully opened a bank account and joined the library. However, I realised that it had been the “wrong” library – it was the Landesbibliothek in the centre of Linz, which is for academics rather than the general public (I did wonder why I got interrogated about my student status…). So if I ever feel like reading complicated texts about the sciences, I know where to go. I did spot some English-teaching resources that looked useful, though, so I’m sure the 4 € that I paid for membership won’t completely go to waste. In the library I also found myself at an exhibition about the history of handwriting – I went into quite a Baroque-looking room full of old books, and the exhibition was a narrated light show explaining Egyptian hieroglyphs all the way to the likes of today’s Comic Sans.

Stained-glass window in the library showing an early form of German

As for Linz itself… I took an immediate love to it even though I’ve only been here for a day and not even been around it properly. There’s a big tram system, which I like because it makes me feel like I’m actually living in a city. I like the architecture and just the atmosphere in general, really.

I’m living in a student hall. I had gone through a crisis trying to find accommodation after being dropped twice by people who’d said I could rent out their room privately. In my desperation, I emailed the university and to my surprise, one of them had a room to offer me. Now I’m here, I couldn’t ask for a better one, and it’s at a very good price. It’s huge, has plenty of storage facilties, has a sink, and the view is nice. In fact, my only complaint with this building is that the showers are a little too “public” – it’s all totally unisex and there are no individual cubicles in which you can shower and get dressed in privacy, so there’s this underlying fear that someone will steal your clothes while you shower. The kitchen is shared by ten, apparently, but I’ve only met three so far. People seem to be quite orderly in there and there are lockable cupboards.

Right now it is snowing a lot and of course it’s very cold. Tomorrow the maximum temperature is meant to be -16 °C! The Austrians don’t seem bothered by snow and sub-zero temperatures, though – everything runs as normal. Britain, you could learn a lot from them!

The view from my bedroom window - the yellow building is another student residence