The Hair dryer effect

Where we live, I have recently found out, is subject to rapid weather changes, caused by the föhn wind; otherwise known as the snow eater or hair dryer (yup, you read that right!). Coming up from Italy over the Alps, this warm wind can cause temperature increases of up to 30 degrees! I haven’t experienced that drastic a change yet, but it was 15 degrees yesterday and my yard went from looking like this:


To this:


Yup… hello Spring!

However, despite the chirping of birds, and buds beginning to show, this warm wind also has some strange effects. According to Wikipedia, these winds contribute to migraines and psychosis! Yup, this be a crazy-making wind.

I guess that might explain why this past week I’ve been feeling a little more antsy and unsettled than usual. I had initially chalked it up to the disappointment in my German class being cancelled – I had really been looking forward to the lessons, and to making some new friends! Alas, no class due to lack of interest. It seems that everyone in Worgl already speaks German. 😦

But, cancelled class and crazy-wind aside, it is spectacular here and what better way to cheer oneself up than going for a walk amongst the beautiful countryside. I’ve actually been…jogging(!) this week as well. Twice! I’ve never been much of a runner, nor do I know if I’ll keep it up, but running through forests, up and down hills is WAY more fun than it ever was in the city (not that I attempted it more than once or twice a year!).

But, if this hair dryer effect causes me to get out of the house more, I say bring it on!


Spam, spam, spam!

Austrian food, specifically Tirolean is delicious! Tirol is a farming region, and back in the day was not a very wealthy one. So, food that is popular today is so because of a long history of using what was available. Milk, cheese, wheat and meat are frequent features in dishes I eat these days. There’s something really lovely about knowing that what you are eating is local, unprocessed and that it is from a people who were creative and resourceful enough to use every little bit of everything little thing that they produced. Knödels…spaetzle…sauerkraut….and fleischkäse!

When I first met Boots in Spain, he talked constantly about fleischkäse, which I had never heard of before. But, on my first visit to Austria in October I was introduced to it, and now upon moving here it’s something we have at least once a week. What is it you ask? Well, it’s a sort-of ‘meatloaf’ according to Wikipedia – finely ground bits of different kinds of meat that are mixed together and then baked in a loaf-shaped dish. When done, it is sliced and usually served on semmel (a lovely, white bread roll) with mustard and pickles. And you can buy it anywhere – supermarkets, delis, gas stations, you name it.


Well, a few weeks ago, and many fleischkäse semmels eaten, we decided to watch ‘Indien’ one night – a beautiful, funny and heartbreaking Austrian film from 1993. (side note: This movie is So. Very. Worth. Watching) The movie is in German, with English subtitles and in one scene they are talking about fleischkäse. Boots didn’t think that there was an English translation for the word, so I was very surprised when ‘SPAM’ came across the bottom of the screen. Yup, spam. This amazing, delicious, affordable food that I had heard about for months and have been eating for a few months more turns out to be Austria’s answer to spam.

spam 2

We asked my mom to send us a tin of proper British spam to compare, but have yet gotten up the nerve to actually do a comparison. Nervous that it’s going to be disgusting, but also nervous that perhaps these two ‘delicacies’ are actually the same in which case, I’ll never be able to look at fleischkäse the same way again!

But regardless, it is delicious – so, if you find yourself in Austria, make your way to the nearest gas station and order away!

And now, I leave you with this:

Turns out I’m a little afraid of the dark…

I live in the middle of nowhere. Well not literally, but close enough for a gal who grew up in a big, bustling city. The village we’ve moved to has 1745 people (1747, now!); we’re surrounded by forest and mountains, and from what I can tell more neighbours have cattle and horses in their backyards than I’ve ever seen before.

Where we live

Where we live

Our amenities in town include a bank, a teeny ‘grocery’ store that’s open from 7:30 – 12, and the Gemeindeamt. The Gemeindeamt is one of the most endearing things I’ve discovered about Austria so far, you have to register with your local town-ship when you move to the country and after doing so we received a letter in the mail from the mayor (including his available hours to chat!), and a cute little hardcover book with the history of our new home. Awesome-sauce! And that’s all there is for miles and miles. Oh, except the nightclub(!) that is ten minutes in the other direction – I have yet to go there as Boots isn’t a big fan of ye ol’ disco…

But I digress, there aint nothing around this little village, so in order to get groceries or a regular dose of human contact (and I use that term loosely as I can’t actually TALK to anyone yet) I walk to Wörgl – our nearest actual town. It’s just over a half hour away, down the mountain on a little road, through forests and over a river (a little longer on the way back with all the uphill-ness!). It’s a walk I enjoy thoroughly and now that I know which way I’m going (unlike the first attempt where I went the wrong direction and a subsequent hour out of my way), it’s easy as pie. BUT, it’s January and so the sun sets obscenely early and in order to ensure I’m not wandering up a mountain in the dark I’ve been uber-conscious to ensure I head back with plenty of time.

That is until yesterday.

I decided to treat myself for a coffee and a few cigarettes at a darling little café I’ve found and wile away the hours writing (yes – you can smoke inside some of these places! For fellow smokers, I’m sure you can understand my joy!). Well, I got extremely caught up in said writing and before I knew it, I looked out the tinted windows and saw that the sun was no longer shining through. Oops. I awkwardly asked for the bill, and high tailed it out of there.

