"Down here at Cape Spartel is the celebrated cave of Hercules, where the hero took refuge when he was vanquished and driven out of the Tangier country. It is full of inscriptions in the dead languages, which fact makes me think Hercules could not have traveled much, else he would not have kept a journal."

-"The Innocents Abroad," Mark Twain

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas! Oh, it's Christmas Eve.

Good morning! I woke up this morning after sleeping for 10 hours - the most I've gotten in a long time. The week before, my friend came on Wednesday and we hung around my town and one of the neighboring ones, working on writing Christmas cards, making chocolate chip cookies, eating, and, um, watching movies. I would go on, but it becomes progressively more unproductive...

On Friday, we took the bus into Salzburg to meet up with the other 120 or so other exchange students who were there for the weekend. There were more people than usual because students that are in Croatia came to get to know us, as they will go on the Europe trip with our group. The Australians (from Australia staying in Austria) had to go home after this past weekend, as it is summer in the southern hemisphere! I finally had the opportunity to be a part-time tourist in Salzburg - normally I'm a permanent one. We shopped, we ate, we talked, we toured... all of the normal things that exchange students do together. But enough words! PICTURES are in order here:

The city from the fortress (this is a cannon)

These strange looking ball-things are essentially spheres of cookies that have been baked together! I had the cinnamon  sugar, on the far right, and needless to say, it was good!

Ice skating in Mozartplatz! Also known as trying not to fall on my face.
This week has been busy in preparation for Christmas, of course. But I'll leave that for the next post, after Christmas! It is extremely confusing for me, because the Austrians celebrate on Christmas Eve, not Day. You would think that one day would not make so much of a difference...

Merry Christmas!
Best Wishes,
Mary Beth

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Holiday Season Has Begun! (Part Two)

Alright, here we are again: finishing up from this last post before I tell you what I have been up to these past few days.

If I recall correctly (and my computer has a much better memory than I do), I had just wrapped up with Thanksgiving. This past week, the Italian students that we visited came to stay with us here in Austria! Of course, since I am already staying with a host family, I did not have someone actually staying with me. I was, however, able to do some things with them! Most notably, on Wednesday, we took the train for about an hour into the city of Linz, which is on the Danube (Donau) River. It was quite foggy! We arrived mid-morning, and were split into three groups, as there were about fifty of us together. My group first went on a brief tour of the cathedral there, which I did not take a picture of because, if I am to be honest, all of the embellished churches are beginning to seem the same. This one, however, did have an interesting story to go alone with it. There was a man (a very religious man) who shut himself in the church and refused to leave. He resided alone in the tower and stayed there for who-knows-how-long. Today, it is still possible for you to do this - all you need to do is register for a specific time period and you are allowed to live alone in the tower! A good way to be close to God, but I think it is too much to only live there for such a long period of time, as the first man did.

After we were finished in the cathedral, we went to a confectionery and made Linzer-Torte! (These are pies that have jam between the two layers of crust and the crust on top appears to be a checkerboard with the jam peeking through.) We each were able to construct and take one home.

In the afternoon, we went to a fascinating hands-on science museum before we had a bit of free time to walk around the city.

And now for more recent happenings: this week. We have begun to do a gift exchange in my class, kind of like Secret Santas, where we give gifts each week of Advent. I have received two so far! (And I have no idea who it is yet...) Also pertaining to Advent - Advent calendars are really popular here  and everyone has several! I have one from my host father that he got in Berlin and one from my mother that has chocolate inside! Here they are:

On Monday, I attended the Rotary Christmas celebration with my club here. Before I went, the other girl in my club and I met up to go get coffee (and we went be the Christkindlmarkt to get something sweet, as well...)

Tuesday was December 6, which is Nikolaus Day here. I was visited and received two bags filled with chocolates! 

On Tuesday, I went to the bus stop and waited. I was a bit annoyed at the freezing rain, but willing to put up with it, as I was finally going home before it was dark out. Once my bus came, I got on, sat down, and pulled out a book, as it seemed weather-appropriate. (Well, when is it not appropriate to pull out a book?) About half an hour later, the girl next to me said she needed to get off, so I closed my book and slid out to let her pass. As I sat down again, however, I realized something: the ground outside was white! And the precipitation was not rain anymore - finally, it was snowing!   Needless to say, my book was returned to my bag, Christmas music put into my ears, and my gaze hardly left the window the rest of the way home.

