Saturday, November 6, 2010

Visiting the Alps!

Eben: There are so many options of where to visit the Alps. Every Saturday and Sunday there is a free bus that leaves from Mirabellplatz that goes to a few locations in the Alps. We went to the Eben skiing resort and our bus left at 8am. Look into more times because you have to know what time the bus will come back to pick you up to bring you back to Mirabellplatz. There are multiple buses that leave the resorts so be sure to ask the driver if they are going back to Mirabellplatz.

For those of us who are not strong skiers and maybe not ready for that Alps - which I will reiterate that there is a big difference even from the Rockies! I have only been skiing once so I was not going to sign up for a day of skiing and frustration and very possible injury. So I decided to go with some girls tobogganing aka sledding. It is super fun but it is like ultimate sledding! We went down a street that was scary cause cars and tractors would drive up but it was ok we lived lol. The cars drive very carefully. You ride the lift up and then go into a cabin that is a restaurant and ask for a sled or toboggin. It costs 2 euros for each time but you can put two people on one toboggin. I would suggest doing two people the first time. Bring good boots because you will use them to steer the sled. Oh and ps the sleds are old school wood! :)

Buy the all day lift pass if you think you will go up more than 4 times. It is only 10 euros, that was the best deal for us.

You will ride for about 3 miles down and then leave the sled at the bottom of the hill and the resort will pick them up at the end of the day. Then you walk back for about 20 minutes to the resort on a trail that you will find across the street. It is labeled as a cross country skiing path - but just use it to get back. :)

It is super fun and will be an awesome memory!

Places you can't miss in Salzburg...

Salt Mines: They can be a bit pricey but the reviews are great. You get to ride down into a salt mine and explore and learn about one of Salzburg's (salz meaning salt) most important resources.

Eagle's Nest: This is one of Hitler's residential escapes. Although he did not go there often because it was high on the mountains and he was scared of heights (this home was given to him) there is an awesome and cheap documentation center about Austrian-German history. Eagle's Nest is actually in Germany but the Austrian German boarder is super super close in Salzburg, in fact you probably won't realize you have crossed the boarder! It has a great documentation center that has English, and a bunker. It is a must if you go near Munich or Salzburg.

Mozart Concert: Salzburg is the city of Mozart. He was born there and Salzburg is super proud of him (even though he hated Salzburg growing up!) Try to go to a Mozart concert, it will astound you. There is a Mozart festival the end of January that is amazing, and tickets are reasonably priced. Be sure to dress up tho and be on time. Austrians do not tolerate being late!

The Fortress: It is an icon of Salzburg and holds a lot of history. You can ride a cable car up for I think 7 euros or take the hiking trail up and explore the wilderness and fortress walls before coming to the fortress.

The Monastery: There is a beautiful yellow monastery on the other side of the Salzach (main river) across from the fortress that gives one one of the best views of Salzburg. It is a great little hike and very interesting. And free!

Mirabell Gardens: The beautiful Salzburg garden with fountains and beautiful flowers! It is wonderful in the crisp winter snow or when it is full of color in the summer. I always loved the old people sitting and chatting on the benches. :) Plus the fountain that Maria sings I have confidence around in the Sound of Music is in Mirabell garden. It has the horse in it.

The Sound of Music: Austria is known for the Sound of Music - but Austrians hate the movie. So do not bring it up with an Austrian and do not go down the streets singing to songs. Not the way to make friends. But you can definitely pay for a tour our hunt most of the sights down by yourself for free. They do appreciate the income the movie brings.

Haus de Nature: An awesome interactive nature museum that is right across the main bridge on your right hand side on the fortress side of the Salzach. I believe it is 7 euros to get in, but it is so fun, even for adults! 

Safety being abroad and being a USA citizen abroad

When you go abroad you should know where the closest US embassy is and write down their number and address. Especially when you travel within Europe you should write these things down. Every time we traveled outside of Austria we would write down the number, and address to the nearest US consulate.

When you get to Austria you need to register to live in the country with the register. You will go to the town hall and bring your passport and a registration paper that your host family or dorm director has signed saying that you live at "x" address. You will need to carry this notarized registration paper around with you once you live there. You should get it done as quick as possible once you arrive. You can get the form from the town hall. Once you fill it out and have your housing person sign it bring it in with your passport and they will sign it and give you a copy. :) When you leave you will also need deregister saying that you are leaving the country.

Before you leave you should register with the US government to let them  know that you are abroad and where you are. This way if there is an emergency they know that they have an American Citizen that they need to help, plus you get warnings about if there are crisis' or hazards in the countries you register for updates with. It will make mom and dad a little more willing to let you out of the country. ;)

You can register here

It is good idea to update the registry every time you travel somewhere. 

Also good country information is found here about traveling abroad as an American.

Statistical Facts about Austria

Austria is slightly smaller than Maine if you compare it to an America state.

There are 9 provinces of Austria, and they work like miniature states with different regional values and ideas.

Burgenland, St. Polen, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Tyrol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Styria, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was based out of Austria. Austria was a part of Nazi Germany at one time. Making jokes about Nazi's or Nazi Germany are completely inappropriate and if you draw a swastika you can go to jail.

Austria is a very strong Catholic country - yet Catholicism is seen in a different perspective. Most Austrians are Catholic but they do not have to per say go to church every Sunday to be considered practicing.

The word for Austria in German is Oesterreich. 

The capital of Austria is Vienna (Wein).

You will find some people that completely reject the facts that the Holocaust existed, but most people are very aware about it. 

