02/11/16 – Zwei Monate noch

My trip to Denmark went really well and I had such a great time with Mathias, his family and his friends. I was lucky enough to stay with him in his hometown of Hørnslett, just outside of Aarhus, where I met with his father, his sister and his step-mother. All very nice people who were warm and welcoming towards me. Upon arrival, Mathias took me out for lunch, and then we had to attend a ‘tough-man marathon’ in which we helped set up and organise the event as to ensure everything ran smoothly. It was terribly cold and wet, however I managed to stick with some of Mathias’ classmates who provided good company. We also travelled to the west coast in Mathias’ car, so that we could visit his mother who lives there and check out the beaches and a different section of Denmark that I would have otherwise not seen. Again, his mother and step-father were exceptionally nice people and in the sense of being in Denmark, we ate a lot of raw fish! We also stumbled across dozens of huge concrete bunkers which lay in ruins along the coastline, protruding out of sand dunes and scaring the landscape. They were built by the Germans during the Second World War and we had a lot of fun exploring inside them. I also developed an obsession with a Danish chocolate milk called Cocio while in Denmark, which is probably one of the best drinks I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. We visited many small fishing villages together, went for long walks and played monopoly together. Mathias even showed me a very good Danish film, set on the Danish west coast where we were, about how they used German prisoners to clear the beaches of Denmark of land-mines. Mathias and I then travelled back to his hometown of Hørnslet, and we met up with his friend Asgar who I soon established a friendship with aswell. On one occasion, Mathias had to work in the evening at the local supermarket and so Asgar took me out to the gym, saving my from boredom, and he also took me to a beach and a local castle. I also went clubbing with the two of them. Upon the second last day in Denmark I met with Emil, Mathias’ older brother, who drove with us down to Copenhagen the day before my flight back to Austria. We stayed with Mathias’ uncle who was an exceptionally nice man and an even better cook! We had the best spinach soup I have ever had and we had substantial conversations over the dinner table that night. The next morning we all said our goodbyes and I travelled to Copenhagen with Mathias and Emil to do some sightseeing.  All in all it was really nice to see Mathias again and see the way in which he lives his life, after having had him in New Zealand where I was the one doing the ‘showing.’ We have already made plans to meet up again soon and I look forward to that with great eagerness.

 

I returned to Sankt Veit / Glan on Saturday, the same day as my Matura Ball, in which I would perform a waltz with my dance partner, Anna Wister. We met up beforehand were we desperately practiced the routine a handful of times to ensure I would not embarrass the two of us on stage later than night. Anyway, it all went very well and everyone had an exceptionally awesome night. The dance went well, and we even performed a hip-hop dance routine at midnight which proved to be great fun. My host family was there, and everyone was dressed so smart, so it was quite impressive for them. Jim also attended the ball with his family as guests, and it was really nice. The next morning I had a game in Vienna with my rugby team, however I unfortunately overslept and let the team down to which I feel very guilty about. We have a training tomorrow night, and then a game against Leoben on Saturday in Klagenfurt and I hope I am able to redeem myself and make it up to all the guys there. My coach was quite annoyed but understandably so.

The month of October was exceptionally busy, and I was constantly preoccupied by many different amazing things and opportunities. The Monday after my ball, I travelled north to the city of Linz alongside Jim and Ricardo – two other exchange students in my state of Kärnten. We were heading off to stay with J-Max in preparation for the start of the Rotary organised event titled ‘City-Tour.’ We stayed the night in Linz and then very early in the morning, boarded a bus by the main station, and began a very long journey towards Prague. There we had a guided city tour of the castle, the narrow streets and a handful of famous cathedrals and bridges. The city was much larger than I had imagined it to have been, with roughly 2 million people and packed with tourists, it was busy and vibrant. The skyline of Prague is also littered with thousands of spires and red-roofed buildings which give it a distinct, yet beautiful, appearance. We were granted free time – which became the norm in every city we visited on this trip – and so Jim, Gui and I seized the opportunity to grab some food and explore some more of the streets. That same day, we were back on the bus heading for Dresden – my favourite of the three cities visited. Arriving in the dark, I was shuffled down the street with the general crowd of us, all in all roughly 70 exchangers, towards the hotel. I ended up sharing a room with Sam from New Zealand, and we surprisingly managed to fall asleep relatively early. The next day we were chaperoned around the city by a German tour guide who took us to all the sites and tourist attractions one would expect to visit in Dresden. She was a very nice lady and helpful with our questions, telling of the history in a very accessible manner. The city of Dresden was severely bombed by the Americans in the Second World War, and not much managed to survive the bombings, however the grand cathedrals and a few palaces within the old city survived. It was such a nice city to be in, and we could navigate ourselves around the whole city within an afternoon, which we did during our granted free-time. Lastly we heading for the capital of Germany, Berlin itself. Rich with an exceptionally interesting history, we spent four hours on a guided bus tour and visited many infamous landmarks such as the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie. We luckily had two nights in the capital and so managed to see a great deal of the city, I even had the chance to buy a handful of souvenirs including a T-Shirt from Checkpoint Charlie and a handful of stickers. I managed to even squeeze in a tour of a grand museum within the Museum island situated in the heart of the city, near to the Berlin dome. I toured the city with Jim, Owen and Kenna. It was such a wonderful experience, and although it was a very busy 4 days, we managed to see an incredible amount of things as-well as spending time with my exchange friends.

