Friday, May 22, 2009

My Minnesota Strawberry

I think my strawberry was trying to remind me that I will be going home to Minnesota soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fever Ray

Last night I had the chance to see Fever Ray. Fever Ray is the solo project of Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of the Swedish electro brother-sister duo The Knife. I have a long history with the Knife, originally falling in love with them nearly a decade ago but I never had the chance to see them perform live. They refused to preform live until a couple of years ago, so seeing Fever Ray sort of filled that void for me. That's not to say that Fever Ray isn't great on its own. Fever Ray released their first album this past March and it's fantastic from start to finish. You can watch the videos for the first two singles here:

If I Had A Heart from Fever Ray on Vimeo.

When I Grow Up from Fever Ray on Vimeo.

Anyway, last night. It was the opening night of the annual Electronic Beats festival in Graz and the opening concert was held in the old prison of an old fortress called Schlossberg that even Napoleon failed to capture. The prison still has the original walls intact, and the cavernous nature of the structure made for some incredible sound. Here's a pic of the venue so you have an idea:

Here's how you get to the venue and the view from the top:

So the location was pretty majestic in and of itself, and Fever Ray was stunning, like watching a painting -- a very dark and captivating painting. Photos can't really do it justice, but here are a couple from the show:

The rest of the set, including a couple of video clips, is on my flickr account.

I wish i could go back and do it all over again. It sort of seems like I might have dreamed the entire thing.... I think I might be making that road-trip to Chicago this fall to see them after-all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


So I've spent the last two Sundays hiking in the area around Graz. Still haven't made it to the Alps to hike, but I'm hoping I can swing that before I head back to the States this summer. Last Sunday, I went with some friends to a mountain called Schöckl, about 15km from Graz. At an elevation of about one mile, it was a pretty decent hike. The hail, rain, and sleet we encountered on the way up made it even more difficult. But in the end, it was totally worth it. Gorgeous views, gulaschesuppe, and some sort of bread with meat/fat spread. Not a lot more one could ask for. Pics here.

This morning, my friend Petra talked me into a 9am hike through the outskirts of Graz. We started at the northern end, just a 5min walk from where i live. We headed up to a small mountain called Platte and then back down to the other side of Graz -- all-in-all, about a 3-hour hike. I had no idea you could actually "hike" in town. Streams, bridges, mountains, dirt paths --- all ending in a tram stop at Mariatrost to get us back home. I can't wait to check out more of these urban trails. You always fine the coolest stuff right before you have to leave...

Pics from today's hike

Monday, May 4, 2009

May Day Celebrations

April 30 and May 1 are so much more fun abroad. In Sweden, you have Sista april and Första maj, where Sista april (literally, The End of April) falls on the 30th and is basically an all-night party that leads into the 1st, which is a public holiday: International Workers' Day. In Austria, Labor Day falls on May 1st as well, and all stores and schools are closed in recognition. But more importantly, April 30th marks the day of the Maibaumaufstellen in Austria and a number of other surrounding countries. All over town, giant trees carved with various symbols, decorated with ribbons and flowers, draped in greenery, and hung with large circular wreaths are raised into the air, sometimes by hand, and sometimes with the aid of a tractor. People in traditional garb drink merrily and dance around the May Pole while bands play. On my way to class, I stumbed across one of these celebrations at Geidorfplatz in Graz. On the way home from class, I had to cut through a group of dancers who appeared to be connected by ribbons that were also connected to the May Pole. Of course I didn't have my camera with me, but I found some photos from last year's celebration online. Here are some favorites:

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Been back in Austria for about a week, teaching, going to class, and getting rained on whenever I leave the house. (Which is super-weird cause it never rains unless i leave the house.) Anyway, I managed to post some photos from my trip to Sweden today if you are interested. Pictured here is my new sushi-making outfit, it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Vacation!

After two weeks of class and teaching, we are now on Easter break for two weeks. Perfect timing because it's been around 75 and sunny in Graz, the magnolias are blooming and life is good! I spent the first week sitting in the park drinking coffee and doing nothing. My birthday was on Thursday and was rather uneventful apart from some delicious sachertorte with my friend Petra and then spotting a dead body in the street.

On Easter Sunday, I headed out to visit friends and family in Sweden. I went with the cheaper ticket from Vienna, which I'm not sure was the best idea in retrospect. My day looked like this: Alarm at 5am. Tram at 6am. Then Bus #1. Then Train to Vienna. (around 3 hours.) Then Bus #2 to Airport. Then Bus #3 to terminal. Then plane to Sweden. (2 hours.) Then car to Dalarna. (Around 3 hours.) By the time i got to Sweden, I felt like i may as well have traveled to the States or something. But now that i am here, things are great! Staying mainly with my old host family in Vassbo, sort of in central Sweden. They have a beautiful old house on a lake, so a majority of my time has been spent drinking tea and looking at the lake. Also lots of walks with my old host sister sofia and her dogs. Very relaxing, and it's been wonderful catching up with everyone. Going to sweden always feels like coming home.

I'm now waiting for Karin to pick me up so we can enjoy a fika in Falun, perhaps some delicious kanelbullar or syltsnittar! I wish I could stay here forever. Or at least until july.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jealous Much?

I even got a bit of a sunburn yesterday!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yum, A Kiwi Sandwich

So I was really excited about finding English muffins at Billa today, but I'm still a little perturbed by the toppings Austrians apparently put on them. Kiwi? Really?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Back to the Grind

Trying to get back in the swing of things here! I'm taking a German class in the mornings now and it's actually challenging! I'm ecstatic because while I understand quite a lot, I can still barely string together a sentence. I feel like a little baby. In English, I'm all "of course this is a blatant attempt to subvert the dominant paradigm" and then in German, I'm like "me wants now pizza, hungry tummy are." It's mortifying.

