Final Entry..

Well, our time in Austria is over. It’s great to be home, but I’m already missing the language and the friends I made just like I thought I would. Our last week in Vienna was wonderful and we tried to squeeze in as many things as possible!

 

Addison and I used the last day on our EUrails cards and spent an afternoon in Graz. We visited several Christmas markets and it was nice to see a city other than Vienna. It definitely was bigger than the villages we’d been to, but this city had a totally different atmosphere than the city we’d been living in for four months.

 

It was disappointing that our last week was full of studying and exams and we left less than 12 hours after our last final. But our last evening was very special. After turning in our papers, we went back to our homes to get our luggage and met at the subway station Wien Mitte to check in early for our flight. It was definitely a relief that this was a possibility so we didn’t have to lug around our heavy bags early the next morning! After checking in, we went to our favorite restaurant in Vienna: Vapiano. I’m already missing their delicious, fresh pasta!

 

Following dinner, we went to a cafe so I could say goodbye to the friends I’d made in Vienna. It was sad, but they gave me a wonderful going-away gift: a notebook with letters from each of them and a few stickers and mini-gifts.

 

The five of us then met with Ewen, one of our professors who joined us in Dorfgastein way back in August. We went to Flanagan’s an Irish Pub and stayed for a couple hours just chatting and talking about the things we were looking forward to about America and the things we would miss about Vienna.

 

Two of the members of our group are still in Europe. Kelly’s parents are visiting for Christmas and they will be doing more traveling. Addison is visiting family in Germany. But Annika, Nick, and I left Friday the 7th, and have now separated ways.

 

It’s definitely been odd, trying to adjust to life back in the US. It’s weird not seeing Annika, Nick, Addison, and Kelly every day, ordering food in German, and living with my parents again!

 

I’ve been looking back through all our photos starting in the Portland Airport on our way to Austria, our first day in Vienna where we were completely lost, having no idea how to orient ourselves, our first week in Dorfgastein, hiking the mountains and listening to the cowbells. And then our final days, our last class sessions, our last meal. We have all grown a lot this semester. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, when you are personally living it, but I have seen change in all of us. Not just in our language skills, but as people and as friends. I’m so grateful we had this experience, and I know everyone else is too. This will be a semester I never forget, and it is undeniable that it will have a great effect on the rest of my time at Linfield and throughout the rest of my life.

 

I’m excited to know there are so many people signed up for the Austria program next Fall. I have no doubt that they will have just as an amazing experience as we had. The best advice I can give to next year’s students is this: just put yourself out there; take chances and get out of your comfort bubble. You never know where one turn will take you and the semester will go by faster than you think so don’t miss a single second.IMG_7772

9 Days Left..

December is only 3 days a way! It seems only yesterday we were just meeting at the airport, freaking out about the size of Vienna, and hiking the alps in Dorfgastein. I’m looking forward to reading back through my blog entries and creating a scrapbook of this semester when I get home, but I’m also not excited about saying goodbye to the friends I’ve made here and leaving Europe!

In this blog entry I will talk about the rest of our adventures in November including Budapest and going on tours with our professors as well as on our own. Then I will talk about the glorious Christmas markets in Wien and Kelly’s birthday surprise!

The next weekend on Friday the 16th of November, all five of us made a a day trip to Budapest, Hungary. Obviously, we didn’t have a lot of time to see a lot of things, but we were all very excited to have the opportunity to see another country. Budapest was originally two cities separated by a river: Buda and Pest. We spent the day walking around the streets, following the Burger Kings (of which there were more than a dozen), and being confused by the Hungarian signs. We went to the castle in Budapest and had a nice lunch at a pretty cheap restaurant. Everything in Hungary seemed so cheap in comparison to Vienna! A piece of cake that would be 3 Euros in Vienna was 1.50 in Budapest.

After lunch we looked at the view across the river and the Parliament. I found the parliament especially pretty and we waited until sunset to take night pictures.

We’ve been counting how many countries we’ve been lucky enough to visit during our time here in Vienna. By the end of this year, the five of us will have been to: Austria, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the UK….and the magical land of Canada. As our professors here would say “Wir sind sehr brav!”

On the 17th I went to the English movie theatre with Leo, a friend I have met here in Vienna, and her little brother. We went to the Twilight marathon, staying from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The last part of Breaking Dawn had already come out in the states and we wanted to see it in English, because, like I said before, movies are always better in their original language.

Throughout the month we have gone on some really interesting tours in Vienna: the Belvedere Palace and Museum, the US Embassy, parliament, the Austrian National Library, and ESRA.

ESRA is the Jewish union in Vienna dedicated to supporting survivors of the Holocaust as well as the Jewish community in general. At the US Embassy we learned about different internship opportunities and what the role of the US Embassy is in Vienna.

I enjoy how our professors integrate all these interesting places into our classes and I believe I have seen so much of Vienna in just one semester!

On Thanksgiving my friend Tracy who is studying abroad in Plymouth, England this semester came to Vienna to visit for the weekend. She joined me at Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant/bar 1516 where the Institute celebrated with our professors, conversation partners, and other people that work at the Institute. My conversation partner is Lui, a close friend I have made here in Vienna, and I was so happy she was also able to make it. I can proudly say I also got her obsessed with pumpkin soup.

Over the weekend we went to several Christmas markets. So far I’ve been to the ones at Belvedere, City Hall, between the Art and Natural History museums, and Spitelberg which is near my house. At the Christmas markets they have dozens of huts where people sell jewelry, scarves, candles, soups, trinkets, food, Gluehwein, and Punsch. Christmas markets are so beautiful; they are completely decorated to the very last hut, and the food and drink are very tasty. Gluehwein is a hot red wine with a sort of orange taste. Punsch is schnapps with your choice of flavors and sometimes whipped cream on top. It is very delicious, and there are over 200 Punsch huts around Vienna this year apparently (according to Heute, a free newspaper you can find in the subways). I’ll post more pictures of the Christmas markets in my next blog!

On the 24th, a Saturday, Annika, Kelly, Tracy and I went to the UN. There are 3 main UN headquarters, one of which is here in Vienna. This particular headquarters is most well known for hosting the International Atomic Energy Agency. The UN headquarters is not considered one of the top 10 tourist destinations, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the tour. It was really interesting to learn how the UN functions in regard to the multi-language issue. There are three official languages of the UN: English, French, and Arabic. There are also a couple dozen interpreters who specialize in certain languages and it takes years for them to reach such a level of efficiency (basically mother-tongue efficiency) to be able to work at the UN.

