Language. - The first time I visited Austria, I knew so little German that I accepted everything and was happy. The second time I visited Austria, I knew just enough German to realize how much I was missing out on and was frustrated. This time, we were in Austria for longer than a 10-day visit: we were in Austria for 3 months - March, July, and August 2002. The first week, I was jealous of gM because he could watch TV and enjoy it.
Over 3 months, German immersion had its effects. I too became able to enjoy TV in German: the non-dubbed shows were the easiest for me to understand because the mouths matched the words. Oma, myself, and the Wörterbuch had several long and enjoyable German conversations. I watched "Spiderman" in the theatre in German without English subtitles, and understood most of the dialogue. Finally, I knew enough German to hear that gM's friends spoke in fast Styrian dialect among themselves, i.e. that they did NOT sound like TV.
|Food. - gM's mother prepared the family a different meal everyday for 2 months - no repeats. A few of my favourites in her creative repertoire were:|
Panierte Herrenpilze (brown-capped, white-stemmed big mushrooms which are breaded)
Putenschnitzel (turkey schnitzel)
Spätzle (very small dough dumplings)
Topfenknödel (quark dumplings filled with plums or apricots)
Salat mit Kernöl (lettuce with pumpkin seed oil)
Joghurttorte (sponge cake topped with halved peaches and thick yogurt mousse)
Eierschwammerlsauce (sauce made out of thin, yellow mushrooms)
Raclette (raclette cheese melted under a grill and then scraped onto boiled potatoes, thin slices of meat, or bread)
Eiernockerl and Apfelnockerl (bigger Spätzle mixed with eggs or applesauce, respectively)
Pan-seared whole trout
Rotkraut (shredded red cabbage with apple)
Palatschinken (thick crêpe, may be filled as desired, i.e. with jam, chocolate, or ice cream)
Frittatensuppe (thin strips of Palatschinken in soup broth).
It also felt great to drink the equivalent of Canadian 1% milk, drink water from the tap, make popcorn at home, and eat all fruits and vegetables again.
Home. - After 3 months of travelling in the UAE, Egypt, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Greece, and Croatia, we enjoyed being at home in Austria again. The comforts and familiarities of being at home were an unexpectedly refreshing contrast to the high frequency of newness we experience while travelling. While travelling, every few days we move our home base, pack and unpack our backpacks, find accommodation, ascertain banking, familiarize ourselves with new geographical areas, determine transportation in the area and to the next home base, find places to buy bottled water and groceries, figure out local foods and restaurants, locate internet cafes, etc., besides climbing mountains, exploring deserts, or visiting castles. In Austria, it felt great to not carry every single day a small backpack with bottled water, toilet paper, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, food, travel guidebook, etc.
Our 3 years travelling away from Canada feel different from a holiday or vacation. There is no short-term putting up with discomforts or handling things later "back home". In contrast to a vacation where, more likely, everything is taken care of for a couple of weeks, we must figure out the logistics of daily living at each new location every few days. We must be self-sufficient enough to deal with all while on the road, either immediately at that location or later at a bigger centre. Because we are travelling long-term and are not on holidays for 2 weeks, our travelling "everyday" sometimes has components of our non-travelling lives: we have "down" days where we watch a movie or sleep in.
There are times when I have felt homeless since leaving our Ottawa apartment. Sometimes while travelling, if we stay in a place which feels
comfortable because of accommodation, neighbourhood, becoming familiar to specific local people, or having personal connections with fellow travellers, new places can feel like home. Sometimes, the feeling of home is reduced to being in a room with gM and all our belongings in 2 backpacks.