Monday, 9 May 2011

♫ Down the dark, dark stairs there was a dark, dark cellar and in the dark, dark cellar some skeletons lived... ♪

The skeleton outside Pr'skelet, inviting us in...

This weekend, I went to a country I'd never visited before - Slovenia - and went to its capital city Ljubljana! It was all pretty unorganised (coz I was the one kinda doing the organising) but I had a great time even though there were some hiccups along the way.

I hadn't booked a hostel or anything and was planning to just turn up at the main Alibi hostel, which was near the big river, but 5 mins before I was about to leave the house, I thought I better check whether they had rooms and found out: NO THEY DID NOT! Luckily there are around 1000 hostels in Ljubljana (well, there's certainly a lot of hostels!) so I decided there had to be a bed in one of them!

On the way there, I arranged to meet Melissa at Schwarzach and after a bit of panicking as she'd missed her bus, we realised the train she was on was the train we needed and carried on towards Villach and Ljubljana. When we had to move carriage because only half of the train was going to Ljubljana, I noticed Ali was sat right behind us asleep! :O What a shock! She said she was meeting a uni friend but they were going to Ljubljana too so we all joined together. Her uni friend Abbey joined a stop or two later.

Ali suggested we stay at the Hostel Celica , a converted former prison, which is where her and Abbey were staying. They had only one room left when we got there but it was a CELL!!! Me and Melissa were so amazed/freaked out by the fact it looked like a real cell, with bars on the windows and old furniture and books. It was amazing!

Clearly distressed about being in the cell...:

After revelling in the amazing cell, we went out to a traditional Slovenia restaurant, the Gostilna Sestica, not too far from our hostel.

It was really nice and they had live traditional dancers and singers so we all felt like we were part of something cultural! I had goulash and baked polenta but the meat in the goulash was a bit too chewy for my liking although I kinda liked polenta! Feeling stuffed and a little tired after a long day travelling, we went back to the hostel where they had a cocktail party and 20% off cocktails. AWESOME! I had one called a juicy fruit which was both juicy and fruity!

The next day, me and Mel decided we'd go to Bled which had been recommended in the guide book as a really picturesque lake-town where you could hire boats and visit the island.

We bought a train ticket from the station, only to find the train had been cancelled and we needed to get a bus instead. When we asked the lady at the desk which bus we needed, she said we'd have to ask the people at the bus station. So we trekked across to the bus station (perhaps 'trekked' is a little strong as the bus station was about 5 strides away) and asked the lady in there where to get the bus from. She said bay 7 so we waited patiently there for the 11.27 bus.... At 25 past, the bus arrived and we started to get on but the driver waved us away and indicated to come back in 10 mins. So we watied. And waited... and at 11.55 he started letting people on! When we eventually got to him, he told us our train tickets weren't valid on the bus! :O What was going on?! Two people had told us this was the bus to Bled and no-one had said train tickets weren't allowed on this bus! As the driver couldn't speak much English (and our Slovenian was a little rusty/non-existent) a passenger translated that we had to go buy a bus ticket and we could maybe get a refund on the train ticket. So we rushed to get a bus ticket and finally, were accepted on the bus and left LJ (I have now given up writing 'Ljubljana'! :P) for Bled!

Bled is probably the prettiest place I've ever been to. I guess the sunshine and the good weather made it extra nice, but I think it would even look amazing in rain! By the time we got there, we were pretty hungry and had a walk round the lakeside, trying to find a cheap-ish restaurant or cafe to eat in. We chose an average/high priced one (coz we were starving by this point and there seemed to be no cheaper ones further on) where I had a Rafaello cake. Was quite tasty but a lot moister than I imagined and not as chocolate-y!