We did not have much in the end, but still. Finally. 

Also worth noting: I received my package from home yesterday! (Thanks, Mama!)
Now I just need to send a few Christmas cards...

<3 from
mary beth

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Holiday Season Has Begun! (Part One)

Yes, I am aware that it has been almost a month since I last posted.

No, I don't have a very good excuse, other than I have not had much time at home.

SO, to make up for lost time, I'm not really sure what I should do.
If you're as busy as kind-of I have been, you're not going to want to sit here and read one excessively long blog post that is almost the length of one of those NY Times political articles. I have decided to break this into two posts with some highlights, and hopefully, you'll have the time to get to at least one of them.

Since I last posted, I have gone hiking with my host family (alas, not in Germany this time, but still stunning):

We celebrated Thanksgiving! (I hope yours went well, and your Black Friday shopping successful.) I made sweet potato casserole, which my family has never had before, as they have never had sweet potatoes! They absolutely loved it, especially with the pineapple and pecans. We are going to make baked sweet potatoes sometime, as well, so that my family can see how they taste without all of the added flavors. My mom and I made the pumpkin pie and brownies together on Thursday. On Friday, we actually celebrated, as the Austrians do not have school/work off on Thanksgiving Day itself and I come home late on Thursdays. We were able to find a turkey (not common here for anything other than Christmas), and had green beans, corn, and corn bread (brought by one of the people who came to celebrate with us).

Here are some random pictures I have managed to take throughout this past month:
Along the Salzach

Christmas decorations beginning to go up in my town...
(they are finished now)

And decorations in Salzburg!

Sorry about the quality of this (it was taken from the bus window), but I just wanted to show you how thick the frost is here! This was late morning, and it looked like snow.

MORE frost...
Just regarding the weather here in general:
*apparently, it is not common for this area to be so beautiful; we have had the lowest level of precipitation in about 150 years!
*other than the brief bit of snow back in September, there has not been any more
*we alternate between warmer days and absolutely freezing temperatures!

More coming soon!
mary beth

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Good evening, and welcome to the Saturday Evening News. Surprise, I'm tired... please excuse my extremely bad sense of humor, lack thereof, or whatever happens to come out of my fingers at this time, as my brain has released me for the night.

I have done things this past week, I promise. But I'm going to cut straight to the most interesting part - last night. In Austria, the season for balls has begun. (Yes, the dancing kind.) And so I went to my first one last night! When my friend came to visit me last weekend, we found my dress, which is pictured (with me) here, along my with my extremely long earrings:

I took the bus home from school, took about an hour to get ready, and rode back to the city, where I met briefly with a friend and dropped my bag off at her apartment. Then, I took yet another bus to another friend's house, where there was a group of people from my class for a pre-party. We then took a taxi to a bus stop in the old city, got in a shuttle, and finally arrived at the ball! Lots of to-and-from, and the evening had barely begun...

The ball was held in a huge building, and I have to admit I have no idea what it is normally used for. There were three levels - the lowest had the "disko," which is like a club; the second had a regular dance floor with live band for (actual) dancing: waltzes, the tango, and the like; the top floor had a small buffet and balcony overlooking the dance floor on the second floor.Throughout, there were also small bars and tables set up.  In Austria, at 15 or 16, pretty much everyone goes to dance school to learn how to dance formally, and it can be put to use here. The balls are for everyone (although for this specific one, you had to be at least sixteen), including adults. At 10 and midnight there were shows on the second floor, (and the lighting was terrible) but I got this right after the last finished:

Everyone was complaining that the music downstairs was not the best to dance to, and I have to admit that I agree with them, but it did not affect it too badly in the end. The worst thing was probably the smoke, since you only needs to be sixteen to smoke and drink here. We left relatively early at about 2:30 (taking another shuttle). I stayed overnight with a few friends before heading home after a late breakfast the next morning. Hope your weekend is going well so far!

much love,
mary beth

P.S. I apologize for not taking many pictures, as it did not seem to be a picture taking event...
pictures of the city transforming for Christmas are coming...
I have been in Austria now for three months (and two days)!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Food and Leaves (But Not Together At the Same Time)

I was sitting in my room, freshly showered after a beautiful day, when I realized it had been a little while since I had lasted written something. So here it is!

