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Journals from Austria Program Fall 2012

2012-09-16 History & Culture in Vienna, and a Trip to Slovakia


This last week has been full of history, culture, new foods and excitement! On Wednesday we went on an excursion with our Cultural History professor. We went to Schottenkirche/kloster which translates to „Scottish Church/Monastery.“ It was founded by Heinrich II Jasomirgott. He was the first duke of Austria and is actually buried here with his wife.

A couple interesting things about this church. Jasomirgott (named as such because he was said to have ended all his sentences „Ja so mir gott helfe“ which means „So help me God“) wanted to build a monastery so he got some Irish monks from Bavaria in present-day Germany. But they got a little confused about where they were originally from, so that's why there are so many places in this area with the word „Schotten“ which means the Scottish, even though the monks were originally Irish.

The church was built in the Romanesque style in Jasomirgott's time, but was reconstructed in the Gothic style later on. When they did this, they had a new altar made and it didn't really work well with Jasomirgott's coffin and decorations and everything because they were Romanesque so they basically sent him to the basement into the crypt where you can see the coffins of many people from the past.

I feel like I'm getting much better at realizing what architechtural style every building is! Stephan's Cathedral began being built during Babenberg times, and the front of it still has Romanesque style, but quickly you see the Gothic take over.

We are doing short ten-minute presentations about the middle ages on Monday for this class and my topic is medicine and I got to read up on Humorism which I'd never heard of before. This theory includes some pretty smart things, but then also the blood-letting which never really worked out too well.

The next day we went to Brunnenmarkt with our Ethnic Diversity teacher. This is in the 16th district, in the Ottakring area, and we learned about how there used to be a wall on the „Guertel“ road (belt) and it was taken down during the time the famous Ringstrasse was being constructed. This market has a lot of cheap fruit in comparison to what you get in the grocery stores and there are Indians, Arabs, and people from the Balkans that work the stalls. We didn't spend a lot of time here, though, because it was raining, so we went inside a small restaurant nearby and had a type of Turkish strudel. I had mine with cheese and meat but there were also sugar/fruit flavors.

On Friday Annika, Kelly, and I met at Addison's apartment and along with another foreign student from Berlin, Clifford, who's staying with Addison's host family we went shopping for ingredients to make Mexican food. It was definitely an adventure finding the Austrian equivalents to American Mexican food in the grocery stores. The burritos did end up pretty good, but the avocados weren't quite ripe yet (it's hard to find ripe fruit at the store, it seems.. you have to wait a week to eat your fruit after you buy it). But we really wanted guacamole, so Clifford worked super hard, peeling the avacado, attempting to mash it with a meat hammer, cutting it into fine pieces and using a mechnical masher thing to squish the avocado into an edible mass. It was a very enjoyable evening and we talked about Germany, Austria, and Vienna including differences in healthcare, driving tests, and movies.

Today Annika, Kelly, and I went to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia! It only cost 14 euros round trip and we had a very enjoyable time. It's amazing how we have the opportunity to be in a place where we can travel every weekend to another country..and this particular trip was just over an hour! We immediately could tell upon exiting the train that we weren't in Austria anymore! It was the first time I was really in a country where I could not read the signs or understand anything. We even went to a couple different info desks and tried to ask questions in German and English and they apparently only spoke Hungarian...Also, our Ethnic Diversity teacher said they had their own currency but everywhere we went the currency was Euros! We got a little lost because we couldn't understand any signs, but eventually we saw the castle and just made our way towards it.

It's very interesting how you have the old town which is where all the tourists are, the castle, a couple churches, old houses etc., and then the real Bratislava which is very industrialized. It was only tourist groups in the old city, each with a tour leader--no locals. Our highlight of the trip was definitely going up 4 or so very steep flights of stairs in the only original tower left in the castle and seeing a beautiful panorama view of the city (you have the river and trees on one side, the beautiful old town with the cool European houses on another, a whole bunch of very uniform apartments (that we were guessing were from the communist era because they looked like the apartments we've seen in German films about East Berlin). Our second highlight was ordering hot chocolate near the old town hall which is now a museum. It wasn't really hot was like the most delicious warm delectible melted chocolate with mint you have ever tasted! We ate it with small spoons rather than drank it. It's consistency was somewhere in between hot chocolate and pudding.

It definitely was different to see another country and one that had been part of the communist bloc during the cold war, but I believe the history, culture, and architecture felt more rich in Vienna. But now I can say I have been to Slovakia! And by the end of this trip I will be able to say I have been to Slovakia, The Czech Republic, and Hungary, which will be very cool.

We are all going to do presentations at a Gymnasium (like a high school) here in Vienna on the 27th and 28th about the economy in the USA and the elections this fall so we are getting together tomorrow to do research. This is part of our community service project and we will also go help out in a vineyard some time in October. In addition we have to do about 8 more hours of service and I am planning on helping out in English classes at the Institute.

It's hard to think how in just a few weeks we'll have fall break and shortly thereafter will take midterms and our time here will aleady be half gone! Our time here is definitely going to fly by fast, but I am going to try my hardest to enjoy every single minute of it!


--Ariana Lipkind


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