"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