Halloween was last week; I actually had three days off from school - Halloween, All Saints' Day, and the day after as well. I guess that this was my fall break, as, naturally, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here. We had a small party with some neighbors for Halloween. This is actually unusual for Austria, as they normally don't celebrate the holiday. We did have one group of 4 trick-or-treaters, though! We had a lovely table:

This past weekend, my friend (who is also an exchange student) came to visit! She's living three hours away, so we made a weekend out of it. We explored the shopping of Salzburg on Saturday and my town on Sunday. We happened to eat a lot, as well... this seems to be all about food so far!

This is "Kebap," which is actually Hungarian, and is the Austrian version of fast food!

VERY GOOD coconut hot chocolate

Before she left, the two of us went out and got cake (mine was the chocolate )!

The leaves are turning quite nicely, and the weather has decided to favor us for a while. Today was warm, as was yesterday! I hope it stays that way for a few more days before becoming cold for the next few months. This past weekend, the city began setting up for Christmas. (No Thanksgiving, remember?) I'll try to take some pictures of the process to show you tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a bit of fall from Friday right across the street from my school:

Hopefully, I will have some more news from this coming weekend for you as well! Hope you are all doing well, enjoying the season, and staying warm.

Much love,
Mary Beth

Friday, October 28, 2011

So, I wrote this yesterday...

October 27, 2011

I am currently sitting in the library here in downtown Salzburg, where, unfortunately, I have not been able to find a wifi network to connect to. So, this will (hopefully) be copied and pasted later this evening. And, I must admit, after I finish typing this, I am going to check out the bakery that is downstairs…

So much and so much of nothing has happened since I last posted! Last week, I went to Italy. Yeah. So that’s the “so much” part – however, it feels like forever ago since that actually occurred. I stayed with a host family there, as well. My class (minus two or three people) rode down on Saturday for about 9 hours, going through Switzerland on the way. Here’s a picture in Switzerland (yes, another picture book–post!):

We stayed in the town of Lecco, which you probably haven’t heard of. While there, we went to school for two hours, ate, went out, ate, saw the town, ate, shopped, ate, went to the lake, and ate. Just not exactly in that order. Yes, there was a lot of food and it was SO GOOD! We had pizza and lasagna and some other type of pasta and some other something kind of like pizza but not and paninis and I had a sandwich one day that was essentially a loaf of bread with cheese & Italian ham and cookies (“biscuits”) that a friend of my host family brought us from Sicily and Italian chocolate. I think I should stop with the food - I really am making myself hungry. Okay, one last food comment – we also went to a chocolate factory’s shop. Alright. I’m done. (Haha, but here’s a picture!)

Two cities that we visited and you probably (or at least maybe) have heard of are Genova and Milan. Milan/Milano/Mailand was large and I wish we had been able to see more of it! There were plenty of high-end, buy-this-and-your-mom-will-kill-you stores, as to be expected in a fashion capital. And the historical aspect was not too shabby either. Just to give you an idea:

Genova is on the sea and was gorgeous, a little bit warmer (we were in the northern part of Italy, remember), and extremely windy. It was wonderful. I have to say that it was probably my favorite place that we went to because it had an old city, the sea, and a modern part to it. Also, this is the city where George Clooney has a villa. No, we did not see it or him – it was on the other side of the lake. Pictures:

Where we had lunch! And the picture below is inside:

Alright, just looked at the time, and I need to be going soon. I have my first orchestra rehearsal tonight! Wish me luck!

I think that by this point, I don’t really need to say that I hope you’re doing well, but I’m saying it anyway. Much love!

mary beth

P.S. Almost forgot to mention – I got my visa on Monday and am officially legal for another year!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I love this country! That pretty much covers everything, I think. Hope you're doing well!

Alright, so I do have a little more to add to that. 

It has been cold here! For the most part, we have had freezing rain. Joy. When I was coming home from Salzburg Saturday evening, there was snow on the ground by the road. Oh, yes, I met one of my friends in Salzburg!She is staying in Vienna during her year here and came to see this beautiful city I now consider partially mine. We went and saw Mozart's birth house, among other things (including eating pizza, which we both needed). 