On Saturday we also threw Kelly a surprise birthday party with birthday money from her dad. We met at a Christmas market, had some punsch, and then took her to a restaurant with traditional Austrian food called: Haubraeu. We all had Wiener Schnitzel (except for Tracy, who’s a vegetarian, who had a traditional dumpling dish with a mushroom cream sauce).

Afterwards we surprised her again by taking her to the English theatre where we’d already gotten tickets to see “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which we all thoroughly enjoyed!

Our final days in Vienna are upon us…we only have one more day of classes and finals next week. 9 days. I know everyone says this, but it’s true how fast the time flies. Tonight we are going to the Musik Verein and see an orchestra concert. We have one more tour with Professor Heuberger, our Ethnic Diversity teacher, and we’ll be going to a Bosnian Mosque for a double-class period. Addison and I are also planning on doing a short day trip to another city in Austria because we have one more day on our EUrails cards.

We’re trying to get in as much as possible this last week before we leave, but the days are going faster than we wish they would! I will probably have only one blog after this, and then we’ll be back in the United States of America. Our time here has been so special and I know I’ll never forget the classes we had, the excursions and adventures we went on, or the friends I’ve made this semester.

Autumn Adventures in Wien

This last month has gone by way too fast! It’s scary to think that in just over a week we will be on a plane back home to the US. There’s so much more I want to see and experience; one semester abroad is just not enough!

November has been full of exciting and unforgettable adventures. In this entry I will talk about All Saints’ Day and going to the central cemetery, going to the Opera house for the ballet, and our trip to Braunau, Austria to visit our language assistant, Manuela!

November 1st is a very important Catholic holiday, and as such the institute was closed and we had another day off. We decided to go to the central cemetery, because Alle Heiligen is like Memorial Day in the US and lots of people were going to the cemetery. The Zentral Friedhof is humongous and absolutely beautiful. There are so many different types of graves and gravestones. The cemetery is also very old and we saw some of the oldest Jewish graves. It was an absolute labyrinth and we walked for a good 45 minutes in almost silence, taking everything in.

On the second of November, we went to see the Romeo and Juliet ballet at the famous opera house! Annika and I met at Kelly’s house to get ready, and Addison met us a little later. Kelly’s host sister took pictures of us looking all fancy and then we went to the opera house.

Going to the ballet was such a cool experience. We sat upstairs in a little balcony. It was like our own little private room to watch the ballet (with 5 other people, but still). We also had our own private place to hang up our coats. Before the ballet started we could look out at everyone across the house; just being a part of this picture was a great experience, but the ballet was very entertaining, and I will never forget the boys jumping around and bumping shoulders in an epic bro-dance.

That night I also went out to G-Spot again with the friends I have made here in Vienna. I’m going to miss them so much! I’ve been trying not to think about leaving and not seeing them again; they’ve been so nice, and I have so many fun memories.

The next weekend Annika, Kelly, Addison and I went to Braunau, Austria to visit our language assistant from last year, Manuela. Braunau is a small town in the province in Upper Austria and Hitler actually came from here (but Braunau doesn’t want to really advertize this fact!). We took the train together on Friday the 9th, and got to Braunau in the late morning.

It was so nice seeing Manuela again! She took us on a tour of the town which lasted about an hour. We really enjoyed being in a small town again. We have gotten so used to the hustle and bustle of being in Vienna it was nice to have a relaxing vacation. During the tour we went to Germany. Braunau is right on the border which is the river Inn.

Center of Braunau

We walked across the bridge and stood in Germany and Austria at the same time.

Just a couple minutes from the center of the city is Hitler’s birth house. There is no sign or anything, just a rock a small monument against fascism.

Hitler’s birth house.

After our tour, we walked to Manuela’s parents’ house where her mother had made us pumpkin soup. I don’t know if I’ve written this before, but I absolutely LOVE pumpkin soup! This is something we should eat more in the US. After lunch, we went outside and met Manuela’s chickens in the backyard, and we helped her mother make a very delicious apple strudel. We all got to roll our own strudels, and despite being a little tentative to destroy it, we were all successful and it was truly the best apple strudel we’d ever eaten.

We went to a traditional restaurant for dinner with Manuela that evening. A traditional dinner includes bread, butter, cheese, and lots of meat! This place was also famous for it’s apple cider, which was like wine except made from apples, and it tasted pretty good.

Following our nice dinner, we went to see James Bond at the German movie theatre. Oh it is very funny hearing James Bond and the other characters speaking in German. We all pretty much agree that we prefer to watch movies in their original languages. Some things just are not easily translatable. It’s interesting how growing up in America, it was us, the English-speaking people, that made the movies. For people in Austria, it was “them” and they dubbed the films into German. Personally, I don’t know how the Germans and Austrians don’t get confused out of their minds not being able to hear accents or anything, because sometimes they can be very pivotal to the plot!

The next day we went on a truly awesome adventure! We went to Burg zu Burghausen, which is a castle in Germany near the border. This castle is the longest in Europe, and we went to a look-out point to see it from a distance before crossing the river to visit it. One totally fantastic thing about this castle: People live here! Like normal people, not kings or queens or dukes, but people like us!

I guess you could say I’ve gotten a little obsessed with castles since coming to Europe. I love them; they’re just something we don’t have in America. The whole history..with empires and kingdoms, the middle ages and knights, it’s just something we read in books or watch in the movies. But when we get here it hits you “Oh, this actually exists. This actually happened here. More than 500 years before the United States even existed.”

We walked through the castle taking dozens of pictures and afterwards we went to a cafe in one of the courtyards and enjoyed some tea and hot chocolate.

We drove back to Braunau after this, but not before making a slight detour. I’d been telling everyone how I wanted to go to Fucking, Austria. This is a legit town in Austria, and ever since my friends told me it existed I’ve wanted to go— just to take pictures and say I’d gone to Fucking, Austria.

Manuela overheard me talking with everyone about this and told her fiancee. He then informed her it was only like 20 minutes from the castle, so she surprised us all and drove us to the town (which has a population of 104 and approximately 6 cats) where we acted like typical American tourists, taking several fun pictures.