Austrians LOVE the outdoors. No seriously the live to be outside. You will find grandpas and grandmas walking super fast past you and you will find 3 year olds skiing down the Alps! Be prepared to go outside!

Since they love the outdoors so much it is essential that you recycle things. They would never imagine it any other way!

Before you leave...

*If you like peanut butter, bring some because it can be hard to find and expensive if you want that home craving.

*Bring a photo or a few that remind you of home, and that you can share with people if they want to know about America more.

*Download something like ooVoo, msn messenger or Skype before you leave and show your family how to use it so you can talk for free when abroad computer to computer.

*Bring some Euros before you land in Austria just to get you by in case something unplanned happens.

*Call your bank to let them know that you will be abroad and the length of time you will be gone.

*Make copies of all of your cards and your passport before you leave, leave a copy at home and hide one in your suitcase.

*Tampons with applicators - they do not carry ones with applicators

*Buy a map of the city before you leave to get an idea where things are, but once you are there see if you can do without the map all of the time - make a rule that you do not stand on the streets to look at the map. You make yourself a tourist target.

*Bring airmail thin envelopes if you plan on mailing any letters back to the United States. It helps with the weight cost of the letter - but they can be hard to find so it is not a deal breaker if you can't find them. :) It costs 1.40 euro to send a standard letter or postcard to the USA.

*Bring things like decongestants, ibuprofen etc. because sometimes it can be hard to get these in Austria. Sometimes you might even have to go to the doctor to get a prescription!

*Also know that the German spoke in most of Austria has a very heavy accent to it, so if you know high German it might still be a bit of a challenge, especially in Salzburg. 

Pharmacy and Doctor Offices

In Austria it is Socialist medicine so I was a little worried about the structure of going into a doctor's office or hospital - which in my time in Austria I got to visit both unfortunately! I had the advantage that my Austrian college had two doctors that they had an agreement with to take American students and speak English with them - even though I think that you most likely will be ok finding a doctor that speaks enough English as many Austrians speak English as well as German.

I had to get weekly allergy shots and so I got to visit the doctors often. It cost me between 20 and 30 euros every time. Doctors in Austria hold crazy inconvenient hours and it can be very hard to make an appointment. My doctors sometimes decided they were not going to work on a Thursday or that they would work from 8am to 11am. Be sure to look at their hours. It is certainly best to call ahead if you can with the language barrier - or get a friend to do so. If you have an appointment you do not have to wait in the sometimes very long lines at the doctors office.

When you go into the doctor's office be sure to bring your passport (sometimes they want it because you will not have a health card issued to everyone in Austria) and your name written down, and if you can look up what you want to get done in German for example the word allergy shot that helps too.You will meet a receptionist just like America and she will fill out paper work and you may have to fill some out on a German form - so the first time it might be helpful to bring a German speaking friend otherwise a hand held dictionary. You will wait until they call your name. For allergy shots I had to bring my serum every time, they did not just hold it at the doctors office.

I went to the emergency room once in Austria and it was a lot less scary than I expected it to be. At a hospital there will be doctors that speak English - in fact I think that the doctor I got was from Great Britain. I had hurt my back falling down marble stairs and had fainted and had needed to go to the doctor to get xrays. I went with an Austrian which helped the process but they had a form that was in English too. You have to remember that health care is socialist so there will be a long line most likely for the Emergency Room (but I don't know how different that is from America.) :) The only thing was that you definitely want to purchase health insurance when you go abroad because it reduced my bill from 2,700 euros... and I had to pay that in full when I was at the hospital! You cannot just hand them some plastic - it needs to have real money on it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ways to fill your tummy in Salzburg!

Taj Mahal has great Indian food, and an awesome environment! It is just a few blocks away from downtown. Delicious food!

Grab a Steigl beer and sit on the banks of the Salzach river, the main river in Salzburg. You can buy a normal Steigl in the Billa across the street from the bridge side that is not the side of Mirabellplatz. Be sure to grab a few flavors, Steigl makes a Lemon Radler and a Rasberry Radler (the Rasberry Radler is to die for!) Or you can go to the Steigl Brewery and see the whole production and drink some beer at the end!

Mozart Balls are a trademark of Salzburg, so make sure you grab one before you leave! Save up your money for a real one from the stores that sell the blue and silver wrappers (not the red and gold ones sold in the grocery stores/some of the tourist shops). You find the real ones down by the Gatriedegasse they will have shops fully dedicated to real Mozart Balls. They have marzipan inside! :) (I accidently smooshed mine before I could eat it by the banks of the Salzach).

Want some delicious salads or tea? You have to check out the Afro Cafe! This place is so fun with it's bright colors, outside seating, awesome fresh tea leaves tea with fun timers, and yum yum salads! It is just one of those places you have to go to just try it out! :)

My favorite cafe? Hands down the Modern Art Museum that is on top of the hill behind downtown Salzburg. You can see it from far away up by the fortress, and if you don't want to hike up (which it is a beautiful hike!) you can take the lift up the mountain for 2 Euros. :) Once you get into the museum head up another floor and go to the cafe. Head for a window seat or one of the couches. It is especially priceless during the winter looking over Salzburg outside the full size windows! The beautiful reds and crisp flowers with delicious apfel strudel (apple strudel) and famous Austrian Sachetorte (you better try both!) and a cafe latte or cappuccino plus good company makes for a perfect day! I remember sneaking up there whenever I could. :)

Last but not least make sure you get some Schnitzel with a berry jam that is like cranberries on top or a fresh squeezed lemon. You find the best one at Salzburg College's cook's table where Brigita works her magic, but other than that you can find a good one pretty much anywhere in town. :)