As of now I am heading back to school tomorrow after so long away, and such a long school break over the Halloween weekend. I am excited to see everyone again and get a sense of routine back after so much travelling. I have also started to workout at the gym again regularly. My host family are making my exchange exceptionally enjoyable and are very kind and sweet. I am under the impression that we get on well! Looking forward, I am busy organising all the documentation and enrolment information so that I may begin selecting my courses at the University of Auckland. I am going to be so deeply upset to say goodbye to my life here in Austria within the coming two months, however I know that this experience is going to come to an end, and so with that in mind I am eager and willing to move forward with my life and the amazing experiences which await me in the future.

Liebe Gruße,

Adam

 

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Denmark 14/10/16

I am currently on a bus in Denmark heading north to the city of Aarhus to meet my good friend Mathias after so many years spent apart. I am sure many of you reading this blog will remember him from Macleans College when he attended the school as an exchange student. I am confident that we will have a good time together and connect just as well as we did before! I actually arrived yesterday morning in Copenhagen and had to stay the night in a hostel which was luckily located near the main station from which this bus departed from. I spent yesterday exploring the city and its various open squares and narrow streets. The architecture is unlike that of Austria with a lot of red brick faced constructions and Slavic like influences. I managed to pick up a few souvenirs and I even managed to meet up with my previous host brother in New Zealand, Sebastian! He was involved in a large protest in the city centre, where protests were underway regarding the governments decision to cut the financial benefits given to students. It was great to be out with him despite it being a very cold day. Denmark is also unbelievably expensive to travel too! It’s about 30 Kroners for a coffee, which equates to $5 USD. Now I look forward to the rest of my experiences in Copenhagen, and then when I return to Austria on the 21st to resume my exchange, I have my school ball on the 22nd to look forward to. 


I also recently attended the Vienna weekend with Rotary back on the 7th of October, and it was enjoyable and entertaining to be amongst the other exchangers who I am so close to after 9 months shared in Austria. We attended an Italian Opera, spend the Saturday sightseeing through Vienna and visited the Schönbrunn Palace – the seat of the Habsburg emperors. We were even lucky enough to be granted a guided tour through the Austrian parliament in the capital city which was rather interesting. Always a nice occasion to be with other exchange students. The inbound students in Hungary were also invited to Vienna and were hosted by us, having ties with the Habsburg Empire it was interesting for them to see a bit of the history within the historic capital of the once very large Austro-Hungarian empire. I managed to exchange a lot of pins with them all and so my rotary blazer is starting to fill up! 

Just a short post to keep everyone updated. Will write again soon.

LG, Adam 

22/09/2016

Just a short entry to my blog, so that I may share my experiences in Tauplitz with you all and my week at GIBS international school in Graz. 

Last weekend I travelled from Klagenfurt main station to Tauplitz at 11:39 in the morning, alongside me were my good friends Jim and Owen. A handful of other exchangers in the area joined us on our way to Tauplitz as-well, making our journey a little more enjoyable. We packed food and drinks in our bags, played music and chatted throughout the journey which comprised a total of three change overs, an hour stop in a town named Leoben and a total of four hours of our day. While in Leoben we ventured out into the city to see a bit of the town, keeping a close eye on the clock to make sure we returned to the train station in time. There was a festival of sorts in the main square and I was intrigued to see a group of Austrian rugby players recruiting people off the street! I spoke with them for a bit and they seemed to know me, having heard from others in my state that I play rugby for the Kärnten Tigers. They had a scrum machine set up, were passing balls around and had even managed to attract a fairly large crowd. We moved on, buying cheap lunch and more drinks then returning to the train station to continue onwards to Tauplitz!

Upon arrival at the train station named ‘Bad Mittendorf‘ we found a bus parked, packed with all the other exchange students from across Austria and we were warmly welcomed by those on board. It was nice to be able to catch up with all my friends, especially the oldies who I am more familiar with. The majority of the newbies I had not yet met, however the weekend would involve a lot of socialising and by the end we were all relatively good friends. Rotary officials were present, and were eager to chat and catch up. They were surprisingly very relaxed and curfew was not strictly enforced. The idea of the meeting in Tauplitz was initially to hike, although the weather significantly hampered our abilities to carry out hikes that lasted longer than four or so hours. The views were beautiful, but limited due to fog and grey skies. The majority of the weekend was spent in our hotel rooms, playing music and cards, socialising and eating. We spent meals in the dining room amongst our friends, and banter was of the best quality! We were ultimately stuck in a hotel, at 1600m above sea-level with little to do due to poor weather conditions. It was fun nonetheless. On the Saturday night we boarded a ‘tractor-train‘ in the dark, and drove for 20 minutes in the pouring rain and howling wind to restaurant where we were given a coke and invited to ‘party‘ in Rotary style… Loud Spanish music played off someones iPhone and one soda drink for the duration of the night, which lasted until 22:00… The next day we met with Rotary officials who discussed things such as school and families with us, a simple check-in on how we are doing and our German levels. One by one, the groups of us travelling on different trains to various corners of Austria left the hotel. I was heading for Graz, to start my week-long stay at the GIBS international school to which I had been invited.