After this excursion we went to another restaurant in Braunau and had a really nice lunch with an assortment of delicious foods: Wiener Schnitzel, dumplings, and goose.

Sadly, our trip was only one night so after lunch we had to go back to the train station and travel back to Vienna, but our time with Manuela was very nice and I’m really glad we had the opportunity to visit her and see more of Austria during this semester.

Well, that’s the first half of November! I wish I could have updated more often this month, but we have just been doing so much and school really picked up after midterms. My next entry will talk about the rest of our adventures this month, including our trip to Budapest, and visits to many interesting and cool places here in Vienna. I will also talk about the wonderful, joyful, and magical Christmas Markets of Vienna, of which there are several! Until next time…

 

Castles, National Television, and Presidents–Oh my!

28.10.12

The last couple of weeks in Vienna have truly been extraordinary (Of course, if you just block out midterms!) On Friday October 19th we went with our cultural history teacher, Professor Hanreich to Klosterneuburg and Kreuzenstein.

On the way out of Vienna’s first district, Professor Hanreich told us about important buildings on the Ringstrasse and she seemed to know the history of every corner of the famous Ring.

It was incredibly cool to see some places we’d talked about in our classes. We had learned a lot about Leopold III, a Babenberg, but he actually founded Klosterneuburg with his wife and is a Saint for the Augustinian Church here. Also having learned about different architectural styles, I find myself becoming more adept at being able to point them out, and here we saw the Romanesque foundation of the church as well as the Gothic towers. The inside of the church is Baroque, which we have learned is the counter-reformation style.

In the Monastery we saw a short film about a famous Gothic altar here that was absolutely stunning. It has three rows across the entire thing; the middle is of scenes from the New Testament, and the panels on top and bottom of this row are scenes from the Old Testament and somehow they all fit together. It’s glassed off from the public, but you can look in at it, and strangely, Angus (Leopold III’s wife), is buried underneath it with seven of her children that died very young. On top is a box with her husband’s bones…

In another room we saw the back of the famous altar, which has many paintings including the Crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection.

There is also a random statue they found that has Mary holding Jesus and from one perspective she’s mourning her son, and from the other she is smiling slightly.

We also went into the Baroque Palace where Maria Teresa’s father lived and was planning to expand. The Baroque style really is beautiful, and as I see the inside of other Baroque Palaces, I’m starting to understand what Maria Teresa loved so much. She re-did a bunch of famous buildings in Baroque style, and she loved Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna. However, she didn’t like Klosterneuburg very much, so she stopped the expansion her father had set in place.

After Klosterneuburg we drove to Kreuzenstein Castle. As soon as we saw the castle we went nuts. It was a legit castle, exactly like we imagine castles in America with a drawbridge, a moat, windows for archers…It was absolutely beautiful and we went crazy taking pictures. However, this Castle was once completely destroyed and was in ruins for a long time. The Wilczek (approximate spelling) family has owned this land for awhile and finally, one man decided to rebuild the castle. He got authentic pieces of Gothic, Romanesque, stone from all around Europe. He also would sometimes find a Romanesque wall he liked from Italy and bought it…as well as church door that was cool so he had a copy made. So sometimes the courtyard may look like a hodgepodge of styles, but from the outside it looks pretty uniform (to our highly-trained American eyes.)

Our tourguide was really nice. He and his wife are the groundskeepers. He didn’t give most of the tour because our professor pretended we spoke only English so she could take over and give us all the information she deemed important.

We couldn’t take pictures inside, but it was like a classic medieval castle. There was a bedroom with a straw bed that was short because people would sit-up to go to sleep because of superstitions that you would die in your sleep from lying straight down because something would lie down on your chest. I learned about this in Professor Richardson’s Topics in German Civilization class, when we talked about Nightmares taking different forms and suffocating you in your sleep.

There was also a really awesome kitchen with authentic cookingware and a humongous oak table that had to be put in before the ceiling because it was so heavy!

We also went into a room that had real knight lances, swords, shields, armor and crossbows. A few of us tried on some of the chainmail. It was so heavy! And this was only part of the Knight’s armor, he still had the helmet and full-body armor to put on.

The family has their own chapel in the castle too where they go for special occasions like baptism and marriage. Normal people can also have weddings here and other events if they want to. It’s not TOO expensive, only like 800 Euros. I’m totally getting married here..or at least at a castle. I’ve decided.

I find it interesting this family has a castle just for the sake of having a castle. They don’t actually live here…if -I- owned a castle, I’d totally live there!

Last week was taken over by midterms in all our AAIE classes. However, on Monday we had the most amazing opportunity to go on Austrian television for a second time! We were in a different studio this time (PULS 4′s main studio) and it was the same show Pro/Contra and this time the topic was about the United State’s Presidential Election. One of the guests was a former US Ambassador who had also worked under Ronald Reagan. We were all so excited because we understood so much more than we had the first time we were on the show, when they were discussing the Mohammed Video. Oh, and fun tidbit: a guy sitting next to us apparently worked for Democrats of Austria and he had an LGBT for Obama pin that I was jealous of.

Friday the 26th of October is Austria’s National Holiday. On Heldenplatz (where Hitler made his famous speech before the Anschluss-when Germany took over Austria during WWII-) there were tons of activities with Austria’s one tank and two helicopters (one black-hawk helicopter bought from the US), other fun army things for the kids, tons of food, and Gluehwein (a traditional hot wine with some spice). It’s really interesting actually, because Austria is a neutral country and they have Wehrpflicht, mandatory military service, where all boys after they graduate high school have to enter the army for 6 months. So all the young boys were wearing their uniforms and helping out with the festivities.

 

 

 

The coolest thing however about Friday was being able to go inside the Hofburg Palace where the President Heinz Fischer works and shaking his hand, and then going across the way and going inside the building where the Chancellor Feymann works and meeting him! The Hofburg Palace is Baroque style and was the winter residence of the Habsburgs (Schoennbrunn is the summer residence). The rooms are stunning and one room was the rose-room, and another a mirror-room. Palaces are so beautiful! We actually are living in a city with three phenomenal palaces—it’s unbelievable how lucky we are to have an experience such as this.

 

Meeting Heinz Fischer, President of Austria.