We decided we'd get the train back to LJ as we'd already bought the ticket and didn't fancy paying another 7 euros on a bus ticket back. However there were only two trains back to LJ at suitable times so straight after eating, we had to get the bus to the train station or risk missing the last train! We arrived at Lesce Bled train station a bit early so wandered around and had a coke in the cafe. I noticed a train arriving and we thought it must be our train so we got up, left money for the drinks and started walking over to the other track. As we paused to think whether this was our train, it pulled away! :O It had only stayed in the station for about a minute at the most! OUTRAGED! We stood looking bemused and amazed at what had just happened! So the choice now was get a bus in 30 mins or wait 2 hours for the next train. We got the bus.

So after a very eventful day trip to Bled, we met up with Ali and Abbey again at a pizza place on the riverbank, where 130 pizzas were listed in the menu!

I had a ham and mushroom 'classic' sized pizza but didn't realise quite how big it would be! The menu had said 40cm which I thought was pretty big but thought pizza are usually smaller than claimed in the menu! How wrong I was! It was HIIIIUUUUGE! It was probably one of the nicest pizzas I've ever eaten, but there was no way I could finish it and had to give up 2/3 of the way through it!

Me and Mel then went to the castle, which Ali and Abbey recommended and had visited earlier in the day. The views from the top of the tower were amazing

and we had a look round the Slovenian museum there, which was a strange contrast as the displays were all computer-oriented and interactive but housed in the old stone castle building. Really interesting stuff though! I learnt modern day Slovenia was only created in 1990! :)

We headed back down in the cable car/lift thing and met up with Ali and Abbey again who had stumbled across a free concert! An orchestra were playing Vivaldi songs (not that I had any idea what the songs were! So uncultured! lol) by the triple bridge at the 'Preseren' square. The main violinist guy was really good and it was nice to feel sophisticated listening to classical music.

Best part of the trip: THE SKELETON BAR!!!! This bar is AMAZING! There's skeletons all over the place along with creepy paintings of old people whose eyes 'move'.

e.g. an old Mona Lisa

WICKED! And it played pretty good music and had 2-4-1 cocktails (they called it 'buy one get two' which doesn't have much of a ring to it...). So after having two cocktails in here we were again pretty shattered after a long day in the hot sun and called it a night.

Me and Mel had to change rooms when we got back, as we'd only managed to stay in the cell for one night. They put us in a 7 bed room. Here I virtually had to sleep in a double bed with a random man. :S WELL DODGY! The bed I got was right in the corner, under the low roof and a large beam and I had to climb over another person's bed. There was no way of getting out without disturbing the person next to me. Luckily, he came in the room shortly after us, spoke English and got up the same time as we did so there were thankfully no problems. Although I did bang my leg a few time in the night on the low beam running across the bed because I was so far to one side!

The next day, we got up early, packed our things, stripped the beds, checked out and headed for the train station and this time, managed to get the replacement bus for the dodgy train. All in all, it was an adventurous weekend, full of lots of travel and creepy things but amazing all the same! Definitely go back soon! :D

Thursday, 5 May 2011

♫ Pleasure At The Fairground On The Way! ♪

This weekend, I went to Vienna to celebrate Melissa's birthday. I only went for one night, but it was AMAZING!

The day started out brightly in Saalfelden

but got greyer and greyer as I went to Vienna. I arrived at Westbahnhof 4 hours 45 minutes later and went to check in at the Wombats Base Hostel. Stupidly, I had forgotten to find out where it was in Vienna :S but luckily the info desk at the train station had a map and it wasn't actually far away.

After checking in, I decided I better find out where the birthday girl Melissa, and the others, Mallory, Ruth and Mat, were! I'd never met Ruth or Mat before and hadn't spoken to Mal but they all made me feel welcome and it was really nice hanging out with them! It took me a while to find them though... They told me to meet them at Karlsplatz and the station is LITERALLY a maze! There were around 8 different exits, all interlinked underground so I could not find where Mel and the gang were. I came up at the Opera house at one point:

But they weren't there and in the end, I decided to meet them on the platform (which at least I managed to do)!
As everyone was hungry, we went to the oldest restaurant in Vienna (something they'd learnt on a carriage trip earlier) called Gösser Bierklinik.

It was a really nice place and I had the biggest schnitzel ever! So big, the side of potato salad had to to on a separate plate!


