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A short post about Austrian bread

The one on the left is called a Laugenstangerl, and it is also available as a round roll. I don’t really know why I am so addicted to it, as I generally don’t care too much for white bread, but it is so good. It is often covered with pumpkin or poppy seeds, and is soft and fluffy on the inside. I find myself buying it as a little snack most days of the week.

The one on the right is called a Laugenbreze, although maybe people would think “pretzel” when they see it. I suppose its texture is similar to the other one but this time it’s in a cool shape. You can also get them covered in large grains of salt, which I really, really dislike. I remember the first time I was buying some bread rolls in a supermarket, completely oblivious to the salt crystals. I got home, took a bite, and was horrified! It reminded me of when I tried to eat those salt-dough Christmas tree decorations I used to make as a child (I’m sure it wasn’t just my family that did this…?).

The prefix Laugen- means lye, which is a strong alkali (sounds a little off-putting, admittedly!) used to glaze the bread. The standard German word for bread rolls is Brötchen – which means “little bread” – but in Austria it’s better to remember to use their word, Semmerl.



This was possibly my most anticipated trip. I became fascinated with Budapest a few years ago after seeing it on a property development programme, of all things. It took four and a half hours to reach on the train from Linz, and I arrived at night so I was pretty exhausted by the time I set foot in the city. I was picked up at the station by Tressa, a cheerful, upbeat girl from Colorado, who is studying in Budapest for a semester. Since she had a lot of work and exams to prepare for, I only really saw her when I came back in the evenings, so during the day I was navigating and experiencing the city all by myself.

I must admit, the first thing that came to mind when I got off the train was, ‘Wow, this screams Eastern Europe’. I know how prejudiced that sounds, but it looked exactly how it is often stereotyped to look – very outdated and slightly worse for wear. I also felt really disorientated – I had no idea where I should be going as I couldn’t even guess what the signs said.

You see, Hungarian is a unique, ancient language, thought to have originated in Western Siberia. Therefore, it is related to no Indo-European one, meaning that for example if you were an English speaker, you’d have more luck understanding Sanskrit than Hungarian. Moreover, it’s considered one of the world’s hardest languages, due to its extremely complex grammar (which is another of the roots of my fascination, actually). But it does turn out that, interestingly, Hungarian is a regionally recognised language in Austria! Vienna is called Bécs

Anyway, Tressa’s place, not far from the main station in Pest (the side of the city east of the Danube), was very cosy and had many of the features that I had seen in that TV programme – for example, there was a lovely stained glass window in the kitchen. The blocks of flats in Budapest are very often centred around a courtyard, like so:

And the lobbies of even very average-priced buildings can look very fancy indeed. This one had a beautiful tiled floor which I unfortunately didn’t manage to do justice:

The most stressful aspect of the trip was, no doubt, when I was accused of riding the underground with an invalid ticket. I feel I should tell this story in full to make people aware!

At the top of each escalator going down to the trains, there are conductors whom you have to show your ticket. I had bought a 24-hour one about two hours prior to this incident. I was stopped, and although I kept explaining that my ticket was valid, I kept being told I was wrong and was just treated like a complete idiot. I was told I needed to pay an 8000 forint fine (about 30 euros), but I didn’t have this money on my person. The conductor took my passport and made a note of its details, and gave me 10 minutes to get some cash out. I was really panicking and thought, ‘$%*^, I am really in for it now’. I got out a wodge of money and zoomed back. Upon my return, I was surprised to find that the conductor apologised to me because she had misread the date on my ticket. Hmmm.

So that was a massive relief in the end, but at the time it was a nightmare. Even if you’re travelling between EU states, you should take your passport with you wherever you go – contrary to what I’d thought before – because I dread to think what trouble I could have got into if I hadn’t had mine, not least because I was in a very unfamiliar country.

Hungarian forint

But the rest of my day in Budapest was great. The downside was that I had to rush everything a bit and cram it in – annoyingly, the only train ticket I had been allowed to purchase was one that let me arrive on Thursday evening but leave on Saturday lunchtime.

On Friday morning I walked by the Danube and got some gorgeous views of Buda (the western side):

Unfortunately, I never set foot on Buda, even though it is home to some of the most famed and beautiful sights the city has to offer, such as the architecture left over from the days of the Ottoman Empire. I hear there is a castle from which you can get a view of all of Budapest. Definitely next time!

Pest is the more modern side. It is home to the Hungarian government, plus the main shopping streets. It is also much bigger than Buda, and much easier to access due to its abundance of public transport.