We’ve been counting the days and we’re so sad realizing we only have six weeks left here. The time has gone by so fast, but we have so many more things to do. We’re going to the Opera next week, to visit Manuela our Language Assistant from Linfield the weekend after that, and hopefully to Budapest sometime soon. I still remember when it was the beginning of October and November looked so far away..but here it is, right around the corner. But I will not dread on this fact, I will strive my best to make the most out of every last day I have here in Austria and come back home with an amazing semester behind me.

Switzerland and Berlin~~Fall Break 2012!

27.10.12

 

Fall Break: October 5th- October 14th

 

It has been a very long time since an update, but this past month has been crazy-packed full of crazy adventures, expeditions, The Top of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, Stoerungen (German for..disruptions..), and midterms!

 

There’s so much to talk about but I’ll just start at the beginning of Fall Break: The Long Night of the Museums. Saturday October 6th Kelly, Addison, and I partook in the Long Night of the Museums. This is basically a night where hundreds of museums throughout Austria are open from like 6 p.m.-1 a.m. for the price of one admission ticket. We started off the night by preparing ourselves some Mexican food in Addison’s apartment, and then made our final decisions for what museums we wanted to visit. In the end we were able to only visit the Vienna Museum, Technology Museum, Chocolate Museum, and Circus Museum. It was nuts of us to go out so late when our train was leaving so early the next morning, but we didn’t care, and we went on an expedition to have a long epic night!

 

All in all, the Technology Museum was the best, and the highlight was this electricity room where a band was playing and when the keyboard played the electricity inside of a cage would zap to the tune and there was a light within the cage that would illuminate as well. (Wow..this description is not very good, but I can’t think of a better way to explain what was going on! Addison is the physics/science guy, not me!)

 

We were psyched to go to the chocolate museum…but it was a little disappointing. Yes, we did get some free chocolate which was nice, but for how excited we were about it and how many people were lined up to get inside.. it wasn’t that extravagant.

 

Next, we went to the Circus Museum. But by then we were just so exhausted (It was midnight by this time) and we left shortly after arriving to get a couple hours of sleep before making our way to the train station to start our trip!

 

Our first destination was Interlaken, Switzerland and Kelly and I met up at the train station early Sunday October 7th (Addison accidentally slept through his alarm having been so exhausted from the night before and met us in Interlaken a little later). We had to transfer in Zuerich and then once more in Bern before arriving in Interlaken. It was pouring when we arrived and we had to lug our bags, clutching to umbrellas to our hostel, Backpacker’s Villa.

 

The hostel was absolutely fantastic. The workers were incredibly nice and helpful. When you checked in you got your sheets and blanket cover as well as several Hostel Coins which you could use for hot drinks, internet, and laundry. We stayed in a mixed room and there were three others staying in the room with us every night. The first person we met staying in our room was very nice, but he seemed to give us misleading information about different things in the area being closed or no worth seeing…We didn’t really get to know anyone else, but one person above me was an obnoxious sleeper who smacked constantly throughout the night and we couldn’t believe our ears, so glad to escape from him when our last day there arrived.

 

We were going to have dinner at a local restaurant that first night, paid for through the hostel, but because we’d gotten split up on the train we decided to go out and look for food at a cheaper place or the closest super market and eat out the next night.

 

Everyone had been telling me that Switzerland was expensive, so I thought I was prepared for the extreme prices. I wasn’t. It was INSANE. A hamburger was easily 20-30 Swiss Francs and a normal soda in a restaurant was 6 Swiss Francs (which are almost equivalent to a dollar!) After getting money we decided there was no way we were going out to dinner every night we were there so we went to the supermarket to try and find some food. Even there it was outrageously expensive; something that was 2 Euros in Austria was about 6 Swiss Franc here. Kelly bought some food, but I decided to just eat leftovers from our train trip that night.

 

After leaving the market, we realized our phones weren’t working and we didn’t know how to get a hold of Addison who was still on the train! Eventually we decided to split up, Kelly going to the East station and me to the West (which are about a 20 minute walk apart) hoping to catch him at one of the two. Our worrying was all for not and we did catch Addison (At East station) and we met up again, going back to the hostel and eating dinner in the very warm and welcoming common area.

 

The nice woman at the front desk told us that Monday was going to be the prettiest day so we decided that we’d wake up early the next morning and make our trip to Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe. We had been confused about how to get there and how much it would cost ever since we started doing research on it, but it was so much easier than we thought! We just went up to the ticket person at the station and told her what we wanted, getting one ticket that the checkers hole-punch on each leg of your journey.

 

The train ride was beautiful and exciting! We had already taken so many pictures by the time we actually got to Jungfraujoch. We first transferred trains in Lauterbrunnen Valley and then in Kleine Scheidegg. The last train went through the mountains and traveled on a special type of track designed specifically for getting to Jungfraujoch.

 

View from Train

 

Stepping out of the train onto The Top of Europe was an amazing feeling. I’d been looking forward to this trip for so long, ever since my mother had told me about it and how I needed to go. The first room we went into was a sort of panorama view of the mountains on long flat television screens with much dramatic music. Then, we took an elevator up to the Sphinx, where we had the most gorgeous view. It was crazy to be in the snow, wind, and ice after being in Vienna for so long. We took dozens of pictures, trying to soak up every moment of being in such an incredible place.

 

Next, we went through something called the “Alpine Sensation” which had an odd snowglobe like model with figurines and gondolas in it. There was also a wall that documented the history of Jungfraujoch and the building of the railroad and train station.

 

Finally, we got the Ice Palace. I was shaking with anticipation. I’d been so excited for this very moment and when I stepped onto the ice floor and touched the wall I actually almost started crying because I was so happy to finally be there! And I was missing my mom too, wishing that she was able to be there with me because I knew how much she really wanted to be there. The ice palace is completely made out of ice with sculptures everywhere of bears, penguins, and even Sherlock Holmes. There is also Scat from Ice Age frozen in the wall.

 

After the Ice Palace we went out onto the Terrace to take even more pictures. It was crazy icy, and everyone was slipping and sliding all over the place, but the view was worth it, a thousand times. On our way back down to the door we didn’t want to slip so we just sat down on the ice and had a race to the bottom.

