Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Weekly Interlude 10: Extreme Weather and Intensive German

Flowers battling the heat in Stadtpark
In February 2012, when I was studying abroad in Vienna, Europe experienced a Deep Freeze with record-low temperatures. This was right when my aunt visited me, and I remember teaching her the warmest way to wrap a scarf before we set off to battle our way around the frozen tundra.

1st District Vienna
Now Vienna is experiencing a major heat wave, with record-high temperatures. The city glistens. Air shimmers. Trees sag. Sweat drips. People on the streets move slowly, as if wading through a sticky wall. But still, the sun shines energetically, cruelly indifferent to our suffering. Last night, I woke up at 2 a.m. to Donner und Blitz -- big slashes of lighting and claps of thunder accompanied by immense winds. You'd think it would have cooled down the city (or my bedroom) at least a little. But no. The sun is at it again today. And, of course, my shower isn't working, and there's no air conditioning in this old city apartment. It's just baths and fans for me until further notice.

1st District Vienna
On the bright (or pleasantly shady?) side, I wake up every day now at 7:30 a.m. when the sun hasn't quite geared up yet and head to my German class! I signed up for the intensive course, which runs from this past Monday through August 29. Four days a week, three hours per day, I join nine other people from all over the world and learn about such things as Genetive Präpositionen and Konjunktionen, all the while expanding my Vokabeln. In general, I've discovered that my grammar is pretty solid, but my vocabulary is fairly lacking. So every afternoon, I write sentences with the new words I've learned so that I can remember everything:
  • Wegen der Hitze, bin ich müde. (Because of the heat, I'm tired.
  •  Pass auf! Die Biene wird dich stechen!  (Watch out! The bee will sting you!)
  • Als ich dein Gesicht zum ersten Mal gesehen habe, bestaune ich es. (The first time I saw your face, I marveled at it.)
  • Die Leuten haben gedacht, dass Sirius Black ein Verbrechen begangen ist. (The people thought that Sirius Black committed a crime.)
  • Das ist das Kind, das sehr oft Eis isst. (This is the child who often eats ice cream.)
Perhaps the coolest part of this class is the fact that German is the common language. I'm the only one from the US, and the only other native English speaker is a guy from Ireland. The others are from Turkey, the Ukraine, Spain, and Hungary. Many study and/or work in Vienna, so they generally have more speaking experience than I do, but they're all so friendly that it's not a huge deal to start a mini conversation with them. It's hardest for me to understand the girls from Spain; their Spanish-German accent sounds about 90% Spanish, and the words fly at 100mph. Good thing they don't seem to mind when I ask them to repeat everything!

Stadtpark; statue of Johann Strauss II
Side note: Today in class, we talked briefly about different ways to pay for things in our home countries. I had no idea that "cash back" is nowhere near universal, so I had to explain to my group how it worked! And with limited vocabulary, it went something like, "This book costs five euros, and I want 20 euros 'cash back.' So I pay 25 euros with my debit card and immediately get 20 euros in cash."

Somewhere new! 1st District Vienna
After class today, I wandered around the first district and ended up in a part I had never seen before (I'd always passed under it on the U-Bahn). I stumbled upon Shakespeare & Co., an English bookstore found in many European cities. Books towered precariously and haphazardly from every surface. Believe me when I say it was difficult to navigate with a backpack on! Of course, I felt a little guilty looking at books in English right when I'm trying to improve my Deutsch, so I left fairly quickly.

I needed to go grocery shopping, but the heat was doing me in at this point. My water bottle was warm; my back was soaked with sweat from my backpack; my legs felt a little wobbly. So I meandered back to the U-Bahn, ducked into a grocery store, and took refuge in the frozen foods aisle in Billa. Temporary relief, but so wonderful.

As I sit here writing and eating watermelon, with the fan pointed directly at me and my eyes drying out, it's hard to believe that I actually wore a sweater last weekend. Not outside, where I would've melted in about a second, but in the Loisium, the several-hundred-year-old wine cellar in Langenlois. We took a two-hour tour in the chilly underground cellar, which Lillian actually really enjoyed (she got to use her pink flashlight, and the audioguide was like a phone that told stories!).

Loisium wine shop
Endless racks of Sekt (Champagne)
When I told my friend about this, she asked what people do when they tour wine cellars. Well, first there was a light-and-water show, where we had to pretend to be a grape so that we could understand part of the initial process (getting the juice out of the fruit). Then we toured the actual cellar, which was quite extensive, while the audioguide provided historical and statistical information. Then we visited the house of the people who owned the vineyard in the 19th century and followed that up with a visit to the workshop where they handmade barrels to store the wine. The end of the tour opened up into the wine shop, where you could buy anything from Grüner Veltliner wine (a white wine unique to this region of Austria) to a wine calendar. I personally bought a wine-sized bottle of grape juice, which is nothing to laugh at, let me just say! This juice is the greatest drink I've ever had in my life, and it's nothing like Welch's or MinuteMaid. My white grape juice is smooth and velvety and light and sweet. In short, DELICIOUS. I wish I could type you a taste to sample...
Lillian found her shadow!
More modern wine barrels

I'll spend the rest of this week imagining I'm back in that cool, earthy cellar and not stuck in this heatbox. It's time to do my German homework. Infolge der Hitze, will ich meine Hausübungen nicht machen. (Because of the heat, I do not want to do my homework.) Ich gehe lieber an den Strand. (I'd prefer to go to the beach.)

[P.S. If you want to listen to something beautiful, check out Morgen by Richard Strauss, my latest obsession. Translation here, which makes it even better.]

1 comment:


    I feel so betrayed.