 

 

I travelled to Graz and met with my host-sister, Sarah Jagoditsch and my host-father Michael Jagoditsch. We all shuffled our way up staircases and up elevators to the apartment on the third floor of a housing estate. A very nice spacious apartment with all the essentials. Cosy! I started at the school of GIBS for the week, a very international based school with history lessons being taught in French. I have attended Russian classes, Spanish classes and a history class in which the girl next to me answered a phone call in fluent Russian. Students at GIBS come from all corners of the globe, and saying I am from New Zealand is not so exotic as it may sound in my small hometown of Sankt Veit… I would assume about 1/3 of the kids in my class have been abroad! I even met a boy who is from some obscure country in central Asia. The days are quite boring though, not knowing anyone and being there for only a week no sort of lasting friendships could possibly be established, however it is a good experience nonetheless. Michael, my host-father, kindly bought me a week pass for the trams that run through the city which has proven very useful! He has also taken Sarah and I out for dinner on more than one occasion to some very nice restaurants where today I ate the biggest pizza of my life! I spend a lot of my time after school with Jake and other exchange students who live in the city. Graz is truly one of my favourite places on earth. It is so beautiful, with so many things to do and places to see. Not too big, not too small. It has a river, the Mur, flowing through it. Beautiful walkways etc. I can’t say much for the city – I am not a writer or a journalist – however I feel that photos express more than words in this case.

                                                              Jake and I exploring

I will now be travelling back home soon and am excited for the upcoming week of celebrations surrounding the so fondly talked about ‘Wiesenmarkt.’ This is a week in Sankt Veit of great celebrations and partying. A tradition that goes back hundreds of years apparently. I have been asked to help out at a Rotary stall in town on Sunday for a seven hour shift which I am more than willing to do. I will of course be wearing my blazer and hopefully it is not too hot! I also managed to muster enough money to pay for my Rotary tour to Berlin, Prague and Dresden at the end of October and have successfully managed to fill in all the paperwork etc. I spoke to Doris Weidenholzer regarding my hopeful trip to Denmark to see my friend Mathias, and she has given me the ‘all clear’ however I am doubtful that I will be able to afford the flight from Vienna to Copenhagen – I will do my best as an exchange student. Other than that I am sorting out my state travel card which is a nightmare because I am not a citizen of Austria and so I have to visit several government offices to confirm certain insignificant details. My host family are very nice and make me feel welcome here where I am. I cannot thank enough the people who help make my exchange possible. Very grateful.

LG, Adam 

11/09/2016

I have settled easily into the Jagoditsch family and am comfortable with where I am. They are very nice and go out of their way to help me with chores and other things, and frequently drive me to the train station or to meet with friends – a necessity considering the rural location of the village which has no train station. I have my own room though, with a big double bed and a desk to work from, not that I do any work, but if I happened to feel the need… My host brother David recently returned from an exchange year in New Zealand up in Northland, and he is in the same class as I in school. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone in ‘New Zealanderish‘ and have someone in the household and school who understands the cultural differences between these two beautiful countries. Someone I can relate to.

We often play board games with the family, a total of four children live in the house not-including myself, and so games are always interesting and fiercely contested between siblings. The family also choose to speak only Deutsch with me which greatly helps my language skills and has also given me that edge of confidence to converse with others in German. Including those at school. We recently travelled to Großglockner, the tallest mountain in Austria – standing at just under 3800m. It is a colossal giant at the eastern region of the European Alps, lying conveniently in my state of Kärnten. It was a beautiful experience and we were lucky enough to be granted a clear and warm day. The views were outstanding, I really can’t do much to describe the region, but I can safely safe that the mountain dwarfs man and truly humbles oneself. My host father was kind enough to buy me an Edelweiß pin for my Rotary blazer at a souvenir shop atop Großglockner. He also took my host brothers and I for Schnitzel at a restaurant and then we drove back in time for dinner that evening. A really amazing day. We have also been for a 20km off-road mountain bike ride which was an absolute nightmare. I was expecting a ‘bike ride’ which was how it was phrased, and upon walking outside to be handed a 2000 euro bike I soon realised I was in for much more. Ended up sweating my way up a hill near a small town called Althofen, was rewarded with a Cola at a Gasthof and then had the joy of covering swarths of ground downhill with minimal effort on the way home.

This previous weekend was also ‘BackHendl‘ fest in the rural community of Sankt Georgen where I live, just out of Sankt Veit where I go to school. The direct translation is ‘baked chicken’ and so on Friday I was invited for dinner at one of the festival tents with Jim, an American exchange student, and his host mother who has a daughter currently living in New Zealand on exchange. It was a nice joyous occasion and I managed to maintain a lengthy conversation in German which I am immensely proud of. Jim was a bit lost having only arrived a month ago. A lot of chicken, potatoes and beer was shared over the course of the weekend. The next day at noon I went with my host family to another location to celebrate the festive weekend with them too. It was again, filled with chicken, potatoes and beer. We were joined by some of their family friends too. On Saturday night, Jim and I went to play pool/billiard with my host brothers at an entertainment centre which included a cinema, a bowling alley and of course a bar and all of the other typical things you would expect. Figured out very quickly how bad I am at pool. Didn’t win a game. Sunk the 8 ball a few times. Owen then met with us and we went to an OktoberFest organised by the vice-Mayor of Sankt Veit (Rudi Egger) and met with many of my friends and had a very fun night. We then came home in the early morning with a Taxi and my family kindly hid a key for me to get back inside, and had laid a mattress out for Owen. Jim, living close by in Sankt Georgen, returned home.