After food, we had a slight walk around before heading to Prater, a park with a large funfair. I went on 3 rides - the log flume, big wheel (pictured at top) and the 'chairoplane'.

The view from the big wheel:

After meeting up with a few of Ruth's friends we decided to return to the hostel and get ready for the night out.
Everyone at the fair

Playing drinking games at the hostel bar:

We went to the Titanic club which was pretty good (by European club standards) coz it had two rooms - one playing extremely clubby remixes of recent songs and one playing more R&B/rap songs - so we went between them a few times, but still in comparison to a Brit club it wasn't THAT good! But had a really good night and we all went home the next day, playing the fun 'Who Am I?' game on the train which created a lot of giggles! GREAT WEEKEND!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

♪There's Not Much Going On Today... ♪

So, I'm now into my last five weeks of Austria!

Came back on Easter Monday, after a good flight from Manchester to Munich and a train journey down to Saalfelden. I flew with Lufthansa,

for a reasonable €78 and they were AMAZING! Was really impressed with it all. Firstly, the air stewards were German, so gave instructions in German and English, something of a novelty after flying on Ryanair so many times! Secondly, the seats were weirdly small and thin looking, but INCREDIBLY comfy and there were not one, but TWO back seat pockets! In the upper one, there was an interesting magazine about Lufthansa as a company and the technology used in its planes, something I thought again was novel and entertaining, because the magazine usually contains info about destinations the company flies to and some out-of-date news. Next came the winner... FOOD AND DRINK!!! As mentioned before, Ryanair and Easyjet have been my airlines of choice lately, due to their low prices etc., but food is never included in the price, you have to pay double the normal shop price for Pringles, a Kit-Kat or a sandwich e.g. So getting a 'free' Thai wrap and orange juice was just SO special, I almost weeped with joy! Not only was it free, it tasted amazing!

After landing in Munich, I was certain a guy stood on the shuttle bus in front of me was a footballer. He had shades on, a bit of a mohican and a dyed blonde stubbley goatee and was also wearing a smart tracksuit (as smart as you can imagine) and some serious bling! I heard him speaking on the phone in English and French, asking if someone would pick him up from the airport (which seemed a logical, footballer-ish thing to do) and he reminded me most of Djibril Cisse... So, if you hear anything about Cisse moving to a Munich football team, let me know!

Was he on my plane?

I had planned to travel to Munich Hauptbahnhof then go to Salzburg and swap to Saalfelden but this cost €62! Well expensive, in my opinion! So went for the next train instead (which was actually a bit quicker) and swapped at Munich Ostbahnhof and then Wörgl (as usual!). Arriving at Munich Ost, I bumped into one of my teachers, who was also travelling home to Saalfelden. What a coincidence, eh? So chatted with her the rest of the journey back, which defo made the hour wait in Wörgl go a lot quicker!
I also managed to share a taxi back to the HIB with some schoolkids so was a lot cheaper than usual :) awesome!

After a long journey, I was totally knackered and went to bed fairly early, even though I knew I didn't have any lessons the next day.

And this is where I have a slight moan! Not had any lessons since being back yet, and don't have any tomorrow. WELL ANNOYING! Could've stayed at home another 3 days... Ok, I did miss one lesson on Tuesday, but that's because it isn't a regular lesson, I had no note of it in my diary or on my timetable and there must have been only a verbal 'agreement' that lasted 5 mins of the last week here, as there was no email suggesting it or reminding me to attend the lesson! ARGH!

So have instead been using my time to write my essay. I say writing my essay, I have instead been a bit distracted by the internet, rewatching Doctor Who from Saturday

LINK: The Impossible Astronaut (6x1)

as well as other things i.e. playin Monopoly Millionaires on Facebook... :S O well. At least the lack of 'work' means I can 'work' on my essay.