‘Shoes On The Danube Promenade’ – a chilling memorial to the Hungarian Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes and were then shot into the river in 1944.

Parliament Building

Hungarian Post

Sign to an underground station

This is the type of building that, inexplicably, I’d love to live in.

Ah, yes. Let me tell you about the wonderful lunch I enjoyed.

As is the case with most new cities I visit nowadays, I look up any good vegan/vegetarian restaurants that might be about. Napfényes Étterem had got flawless reviews, so I decided to go there. It was a bit out of the way, but totally worth it. I had a salad and a pizza made of spelt dough, soya cheese, pineapple and seitan cubes, it was amazing. As much as I’d have wanted to try out some of the vegan cakes that were on offer, I was absolutely stuffed. This is why I’d advise that you go on as empty a stomach as possible – and believe me, even if you are a meat eater, you want to go there! It is located in a charming little brick cellar. The staff are friendly and it was one of the only places in the city I found they could speak pretty decent English (I’d been getting by in German, which seems to be most people’s second language there). The seating is comfy, it’s well-priced, and there is lots of variety on the menu.

The entrance to the restaurant!

After that, I spent some time wandering around some back streets. It was nice enough, but this is the time I started to feel a little ill – I couldn’t stop sneezing, my whole face ached, my sandals were becoming very uncomfortable, and on top of this, the heat was unbearable. I suppose this is why I chose this point to indulge in some retail therapy. There were some cute little stores around the Astoria underground station – if you wander round they are pretty easy to find! My favourite purchase by far was this calculator watch:

It looks much better in person!

Because it had been a hot, exhausting day, I was keen to visit the thermal baths which are a unique feature of Budapest (another Ottoman relic). But I got there and they were just about to close which was so disappointing as I would have liked nothing better. So I came back to Tressa’s place – we’d been unable to properly hang out as she’d been in classes all day – and this is when things got worse. My eyes were beginning to swell up and I felt physically unable to do anything except go to bed. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to seeing some of Budapest’s cafés and bars at night.

The next day, I had some time to squeeze in maybe one more activity before I got the train back to Linz. I went to Margaret Island, a mile-long island right in the middle of the river. I only had time to see the very tip of it, but it has some nice gardens and things like that on it. There is also an artificial beach, although personally I wouldn’t really like to dip my toes into the dirty old Danube:

Departures/arrivals at the train station, going to many countries: Germany, Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania…

Overall, I loved my trip to Budapest, despite feeling under the weather and not being able to stay nearly as long as I’d have liked to. I will most definitely be making an effort to come back and uncover more of its mystery, now that I know what I missed the first time. I have also certainly been inspired to travel further east into Europe, although this probably won’t be happening any time soon, sadly.


Just the day after I got back from Vienna in the evening, I got up at 5:30 and hopped a bus to Graz. I was able to do this because I had a couple of days off school due to a national holiday. I’d heard that Graz was a pretty cool city, but I didn’t know anyone there, so I decided to couchsurf, and once again I had a great experience.

The journey to Graz took about three hours, and it was hot, but the journey was salvaged by the beautiful scenery. When I got there, I went to where I was staying – the flat of Tom and Robert. They were both vegan, which made food absolutely no bone of contention (good pun, right?). I found out they’d be organising a show that night and the bands – Spraynard and Caves – would be staying at their place! I had already listened a bit to Spraynard, a US band, and Caves, from Bristol, were unknown to me. But their sets were absolutely great and made me a bit sad that such a scene was lacking in Linz, since it had been quite a while since I’d attended a “jumping around” show. Hanging out with the bands afterwards was also awesome. I don’t know, this whole stay just inspired me in a lot of ways, not least because such great food was provided! Before the show, there was a barbecue of vegan schnitzel which was absolutely heavenly; and then for breakfast, pancakes made of flour and soya milk, and various spreads and homemade breads.

As a city, Graz is lovely. The buildings are very pretty and probably the nicest in all of Austria. The atmosphere is very student-orientated and everyone seems to know everyone, and not in a bad way. There is a wonderful park in the middle. For these reasons, it reminded me of Ghent, in Belgium. I don’t think I wrote about visiting that city on here, but it’s in Flanders and it was so cool… if I had to live in Belgium again, I’d definitely want to live there!

This is inspired by a bridge in Paris where lovers/friends write their names on a lock and seal their relationship!

Inside Schlossberg, a mountain with a castle at the top! You had to take a lift inside the mountain to get up there, which was pretty cool.