As I am sure you have gathered, school is back and today was my first day back. It’s a new school year and I am dreading the next few months at school. It consists of me sitting at a desk and learning German by myself with no engagement with teachers. It is however a good opportunity to be social and interact with other kids. We have a school prom on the 22nd of October and so we have dancing lessons after school occasionally. I am dancing with a girl named Anna Wister. My host brother David, who was in New Zealand on exchange is in the same class as I. I am also going to be attending Rugby trainings with the Kärnten state rugby team and hopefully get the opportunity to play a few games to maintain my fitness which I have been putting off for quite a while… haha. I am leaving to catch a train in about two hours to attend the first of the trainings, but unfortunately I have had to borrow boots from a friend and they are in poor condition, so I need to tape them up before trainings and games so that they don’t fall apart.

With the end of the holidays comes the end of summer, and the end of summer tickets which had granted me free travel. Autumn has arrived, however I see no physical changes to the landscape yet, and only a slight drop in the temperature. Nothing severe enough to warrant a jacket or sweater. Not yet. I am also in the process of organising a Jugend Mobil card which is given to students and gifts free travel in the state of Kärnten. It costs about 98 euro and will be of great help for me; a much needed necessity. My host brothers are also organising them so it is all working out well.

This coming weekend I am travelling to Tauplitz to engage in a Rotary hike with the newbies and the oldies. A two day trip through the mountains, and the opportunity to swim and meet up with everyone. I am also hoping to speak with Doris Weidenholzer regarding my pending trip to Denmark to see my friend Mathias. I will post some photos of the hike when I return. In regards to Rotary participation I have recently attended a Rotary meeting with my host brother David, however other than that there is not a lot of room for engagement and not too many activities to engage in.

Four months left in Austria. Ich bin nicht aufgeregt, alle meine österreichischen Freunde zu verlassen.

LG, Adam

Italy – 04/09/2016

On the 1st September my host family and I travelled to Coarle in northern Italy to spend the weekend with more of the family members – relatives from Zurich, Wein and all over Austria. It was an annual event that the family conducted every year since 2003. From what I have heard, my host-dad has only missed one of the reunions. This year there were 19 people present. It was such an amazing place, with beautiful beaches and amazing village buildings and boutique cafes, classic Italian restaurants and of course good food.

We arrived and went immediately down to the beach, swam and played around. I spent a lot of time with Pauli and my younger host brother Felix, who had in turn a good friend with him who is the son of Andreas. The man who so kindly welcomed me and Pauli to stay with him for a weekend earlier on last month. The hotel provided excellent wifi, and it even had a fresh water pool which I used to rinse off all the salt from the sea! A really good feeling to be back on the coast after so long. The last time I was at the coast was when I had visited Jesolo and Venice whilst on my Euro-Tour earlier in the year.

We went out for dinner every night, and ate fine Italian foods such as lasagne and spaghetti. I ate calamari the first night and last night, on our final evening together, I chowed a spinach pizza which may not sound exciting but it was undoubtedly tasty. We also drank a lot of wine amongst ourselves and it was all in all a very good atmosphere to be in.

We played beach volleyball from time to time. We walked inland a bit and bought fresh fruit smoothies on more than one occasion. We kept ourselves busy. Ate a lot of ice cream, got a bit burnt, and had a very relaxing time. At midday however, after lunch on the beach, Pauli and I would often retreat to our room to escape the scorching sun and rest up. It was unbearably hot. One evening, Pauli and I ventured into the city to have a drink and at 23:00 it was 27 degrees!


This morning Pauli and I woke up at 06:00 to watch the sunrise over the ocean, and it was incredible. To the east the sun rose in a pink fashion, with streaks of pink lighting up the cloudy sky. Attaching a photo for you all below!


I think I am now looking forward to the coming of an Austrian winter. Hopefully I can get some skiing in before I head back home to New Zealand in early January.

Currently I am driving back to Sankt Veit, a trip roughly three hours long, and I am dreading the idea of having to pack up all my belongings into my suitcase which is going to be an absolute tedious exercise. The reason for having to pack up everything is that I am moving to my third and final host family, the Jagoditsch family, to whom I am pleased to be staying with.
Also tomorrow is my birthday, my first without family, but I am hoping to meet up with some friends for dinner in the evening or something of the sorts..

Still waiting on my Rotary hike at Tauplitz with the newbies. I have already met with the newbies in my state of Kärnten, all of whom are really nice and relaxed, but I am looking forward to us all together in mass and as a group. School is also beginning in a weeks time unfortunately, it is quite a bore however compulsory for me. There is not so much of a school spirit as in New Zealand. Not so many school sports, no uniform or school colours. And there are no lunch time breaks or morning tea breaks. We sit beside the same people all day, with teachers coming in and out of class, until 13:10.
I tend to just sit there and learn German, or try to awkwardly start a conversation with someone next to me.
All part of the experience though I am sure.

Another short entry today, but will post more regular short blogs as to not bore those who dare to read this!

Until next time.

Liebe Grüße,
Adam

24/08/16

Recently I received my return flight details from the agency in New Zealand and I depart from Austria at 07:20 on the 7th January. I had a feeling of mixed emotions upon opening the email. Not sure how to feel about it yet.
My time abroad has taught me so many valuable lessons in life, particularly moral lessons and a broader understanding of my place within the world. I think it’s safe to assume my time away prompted me to apply for a degree in international relations and management a few days ago at the university of Auckland, to which I have already been accepted. That decision is subject to change though.
I haven’t necessarily had the greatest year in terms of academically progression, I have spent thirteen years of my life prior studying academics and so this year has been heavily weighted on getting to know myself. It sounds silly and very cliché, but it’s undoubtedly true.