 

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Feeling totally exhausted, cold, and hungry, we decided to check out the restaurant. Everything was crazy expensive of course, but we did each end up ordering at 8 Swiss Franc soup. They also put bread on our table, but we weren’t sure if we could eat it because in Austria they charge you for the bread they put on the table. We asked finally and the waiter looked at us with wide eyes and said “No, it’s okay! You can eat it, go ahead, no extra cost.” He looked at us like “Oh, what poor, sad American students!” Needless to say, the bread was gone in ten seconds.

 

We took the train back down the mountain and stopped for a half hour or so in Grindelwald, a small village in the mountains.

 

After our adventurous day in the mountains we went to dinner at at Des Alpes, a traditional Swiss restaurant. We had paid an extra 19 Swiss Francs on the hostel for this meal and at the time, it had seemed like so much, but now we knew: it was a steal! We had a nice salad, a main course, and got to choose a specialty cake for desert. The food was so good, and the prices on the menu also looked pretty reasonable (we actually found a few dishes between 20 and 25 Swiss francs!) so we decided we’d come back again on our last night.

 

The next day we had been planning on going to the St. Beatus Caves, but it was pouring rain again and the bus driver said the caves were flooded and closed for the day. But before we could despair we remembered our other plan to go to Truemmelbach Falls and so we went to the train station and bought a train ticket to the waterfalls via Lauterbrunnen Valley and hopped on the next train! And we were not disappointed. The falls were amazing! Truemmelbach Falls is basically where all the melted glacial waters fall. The first view we saw was stunning. The water was rushing down, super loud and we got soaked from our head to our toes, Kelly’s and my glasses getting all fogged up and covered in water droplets.

 

 

After another very successful day we went back to Interlaken and had dinner at Des Alpes again, getting some more traditional Swiss food.

 

When we were finished we went souvenir shopping. We also still had a lot of Swiss Francs left and we needed to get rid of the extra cash. I got a few postcards, and a couple gifts. In the end, two days in Switzerland had cost us 400 Swiss Francs!!

 

We slept pretty well the next night, and we took an early direct train on Wednesday from Interlaken Ost to Berlin, arriving around 5.30 p.m. In the train station we went to the information desk to purchase Berlin WelcomeCards that gave us travel during our stay as well as discounts at many museums. We finally figured out which S Bahn and U Bahns to take to get to our hostel (the public transportation is very effective and convenient it just seems a little…excessive at times.)

 

The Circus Hostel was just as nice as the hostel in Switzerland. Annika had stayed there a few years before, and Rick Steves recommended it and we were not disappointed! Though we can all speak German, all of the workers spoke fluent English and it was difficult to speak German with them 100% of the time! We saw a poster on the elevator that said tonight was all-you-can-eat Pasta night for two Euros at the hostel..and having just come back from super expensive Switzerland we jumped at the opportunity! We ended up going to the homy eating-room and getting the all-you-can-eat pasta as well as a beer and had a very pleasant 5 Euro dinner at our new hostel.

Pasta and Beer in the Circus Hostel.

 

Our new room was very nice, with just one other person staying in the room with us. A guy originally from New Jersey and throughout our stay we had many nice conversations with him.

The first thing we did the next day after breakfast was make our way to Checkpoint Charlie. There was an outside area that was really moving, with a timeline of events. The museum itself we weren’t very thrilled about. Mostly it was rooms with walls full of information from ceiling to floor in three different languages making you dizzy. It was mostly just historical information that you learn in school anyways.

At Checkpoint Charlie

 

 

We walked nearby to see a stretch of the existing wall and right by it was the Topography of Terror, where the SS had had their headquarters. Outside there was again a timeline with a bunch of interesting information. Also, across the street was a bear. A bear that is part of a set of peace-bears that one can find throughout Europe. I took my picture with every bear we came across throughout our trip.

Berlin-Bear through the wall.

Berlin-Bear.

Berlin-Bear.

 

Berlin-Bear.

Berlin-Bear.

Berlin-Bear.

Bears!

 

We went to the Jewish museum, which was exceptional. The first part was designed by Liebeskind, and it had three Axis, one leading to the Garden of Exile, the other to the Holocaust tower, and the other up the stairs to the actually permanent exhibit. A lot of rooms in the museum are kept empty on purpose to emphasize holes in memory, or voids. One very poignant part of the museum was all of these metal faces, thousands, each hand-made and you would walk across them hearing the clangs throughout the silence.

 

 

After the museum we found ourselves very hungry so we took public transit to get to the oldest restaurant in museum where Napolean actually ate at. It had very traditional foods, and Addison actually had a pig knuckle…

 

After lunch we went to the DDR Museum which was easily one of our favorites. Right next to the museum was a great church and we took a look at that first before going to to the museum.

 

The reason we enjoyed the museum so much was because we could actually touch everything! The museum was set up so you would open drawers and touch every-day objects, sit down in a traditional DDR car, enter a typical DDR living room where the T.V. was playing old news programs and you could answer the telephone and listen to conversations. Also in this room you could open covers and learn about women in the DDR and sexual education and flip through all the books.

 

The other rooms had other cupboards to open and you could go into an example of a prison and interrogation room as well as learn about voting in the DDR and practice with your own ballot. You could also create your own socialist person and it would grade you on how well you did.

The next day we went to Bradenburg gate and there we saw some protestors. We weren’t sure what they were protesting, but they were Mexican and we couldn’t understand what they were doing in Berlin.

We also went to the Reichstag not expecting to be able to go in because it was going through cleaning during our visit there. But apparently it was opening that afternoon, so we stood in line for an hour making a reservation to go in later than evening.

Standing in line to make a reservation to get in Parliament.

We then went to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe which was basically concrete rectangles of many different heights. It was a sort of maze and people also were sitting on them. Apparently the designer had wanted the memorial to be like this, that it should be part of the every-day life of Berlin.

 

We then went to the German History Museum which was a very cool museum with so many interesting artifacts and it was nice to have some background knowledge from the courses we had been taking!

 

After the museum we looked around for a place to have lunch. We saw a random red sign for a place called “Vapiano.” It’s an Italian place where you get a card at the front desk, and you go up to the counters ordering food and you put it all on the card. They make the food right there in front of you, with super fresh ingredients (they literally have plants growing where they pluck the herbs from!) We each got a pizza and had a great time. (On a side note, upon returning to Vienna we found out there was a Vapiano literally ten feet from my apartment! We have been there two or three times now since this discovery..)