View of Graz from the top


Yes, I gave it another chance in the end! The same friend I visited in Salzburg suggested we go one weekend, and this made all the difference.

I got a bit stressed out that morning, so I ended up missing the same train my friend was supposed to meet me on. I arrived in Vienna two hours later than planned, but luckily, this time all the underground lines were open. I met her at Naschmarkt, which is a massive flea market that takes place on Saturdays just outside the Kettenbrückengasse station. There were people selling all the usual odds and ends, but as we walked further on, it became more food-orientated… so many stalls selling fruits, vegetables, spices and delicacies from all over the world. The sheer variety was unbelievable and it all smelt amazing. For lunch we got an absolutely delicious falafel wrap with hummus and red onions. We agreed that if we lived in Vienna, it’d be financially dangerous because we’d be getting all our food from here each week.

We dumped our bags in a security room at the station and went to look at some sights, since couldn’t check into our hotel until 14:00. However, we ended up collecting our stuff and making our way to the hotel pretty late, at about 18:00. My friend, who had booked it, had been under the impression that it was 5 minutes’ walk from a certain underground station.

But when we got there, it was nowhere to be seen. We asked a few passers-by and they said that it was absolutely not reachable by foot. What? My friend rang the hotel and they were a bit standoffish, but they indeed said that we needed to get a bus down the motorway there… I was sort of fed up by this point as it had been so hot – around 30°C – that day, so travelling had been hellish and walking round the city pretty exhausting.

Nonetheless, we got the next bus and we ended up at some remote shopping centre. Upon studying the timetable, we discovered that the actual bus that stopped at the hotel only came once every three hours or so. Eventually we got a taxi to drive a couple of minutes to this bloody hotel. We also had to get a cab to the underground station so we could get into the city centre and back, since the buses were so infrequent. It was ridiculous. The hotel itself really wasn’t bad, it was just probably better for people visiting Vienna on a coach tour or something. Nevertheless, the lessons I learnt were:

  1. Always check how out-of-town your place of accommodation might be, seeing as it may be overselling itself on the website;
  2. Always check availability/reliability of nearby public transport links. It can be bothersome spending an hour or two on Google Maps, but it saves so much hassle in the long run, as well as money for taxis, not to mention the possibility of being stranded somewhere (as I genuinely believed we were).

I managed to get a few nice pictures of the city in general this time.

My new boyfriend.

This is the main Austrian government building... the inside was also incredible, from what I could see.

On Sunday, we went to Schönbrunn Palace which was the summer residence of the Habsburgs until Austria became a republic in 1918. (Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination caused the First World War, was part of this dynasty, and so was Marie Antoinette). And oh my, it is an absolute hotbed of tourists… the queues to get into the palace were so long, probably only rivalled by the Eiffel Tower. So, we decided to cheat the system a little bit. Even though we didn’t go into the palace – a shame, but it would have taken us the whole day anyway – with a little bit of exploring, we found that if you went round the sides under the archways, and not via the entrance, you could view quite a large part of the gardens for free (I think there were areas where you actually did have to pay, but we never even saw those, so it could well have been a ploy to get people to part with their cash).

When we were hanging around outside, we were approached by two people who asked if they could film us. They were making a video for their friends who were getting married, and they showed us a picture of them and asked us questions like ‘What do you think their names are?’ and ‘Where do you think they are from?’. The video will be shown at the wedding, which is weird to think about, but it was an interesting little experience.

Schönbrunn from the front

The Gloriette, from the top of which you allegedly get a great view. We didn't go up, though.

Another awesome thing I found is that on Mariahilferstraße, the main street in the centre, there are two branches of Bortolotti’s, who do many flavours of lovely vegan ice cream!

So apart from wasting a hopeless hour or two trying to find this hotel, all in all this was a pleasant visit that changed my opinion of Vienna. I’d still say that for me, it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi – it doesn’t captivate me as much as certain other cities have – but I wouldn’t mind going again, certainly.

Zell am See

Despite having a population of only 10,000, Zell am See is one of Austria’s most visited towns, so I was sort of curious to go – not least because I still felt I hadn’t really seen any uniquely Austrian countryside. It was very beautiful, but since it wasn’t high tourist season, there wasn’t really very much to do… it was a very sleepy town. I would usually say it therefore wasn’t really worth the 3 hours of the train ride, but in this case that simply isn’t true. The views on that journey were breathtaking, I wish I could have taken some pictures but I wouldn’t have really done it justice.

Lake Zell, which the whole town is centred around

An sign near a church, dating from 1500

The tiny, deserted train station. Direct trains to Salzburg only ran three times a day, and only once to Innsbruck...


