Forgive me. I apologize for slacking so hard. I’d like to say I’ve been incredibly busy. While that is true, I cannot evade that I have also been incredibly lazy and haven’t exactly been in the mood to write anything. But I am here now, so hopefully that’s showing that I’m at least trying a little. And I’ll be back in Georgia in, what, eleven days? Surely not being in Europe anymore will inspire me to reminisce a little and hopefully entertain somebody.
I hope this can suffice for the meantime. Here is a list of the things I’ve really come to love while in Europe and will miss once I’m back in America and drinking iced coffee in an air-conditioned setting (those are some of the things I miss now).
- Good fast food. One of my favorite things about Europe is that no matter how much you pay for food, it’s going to be good. Even the really cheap food is delicious, which was hard for me to grasp at first because, well, I’m not necessarily used to that. I’m not saying that all cheap American food is bad, but, you know, sometimes it is. I haven’t had a bad food experience here yet. Even the sketchy restaurants have good food. I’ll get to the important part now. There’s this chain sandwich shop here called Baguette, and they sell yogurt cups. Well, the first time I ate one, it was so good I almost cried. I’m not kidding.
- 20-Pack Chicken McNuggets. Maybe this wouldn’t be so good for America, because some people might eat a whole 20-pack independently, but I do like the concept. They’re fun to share, okay? Also the chicken nuggets here are much better than they are in America because the standards for food are so high. Speaking of which…
- Stricter food laws. Because if another country can make better Chicken McNuggets than the country that bore McDonald’s, that country is doing something right. Oh, and because lots of people in our food industry should care more about what we eat than how much money they make off it.
- Vending machine coffee. It’s good, it’s fast, and it only costs 60 Euro cents. And did I mention that it works? The machine will even give you 10 cents back if you return the little solo cup your coffee comes in. What’s not to love?
- A greater appreciation for other languages. Every local I’ve met here is at least bilingual and maybe even trilingual – several people I’ve been around are actually very fond of the English language. They don’t just read English books – some of the people I’ve met here actually aspire to write books in English. That takes serious dedication, especially for a language that isn’t one’s mother tongue – or at least I think so; I might not be the best person to consult on this since I’m only fluent in one language. But still, it’s very admirable.
- Beautiful money. Maybe I just don’t think American currency is beautiful because I’m so used to it. I’m not saying it’s ugly by any means. I’ve always thought the backs of dollar bills were pretty impressive, and when I was little and realized that a tiny Abraham Lincoln was on the back of the penny in addition to the one on the front side, I was enchanted. It’s just that some Euro coins have Da Vinci on the back of them and I think it’s really cool.
- Extremely well-behaved dogs. Most of the dogs I’ve seen in Europe walk alongside their owners without the strain of a leash. They come into restaurants and ride buses and underground trains and sit placidly on the floor. One dog I saw in Vienna even made a point to pee over a sewer drain so it wouldn’t make a mess on the sidewalk.
- Nice public drinking fountains. I’m a thirsty girl, and I like my free water. I don’t like how there aren’t any drinking fountains indoors, but the outdoor drinking fountains almost make up for it. These aren’t your typical, metal, rectangular prism beasts. These fountains are beautiful and made out of stone, and the water comes from the mountains so it is cold and pure instead of surrounded by a ring of algae at the spout like the water fountains at my high school were. If you ever come to Austria, drink the public water.
- Gelaterias. It might be possible that gelaterias do exist in America and I just haven’t seen one since I live in Georgia. And I’m not talking about chain pizza restaurants with a gelato booth next to the cash register; I mean entire shops dedicated to gelato that carry flavors like kiwi, melon, yogurt, passionfruit, and Nutella. I don’t know how I’ve actually managed to lose weight here, because I have eaten gelato at least three times a week since I’ve gotten here – I think I even ate it every day for a straight week a while back.
- Outdoor bars. Again, these might actually exist in the States and I might just not be aware of it because I grew up in Macon, Georgia for god’s sake. I’m not just referring to biergartens either, although those definitely exist here. One of the most popular bars here is in the middle of a park. It’s beautiful. And for somebody who is only really used to bars in Athens, outdoor bars are a really nice change.
I’m cutting it a bit short, and I really apologize. I kind of have a reading journal due tomorrow, which isn’t really a big deal at all, but it’s due after I leave for my field trip so I need to finish it tonight, and then I have a paper due Thursday. Have I mentioned that I get really bad writer’s block? I feel like I have.
I’m off to Gertrude Stein and a paper about the decline of religious morality that is evident in Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s work (how fitting for my major concentration).
I never think any big events in my life are going to happen. I didn’t ever see myself graduating from high school or moving to Athens or accomplishing some huge task. I did it last week with Bonnaroo.
I’m currently doing this with Austria, and I’m becoming scared because I just realized that I’m leaving in 18 days. 18 breakfasts. 18 nights where I’ll wake up at odd intervals. 18 (well, probably fewer) showers.
I’m trying to pull together a list of things I need for this trip. Ideas. Plans. A level head. A plug converter. My big bottle of Ibuprofen. It’s hard to find Ibuprofen in Europe, so I’m going to bring a huge bottle and deal it. Just kidding. I’m going to share it, and that’s how I’ll win peoples’ hearts and friendship over there.