Teaching two Swedish classes again. So far so good! In the more advanced course, we are reading a novel by Henning Mankell, which is pretty great because it's something I would do in my freetime anyway.

So where should I go for Easter Break? I'm thinking Sweden? But a beach somewhere on the Mediterranean is pretty appealing too... I'm open to any and all suggestions, just trying to keep it affordable. Something off the beaten path is cool too! Ideas so far:

Croatia -- Rovinj or Rijeka
Italy -- not sure where? Maybe Florence and Venice since a friend will be there at that time?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back in Graz!

So finally a new post! I'm back in Graz after a wonderful trip home. Lots of snow, lots of sitting in front of the space heater and lots of eating way too much pizza and burritos. In my brief time home, I managed to visit the Ice Caves in Bayfield with Pete, spend some time in turtle lake with my mom and her cat, walk dogs, play lots of shows (including a Midwest tour of Lincoln, Kansas City, Lawrence, Witchita and Omaha), get my hand slammed in a van door, catch a bad cold, fall on the ice in a blizzard and mess my knee up, fix the toilet, get a new muffler, do my taxes, pay some bills, pet my cat, get a tattoo cover-up, and hang out with friends. It was just what I needed and now I'm back in sunny Austria, which is blowing my mind after spending 4 rainy, cloudy months here. Spring has hit, the sun is out and I'm looking forward to getting settled back in.

Oh, and after a 24 hour trip back to Graz, the water was broken in my apartment. I guess there had to be a hitch somewhere. It's just too bad it involved all the things i wanted to do when i got home, mainly use the bathroom and take a shower.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A slow month....

So it's been a hell of a long time since my last update. Not much has happened really. Pete was here. We made dinner, watched tv and generally enjoyed being unemployed for the first time together. Pete went home. Then I went back to school, took a couple of German final exams and am about to give my last Swedish final exam of the term. It's strange. I have spent the last two years of my life running around like a crazy person. Walking dogs, grad school, teaching, playing in bands, etc. It's been so nice to have four months with hardly anything to do. I think I needed it. I've been sleeping a minimum of 10 hours per night, catching up on movies and television shows I have missed over the past few years (Hello Battestar Galactica!), reading, and knitting. I have been traveling as well, but for the most part, I am just relaxing and taking a break from everything that was controlling my daily life. (And of course I miss a lot of those things -- my dogs, my cats, playing music -- but it's sometimes nice to take a break even from the things you love.)

I've put up some newish photos. The first set is from a hike Pete and I took on the outskirts of Graz. We climbed and climbed until we crossed the snow line; suddenly it changed from drab, grey drizzle to winter wonderland right before we reached the Ruins of Gösting Castle. The castle ruins were gorgeous and there was even a little bar/restaurant in the ruins. I still don't understand how they get their supplies up there.

Ruine Gösting Photos

The second set is from another castle in Graz, except this one is not in ruins. Schloss Eggenberg been restored and houses a very nice art collection. But my favorite part was the peacocks. Peacocks wandering all around the castle grounds, some sunning themselves, some beached on the frozen ground, and all bold enough to come up and beg for corn or bread.

Schloss Eggenberg Photos

And finally, I just returned from a weekend trip to Berlin. I got to see my friend Andy who was in town for an art opening, and I stayed with Marnie and Linda, some grad school friends I met in Minneapolis. I fell absolutely in love with Berlin. I usually don't care for big cities but something about Berlin really struck me. It was so comfortable, it almost felt like i had been there before. We wandered around in the nasty, drizzly winter weather, looked at the remnants of the Berlin wall and drank coffee to keep warm. I can't wait to see Berlin in the summertime. I think I need to spend some time there; perhaps a summer or something. I didn't take a lot of pictures, my fingers always got too cold when I would take out my camera.

Some Berlin Photos

Now I'm off to give my last Swedish final exam. I haven't been outside today, but the weather has been just horrible. Lots of rain/sleet/almost snow. Never cold enough for a good snow but just cold enough to make the trek to the tram and to the university miserable. I am looking forward to digging out my long-johns and my Sorel boots. I can almost hear the sound my boots make on the cold, dry snow in Minneapolis and I can't wait to see the sun. It feels like weeks since I last saw it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

New Year's in Graz was amazing. I'm not sure I can even describe it. A large projector projects 2009 images on the town hall (look left) and they set up a big stage in the center of downtown with various acts, including fire dancers and cover bands. They also sell champagne, beer, and the last of the season's glüwein. People run all over, setting off fireworks and firecrackers, so much so that about an inch of confetti and discarded paper covers the walks by 10pm. A little before midnight, the big fireworks start. Pete and I climbed up the mountain in town to watch the big display and could see a panoramic view of the fireworks going off all over the city while the big city display was set off right in front of us and lit up the entire city and the River Mur. It was incredible. I've put up a few photos, but it's difficult to do it justice.

Another New Year's tradition in Austria is to sell little tokens of good luck. Booths are set up all over town selling these little tokens, including tiny pigs, mushrooms, clovers, lady bugs, and chimney sweeps. Most of these symbols of good luck are derived from old fairy tales and to the unaccustomed eye, seem totally insane. Like these plush pig hats for instance:

Even if you didn't get a lucky mushroom for New Year's or a plush pig hat, I still wish you all a Happy New Year!