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!