 

After lunch we went souvenir shopping, and I got a fake sort of license plate that says “Berlin” on it, and got a pamphlet that described to me finally what the bears all around Berlin meant.

 

We made our way back to the Reichstag and after showing our passports, and going through security we were able to get in a very large elevator and enter the Dome. We walked around outside first on the roof, and then we entered the actual Dome and walked up and down it, taking pictures of Berlin. It was a pretty good view of the entire city and there was a helpful pamphlet telling you what everything was as you walk around the dome.

We took the bus to Museum Island and were hoping to get into the Pergamon Museum but it was closed so we got tickets to the New Museum. However, there were police and black cars everywhere and we weren’t allowed to go inside. There was apparently someone visiting the museum and no one was allowed in until the left. We watched from a distance as several black cars pulled up to the entrance and many men with several brown umbrellas rushed about as a man and a woman exited and got in one of the cars. Once getting inside we asked someone who worked there who it was, and it turns out it was the future Mexican President! The protest we saw in front of Bradenburg Gate started to make a little bit more sense after that.

 

The New Museum was fascinating to me. They had an excellent Egyptian exhibit, and it made me want to take the Ancient Egypt course at Linfield. There were different statues, art, ancient papyrus, and one room completely dedicated to the famous bust of Nefertiti.

 

On the bus back to the hostel, we were so disappointed to be leaving. We hadn’t seen everything we wanted to see and we didn’t want our vacation to be over. So we made a impulsive decision and decided to stay an extra day! We went back to the hostel and asked if our room was still available and it was so it was settled, and they helped us find our train times for the next day.

 

We woke up early and were one of the first people in the Pergamon Museum. It really was fascinating. There is a famous altar there that a German archeologist found people burning parts of it for fuel and decided to excavate it and bring in back to Berlin. Lots of pieces are missing, but it’s been expertly put back together. There were also other magnificent ancient objects in this museum as well as a stunning collection of Islamic art.

 

After this museum we went to find a stretch of the wall next to the river with some beautiful artwork on it. It’s the East Berlin Gallery, and some of the murals were wonderfully painted. The last one is a picture of two communist leaders kissing, to show that they are closer and have a better relationship/friendship than capitalist countries.

 

 

We were getting rather hungry by this time so we tried to go to the Tiergarten to find a particular restaurant, but when we couldn’t we took the U Bahn and S Bahn back to the hostel to clarify the name of a German Restaurant they’d recommended to us earlier. It was called Sophieneck, (Sophie’s Corner). We had some good schnitzel and meatballs as well as ice cream and thoroughly enjoyed our last evening and meal in Berlin.

 

We woke up extremely early to catch our train, and settled into our seats around 7.30. However, as we were traveling we pulled up into one station, and all of a sudden there was an announcement on the loudspeaker. Which they didn’t repeat in English. Now, I speak pretty good German but loudspeakers are hard to understand! All I got was that there was a problem and we were going to be stopping for an hour. So I got up and tried to find someone who spoke English or could explain to me what the problem was. I go to the meal train and ask the man “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” He says flatly “Nein.” But goes on to tell me his boss does, so I look around for his boss, but I can’t find him but I do see a girl on her phone wearing the train uniform, so I asked her if she spoke English and she said a little, so we spoke Denglisch and she tried to explain to me that there was a disturbance on the track and they had to fix it. And every train was delayed, so it would make no sense getting off the train to find another.

 

So we finally got going again, and they brought around letters of apologies and ways to get reimbursed (but we had EUrails Cards so they didn’t apply to us) When we got to Fulda where we were supposed to get a direct train to Vienna, we knew we’d missed it so we went to Information and I asked for the next train to Vienna. We had to take a train to Wuerzburg and transfer there. So we went to the platform and saw the train we were going to take was supposed to have gotten there at 10.30 but it was so late it was getting in at 12.30. So we got on this train and sat down, thinking our worries were behind us. But then there was another announcement (that they also didn’t do in English!) And they said there was another Stoerung (disturbance) and we would have to take the old railroad, making us even later, a total of 180 minute delay. I had to get up to get some of this information clarified and I saw a bunch of people in line for a room where three women who worked for the Deutsche Bahn were dealing with more envelopes of apologies and reimbursement options. I ask them “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” And one simply says “Nein,” and then goes back to work. And so I’m like, Okay, I’ll just do this in German then..And they explain to me a little more about what’s going on and because I’m going to miss my next train in Wuerzburg they find the next train for me to take.

 

I go back to my seat finally and we all burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all and I have a many hysterical freak out but it all turned out okay. A nice man explained to us more about the disturbance and explained that it was an electrical problem. We finally got to Wuerzburg and waited an hour for our train, but it was a direct one to Vienna so once we sat down we could finally relax, and we got into Vienna at 9.30 p.m., 4 hours later than planned. But it had been an adventure; however, we were happy to be home and I immediately fell asleep upon parting ways and returning back to my host parents’ apartment.

 

We had a wonderful Fall vacation, and I’m so happy I got to travel to Jungfraujoch and Berlin. They really were experiences of a lifetime and I feel so lucky I got to go and enjoy these places with two of my friends.

 

I really wanted to blog about it immediately, but we got back with only one week to go before midterms and the week was super busy, full of mostly just homework, solo-studying, and study-sessions with everyone else. But now that all that is over, I can finally stay more up-to-date with my blog. My next entry will talk about our class trip to Klosterneuburg and Kreuzenstein, being on television (again!!), as well as our adventures on October 26th, Austria’s national holiday! So stay tuned, friends! Until next time…

A couple really busy weeks in Vienna!

10.4.12

It’s almost fall break, and I’m so excited! I’ve got my EUrails card activated, today is our last day of classes, and in just a few days I will be in Switzerland and then Berlin! I feel like I do everytime we get around to this part of the semester—ready for a break. And last week was definitely so crazy busy I think we all feel the same way.

Last week we had a tour of the Schatzkammer, the royal treasury here in Vienna. There we saw crowns, jewels, and garments that belonged to the emperors, dukes, and heralds. It really feels like somewhere out of a fairytale!