Recently I have been traveling a great deal within Austria, and have spent a lot of time with friends. Owen from Australia lives near to me and we often get together. We have plenty of time with it being the summer holidays.
Newbies have also begun arriving in waves from far away countries like America, Canada, Brazil and Japan. There is a boy from America, also eighteen, who lives close by and so Owen and I took him out in Sankt Veit one evening which was enjoyable. We got to know him well and secured ourselves a friend, however he is currently on a language camp for two weeks, that which I had attended earlier in January upon arrival.

I previously stated that I would move into my third and final host family mid-August, however after consultations with my families and my councilor the more practical solution is to remain with this current family until after our family trip to Italy on the 2nd September. They are a really nice family, and my younger host brother Felix is a good laugh. We often wrestle and watch TV together, and it feels comfortable, as if I was at home. He is currently living with his mother this week though. My host father works a lot and is busy, he works as a lawyer and operates a private firm at home. Occasionally the oldest son, Pauli, comes over from his mothers house and hangs out with us. It’s a pleasurable environment for me and a great family to stay with, especially over the summer holidays. A lot of time to travel and ease of access to utilities like the train station and the gym; not that I go..

My next host family will take me early September, and they live a bit out of town with four children! They live near a lake called Längsee, however autumn will slowly be dawning on Europe and so the season for swimming will fade. Instead the lake freezes over and the leaves fall, providing scenic walks and other activities. Jim will also live within 5 minutes from my next host family, which is awesome, however I will be back at school and so not so much time on my hands anymore. The son of my next host family, the Jagoditsch family, was recently in New Zealand on an exchange year north of Auckland and so it will be nice to have him so that I can delegate any cultural misunderstandings which are commonplace!

In the near future I will be looking to book tickets for my trip to Denmark to visit my good friend Mathias, however I am still waiting on a final confirmation from my Rotary official responsible for such matters. However it shouldn’t be a problem. No doubt he and I will get on really well again. He tells me he is looking to visit NZ with his family next year February thereabouts.

Austrian rotary has also arranged a hike with both the oldies and the newbie exchange students at a mountain region called Tauplitz. It should last about two days and looks to be much fun. Our first official interaction with the newbies. Other than that not much else to tell. If anyone reading is considering a trip abroad, whether it be a week long vacation or a year abroad working or studying, I can confidentially recommend that you just get out and make it happen.

Für meine österreichischen und deutschen Freunden, ich habe so viel Deutsch gelernt, aber meine Grammatik ist nach wie vor schlecht. Hoffentlich wird es bald verbessern!

LG. Adam

Austrian lakes and English weather

Lately I have been immensely busy preoccupying myself with a variety of activities which are bound to make all of you reading this rather jealous.
It is the summer holidays in Austria for school students and so I have experienced days which have often exceeded 30 degrees Celsius which force millions of Austrians to the beautiful lakes all over the country. In my state of Kärnten, I am lucky enough to live close to both the Längsee and the Wörthesee lakes, both of which I have visited regularly with my friends and my host brother Pauli. Lakes in Austria charge an entrance fee so that the utilities may be maintained. These include water slides into the lake, toilets, artificial beaches, platforms in the water and other facilities for our enjoyment. The water is also very clear and very deep. We spend most of the day lazing around tanning, swimming and chatting about bizarre topics – summer vibes at its best.

I was also privileged enough to be invited by a Rotarian in my club named Andreas to his lakefront property for a weekend. Pauli, my host brother was invited along as well and we went water skiing and swimming. It was such a good time and he was so kind to have taken us in. We played pool inside, we played some water polo and went for a few trips along the Wörthesee lake with Andreas’ boat. He even gave us some pocket money for dinner and drinks! PokemonGo is taking Austria by storm and sadly Pauli was a bit obsessed with catching Pokemon, but it was all fun nonetheless.

I am currently on a train from Vienna heading back to my hometown of Sankt Veit an der Glan. I have been in England, London and Winchester to be exact, for the wedding of my uncle Shaun to his beautiful bride Nicky. I arrived in London to meet my father and his wife Carey, where we spent the time exploring London and shopping. The following morning we met my grandmother Joan and travelled with her to Winchester which was only about an hour south-west of London. Staying in a beautiful little pub hotel named the Wykeham Arms, we dug ourselves in for the next few nights. We socialised with the new family, met with my uncle, help set up the decorations and explored the small town – home to the Winchester cathedral, the 4th largest in Europe.
For all of you history geeks out there reading this blog, Winchester is the supposed home of King Arthur’s Camelot, and there is even a giant round table that can be seen in a museum. This legend is so deeply ingrained that even Hitler gave orders for the town not to be bombed in WW2 because he was determined to establish it as a headquarters and fervently believed in the legend of Arthur.

We spent the next day at the wedding, it started at 14:00 and was one of the most beautiful occasions I have had the pleasure of being involved in. About seventy people were there, close friends of both Shaun and Nicky, and the priest was the father of Nicky so everything was comfortable and smooth. The atmosphere too was amazing – better yet the speeches from the best man left the majority of us gasping for air as we laughed away into the evening. Dancing and partying ensued and eventually we all wandered back to our hotels and bed.
The next day the newly wed couple took a bunch of us on a walk through a beautiful park with their dog that they both own, and we made plans to have dinner in Winchester town. Again a great atmosphere and truly remarkable people who I hope to see a lot more of in the future. Nicky’s family were greatly inviting and very warm with us, and her older brothers were always down for a laugh and a beer!

On Sunday we packed and said our goodbyes, before travelling back to London. Again spending the day there, exploring and seeing the sights. Sadly I said goodbye to Joan, my grandmother, and we were down to our trio again; dad, Carey and I. Sightseeing, shopping, underground, dinner and sleep.
I rose at 0530 this morning and caught the train to Heathrow, flew back to Vienna via Frankfurt and am now nearly home. All in all a wonderful experience and an unusual one as well. I had put a year abroad on hold for a few short days, stepping back into a comfortable environment with family, leaving me a bit homesick as I travel back to Austria to engage once again in another 5 months of my year as a Rotary youth exchange student.

Now looking ahead, I will be moving into my new host family mid-August, who are the family of David Jagoditsch who has recently returned home from a year abroad in New Zealand with the same Rotary program. I have also begun planning a trip (with the consent of Rotary) to visit my good friend Mathias in Denmark in October.
For my birthday I will be in Italy with my current host family, the Verdino family, and hopefully everything goes smooth – my first birthday away from my family. I am also needing to apply for university in Auckland and a few abroad in the following week or two.

Exciting times ahead as I look forward to the remainder of my summer break, and the many trips I will be engaged with in the near future.
Until next time everybody, hopefully it won’t be such a while until I next update my blog.

Adam

Goodbye to all my friends

This week I travelled to Kitzbühel and said goodbye to the many beautiful people I will most likely never see again. The rotary exchange students who arrived last year August, the majority of whom are American, Canadian and Japanese, are heading home. We assembled on Thursday in a hotel (Gasthaus) and immediately began rehearsing our singing and dancing for a conference with the world president of Rotary. He is a man from Sri Lanka and travelled to Kitzbühel for the annual conference. We were guests and were asked to perform a variety of acts for fun, and as a reward we received dinner at the top of a mountain – we needed a gondola to reach our restaurant! During our conference we waltzed and sang traditional Austrian songs, alongside individual acts. I danced with Ofelia and it was surprisingly good and enjoyable considering we both hadn’t learnt how to waltz prior to the conference. Anyway dinner turned out to be truly amazing and worth the effort we put into our acts! We discovered that we were the only ones in the restaurant and so, as if it were the last night on earth, we partied. Music was being played and we danced and sang on the tables – a really good evening despite a few broken glasses and chairs.
That night we were given no curfew and so of course we stayed up late, played cards and hung out knowing that the following day we would be departing one another for good. It was, and still is, a really sad moment in my exchange. Although I am staying behind for another 7 months with the other students from the Southern Hemisphere, bearing witness to the emotions and sorrow of those leaving casts a looming shadow over my impending departure.
I am sure I will keep in touch with many of them and hopefully some day our paths will cross again.

I am also heading into the summer holidays which commence in 3 weeks time and I plan on buying a summer card for €39 which grants me free travel all over Austria for three months! So I plan on travelling to all the far corners of the country to explore places that may have been previously to expensive.

Recently I received exciting news from my friend Ash Rolfe and discovered that he is coming to Austria for a few days to see me. I’m not entirely sure what I will do with him but it is exciting nonetheless to bring a part of my previous world to my current world. I don’t know how else to describe it…
I am also nearing my trip to London to attend the wedding of my uncle Shaun. I am meeting up with my dad from South Africa. I’m so excited. The summer holidays look extremely exciting and I am so busy with so many things I don’t have enough time to do it all.

I hope everyone reading this is doing well. I am afraid that those of you I was close with will have changed and that we will have grown apart. However I hear all to often that when I return, it will be as if nothing has changed.

Liebe Grüße
Adam

Euro-Tour

So two weeks ago I embarked on a tour around Europe with the exchange students who are currently living in Austria, alongside those that are living in Croatia. It was the first time that I as a newbie had met the exchange students in Croatia, and it has become evident that the youth exchange programme in Austria collaborates with the youth exchange programme in Croatia quite frequently.

Rotary designated three chaperones for the two week trip around Europe, all of whom were kind and helpful throughout. They had arranged to meet the Austrian exchange students in the city of Linz, a large industrial city in Upper Austria. However those of us from the Kärnten and other nearby states had the possibility of boarding at the city of Graz, due to it being on route to Zagreb – our first destination. We were given two buses to transport all 60 or so of us across Europe, and us exchange students were designated a bus depending upon our country of origin. I was therefore on a bus with Australians, New Zealanders, South Americans and the Asians.

We travelled to Zagreb, through Slovenia and encountered a dozen border control stations. Much to our annoyance we were required to disembark the bus and get passport stamps and other necessary checks before continuing onwards to Zagreb. Everyone was on a high and really excited about the upcoming adventure. We had reason to be. Past exchange students have always reflected on the highlights of their year, and almost without failure they happen to mention Euro-Tour every time. Besides, who wouldn’t be excited about travelling through six countries in two weeks?