Monday, 4 April 2011


I have been so lazy lately and haven't updated my blog in a very very long time... SORRY GUYS! :S

Two weeks ago, I went to Munich, the capital city of Bavaria and industry in Germany, to visit my good friend Lara. I arrived on Friday night and went straight to the Hofbräuhaus for food and a Maß (litre of beer!). This building has been standing for over 400 years and was where Hitler held Nazi meetings and functions. It was also where the 'Beer Hall Putsch' of 1923 took place. So it had a special atmosphere! We met up with 4 of Lara's friends, who were all really nice but it was difficult to talk to them because there was an Oompah band playing in the hall so it meant we had to shout to have a conversation!

After we had eaten our food and drunk our beer, Lara and I went to a little grunge-y bar to meet some of her other friends. It was very alternative and was jam-packed with people! We had another couple of beers here, perched on one chair because there weren't enough for everyone and sharing a table with some intense-looking Germans. Again, it was a bit hard to have a conversation because it was so loud but I enjoyed it!

Next, we visited a bigger club. No idea what it was called but I remember getting student entry so it wasn't too expensive! :D They played Waka Waka, at which point I HAD to text whoever I could think of who was in Barcelona last summer, and I had a good dance/sing along! We left around 2/3ish and stopped off at McDonalds for a late night snack. I had a burger meal which was pretty nice but got steadily colder and more greasy-tasting on the walk home... YUM.

The next day, we went on a walk around the Olympiapark and went up the Olympiaturm.
We walked through the athlete's village and saw the memorial for the Israeli athletes

then got a kebab. I EVEN asked for onions and lettuce in mine, and garlic sauce! :O What a change for me!

We eventually reached the actual Olympic stadium bit with the Olympiaturm. There was some kind of Crufts show going on coz there were millions of dogs there but we didn't see any tricks or skills as they were happening inside the buildings :(

We went up the tower and got a pretty good view of the city.

After the Olympiapark, we walked round the corner to the BMW World. This is any car or bike fanatics paradise. There's loads of fancy cars and bikes to see and sit in as well as interactive areas where you can learn about new technologies used in the cars and generally play around with things. It was ACE! Me and Lara both had to have a photo with a bike...

and this was my favourite car:

We headed into the main square, Marienplatz and had a walk through the Englischer Garten on Sunday. I took loadsa tourist-y photos but here's a couple:
This is the new Rathaus:

and this is the old one:

I don't really know why they felt the need to replace it, other than to show off Gothic architecture! Oh well!

All in all, I had a great time. It was fun socialising and I really liked the city in general. I'm looking forward to going back there soon! :)

Monday, 14 March 2011

♪ Bite my lip and close my eyes, take me away to paradise! ♪

Nothing really exciting been happening in Saalfelden lately...

Last weekend, I made the well-delayed voyage to Kik. It was further away than I expected but well worth the visit coz I bought a jigsaw, headphones, a cheese grater and some sponges for the washing up! Pretty good for about 6 euros altogether! BARGAIN! I don't have too much faith in the headphones, but they only cost a euro so they're very disposable!

While I was over the far side of town, I also had a look round Kika (an Ikea style shop) and Intersport XXXXL! Was considering buying a football coz it's such nice weather at the moment and really miss playing football but the cheapest they had was 10 euros! Where's the cheapo £3 ball eh?!

This weekend I managed to find some rollerblades in the shoe cupboard so did a bit of rollerblading! I say 'did a bit of' rollerblading; I literally mean that! I just did a few laps round the big empty table tennis room then gave up before I could damage myself (or any of the equipment!). I enjoyed it and will try and go again when I next have time!

I have been helping my teachers go through some of their classes' 'Schularbeit' and it's so much harder to think of the proper English than I thought it would be! I have to think really hard whether some of the sentences make sense, as I feel like I 'translate' their sentences into proper English as I read them. Hopefully I've been a good English person and have corrected their answers correctly!

