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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Famous Austrians: Marie-Antoinette

Marie-Antoinette is famous for being the last queen of France. As the youngest child of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Franz I of Austria, however, it should be obvious (especially to those of you who saw the Sofia Coppola verson) that this archduchess and eventual queen spent her youth in the Habsburg residence in Vienna, Hofburg (just down the street from the Museums Quartier, for those interested in taking a tour) and the summer home of Schönbrunn. However, despite how Sofia characterizes her in the film, Marie-Antoinette spoke German and French growing up, as well as Italian, and did not have to learn the language upon her marriage to Louis XVI. That's just a bit of an exaggeration. Perhaps done because Kirsten Dunst played her.

Other interesting facts: the film correctly portrayed her party-girl persona; and the fact that the French didn't really like her (and called her names like l'Autruchienne: ostrich-bitch, a play on l'Autrichienne: Austrian woman); also, she was basically betrothed to the dauphin Louis because too many of her sisters died of smallpox or were already betrothed to other royals and, thus, she was the only one left when France came a-calling. This may be one of the reasons it took seven years to consummate the marriage.    

Possibly the first to establish "shabby chic" as a fashion choice, what with her penchant for "farming" at Petit Trianon and the robe à la polonaise, Madame Antoinette was way ahead of her time in the world of fashion. Perhaps too far ahead, which made the French dislike her more! Not interested in much more than fashion or cakes (well, she was Austrian), poor Marie-Antoinette ended up being somebody's political stool pigeon throughout her reign, from the Affair of the Diamond Necklace (thanks to that bitch Madame du Barry), to the dubious attribution "Let them eat cake" - it seems she never got a break. Until the end that is, when she did get one: right on her neck.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's in a name?

Austrians are really into nicknames.

I don't quite get it myself. I was skeptical when students asked me what my nickname was at the beginning of the year, and surprised when they told me everyone - everyone - has a nickname in Austria.

I had to tell them, simply, that I go by Vanessa. Period.

I do not have some odd variant or shortened pseudonym. But, in Austria, this is weird. Why go by your full name, which is confusing and repetitive (since 80% of them share their name with some Catholic saint), when you can go by something much more fun? And personalized?

For example:
Johann/Johannes/Hans = Hansi, Hannes, Hansel, Jo-Jo.
Franz = Franzi, Fritz
Georg = Gegi, Girgl, Jorgi, Schorschi (only in Vienna)

Magdalena = Maggi, Lena, Leni, Maxi
Anna = Anja, Anka, Nanna, Nannerl (for older women)
Elisabeth = Lissi, Lieserl, Sisi, Betti, Elsi

...and so forth.

If there is more than one Johann in class, one is Hansi and the other is Jo-Jo...keeping in mind that the kids stay in the same class from practically the beginning of their school careers, these monikers are something they will have for the rest of their lives, presumably, and, thus, careful thought should be gone into how one would like to be called. The kids' absolute favorite thing is to call each other by their nicknames to confuse me (because I only have a list of their given names). But I can outsmart them yet! Wait until I start using "Schnapsi" and "Kobi" and "Lieserl" and "Topsi" on them...

Nothing freaks out a teenager like a teacher knowing what they're up to...mwahaha!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Salzburg Churches

 More of Salzburg! Particularly its famous churches:

#1 - The Cathedral
#2 - The Franziskaner (Franciscan)  Church
#3 - Nonnburg Abbey church

...more on Salzburg

Considering my last post was a bit truncated (in words, not pictures, obviously!) I figure I owe my audience a bit more concerning Salzburg.

We arrived by train at around 10:30 (having left at 8am from Amstetten). There were a few over-indulgers from the night before - Russian students taking advantage of the low drinking age in Austria - who nursed hangovers (asleep, passed out or otherwise) on the train ride. I sat with the teachers, Gabi and Elisabeth from the HAK, and the Russian administrator who accompanied the group, Masha.

Salzburg really is spectacular - and as I've already said, the weather was amazing (even if sort of creepy considering the time of year - global warming, anyone?)

Once we arrived, we took a trip around the grounds of Schloss Mirabell (first photos), and then walked to the town square where we toured Mozart's birth house (yellow house in photos - hard to miss). We took a tour of the house. I went with the Russians, because Gabi suggested I take the "easy German" tour.

It was interesting, but rather pared down - the tour guide wanted to make sure we understood everything. There is no furniture from when the Mozarts lived there (he brought it with him when he went to Vienna - didn't much care for Salzburg in the end), and no Mozarts are still living in Salzburg (W.A. Mozart's sons never had children) but there is a branch of the family living in Germany - cousins of Papa Mozart - somewhere in Bavaria, I forget.

The one original large piece they have at the house is a harpsichord Mozart bought off of a relative of his wife. They also have the violin he first learned on (it's a mini -for a 5-year-old!) and it is still playable - used for special occasions! We were not allowed to take pictures in the house. Thus, I have pictures of everything else, but not the harpsichord or the violin...

After the Mozart house, we wandered around Salzburg looking at the churches and cathedrals. There are lots, and the bulk of my photos have each of the three we saw. Since it was a Sunday, church was in session, so I had to be sneaky!

(NB: I have so many pictures, I thought I would spread them up over several posts...after realizing just how many I took...)

Then, the Russians and the Austrians met up and split off into preordained pairs (they are supposed to be getting language instruction/practice out of these weeks abroad, after all) and the teachers and I went to lunch at a great little restaurant (very typical Austrian - I had a salad with fried goat cheese and a beer for lunch). For dessert we went to the Fürst cafe, which boasts the original Mozart Kugel handmade in the back. They were quite tasty. I had one with a Verlängerter (a large espresso with milk on the side) - quickly becoming my signature coffee order in Austria.

From lunch, we went to the Hohensalzburg castle - high above the city on Festungsberg, built by the archbishop of Salzburg starting in 1077. [the photos in this post!] It's been used for centuries as a fortress, an abbey, a barracks, storage for military supplies - among other things - from the Thirty Years' War through World War II. It remains one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe. There is also a cable car that goes up to the top, but we walked.

A working well                    ----->

After the castle it was time to go home - and I was seriously ready. Not that the kids aren't great, but, you know. Taking care of 50 teenagers is a chore. Especially when you'd like to assume they can take care of themselves. ;)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


On Sunday, I accompanied the visiting Russian students and the 4th form to Salzburg for an exciting day of sightseeing. It was quite...interesting. Salzburg is a beauftiful city - gorgeous scenery, historical wonders, and a damn good Mozart Kugel. We also had fabulous weather (50s Farenheit in JANUARY?!? some people tell me this is normal for Austria because of some Mediterranean wind pattern...) Anyway, judge for yourself!