We disembarked at a hotel on the outskirts of Zagreb, where we met up with the exchange students currently in Croatia. We had a huge dinner buffet, and were given a lot of free time to explore a huge mall nearby. The stark contrast between the German language and a Slavic language became evident immediately. The entire structure of the language is different and it sounds exceptionally foreign, however I remember bringing up the point that German at one stage seemed to be that foreign. Nonetheless it was a shock to the ears! The architecture of a post communist country was also rather grotesque and unappealing. Large concrete blocks of apartments littered the skyline. A very interesting experience and a country much like Slovenia, to which I have visited quite a few times. The next morning we woke early and packed up everything, then travelled into the heart of Zagreb to explore the city. Rotary gave us free time, like they did in most cities, and we ventured out into small alleys and around town. Due to it being a Sunday, nothing was open and so we weren’t able to find much food or drink anywhere besides a few tourist stands.

At the onset of rain, we boarded the bus and headed through the countryside towards the Adriatic coast, crossed the border into Italy and arrived at the historical town of Trieste. A very interesting city which I had the pleasure of having visited before with my host mother Kathrin. The city was once apart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and served as a major port for the Habsburg monarchy, however the city and the neighbouring region was ceded to Italy following the collapse of the empire at the end of The Great War. There is also an interesting tale of a Maximilian I, who was the brother of the Habsburg emperor at the time and also a member of the high command in the Austrian navy, based at Trieste. Maximilian was invited to become the emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III where he was eventually killed by the Mexicans. We had a taste of our first Italian gelato and decided upon kebabs for lunch because we are too poor to afford to dine in and eat pizza!

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We then travelled along the Italian coast to the the infamous seaside town of Jesolo. The first time I had reached the beach, and a possible location to swim in the ocean, since arriving in Europe! Of course us from down under were amongst the first in the ocean. The water was relatively cold, but that wasn’t an issue. We didn’t stay in for long either but it was fun nonetheless and we topped off the swim by playing ultimate frisbie with some of the North Americans. The next morning we caught a ferry across the sea and into Venice while withstanding a tremendous downpour of rain. We had to pack waterproof jackets with us, and funnily enough Jake was conned into buying an umbrella for 5 euros, only to have it break within the hour. We were again granted a generous amount of free-time by Rotary and we set off into the city, over small bridges, around narrow streets and into the heart of Venice. The city was beautiful and picturesque however the streets were quite dirty. So were the canals at certain locations. A stench also creeped from within the canals, which when coupled with the rain, made the day rather miserable and exhausting for me. We walked a very long distance as well.

After two nights in Jesolo, we travelled further inland towards Florence. The city is beautiful and busy. Very vibrant and colourful streets. We went on a tour through the city with a tour guide, and we visited famous icons such as the statue of David and an infamous cathedral named Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower.

After Florence we travelled further south towards Rome, where we stayed for three nights. I shared a small apartment with four of my good friends and it was really fun. We tried to wash our clothes in the sink, and we watched movies on a laptop and just had a good time relaxing after a few days of constant travel. We also had a tour through the city, by bus, in which I managed to see all the buildings I remember studying for my high school classics class; the Pantheon, Colosseum and the infamous Arch of Constantine. The tour was an amazing experience to see Europe, and Rome was by far the most interesting of my stops. There is so much to talk about regarding Rome, so much so that I would most likely bore you all to death. The highlights of my stay there was undoubtedly the late night walks (curfew was often set at eleven), visiting the Colosseum and going for an early morning run through the streets – a jog well before most people had woken up, with my good Canadian friend Jadon. Within Rome we were also privileged enough to visit the Vatican city, and the beautiful cathedral there.

Next we travelled north, to the small town of Lucca for a short stop on our way to Pisa. We stopped for four hours in the small, ancient town. Jake and I rented bicycles and roamed around the town, exploring the streets and cycling along the inside of the old city walls. We ate both kebabs and gelato. The city isn’t a major tourist destination, so it was nice to escape the crowds of tourists and souvenir shops that we had encountered whilst in Rome. I did manage to buy a rugby ball though!

We then travelled towards Pisa and it was a very short, brief stop. If I remember correctly we only had two hours in the area around the tower itself. The remainder of the city is not much of an attraction, and the place is littered with tourist shops and people trying to bargain with you. Jadon, Jake and I messed around on the grass with the ball and took some funny photos of ourselves.

From Pisa we went up the western coast of the Italian peninsula to a small coastal region known as Cinque Terra, a place I had never heard of in my life, but a place which turned out to be my favourite spot in all of Italy. We had stayed the night in some unknown location to me by the sea before we departed the next day for this beautiful coastal region. We had driven through some rocky terrain, and saw the Italian navy anchored at a huge port, then made our way into the region – stopping at a bus bay in a narrow valley. We made our way through a beautiful, colourful town towards a small wharf where we were picked up by a ferry and taken to an even smaller town further along the coast.. Again we were given free time and we went cliff jumping off the rocks into the Mediterranean Sea. The water was warm and exceptionally clear. It was such an amazing experience. We all got some sun and had a great time relaxing on the rocks around the small anchorage. Later in the day we bought more gelato (it had become a daily routine) and we ate some pizza on the steps leading up to a restaurant in the town. In Italy, a restaurant charges people for using the table, which is rather ridiculous considering we could have been charged for having tap water at one of their tables. Anyway, regardless of the unusual costs associated with dining in Italy, Cinque Terra was absolutely beautiful, just look at the place!

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We eventually crossed the border into France and then into Monaco, where we explored the city and the Grand Prix racing track. It was a very rich and elaborate city. I have never seen so many Ferraris’ in my life, however it was exceptionally clustered and hard to navigate around town with the racing track taking up a lot of the space there. We visited a few other towns in the area before returning on our course, heading for Avignon. The days began to roll by and time was flashing past us as we neared the end of our adventure.

Again Avignon was a nice French city, and we discovered that it was at one stage the home of the papacy, during a period when Rome became too dangerous for the pope to remain. It was a very medieval looking town, and it had a great city wall, with little turrets and slits in the walls for archers. There is also a famous bridge which we visited across the Rhône river. For lunch we bought baguettes and a jar of Nutella to share amongst ourselves, dipping the baguettes into the jar and drinking grape juice!We then travelled to Lyon, all the while staying in Ibis Budget hotels which were actually rather nice. We ate out at restaurants in the area, which we generally walked to, and it was a really nice atmosphere with the all the exchange students enjoying each others company. The Croatians had also mixed well with all of us from Austria and we often hung out with them, treating them just as we would each other. The rain had begun to settle in again, but it kept us together indoors for the last few days of the trip. Lyon was old and historic, not much to see besides some beautiful churches and a drunk man trying to pick a fight on the street with Jake. All in all I believe the photos do more justice for my story than my words..

Lastly we returned to Austria, via Strasbourg. Like Lyon the rain poured down on us and we  spent most of the day huddled up under an umbrella or camping out in one of the many coffee shops around town. I did happen to see the biggest rat I will ever see in my life though, it was the size of a beaver and was walking along the edge of the river while we were on a brief bus tour of the city. We eventually headed through Vorarlberg in Austria, and then proceeded onwards towards Salzburg where we departed and made our own way home. I shared a train with Owen and Camryn and made it home in the evening. Overall the Euro tour was an amazing trip which I will never forget, and brought me closer to my exchange student friends. It’s important to see them often so that I can talk about the things I experience in a way I can’t with anyone else. Only they understand the problems and difficulties we as exchange students face, although not many, problems still exist and we are constantly bombarded with stress and worries. This tour will have undoubtedly been one of my highlights of the year.

Other news: 

A week ago I moved into my second host family, the Verdino household. They are very nice and easy to be with and I have settled in quite quickly. I recently tried to bake something, trying to help out, and it didn’t turn out to be exactly what I was hoping! I have also been playing a lot of rugby lately with the team in Klagenfurt. I am really beginning to get the hang of being an Austrian, and as it nears the halfway mark of my exchange I am heavily determined to perfect my German skills. I am however slightly homesick, but that is only natural. Will add more to this blog, like the normal inputs I have made, in the coming weeks.

Adam

Frühling

This month has been going by at an incredible pace. The days are starting to roll by and time is flying. I am sitting in a train on my way back to my state of Carinthia, or Kärnten in German, and thought I would take the time to update my blog for apparently the wide range of followers I have!

A few weeks ago I gave a 10 minute presentation to my host Rotary club in German. Undoubtedly I made a few pronunciation and grammatical errors, but the club members were light-hearted and would help me out whenever I incorrectly pronounced a word. I was proud of the effort though because I had been stressing about it for the week before. I spoke of New Zealand and myself, including my family and school. The measure of performance was indicated by their level of engagement in what I was saying, and they were highly engaged as to what I noticed. So all was good. I did however mistake the German word ‘shoot’ for the German word ‘shit’ which was quite funny when describing how the geysers shit out the ground..

Within 6 days I will begin my Europe tour. An official trip organised by Rotary for the exchange students to travel Europe – starting in Graz. We will head south to Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. Then to Venice in Italy, Rome and numerous other Italian cities before heading to Monaco and then Southern France – Nice and Lyon. My Rotary club very kindly gave me €100 for food whilst I tour Europe. I will be going with about 50 other exchange students including several from New Zealand. It will be fantastic I’m sure of that, and you can rest assured that I will upload many pictures to Facebook and Instagram, as well as writing a brief blog about it. According to past exchange students it’s the highlight of the year abroad!

Now that Spring is coming along and the flowers are blooming, ice melting and birds singing I have found that I am beginning to miss the winter. I had reacted grudgingly to the snow at first and found the effort of skiing tedious but I am missing it more than I would have thought. I can’t wait for winter to return so I can hit the slopes again. My Rotary trip to Schladming in March, a ski holiday in the alps, was so tremendously enjoyable. The slopes were endless and I seldom took the same slope twice in a day. So much snow, so much fun. However Summer I believe is also beautiful in its own unique form. The transition from winter to summer is so much more noticeable in an alpine landscape than it is in Auckland. Carinthia is abundant in green. Sunflowers litter the fields and butterflies are out in their thousands. The general atmosphere of the people also seems to have been lifted and a new wave of energy which has swept through the population of Austria. Swimming, cycling and picnics are prospects that everyone looks forward to this summer. I am very grateful to be living in range of the lake Wörthesee. Renowned for its beautiful water, lakefront areas and water sports. There is an international beach volleyball tournament happening later this summer, as well as many concerts along the lakefront. It’s time to liberate my legs from the long pants I’ve been wearing this winter.

My train is coming to a halt and it’s time for me to catch my connection. To all those worrying about me I am doing well, and having a great time, quite poor.. But that’s apart of the experience and the development of independence and self-control.

Auf Wiedersehen !