On another note Arsenal have had a terrible fortnight being knocked out of the FA Cup against Man United and the Champions League against Barcelona. The matches were completely different - against Barca, we were the underdogs and from the start could barely string 2 passes together. We miraculously had Fabregas and Van Persie back from injury but Fab was at fault for their first goal and Van Persie got a controversial 2nd yellow card for attempting a shot one second after the whistle went for offside. Our two 'key' players out and we cracked, letting them score 2 more goals for the score to be 3-1 on the night (3-2 on agg.). The stats after the match showed how utterly pathetic we were - for the first time in Champions League history, a team registered no shots (our goal was an own goal). Terrible! Perhaps we could've held onto 1-1 if Van Persie stayed on and gone through on aggregate but Barca were just too strong and it was almost inevitable that we would lose.

The Man United match was a different story. A case of bad luck rather than losing to the better team. For most of the match we dominated, creating shooting chances and keeping possession much better than against Barcelona. Edwin Van Der Sar won man of the match for his performance, so we must have been doing something right. But as always, luck was against us and a couple of counter attacks either side of the half time break meant we lost 2-0 and were dumped out of the FA Cup. Man Utd are a good team (they were playing seven defenders, O'Shea, Fabio and Rafael all playing in midfield, leaving Scholes, Giggs and Valencia as reliable back-up on the bench) but we played better generally and if only we could find that finishing touch we would've won. Our team just isn't strong enough - in depth or in quality. We have good up-and-coming players but they need more good role-models, players who have tasted success and are hungry for more. Otherwise, we aren't going to win anything for a long time. Fingers crossed for the Premier League....

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

♫ How do you solve a problem like the Arsenal? ♪

After a shocking Carling Cup Final defeat by Birmingham, there are now three opportunities for Arsenal to finally win a trophy for that ever-bare looking cabinet: the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Premier League. As a fan, I would love Arsenal to win them all but I severely doubt it’s possible, as we have just reached that inevitable point in our season where our key players have gotten themselves injured (Fabregas and Van Persie are prime examples) and there’s a lot of blame to be shouldered by Wenger’s transfer policy (why hasn’t he bought a solid, world-class defender or goalkeeper in the last three seasons?).

The FA Cup: I would say this is our best chance because we ‘only’ have to beat Leyton Orient, but as we have already seen, they are true fighters and Arsenal LOVE to throw away a lead (nobody mention Newcastle). I believe beating Orient is possible, especially as we’re at home for the replay, but we have to be at our best and this may not be possible with Van Persie currently ruled out for three weeks after damaging his knee in the Carling Cup Final and Cesc on the sidelines after pulling a hamstring. Jack Wilshere has really stepped up to the level of Premier League football and he was our best player against Birmingham so I believe he will play a key role in the Orient match, thereby lessening the effect of Fabregas’ withdrawal. However, Bendtner and Chamakh have not been up to scratch lately and I worry where we will get goals from.

A further disadvantage of our FA Cup run is that we potentially face Man Utd in the next round which will be played next Saturday. Firstly, Man Utd are always going to be tough to beat and secondly, this will form part of ‘KILLER WEEK!’, as I have affectionately decided to call it, which includes the 2nd leg of the Champions League match against Barcelona.

Although I am fairly confident we will beat Orient, the prospect of Man Utd in the next round is daunting and I’m sure the players feel it too.

The Champions League: As I mentioned above, if Arsenal progress in the FA Cup, they will face Man Utd and a so-called ‘KILLER WEEK!’ will take place. Two big matches in the space of 5 days could mean players lose focus, not to mention the increased risk of injury through fatigue, for either or both of the matches. On the positive side, Arsenal won the 1st leg 2-1 at home which boosted confidence in this young team, as Barcelona are widely regarded as the best club football team on the planet. However, this leads to the fact that the away leg is at Camp Nou, an awe-inspiring stadium, and as commentators say ‘It’s a game of two halves’ i.e. anything could happen in the 2nd leg; Arsenal haven’t won the tie yet.

This is perhaps the competition I feel least confident about. Like I said, Barca are in my opinion the best team in the world, playing at their home ground in front of thousands of their fans against an Arsenal team missing key players. Worrying!