This past week, I got a viola! Here she is, in case you have not seen her yet:

and chocolate hedgehogs my host mother surprised me with:

(Sorry, not the best picture, but I cannot take another, as the hedgehogs are no longer photographable, if you will excuse my English as well.)

The next time I write will hopefully be from Italy!
mary beth

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Lovely evening, isn't it? I arrived home yesterday from a trip with my family to Wien! I am not really sure what to tell you, so I will make a picture book for you. Okay, sorry, it's not a book. A selection of pictures with captions, if you want to be so literal.

We left Saturday morning and drove for about 3 hours. Along the way, we stopped (here) along the road by the Donau river (you probably know it as the Danube). Here, I am pictured with Richard the Lionheart, who was held captive in a nearby castle. Please note and choose to ignore the fact that my eyes happened to be closed, as it was particularly bright at the moment the shutter went off.

After we arrived, we met up with my aunt and uncle (pictured, right) to go and eat. We ate at a huge area that used to be just a market and is now mostly made up restaurants, known as the Naschmarkt. Above, you can see the number of Schnitzel eaten since January 1st ( 16,201,556; this photo was taken October 1st at 2:13PM). Afterwards, I went with my host father to see several things, including, but not limited to:


Random street performers

The Opera House

In the evening, the four of us attended the event that took place throughout the city (and in others in Austria) called Lange Nacht der Museen. You could buy one ticket and go to over 100 of the city's museums with the single entrance fee from 6PM to 1AM! We went and saw an art museum, a modern art museum that was really interesting but did not entirely seem to have a point, and an exhibit of marzipan in a chocolate shop! 

The next day, we went to see Schloss Schรถnbrunn (above), home to the famous Sissi and Franz Josef. We also saw the HundertwasserHaus (below), designed by Gustav Klimt. Right after, we went to the KunstHaus (in relation to Gustav Klimt, but has ever changing exhibits), which is the most wonderful modern art museum. Ever. It actually is logical in a fictitious way. I don't know how to describe it and do it justice. Pictures are not permitted, which, in this case, I am actually happy about. If you are anywhere near this city, bring your favorite porch swing, toadstool, pile of hay, whatever your preference may be, with a thick notebook and pencil. Go and be inspired. You will not regret it. AND YOU WILL LOVE IT!

The following day, we went shopping before taking the train back. 'Nuff said.

<3 from home, Mary Beth

P.S. I apologize for such a long post and hope that you had beautiful weather for your weekend as well! Also, as far as things you have to do go, if you are in the state of Maryland, I highly suggest you attend this event on Friday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2SDJDg1f8I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Monday, September 26, 2011

My German may be bad, my English slowly becoming cringe-worthy, but my Italian is much, much worse.

And why might that be relevant? A valid question deserves an answer - I'm heading to Italy in a month! (more or less) My class has studied Italian for four years and will be going on a mini exchange for a week in October. Sadly, I have not had this advantage, but am doing my best to try to make up for it. There was not a way I could take beginning Italian at school, so I have begun to (try) to learn it with the help of the internet. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to it!

I have now been switched into lower-level German classes so that I may learn German grammar. However, this does mean younger; so far, I have been in a class of 10 year olds. They are all really sweet and I am actually glad to be with them, as they will be more understanding when I make mistakes or ask questions. Today, my teacher had me stand and let them ask me questions, in German, of course. (They have not had English for long.) I got asked all kinds of questions - do I like it here (yes), where is Maryland (we looked in an atlas), have I been to New York (once), have I been to the castle in the city (not yet), do I know who Justin Bieber is (yes), do I like him (no), what is my favorite color (I don't have one), who is my favorite actor/actress..... it was funny to see their reactions and gave me a chance to get to know their personalities a bit!

Friday night I went into the city to meet up with some of my classmates to go to Roberts Kirtag, a festival for the Catholic patron. It was similar to a carnival here - just with better food, everyone was dressed in the traditional Austrian clothing, and there was a hall where large amounts of alcohol were consumed by the visitors. On Sunday, we pressed more apple juice (90 1-liter bottles!) and went to an art festival in a neighboring town. Very relaxing weekend overall! I hope yours was just as enjoyable.