I should really get better at updating. I keep forgetting that this is not just for documenting travels – which for one reason or another, have been a bit sparse lately – but also the year abroad experience in general!

I totally forgot to mention that a few weeks ago, I had a friend from home come over for the weekend, which was great! We went to ARS Electronica Centre (which we affectionately referred to as ‘arse’), a big science museum. I had so much fun there… there were things that just appealed to my inner child, and also fascinating stuff to do with “actual science”, geography, etc. It’s a must-visit in Linz!

ARS Electronica Centre at night (not my picture)

We also went up to Pöstlingberg that weekend. It’s a 539m-high mountain looking over Linz (a bit pathetic compared to the size of mountains in other parts of Austria, but still), it has a very pretty church on the top, and also a small theme park for kids. You have to take a tiny little tram up there. We took a picnic and the views were wonderful, it was cool to be able to point out my schools and my home.

Lately, I’ve realised that I just love it here in Linz and I will be truly sad when I leave. It’s not a huge city by any means, and for reasons beyond me, its inhabitants do seem to moan about it a lot. But I have grown very fond of it – I think it’s often the experiences, rather than the place itself, that make it so good. I appreciate what it does have. Some lovely places to walk, a few cinemas so I can take the opportunity to watch German films without subtitles to fall back on, lots of vegan-friendly food stores, a great bookshop (even if it’s way too easy to stay in the English section…!), excellent public transport. I can count the bad days I’ve had here on one hand.

Perhaps it’s because this is what I see when I leave the building each morning!

When the weather is nice – we’ve had a bit of rain this week – I get the bus to Pleschinger See, which is a lake just outside of Linz. It’s still a bit too cold to actually bathe in it, but it’s nice to be in some countryside and read a book or just hang out with people.

And tomorrow I should be getting a bike from one of my colleagues. The thing is, well, I can’t ride a bike; the reason being that it has scared me ever since a little “accident” many years ago! I am determined to finally do it fearlessly whilst I’m here, however, even though it will be odd to ride on the right (by the way, I can’t drive either). I think that makes me even more up for the challenge, actually…

I’ve more than passed the half-time mark here, which feels so strange… I only have 7 weeks left of lessons to teach and I guess I will be coming home sometime in early June. My room contract ends at the end of July, but I’m not entirely sure I can stay here, nice as it would be. For one thing, I hope to make a trip to Canada before the busy/expensive season, seeing as I’ve now hoarded a bit of cash and I really do not know when I would have that same opportunity. Also, much of my free time at the minute is spent enquiring after or filling out forms for summer jobs – mainly ones at language camps abroad. It’s sort of exhausting, as it’s been well over a year since I updated my CV and stuff…

Until then, I hope to spend every weekend in a different city, now that I’ve come to realise how little time I have left and how my list of places to visit probably won’t be satisfied. Perhaps this will motivate me to be better at keeping this blog fresh, at any rate.

One more thing – on my short trip to Vienna, wandering some streets in the 8th district, I came across this sign:

It says that parking is forbidden on x day/time, except vehicles from Azerbaijan, Namibia and Zimbabwe. How curious!

A very brief update

Sorry I haven’t written on this in a while. There hasn’t been much of new to tell, since I spent the past week back at home in England for Easter (well, I had to come home on Easter Sunday itself, but I had a few treats before I left). It was nice to relax and refresh a little (e.g. bringing back all my winter clothes), but ultimately, I felt a little bit suffocated there. My town is small and uneventful, and my bedroom is much the same – it’s not too far removed from Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs. I wish I was kidding.

Anyway, I’m very glad to be back here, even though all the shops were shut today since it’s a Feiertag (equivalent to a bank holiday) so I couldn’t stock up on food. I start back at work tomorrow!

Oh, before going home I did go to Vienna for a day. I am sad to report that I wasn’t very impressed. For a start, the underground system was a nightmare. Searched high and low for a map of the lines there, with no luck. When I did decide to just wing it, it turned out that two lines were closed. Made it into the centre and saw a few old buildings, but by then, I just wasn’t in the mood for anything. I also had some huge hayfever symptoms that day, so it was only 3pm or so when I decided to go home.

I will give Vienna another chance at some point, maybe when I’ve read up about it in advance a bit more. I should also probably go with some other people.

But, I have found out the German word for armpit is die Achselhöhle, which amuses me greatly. I found out another cool word – die Zipfelmütze, which translates as a “jelly bag cap”: