Monday, June 15, 2009

It wouldn't have been study abroad without at least one injury

My toe is seriously messed up from that rock at the Donau Insel. Last night it was throbbing so much and my whole leg was twitching. It’s massively swollen, all sorts of wonderful colors, and oozing. Lovely. At least this happened at the end of the trip instead of the beginning.

Today is my last day in Vienna. A taxi will be picking me up in just a few hours to take me to the airport. Even though there's plenty here to do to keep someone busy for a lifetime, I'm happy to go home. I've had a little taste of another culture, and am ready to enjoy the comforts of my own again.

Donau Insel

Tina and I went to the Donau Insel to lay out in the sun. We first went to a little eatery and she had a mango/peach smoothie and I had the American hot dog, which turned out to be like two feet long! 

There was this cool guy dancing in front of the food stand. We took a picture with him and he liked it so much that he asked me to email it to him.

After our lunch break we went to lay out. There were so many ants! We were completely covered. It definitely didn’t help the situation that I didn’t have a towel to lay on either. After maybe an hour I got up the courage and went into the Donau. After just floating for a little bit, I realized I was already 1/4 of the way across so I just spur of the moment decided to swim all the way across to the other side. I’m a good swimmer, so why not?

I was doing pretty well…then I hit halfway. Omigosh I was so tired but I kept going. Whether I turned around and swam back, or continued to the other side, I still had the same distance to cover. About 40 feet from the shore something ran into my shoulder. I thought it was just a clump of moss or whatever so I just brushed it aside, only to realize that it was not moss, but a dead squirrel. OMG. I think I had a miniature heart attack. Completely freaked out I sprinted to the sideline, this time noticing every little piece of debris. As I was nearing the edge I slipped on a rock. It didn’t hurt too badly, felt more like when you stub your toe on the edge of the bed (even though that can hurt a lot!). I clambered out of the river and sat on the steps and gathered my breath. I looked down at my toe and it was gushing blood. I guess I didn’t really feel it at first because my whole body was numb from the cold water and I had all that adrenaline from being exhausted and running into a dead squirrel and all. I thought I maybe just cut my toe so no big deal. But I still had to get back to the other side. After a few more minutes of rest, I plunged back in the water and made my way across the river. – This is no small swimming pool, either. It took me probably 45 minutes to swim across, rest, and swim back – although I was trying not to get my head wet because of nasty river germs so I was pretty much doggie paddling the whole way.

Cafe Sacher


Today I finally made it to Café Sacher. It’s been one of my main goals all trip. Samantha and I had to wait a few minutes outside to be seated – very un-Viennese coffee house. But this was a very touristy place, so it was quite crowded with camera bearing foreigners – mostly English speakers. We got our table inside and flipped through the menu, but I knew what I wanted going in there. Ein Stück Sacher torte mit Schlagobers und eine Melange. (The original sacher torte with whipped cream and a mélange coffee) The place was very cute – reminded me of tea at the American Girl Place. While it was nice, it was not at all like the Vienna coffee houses so if you want to get an accurate taste of Vienna culture, don’t go to Café Sacher. So I finally got my Sacher torte – the real deal – no more imitations. It was wonderful. But the whole time I kept thinking how the atmosphere was detracting from the experience.  In all other coffee houses, you’re free to stay as long as you like – all day in fact. But here the service was very fast and polite and there were lines of tourists waiting outside with their noses pressed to the windows eager for a glimpse inside. I felt like it was inappropriate to stay there too long so Samantha and I left a few minutes after finishing the cake.

But before leaving, we decided to check out the bathrooms – a place this nice had to have beautiful bathrooms. When you walk in it appeared like a normal, yet beautiful, bathroom. There were sinks to the left, and wooden doors for where the stalls would be. But then we opened the doors to the actual individual bathrooms and there were entire other rooms inside. Every toilet was designated a little room where the person could freshen up, equipped with a sink and counter! So posh.

We then went on a journey to a café that we could hunker down at for a while and found a sort of Italian/Greek run café. I ordered smoked trout appetizer and it was way different from anything I expected, but in a good way. The trout was served on top of a mound of whipped cream and horseradish. I would never have thought to serve fish with whipped cream, but it was excellent. After a couple hours feeling Viennese, we left to go back to our dorm.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Last night on the town with the group...or what was left of us

Today Vanessa and I hit Mariahilfer Strasse for some shopping and were later joined by Tina.  Shopping is difficult for me here because I'm not in love with the fashion - at least not when it comes to clothes. The purses and shoes absolutely. It's just too bad they're meant for millionaires.

We had a group dinner of those who were left from our group, along with Ryan and Ruthie.  We then headed out to the U4 bar. It was a major disappointment, so Samantha and I left early. Too bad not early enough. The subways stopped running just 30 minutes before we left and didn't start up again for almost 5 hours. But after several blocks of searching in the freezing rain we found a night bus that was going in our direction. We were determined to find a bus because a taxi from where we were would have cost probably 50 Euros. We get to the bus stop and have to wait half an hour for it to get there and then have an hour ride home. By home I mean to Lorenz-Müller Gasse, which from there was then a 20 minute walk to our dorm.  

It's a lot of work to experience the night life here. If it wasn't such a hassle getting to and from places, I might enjoy it more.

Folter Museum, Prater, und Theater

Donnie made us a wonderful breakfast of eggs to order. We were just like a little family sitting in the kitchen in our pajamas eating breakfast. 

Early in the afternoon, Tina, Vanessa, Ryan Godke (he's here with another group) and I wanted to go to the Prater. But it started to rain so we headed to Haus de
s Meeres (aquarium) where we met up with Marie Schramm. But entrance to the aquarium  was 10 Euro so we went around the corner to the Folter Museum (torture museum) which was much cheaper and our friend Ruthie Spicker met up with us. 
The museum was super creepy but even scarier than the machines, which were all the real thing, was the wax people used to demonstrate the torture devices. The figures were so old that they were disintegrating and it looked like rotten flesh. 

After the Folter Museum, we went to the Prater since the weather cleared up. We went on a ferris wheel, not the famous touristy one since it was so expensive, but a similar ferris wheel.
Everything at the Prater was so expensive. I'm used to fairs being relatively cheap because it's somewhat known as a white trash kind of place. But here in Vienna the Prater is more of a main attraction and there wasn't a single ride under 3 Euro!

After the Prater, we went to get ice cream, and then went to the theater. Our friend Ruthie works there and got us a great discount so we only had to pay 6 Euro instead of 10. The theater was very cute - only 10 rows and it was one of those where old people tend to go. We saw "Ein Mann für alle Fälle" (A man for every occasion). It was a comedy in German. I did find it rather funny, but what I enjoyed more was being able to sit down, and almost forget that it was in a language other than my own. I love being able to sink into another language - a completely other way of thinking and feeling.

Last day of class!

Today was our last day of class. All the coursework for the entire four weeks was due today, and it was rather apparent that most of us did not get adequate sleep the night before. In addition to turning in all of our papers, we each had to orally present our journals on translation. It was probably one of the most interesting classes we had, because the speaker and topic rotated every 20 minutes, rather than the same thing for 3 whole hours. We then all received our certificates for completing the program, signed by all of our professors.

After class, we were able to play in the translation booths, which was an absolute treat! I got in a booth and started fiddling around with the switches and stumbled across the channel of the booth next to me. The girl in there was taking an exam and was interpreting from Italian to German. I then played a German clip and attempted to interpret into English. It was so fast! I could understand just fine when I was only listening to it. But to listen to what is being said, translate that, while simultaneously listening to and absorbing what is currently being said while you're translating the previous sentence and formulating the next sentence is practically impossible. I felt like my brain was going to explode and I only did it for like 2 minutes. Every time I got a sentence out, I missed four others that went by while I was translating the first. I hope my audience doesn't mind getting only a portion of the story. Because interpreting is so taxing on the mind, interpreters are not allowed to work for more than 30 minutes at a time - due to mind fatigue. I only lasted 2 minutes in the booth and operated at maybe a maximum of 25%. Looks like I've got a lot of work ahead of me.
After the booths, we took a few hours to just relax. We had an intense morning of presentations and needed some quiet time. In the evening, we had our final group dinner at an Italian restaurant with the whole class and Professor Camilla Nielsen, Professor Bruce Murray, and Professor Lowe.  All in all it was a great day... except for the food poisoning from the Italian restaurant that caught up with me a few hours later. yuck.

Around the Ringstrasse

Today we had our last class with Professor Gehard Budin (even though we really only had three classes in total with him). He's one of those people who just has mass amounts of knowledge and "Bildung" accumulated. He just spouts out so much information in a given lecture that it's honestly impossible to keep up with him and I utterly become lost in his words.

After lecture, we had a couple hours before our afternoon excursion so we went to a McDonald's and had lunch and then took McFlurries to a nearby park and soaked in the sun. It happened to be the hottest day since we'd arrived.

We then had an architectural tour of some of the buildings around the Ringstrasse. We had just learned about the buildings along the Ringstrasse a few days earlier in class, so we were excited to see it in person. Most of the buildings along the Ringstrasse are fairly modern, but they were designed to look like they were from a different era, so they may appear older. The tour was a little disappointing, however, because our guide wanted to show us more discrete aspects of architecture that we would not have seen on our own and he assumed that we already knew everything about the big things, which was entirely untrue. I would not have minded learning about the landmarks one tiny bit.