I’m getting nervous because it’s hard for me to imagine what my life is going to be like over there because, well, I’ve never been to Austria. I hardly know any German – I’ve been slacking on studying it. It might get really cold there. I’m going to miss people and there won’t be anything I can do about it. I’ll be a whole ocean and several countries away. Mostly I’m afraid of ending up alone. What if nobody likes me there? I’ve got some bad qualities.
The one thing I have complete confidence in is the literature class I’ll be taking. I’m great at English and I’m very passionate about words if you can’t tell. I know I can say something impressive and be able to bond with people who get starry-eyed over the same writers, books, and punctuation marks that I do. I think I will make a friend in my literature class. I need to, actually. I can’t be reserved like I normally am since all of this is going to happen over a span of six weeks instead of a semester. I’m got to give myself a crash course in branching out to other people, and that happens to be one of the things I’m worst at.
I just end up fantasizing every time I try to construct a controlled thought about Austria. Instead of thinking about how to make friends, I think about things like how often I’ll be able to eat gelato and how I want to rent a bike and ride it around Innsbruck every day I’m there. It’s funny that I’m thinking this way, because usually I’m very rational. Actually I’m never rational when it comes to thinking, because that’s how anxiety manages to take over me so easily.
What is good advice for studying abroad? What is a good way to make people like me? Does anybody have any recommendations for where I should go and what I should see in Europe, particularly Vienna and Germany? Or anywhere that’s close to where I’ll be? What kind of food should I try?
Any advice – or any statement that will calm me down, really – would be much appreciated.
I am a woman of lists: lists of what to eat, what to do, how to behave, and even what I should think about. I know I’ve mentioned this before.
My summer starts in six days. Because I am a girl, I’ve started dreaming up tons of expectations for my summer. I do it every year, just like everybody else.
I don’t want to call it a bucket list. That name just seems a little ominous, especially with what’s going on in the news right now (you know, the bucket list baby that died today?). Besides, this isn’t a list that I want to cross out before I die; it’s more short-term. I mean, sure, I can do these things some other time, but I’d really like to do them this summer. This summer is important to me. I’ll be in Europe for six weeks. It’s going to be crucial to my development. This list needs to be lighthearted, not heavy like a bucket. Beach pails are pretty light. Plus they’re brightly colored and obviously marketed for summer vacations. That works. This will be a beach pail list.
I’ll keep my beach pail list relatively short because I don’t want to bore you all to death and I really should be studying or eating or writing my feature story or something.
1) Go stargazing. I have wanted to go stargazing for years. Well, I kind of did it once, but that was almost six years ago. I’d like to go again. I think it would be good poetry material. I just need to figure out the best way to defend myself against mosquitoes first, because those bitches (only the female ones want your blood) love me. This brings me to my next item on the list….
2) Figure out some way to get mosquitoes to stop biting me. I’ve heard that drinking vinegar helps. Actually, can’t you get B-12 shots for that? I’ll do that. It beats getting bitten every time I go outside (I’m already sporting several welts, as a matter of fact).
3) Go to Munich and see my friends. That will be awesome.
4) Try new foods when I’m in Europe. More food equals more chances to get fat!
5) Read a lot. Once I get all those books that have piled up out of the way, I can get some more.
6) Work on my people skills. That is a big one.
7) Unwind a little.
8) Make that classical music pilgrimage to Vienna.
9) Go on an impromptu trip. I think that will be very possible in Europe.
10) Write a good story. Because I’m a little out of practice and really need to.
That’s all I can really think of. My brain just turned to mush, so you guys are lucky. I guess I can always add to this.
Now all I want is some prosciutto and a nap.
I think it’s fair to say a fair bit of my taste in music is inspired by classical composers. I’ve been playing piano since I was 5, and when I got old enough to make more conscious decisions on what pieces I wanted to learn, I always begged for classical music – Debussy, Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Field, you name it (but those are my favorites.) Fantasia was one of my favorite movies as a child – okay, it still is, and especially now since I appreciate the music so much more. My taste in other genres of music reflects my history and growth with classical music: I can’t stand anything that sounds dissonant, I’m a sucker for musicians who use the piano heavily, like Ben Folds and Elton John, and most of what I listen to sounds, well, pretty.
It only makes sense that I make a classical musicians pilgrimage to Vienna while I’m in Austria. Vienna used to be the place to be for classical musicians. Mozart and Haydn, Austria’s most famous classical musicians, worked and lived there, and even Beethoven lived in Vienna for a while. And he left Paris to do this, so that must mean Vienna was an important city for classical musicians. I have to go to Vienna.
I really need to research Vienna more, because it’s become a city of my imagination. In my mind, Vienna is a myriad of domes rising from brick roads that were built to string quartets and symposiums, and a wave of arias that flows as smoothly as the Danube. Apparently Austria is not covered very often in books or magazines. My local Barnes & Noble didn’t have a single travel guide on Austria. I searched through my dad’s collection of the past several years’ issues of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure and found one issue containing a story on Austria – a feature on Vienna. I didn’t get around to reading it, though, because I made the mistake of taking a sleeping pill and ended up in another universe.
If anybody has any recommendations or pointers for the pilgrimage, I would appreciate it more than an Adventure Time marathon, and that’s not because I’ve probably already seen every episode. I’d really like to go to Vienna without getting tragically lost or missing out on something incredible. I imagine I’ll stay in a hostel, since I’m planning on going with a group, but that’s all I’ve got right now. I still don’t know the best way to finish these things either. I just hope someone is reading this.