The sun was just beginning to set and turned the sky a beautiful pink which complemented the blue and white mountains magnificently. I power walked up the road, out of breath and a little sweaty after the first two turns and then into dim forest; a little creepy, but I could still see and my not-so-trusty flashlight was at least providing a small, warm, yellow circle in front of me and hopefully deterring any cars that might have been driving down from hitting me. So far, so good. But, by the time I left the first patch of forest it was completely dark. And I don’t mean night-time in Toronto dark, I mean full-on countryside, no lampposts, no light to see your own shadow with, d-a-r-k. My heart rate way above where it should have been I barreled onward, anticipating the last patch of forest I had to go through and hoping that I wouldn’t pee myself with fear. Urination was avoided, but holy shit did that half a kilometer scare the bejeezus out of me; remember the old Disney Snow White movie, where she’s running through the forest at night and it’s all creepy trees with eyes, and branches reaching out to grab her? Well, that’s what it felt like. Every rustle, every twig snapping made my breath inhale sharper and I couldn’t get to the end of the path quickly enough – I didn’t quite run, but I sure speed-walked as quickly as my wee legs could carry me.



And there you have it – this gal who’s traveled all over the world, met a bear and a puma, hiked through and slept in various jungles and forests, is over the 30 year mark in age and has done some pretty adventurous things has nothing when it comes to walking alone through forests in the dark. Needless to say, I’m going to learn how to take the bus.

Nowhere near fluent…

I’ve been in Austria for just under a month now. My ego, and my experience traveling in South America with little-to-no knowledge of Spanish before heading there tell me that I should at the VERY least by now be able to

a) order food and drinks,

b) ask how someone is and respond how I am,

c) ask for directions (not that they’re ever much help as my penchant for getting lost is extraordinary!).

Alas, none of the above is true. I can say thank you and please, and have learnt three different forms of saying hello, and two goodbyes. And that is IT.

Why the difficulty with German, you ask? Why that’s the same thing I’ve been asking myself since I got here….I had wild dreams of reading a few pages of a German novel to Boots (how I will refer to the boy in this blog) every night and having him fix my pronunciation, enrolling in an affordable and awesome German language school where I would be sure to excel, downloading free language learning software, meeting a neighbour who would decide to teach me from the goodness of their own heart…Alas, I have done none of these…I can’t even count to ten!

I’ve told myself that German is just difficult, that classes are too expensive, that Boots doesn’t REALLY want to sit and listen to me struggle with the ‘ichs’ and ‘rolled Rs’, the free internet courses I’ve found look ‘dumb’, and the neighbours aren’t home during the day. All valid excuses and ones that I’ve been using as a security blanket to hide the real reason I’ve been avoiding the learning curve.

The simple truth is that I’m embarrassed. Terribly, horribly, blush-inducing-ly embarrassed.

I’ve thought about this a fair bit and here’s what I’ve figured;  when I was six we moved to Canada from the UK and I had a very strong Welsh accent – adorable, I know! But not so adorable at the time, as the kids in my junior school would chase me around the playground, make me talk and laugh at me. I was mortified (obviously) and according to my mom I lost my (super cute) accent overnight. Ever since then, speaking in public (especially using words or languages I’m not overly familiar with) is a real struggle. Maybe it’s just psycho-babble, but it’s my brain and my theory and I’m sticking with it!

So, what to do? Remain stuck in this six year old mentality or make a break and just dive in? Given this past year and the huge leaps I HAVE taken, I would be letting myself down if I continued on this self-pitying road, so as of today – I’m-a-jumping-in! (Knees trembling, blush creeping up my cheeks, and all)

And how? After hours of internet research and tidbits from folks I’ve met on my travels I have decided to try the following methods:

1)      According to Tim Ferris he suggests finding the 100 most used words in the language you are learning and memorize the shit out of them. That is the 100 most spoken words, and the 100 most written words (some different, some the same). Check out his post here:

2)      Increase said list to the most common 3-500 words and only add on words that I will be using in daily conversations.

3)      English and German have a LOT of similarities. I’m on my 250th word now. Committing these to memory as well.

4)      READ OUTLOUD! This simple act is the most terrifying to me (see above), but according to a terribly charming gentleman I met on the way back from a trip to Peru it’s the best way to learn. You sit with someone who’s fluent in the language you’re learning and read a page from a book. Fluent person stops you every time you pronounce something wrong and corrects you. You don’t talk about grammar, you don’t ask for definitions, you just read. And you do this for weeks. Slowly, it just starts sinking in. At least that’s the theory.

5)      Continually try and pronounce “Oachkatzlshwoaf”. It means “Squirrel Tail” in Tyrolean (Oh, dialects!). And, as I live in Tyrol, this is the one word that apparently will give me mad respect when I go out. Yup, picture me now; entering super-hip bar with super-hip Austrians. “Hello. Squirrel Tail.” Here’s hoping that Boots isn’t pulling my leg…this is going to go great.

And that’s my game plan. Excel sheets prepared, flash cards in the making, a book picked out for when Boots gets home tonight and I’ve now said Oachkatzlschwoaf 20 times out loud to myself and I officially feel like a crazy person! Wünscht mir Glück! (and God help me if I can pronounce that!)