<3 from mary beth

P.S. I have reached the point where I feel a bit odd taking pictures everywhere I go, but just so you know:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cue the Dramatic Music

Or not. It's unnecessary. School has begun! I went away for the weekend! Came back! Have returned to school! Yup, that pretty much sums up what I have been doing lately.

I hope you are enjoying, well, I really do not know what the weather back in the States is right now, so you will just have to enjoy it for me. Because I can guarantee that you are currently warmer than I am. Yesterday, I returned home from school, went about my daily whatever-it-is I do after school, and was shown that it was snowing in the mountains. Yes, I looked outside and could see SNOW! Crazy, huh? And it's only September!
*Please note that this was from afar and was not actually in the valley.

In school, I am in the 7th grade, where the students are actually a year older than I am. We remain in the same classroom unless going to a lab for science or to the gym and the teachers come to us. Between classes, we have 10 minute breaks. Because the length of each day varies, there is no lunch scheduled in. There is, however, a cafe on the the first level. And the whole city of Salzburg. If your day is longer, there is an hour or two long "Pause," during which you can eat. I travel about an hour each way to get to school; my father drives me and my host sister in the morning and we take the bus in the afternoon. For gym class, they separate the guys & dolls into different areas of the gym, which I found interesting (and I have to say, better).  Everyone here is very sweet and quite willing to answer questions! 

This past weekend, I met up with the other exchange students of Austria, including the ones from Australia and New Zealand who have been here for a half-year already. We went hiking (which was actually more like rock climbing) and stayed in the most adorable rooms in a bed & breakfast! (Actually, it was amazing that they fit all 85 or so of us in one place.)

I am sure I will think of something later that I meant to write, but for now, a few more pictures:

The Salzach River in Salzburg

Just to give you a little bit of a scale - there are people in this photo. 

We were all at dinner and I saw this out of the window!

Go eat a bag of candy corn!
(Thanks, Mom!)
-Mary Beth

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Month!

As of yesterday, I have been in Austria for one month! So, I have written up a list of a few things I have learned here so far:

1. It doesn't matter how you are to begin with - stupidity and your level of exhaustion grow together.
2. If you try, people will smile. And possibly laugh.
3. MUSHROOMS and CHOCOLATE ARE GOOD. But I cannot comment on the combination.
4. Speaking of chocolate - if you ever are in Salzburg, make sure to bring a few extra Euros for chocolate. And by I few, I don't mean 3.
5. Cliches are funny and somewhat realistic. Movies, however, are funny and should remain entertainment.
6. HAHA - you though Narnia was cool!
7. McDonald's belongs in someone else's fairy tale.
8. Meat and wurst are not the same thing.
9. Turn the knob the OTHER way -  or just stand behind the sink.
10. I would give anything for a fresh slice of  D'lorenzo's.

Enjoy the cool weather!

<3 from Mary Beth

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Currently Without Name

This will be quick - just wanted to say that I have a new resident in my window sill! She (since plants are feminine in German) was purchased today when we went into IKEA. Yes, in case you're wondering, they are the same in Austria as they are in the US, with tags in German, of course. (Forgive me for a moment while I show my age - IT WAS SO COOL!) Anyway, back to the point - I now have a water plant of some sort that is currently nameless. My sister asked me if she had a name (the plant, that is), and I said no. However, I upon further consideration I decided that it would be rather fitting. If you have any ideas, let me know!

<3 Mary Beth

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Enjoying Earth's Offerings

My busy-relaxing weekend has gone pretty well - I hope you can say the same! Yesterday, my host mom, sister, and grandmother took apples from the trees in the two yards to be pressed and made into apple juice. It did not take too long, but was interesting to watch. They were cored (is that a word?) and chopped up by a machine before being pressed. After some process that occurred in a series of tubes, the hot juice filled a total of 34 bottles! 

In the afternoon, we went sailing and canoeing on Wolfgangsee. 

We quickly returned home and went to an evening church service at the Catholic church. It was beautiful, and despite the formalities, there were several similarities. I am glad to have gone, even if I was unable to follow half of what went on!
Today, we went hiking and out to lunch at one of the several "mountain huts" (cabins) that serve as restaurants.  Afterwards, I spent the afternoon reading and did something terrible - I fell asleep with my contacts in. But have no fear! They are not glued to my brain. Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

<3 from Mary Beth