October 5, 2007

Wir haben eine Wohnung - We have an apartment!

Today I really started to feel like I will actually be living here, which was both a bit scary and very exciting.

I had my first day of school today. Even though I am still not registered, I went to one of the lecture classes where they are not supposed to take attendance. My first contact with another student was as the other students and I were waiting in the hallway where the classroom was supposed to be. The only other student who wasn't talking with friends in German turned to me to ask, "Is this class in English?" To which I replied, "I hope so." It was. In fact, the lecture was much less intimidating and even less foreign to me than I had expected. It was basically like being at a North American university, except that I was the only native English speaker. The course was Review of American Literature, and the topic this Semester is the 19th Century Concept of the American Frontier. When the American professor asked, "What is an American?" I looked around at the other silent students and thought about the reaction that that question would have caused in a Canadian classroom. People were more forthcoming with answers than I would have expected in a Canadian classroom, but there were also less people, so maybe this is just one of the differences. I found it strange listening to this American woman describe her America, while sitting in a European classroom. In response to her question, people provided both positive and negative interpretations of what an American is, but only the positive descriptions made it to the blackboard. As we discussed the racism and the status of women in the 19th century, it became more clear to me that, along the fact that I have already taken an American Literature class, this is not a class that I would like to register in once I am admitted to UniGraz.Despite this, I'm glad that I went because it made me realize that an Austrian university is actually not much more intimidating than a Canadian university, and, as an added bonus, I made friends with the boy who spoke English to me in the hallway. His name is Josef and he is from the Czech Republic.

After school I came back to Christian's parents house for Mittagessen, and then we had a post lunch nap. Life here is pretty good. Post-nap we went to see the apartment that we visited yesterday again, to confirm that the tram line that goes down the street in front of our house isn't excessively loud. It's not, and I'm glad because I really like the apartment. Reitschulgasse 7 is the address, which is the first part that I like because it means "riding school avenue", and we are apartment 1. The first thing that I will say about the apartment itself, and I am sure you will understand, is that the landlord is really really really nice. I hope that I am not jinxing it by saying that, but as soon as we had given him the deposit, after a nice visit where he and Christian discussed the lease and asked all the important questions, he gave us a bottle of wine! It is such a relief that I think that even if the apartment were half as nice, I would have been happy to take it. Fortunately, though, we liked the apartment even before we met the landlord.

It is pretty close to the city centre, near Jakominiplatz, which is where the trams meet -- but not sketchy, so don't worry. The building itself is old, pretty and light blue. There are three floors; our apartment is on the second. When you walk in, the kitchen is directly to your left. There is a bar with two stools, which was Christian's favourite part. Straight ahead is the bathroom, and then there is a short hallway that goes to the left, towards the living room. The ceilings are high, and the doorways are the old wood frames that open in the middle. They make it feel nice and old, even though the kitchen and the bathroom are new. So, the living room is quite big, about twice the size of my room in Montreal. At the far end of the living room from its entrance is a door that goes in to the bedroom. The bedroom has a window facing the street, and is big enough for two people not to be crammed with their things. On top of being happy with the apartment, the rent is low, and the people that are leaving would like to leave behind lots of things like the stools for the bar, a couch, the curtain rods, etc. The lease will start November 1st, but the tenants are hoping to move sooner than that, so we will probably move around the middle of the month. All things considered, I think we have made a really good choice.

I am excited to actually be able to finally unpack my suitcases! Living with Christian's parents has been really nice, and very convenient, but it being here feels much more real to me now that we have our own place. It is easy to imagine myself studying in a corner of the living room or getting ready to go out or serving drinks at the bar in the kitchen.

I'll post pictures as soon as I have some, which will probably be sometime next week.

View Larger Map

October 4, 2007


Wednesday, September 26th

I arrived in Munich to an airport full of signs only in German. A nice customs man let me into Europe and told me where to get my bags. Christian was waiting with flowers and a car to escort me to Eugendorf bei Salzburg, where I met his lovely Oma. Lots of delicious food and excellent naps ensued.

Thursday, September 27th

After a tour of the village where Christian grew up, we went back to his Grandma's house for raspberries from the garden and delicious Apfelstrudel. In the early afternoon, she took us to the train station and sent us off. I slept most of the way from Salzburg to Graz, but not too much to miss the fact that the traintracks wind through the alps, and that I really am in Europe. Christian's dad, Norbert, and sister, Anja, met us at the train station, while his mother, Monika, was at home preparing a dinner of raclette. It was really nice to see the other side of the webcam, and finally know what the apartment is like. They have made me feel really welcome here, which makes settling in much easier.

