Magnificent Mountains of Mariazell

Trip Start Jan 08, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2008

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Flag of Austria  ,
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Our orientation took place in a hostel in Mariazell. Mariazell is a pilgrimage town for Catholics. There is a beautiful basilica located at the center of town with a linden wood statue of Mary and Baby Jesus. This statue is considered to be very miraculous and the sick who visit the statue have claimed to be healed. We had several orientation programs including "The customs and manners of the Viennese," "The safety in Vienna," and "Schooling in Vienna." We learned some valuable but complicated information: -You must give your landlord/lady a gift when accepting their apartment. This gift can include wine, flowers, or chocolate. Avoid flowers for a landlord, but it is acceptable for a landlady. But if you give flowers, keep them wrapped in their paper until you present them to your landlady and then immediately remove the paper and quickly crumble it up and discreetly throw the paper away and¡K. (it was complicated! :)) 

-Austrians do not smile a lot. (Much to my dismay!) You should not smile in the subway, but if people stare at you, then stare back. But if you smile then people might think you are flirting with them. You must smile at your neighbors because it is rude otherwise. But DON¡¦T smile at the landlady of our school because she does not want to be greeted by Americans. -Apparently, Americans will find the schools in Vienna to be very different. The main difference is the rampant cheating going on during tests at the University of Vienna. The teachers know about it but don¡¦t consider it cheating, they consider it cooperation. In fact, the Austrians have a word for the ¡§cheating¡¨ that unfortunately does not translate to English. The Americans in my program are, however, absolutely not allowed to cheat and will suffer sever consequences if we are caught doing so.

Needless to say, we were a little nervous about how to present the gifts and at who to smile. I have now learned how to appropriately give gifts and stare. fº

I spent my first afternoon in Mariazell cross country skiing. I had to communicate in German for the first time at the ski rental place and found moderate success. (I knew how to say my shoe size in German) After two 20 minutes trails, I suffered only 4 falls and minor scrapes and bruises on my hands. Considering that it was my first time to see snow, I think I did okay! I am, however, still very sore!

Our orientation schedule for Friday night read, "Traditional Austrian Evening! BE SURPRISED!!!" I had no idea what to expect while we were crowded in gathering room until I saw a troupe of men dressed in LEDERHOSEN! They performed for 2 hours. They continued to get drunker and drunker until they could barely get through their dances. It was hilarious! I am so glad I got to experience that little part of the culture.

We took a tour of the city on Saturday afternoon and saw a house dating back to the 1500¡¦s. It was a house where poor people stayed on their pilgrimage to the basilica. We visited the basilica where the statue of Mary stays. It was a very ornate church with a huge cell around the statue (hence the name of the town Maria + Cell). We also visited a schnapps factory (called digestifs in German) and learned what the Austrians use it for. They ship it to liquor stores all over the world. Some of you might have heard of it¡KMariazeller Magenliqur????

I learned how to waltz on Saturday night in preparation for Ball Season in Vienna. Ball Season happens during January and February of each year. Formal attire is required at every ball and I plan on going to one organized by a student group soon! 

It snowed in Mariazell on Saturday night but I wasn¡¦t up to see it. However, to see the effects of it on Sunday morning was beautiful. I walked outside with my suitcase and promptly fell on the ground. My bruised tail bone made it very difficult to sleep well on the 3 hour bus ride back to Vienna, but I managed a little shut-eye.  

Stay tuned for my re-entrance into Vienna¡
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