And finally, the Premier League: This is perhaps the most do-able for Arsenal as it isn’t a knock-out competition and if we get knocked out of the other competitions, we can focus all our attention on winning the most coveted title in England: Premier League Champions. Admittedly, we face at least three big clubs in our last dozen matches, Man Utd, Tottenham and Liverpool, but we should have our key players back to fitness by then and we often play better against our main rivals. At the time of writing, Man Utd have just had a 6 point lead ahead of Arsenal reduced to 3, thanks to Chelsea. If Man Utd lose just one more of their matches, I truly believe we have what it takes to overcome this 3-point deficit.

So, if I had to make a decision on which one I’d like Arsenal to win most, I’d say the Champions League. It’s a truly spectacular occasion when you beat Barcelona and if we managed to beat them outright, the other teams will seem easy in comparison.

However, if I am being realistic, I’d say the Premier League. Man Utd have slipped up now, giving Arsenal a glimpse of hope at overtaking them and becoming League champions for the first time since the 2003/4 season. I don’t think Arsenal always perform well in cup situations (Wenger for the first time in many years didn’t use the Carling Cup as a platform to ‘blood’ youth players into the first team and despite getting to the final with our regular starting line up, we still didn’t win) but when we have 12-15 league games left, even if we only win 90% of them it’s possible to win the league. We just need a little bit of luck for the results of our competitors to go our way. And this year, I feel LUCKY!!!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Yo-Yo-ing in Saalfelden

Despite the playful title, this is going to be a slightly annoyed post! Today, I was meant to have two lessons in my school (normally I have three but that teacher had already told me I wasn't needed) but both got called off.

Both of these classes are split into two and have two teachers, so if one teacher's off, I can usually arrange to go with the other teacher for that week. My first teacher told me late last night that he wasn't going to be here so I should be in the other half of the class, so a.s.a.p I emailed the other teacher asking what the class were studying and whether I should prepare something for tomorrow. Now this was at 9.30 and I kept patiently clicking on my inbox, getting more and more frustrated as it neared 10.30, the dreaded time when the internet goes off. (Despite my cries of 'No-one tells me when to go to bed!', 'GO TO BED SPOTTY!' is the message I hear)

So the internet went off and I've still not heard from the other teacher. Or the teacher of my 2nd class... So far, so 'bad-looking'!

But I decided I should be more responsible so I set my alarm for 7.40 and when it went off, I got up and ready for work (somewhat tired and not really fancying a day of work where I have no real idea what I should be doing!). I went across to the school a few mins before the first class and talked to my teacher. She had no idea I'd been told to work with her today; she expected me to take the other class on my own! So after a couple of suggestions of what I could do, I suggested I do her lesson next week, seeing as she seemed slightly disappointed about the idea of the kids missing out on the amount of work she'd prepared for their lesson. So: First lesson - OFF!

I went back to my room as I had nothing better to do in school. GUITAR PRACTICE!

I headed off again about 40 mins later. I talked to the teacher I was meant to be with today, but he said he wanted me in his class last week and he'd prepared lots about a new topic for his class today therefore, again, there was no point in me going! So: Second lesson - OFF!

The alternative teacher for the second lesson had already left the staff room when I found out I wasn't needed in the original class and this guy never really seems to want me in his class (even when it's a scheduled week) so I thought it was futile trying to find him and trying to persuade him that I, totally unprepared, deserved to be in his lesson.

As I was leaving the school for the second time of the day, my teacher for tomorrow came up to me and said 'Are you free after this lesson? Lets talk about tomorrow!' so reluctantly I agree. This meant another return to school after another 40 mins... But during this unexpected period of free-time I managed to watch an episode of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES!!!

A productive day so far...

So for the third time today, I went back to school, spent about 5 mins waiting for this teacher then spent less than 30 seconds discussing tomorrow's class. Awesome. Having nothing else to do in school, I returned home feeling like a really valuable asset. A Yo-Yo in fact.

On the plus side, I managed to spot a book about the Austrian economy on my way out, which I thought might come in useful for any statistics I use in my Year Abroad Essay. One statistic: 5 teachers in 3 hours = no work for Amy.