We also went to the Jewish Museum for our Ethnic Diversity class, and this was my favorite museum we’ve been to. It doesn’t focus mainly on the holocaust which I felt really cool. They totally redid the museum a year ago to give in a new focus, and I think they did an awesome job. There are thousands of pictures of Jewish life, all ceremonies, and all rituals taken by the same photographer over the course of many decades. There is also a portion of the museum dedicated to traditional artifacts and it is very interesting how different they are coming from different parts of the world! We learned that it is the function that matters not the form of the object, so for example we have a menorah that’s shaped like a Ferris Wheel..or a passover dish made from oyster shells..even though Jews can’t eat shellfish…

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the children’s room. This particular part of the museum is designed by children and changed periodically. On the wall are different question that Jewish children ask. One of them is: Does God speak only Hebrew? Or does he speak German too?

On the 26th and 27th we were at a Gymnasium here in Vienna and we did presentations about the US economy and upcoming election. We really had an awesome time, and it was cool hearing what the students thought about America and also learn about how their political and social systems work in Austria. This was a part of our community service project and after the last day we went out with the classroom teacher to a nearby restaurant (kind of like a Biergarten) and had a very nice lunch with him.

Annika, Kelly, Nick and I teaching at the Gymnasium.

On that Friday we went to a Vineyard and helped with the grape harvest. I’ve never done this before, but I actually had a really fun time! We worked for a couple hours, and then everyone left the fields, crammed into this small van (I swear, it looked like they were trying to smuggle us across the border or something), and had a very nice lunch in the small village. I’ve decided that pumpkin soup is my favorite soup of all time. They eat it quite often here in Austria. After lunch we went to a different field and worked for another hour. It was amazing to see with so many workers we could get the entire field harvested in just over an hour! After the work was over, we went back to the restaurant for coffee and cake. YUM! Cake here in Europe is simply 1000 times better than cake in the US…there really is no comparison.

On Saturday we all took the S-Bahn to Herman’s place just outside of Vienna. Herman is the director of AAIE. We had an hour of German with Frau Weissgaerber (his mom) and then joined the barbeque downstairs. It was a little rainy outside (nothing compared to Oregon though!) so we ate inside and had a great time. Oh, how I have missed barbeques!

On Sunday we got together at Annika’s house to study a little for our German placement tests at the University and then Annika and I went to meet one of our language partners for German conversation. We walked with her and her dog in the Wiener Wald (Forest!) and it really is amazing how in the outer districts in the woods it looks so much like Oregon or Montana.

On October 1st we went with Professor Hanreich into Stephan’s Cathedral. I hadn’t been inside yet, and it was cool to compare this cathedral and the one in Prague because Rudolf IV began to work on it again at the same time his father-in-law Charles IV began to work on his cathedral and Prague. St. Stephan’s has a lot more original Gothic architecture, with Baroque influences inside (and even a little Romanesque saved on the outside!) You can see some late Gothic/early Renaissance as well in that the architect included himself in a couple places around the church.

The only original stained glass windows in St. Stephan’s and the Baroque altar.

Prague’s Cathedral is mostly Neo-Gothic. Prague’s also has new stained glass in Art Niveau style, and St. Stephan’s has barely any original stained glass and has been replaced with plain, not very interesting glass.

Most of the original stained glass of St. Stephan’s is in the Vienna Museum which we visited twice this last week. We went with Frau Heuberger and learned about the Turkish sieges on Vienna and with Frau Hanreich and discussed the Romans and Celtics in Vienna and the original Gothic statues and stained glass from St. Stephan’s. We also saw a lot of models of the city of Vienna and it was fun to see how the city used to look like throughout the ages.

On Tuesday we did our placement tests for the University of Vienna and I got placed in level C1/1. Their system is completely different from ours, but in a nutshell, the levels go from A-C, each letter has 2 levels and two parts (A1/1, A1/2, A2/1, A2/2 etc.) and A is beginning level.

On Monday I went to Villa again from the lesbian, gay, transgender youth group. The following paragraph some people might find boring, so go ahead and skip if you don’t care! The topic was coming out and it was interesting to compare how the group was run in comparison to the groups I’ve been to in the states. It’s also interesting to learn the vocabulary for these types of things in German. It’s not too difficult however, because they also say “Coming Out”, like the exact English words, to describe someone’s “Coming Out.” They also use the English word “to out” (outen), but it’s weird because you use it for yourself. You don’t say “I’m coming out” rather “I out myself” which we don’t really use in English. To “out” somebody, in English this word is usually more negative, but that’s just the word they use in German.

Today I joined a conversation class for young Austrians, aged 12/13. This is also part of my community service project and I told them a few things about Montana. I think this conversation class will be pretty fun; it’s interesting to see how these young people are learning new languages. In the US it isn’t very common for people younger than High School to learn foreign languages let alone take extra classes at a private institute to get better!

Whew! Now you probably won’t hear from me again in a while. I’m not taking my computer to Switzerland and Germany with me so I won’t be able to update. But just wait until I come back, there will be so much to tell!

Our Trip to Prague!

10.2.12

It has dawned on me that in my last blog entry I forgot to talk about being on Austrian television! Yes, it’s true, Annika, Addison, and I were on PULS 4, an Austrian television channel for a talk show about the Mohammed video. It was definitely very difficult to understand what was going on, but it was still an amazing experience to actually be in a studio audience.

Me, Addison, and Annika on PULS4

On the weekend from the 21st to the 23rd we all went to Prague with our Ethnic Diversity teacher Frau Heuberger. We all had an amazing time, and Prague is truly a beautiful city with a rich history.

We traveled to Prague, Czech Republic in a double-decker bus and we sat on the top level at the very front. Yes, we had a super fun time:

Annika, Addison, and Nick on the way to Prague

Getting into Prague, it was at first a little unsettling to be surrounded by an incomprehensible language again (like when we traveled to Slovakia) but soon we realized that Prague is such a big tourist destination and everyone speaks English so the weekend was much easier than our day trip to Bratislava in terms of communication!

On the drive into Prague.

The first thing we had to do upon arriving in Prague was get money. They don’t use the Euro in Prague, rather Crowns, and finally we found a public ATM. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell my bank that I was going to the Czech Republic and I couldn’t use my card. I had to borrow from Annika the entire weekend, but here is a picture of 1000 crowns:

1000 Crowns.

We had a nice lunch with Frau Heuberger right next to Powder Tower and then met our tour guide, Teresa. Our first tour was on the inner city and we entered the old city through the Powder Tower and on the way to the famous Old Town Square we saw an Art Niveau building:

Night picture of Art Niveau building.