Friday, September 28th

We had to be at the University between 9 and 12 to talk to the admissions lady about my application, so we got up, got pretty, and got there by bike. Walking in to the university for the first time was pretty impressive. The first room that I walked into had huge vaulted ceilings, with pillars and marble floors. Christian spoke with the woman who holds my fate in her hands, and she told him that she will send us a letter once she has made her decision. We biked home for Mittagessen, had a post-lunch nap, and then went for a walk in the mini-woods behind their building. There used to be a brick factory in front of the woods. All that is left of it is a rectangle of brick archways, and the ponds that have come as a result of the clay pits. After dinner, we went with Christian's friends Rody and Hammer (they are both called Stefan and so both go by their last names) to a party in a suburb of Graz called Lannach. We slept over at the house to avoid driving home. The party was fun, but I was in bed early due to an Austrian drinking game that I have not yet mastered.

Saturday; September 29th

Due to a very very very bad hangover, I slept late on Saturday, made lunch with Christian and Anja, and then went back to sleep. Christian woke me up and forced me to go for a walk in the park behind his house, which did me much good. We had dinner with his family, and then had friends over for beer. Once everyone had assembled here, we went to a club called Postgarage for their monthly "Russian Style Disco". The bars here close at 6 am, but we headed home around 3:30.

Sunday, September 30th

Slept in, but not too late, and had an Austrian style breakfast of bread and jam. Christian and I finally went on a tour of Graz, and we had a beautiful day to do it. We biked down to the city centre and wandered around a bit then we climbed the stairs to the top of the Schlossberg, where I had a nice cold Cola Light. After a bit more touring we met up with Thomas and BJ in the Stadtpark, and then biked home in time to be taken out for Chinese food. I am looking forward to finding an apartment, but living with Christian's parents really isn't so bad.

Monday, October 1st

Though university officially starts today, neither Christian nor I had classes. First we biked down to the Uni to pick up the course booklet for English so that I could at least see which courses I could audit until they let me in. At UniGraz we met up with BJ, and then went for coffee. We had to cut coffee short in order to be home in time for Mittagessen with Monika, and then we went back out in an effort to find me my own bike. Up to this point I had been using Monika's bike, but it is way to big for me, so that every time we stop, I fall to one side. Car owners do not seem to like this. No luck finding a bike, but we found a cheap used bike store that was closed.

Tuesday, October 2nd

While Christian was at school, I ventured out in to Graz alone for the first time. I stopped at the Kunsthaus and bought postcards, and then had lunch in the Hauptplatz. Christian and I met up around 3, and went to the bike shop again, but it was closed for a field trip. We came home for a little while, and then went to the Office Pub, which is an English speaking pub where they have a pub quiz every Tuesday night. Christian and his friends have a team, of which I am now a member, and as a native English speaker; I am supposed to be an asset. This edge is dulled, of course, at the same rate as my consumption of the inexpensive beer that they sell, but the game is fun nonetheless. The quiz finishes around 11:30, and afterwards Thomas, BJ, and Christian wanted to get something to eat in the Hauptplatz. We were there until the clock above the square struck 12, and then we celebrated the first minutes of Christian's birthday.

The Kunsthaus by Christian

Wednesday, October 3rd

Christian's 23rd birthday... We slept in, and woke up to a message from Christian's mom, saying that I should go write a German placement test at 3. We got dressed and biked downtown for lunch, and then biked to the exam together. The test was fine, and took only 20 minutes. When it was done we met up to look at an apartment. Christian had already looked at 13 apartments before I got here, but it was the first one that I had seen. I would have taken it because it had a dishwasher, but otherwise it wasn't very special, and the building it was in was ugly. We came home and I napped while Christian did assorted birthday things (i.e. checking how many birthday wishes he got on facebook), and then had a delicious steak dinner with his family. After dinner we biked down to Christian's favourite bar, that he has been going to since he was 16: Music House. We had a few beers there, a good time, and then biked home. The most ridiculous part of the day was still to come, though, when we got stuck in the elevator, between floors, at 3:30 in the morning, and with no cell phone signal. Christian pried the door open and we could see the bottom half of the first floor door and the top half of the lobby door. Neither would open, however. After trying to get out for about 15 minutes, we pressed the alarm button. Nothing happened except for a noise like an ambulance farting. We pressed it again, and again, and again, at 3:30 in the morning, but noone answered. Finally we decided that holding it down until somebody rescued us was the best option, and, sure enough not long after the repair man showed up.

Thursday, October 4th

Christian had school early Thursday morning, so he got up and came back by 10 to find me.. still asleep. Embarassed by the possibility of his mom coming home for Mittagessen and finding me still in my pyjamas, I got dressed and biked to the city centre to explore some more. After some more discoveries in the inner city, I biked home to meet Christian so that we could go see another apartment. This one was much nicer, and bigger, and less expensive. Christian went to his gym class and I biked home. Spent the evening watching Popstars with Anja and Monika.