Monday, May 21, 2007

Graz Update Week Ending May 19

Here's the latest fun from Austria:

This past week contained some firsts. For instance, Thursday was the first time Greg had off work for Ascension Day. He'll also be off next Monday for Whit Monday. It takes some getting used to, having holidays off that we have to look up the meaning behind.
To celebrate a day off, we had Alfio and Melanie over for dinner. Alfio is the professor who hired Greg at Uni Graz. (He prefers not to be called The Boss, but that's what he gets called, anyway.) Melanie is his partner in crime. This was the first time we'd had guests (not counting the guys who delivered the furniture, or the guy who fixed the power, or the guy who fixed the phone line. They didn't bring us any interesting desserts.) Sorry about the poor quality of the picture of our guests, apparently the camera was maladjusted. Alfio and Melanie taught us (or tried to teach us) an Italian card game and an Austrian card game. The cards are very different--different number of cards, different designs, different sizes, different names... and then the rules are complicated. And also, they both speak Italian, and German, and English--sometimes at random intervals. Needless to say, we will not be winning the next tournaments for these card games that we come across. We taught them a game we like, and they both took to it like fish to water. Possibly better. Fortunately, it's only for 2 players, because if we tried to play against them, we'd get walloped! They've already announced their intention to get a deck of American style playing cards and add this game into their repertoire.

Dessert at dinner that night was another first--Alfio and Melanie picked some Hollunder flowers and battered and fried them, and after dinner, we ate that, sprinkled with a little bit of powdered sugar. (This is not a particularly poor picture--it's just that Austrian food is surprisingly unappealing to photograph. We have yet to see a single enticing picture of Austrian food. It is one of life's great mysteries, because the food here is fantastic!) These are the flowers of a bush that is growing all over town, with big bunches of little white flowers. We'd seen people picking these in the park, and thought they were just decorating their houses, but it seems they were either frying and eating them, or possibly soaking them in water and sugar to make a pleasant juice beverage. For those of you playing at home, these are elder bushes, but not the ones that edible elder berries come from. Those are other, and people will (later) be picking those berries. Apparently everyone knows that if you pick all the flowers off the other ones, you don't get any berries. So, they don't.


Another first this week was drinking Radler, a mixture of beer and lemonade--known in the British Isles as "shandy." Which is not as gross as it sounds. In fact, it's not gross at all, except for one of the brands we tried, which was just downright bad--but the beer of that brand isn't especially good, either. The great thing about the way beverages are sold here is that almost anything is available in a single can or bottle. Easier to enjoy, less commitment if it's bad. (Sadly, we accidentally bought two of the really bad one. Oops.) Radler is the German word for "bicyclist" -- apparently this beverage was invented by a bar owner who was, one hot summer, completely overrun by bicyclists, 10,000 of them or more, and was running out of beer. So he started mixing it with lemonade, and told everyone he'd invented it specifically to be more quenching for a hot day. Surprisingly, he wasn't lynched about that, and it instead became very popular. We have not yet tried the Lemongrass Radler (the one in the bottle) but we are very curious.

On the weekend, we made crepes for the first time. This isn't particularly interesting or novel or .... Austrian. But, man, that was tasty. We tried crepes filled with strawberry preserves, and we tried crepes filled with tart, fresh cheese, smoked ham, and chives. Yummy. We'll probably be doing that again, it's surprisingly fast and easy. We would've made a picture, but all the crepes... uh ... went away. ;)

This picture is of a candle on display in a window down in the Altstadt. The shop is apparently quite classy, a famous porcelain house. We wondered what unique piece of unidentifiable porcelain this thing could be, that we were too uncultured and non-worldly to even know about. Then we got closer, and it turned out to demonstrate the rather un-worldly necessity of wooden display candles in a hot window.



The Schloßberg has gotten quite lush over the last few weeks. The last photographs taken up there were in the snow. Now it looks positively summery. With good reason, the temperatures keep getting into the 80's... at least we're getting a little bit of rain now and then. It is supposed to get into the 90's this week, sadly.
















The garden near the top looks rather different than it did when we first photographed it, it was quite bleak then. Even with a mild winter, January is a tough time for fancy gardens...


Our language skills improve slowly, in that we rarely leave restaurants or the grocery store wondering what just happened, and have started listening to German news broadcasts on the internet, with something less than completely befuddled looks on our faces. The grower's markets are starting to be open on weekdays. And the mosquitoes are out in force already.
That's about it for this week.

Cheers,

Holly & Greg

1 comment:

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