Night Photo of Powder Tower

a building in Cubisim style (very Czech design):

An example of Czech cubism.

where Mozart performed Don Giovani in the Stavovske Theater and the creepy dementor-like figure outside:

A creepy dementor figure.

the Wenceslas square where a philosophy student commit suicide as a martyr for the anti-communist movement:

Museum at the end of the Wenceslas Square

and the Havel Market (mini-Naschmarkt):

Havelska: Havel’s Market

Definitely the highlight of Prague is the Old Town Square. There is the beautiful old town-hall and astronomical clock.

Later, on our own, we came back to the Old Town Hall and took pictures from the tower:

The finals staircase to get to the top of the tower, (very narrow, only 1-way traffic)

Stop-light to show whether it was your turn to walk either up or down the staircase into the tower.

View from tower. People are crowding to watch the clocks and bells to go off.

View of Prague from the Tower

View of Prague from the Tower

View of Tyn Church from the tower.

View of Prague Castle from the tower.

There is also the Tyn Church (which I have been called the Maria Church because there’s a Maria figure on the top). What is interesting about this church is one of the towers is bigger than the other and they symbolize Adam and Eve and when the sun rises, Adam casts a shadow on Eve.

We also went underground and saw old Romanesque structures. I found it interesting because they had 21st century technology like holograms and projectors and there was a film about the Renaissance playing…

Our first night in Prague we went into town again to take night pictures. Most beautiful was the Tyn Church and I took several pictures of it:

In Prague they have a lot of street musicians in the squares. They range from terrible Native American impersonators with plastic feathers on there head, and amazing string quartets:

We all went to dinner at a restaurant just off the square and I had a very delicious lasagna. One thing that’s different about Prague, and Europe in general actually, is that good service is not as important as it is in the US. In the US, the customer is always right (even when he or she is wrong.) Here, the servers do not treat you that well, they’re not nice and they will try to dupe you. It’s also the hardest thing in the world for them to split the bill for you. Some will make you say it before hand, some won’t, and every time it is complicated and a catastrophe! You just can’t win…it’s a fact.

We spent a lot of time on Charles’ Bridge, taking pictures and just hanging around enjoying the atmosphere. There are a crazy amount of tourists and souvenir stands but the architecture and view are very beautiful.

Charles’ Bridge

Annika touching a priest who was thrown into the river for good luck.

Me on Charle’s Bridge with Prague Castle in the background.

Our second day in Prague we went on a tour of the Prague Castle. This castle has been used for a very long time by nobility including Rudolf II, an Austrian Habsburg. Because she thought it was ugly, Maria Theresa rebuilt the outside in Baroque style. Nowadays, the president works here but doesn’t live here.

Prague Castle

View of the city from Prague Castle

The Cathedral here was ordered to be built by Charles the IV (just like the University and Charles’ Bridge). It is built in the gothic and neo-gothic styles and I swear I have never seen so many people in a church before! There was also a wooden carving of a perspective view of Prague that was…rather brown.

Front of Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

An aerial view wood carving of Prague..It’s…rather…rather brown, isn’t it?

Inside was also an original fresco and it was interesting to compare the older part of the church which is Gothic and the newer part which is Neo-Gothic. The new stained glass also has some Art Niveau influences and the Prague town symbol can be found in lots of places too.

Stained Glass, Art Niveau style

City of Prague Symbol

Original Fresco in Cathedral

Charles and his four wives are buried in the cathedral, and in the castle the famous “Defenstration” or “Fenstersturz” took place. This started the 30 years war where protestants threw Habsburg (catholic) secretaries out the window.

Right outside is a beautiful Golden Lane, where old middle-age houses have been repainted and are now really cute tourist souvenir shops. Franz Kafka lived in one of these houses.

The Golden Lane

Our last night in Prague we took more night pictures and went out to dinner, again near the square.

On our last day in Prague we did one more tour of the Jewish Quarter. This really was my favorite part of our trip! I loved going inside the different synagogues. It’s interesting because in the US I’ve never been in any actual “synagogues,” mostly just community centers, but these were actual synagogues, temples and they were rich with history and absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures of the inside of most of them.

The first synagogue we went into actually isn’t used as a place of worship anymore, it’s a museum, rather a memorial about all the Czech Jews who died in the Holocaust. All the names are handwritten on the walls throughout the first and top floors of the synagogue. On the top floor there was also an exhibit of drawings done by children living in the ghettos and how life was for them.

First Synagogue: the Museum, Memorial.

The next synagogue we went to was the Old-New Synagogue, and this is the oldest synagogue in Prague, built in around 1280. It’s set up is quite old-fashioned, men had to wear a sort-of yarmulke to visit it, and one could see where women were allowed to watch services because they were not allowed inside the main hall with the men.

Old-New Synagogue

We then visited the Jewish Cemetery which just seemed to go on and on forever. There are 12,000 graves and was used from the 15th-18th centuries. People are actually buried on top of each other, with five-hands space in between them.

Just outside the cemetery there were many souvenir stands, and I bought a yarmulke that was hand made by the Czech woman selling them.

We also visited the Spanish Synagogue where we learned about the differences between Ashkanazi Jews in Germany and Sephardic Jews that came from Spain. This Synagogue is done in the morrish style and looks “exotic.” We learned how during the reign of Franz Josef I the Jews had a pretty good life and weren’t forced to convert during the last few decades of the Austrian Empire (Golden Age of Jews.) The Synagogue was built in the 1800s and services are still held here.

After our tour we went to a restaurant nearby for typical Czech food and beer (a Pilsner). Following lunch we had our last few hours in Prague to ourselves and we went back to the Havel’s Market to buy souvenirs and then to the Jerusalem Synagogue. We couldn’t go inside, but this synagogue was absolutely stunning on the outside!

Jerusalem Synagogue

Our time in Prague was very special and I am so happy to have explored a very historical and beautiful city in Europe (some believe it’s even older and more beautiful than Vienna but you can’t say that here!) Though the restaurant service is sub-par and we could have learned more from our tour guide than we did, our experiences in Prague were excellent and I’m so glad we had this opportunity!

Again, if anyone has specific questions about Prague just leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them. I want to keep this blog interesting for readers, so let me know what YOU want to hear about. Till next time!