After the tour I went back to the dorm and did a lot of writing since all of our coursework for the class was due the following day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Salzburg Day Two

Sunday morning, June 7th, I woke up early and went to take a shower in our castle bathroom, which unfortunately was basically the exact same as the bathrooms in our dorms. Disappointing. I was looking forward to showering in an elaborate stone shower but no dice. When I got out of the shower I made the unfortunate mistake of looking up and seeing the ceiling covered in other "Mitbewohners". They were so scary. They looked like some sort of daddy long leg breed but with thicker legs. They were skinny and probably 3 inches in diameter. In other words, not welcome by me. Since our ceiling was literally dripping with spiders, I was in constant fear that one would descend onto me and therefore flinched at any little tickle.

We headed down to breakfast and had a very traditional Austrian breakfast of meat, cheese, bread, and yoghurt. Our plan for the day was to visit the salt mines. We took the elevator down the mountain and a train and bus and made our way to the mines. We met up with a gorup of 10 other students and went together.

The mines were really cool. We had to put on these gigantic white suites because it's so dirty underground. We took a little train ride to go horizontally into the mine and then took these wooden slides downward.
We walked through all the tunnels and saw how the salt went from being part of the earth to being edible. We also learned about the history of Salzburg and what a large role salt played in political decisions. At one point underground, we crossed from Austria to Germany. So I finally made it to Germany...even though it was underground. Someday I will go there for real.
The tour of the salt mines ended and we made our way to the bus stop, only to find that the bus left 5 minutes before we got there and wasn't going to come again for an hour. We desparately needed to get going and luckily there was an available taxi back at the salt mines. It took us to the city train, which also conveniently left just a few minutes before we arrived, which meant we had to wait another 50 minutes for the next one. so we eventually made it to the train station where Professor Lowe was waiting with our luggage. We grabbed some Burger King to go and ran aboard the train just in time for its 4:08 pm departure.

Mistake at the Mozart House


While we were at the Mozart house, I stopped in the gift shop to do some browsing and stumbled upon a book about the real Van Trapp family and how the movie The Sound of Music compared to the real story. I was surprised to notice that after just a quick glance, I had already spotted grammatical mistakes. One section was discussing the life of Maria Augusta von Kutschera and referred to her as "it". The pronouns were incorrect. My guess is that the book was originally written in German and this was a mistake made in the English version. But it seemed like such an obvious mistake. It jumped right out at me. So many people visit the Mozart house that I would think having high quality texts for sale would be important. Apparently the editors didn't stress over the mistake too much because a person, a very important and well-known person, was referred to as "it".

Salzburg Day One

On Saturday, June 6, we (Donnie, Vanessa, Sam, Professor Lowe, her son Alan, and I) went to Salzburg.  We took the 9:40 am train and arrived by 12:45 pm. A taxi took us to our castle, yes castle. We stayed in the Johannes Schlößl der Pallottiner. 
The scenery leading up to the castle and the exterior were absolutely gorgeous. After depositing our belongings in Donnie’s room since ours was not ready, we went out exploring. There were cows on the property! 
A little farther we came across a café alongside the mountain with an excellent view of the city. 

To get down the mountain, instead of hiking or taking a little train, we took an elevator. Yea, that was pretty cool. It took us right through the center of the mountain all the way to the bottom. It was pretty high up because on the way down my ears changed pressure.

There were no available walking tours of the city L and I was disappointed because everything I had heard of Salzburg was that the landscape was gorgeous…and we weren’t even going to see it. So we went to the Salzburg Museum instead. It was good, but definitely had nothing on the Vienna Museums.

Then we went to Mozart’s house, where he lived for 26 years. There were descriptions of all the people who lived there and what the room was used for. There was a display indicating that the family dog was shot because he was barking. That was sad. There was also a room in which everything was upside down. The floor was the ceiling and looked like stars, the ceiling was like a town, and the paintings on the walls were all hung upside-down. I really didn’t understand that room – there was not an explanation or anything – just randomly thrown into the mix. I saw locks of Mozart’s hair, which were a light brown and I saw his silk wallet among a bunch of other things like his small violin and several types of pianos.

After Mozart’s house, we went to eat a large dinner since we hadn’t had anything all day and we were pretty much on a one-track mind to get food. Vanessa and I split the house platter made for two and it was enormous! There were two schnitzels, two chicken breasts, two pork, two bratwurst, fries galore, and cole slaw. 

We finished off this huge and delicious meal with a meringue.  I wasn’t a fan of this – it didn’t taste like a dessert to me and I didn’t like that it dissolved the second I put it in my mouth so there was nothing to swallow.

After dinner, Vanessa and I went shopping but stores closed ten minutes later so we were forced to go back to the castle. Easier said than done. As is custom when Vanessa and I venture out on our own we got lost. This time it wasn’t in nice Vienna where there are signs. It was in the rainy, muddy woods. And it was getting dark. We managed to get on the wrong trail, which wasn’t quite taking us as close to the castle as we would have liked, so we cut through the woods. I swear I saw grave markers! I wanted to stop and take a picture but it was raining and we wanted to get the heck out of there. We finally made it to our room and collapsed. Since it was cold (~ 47 *F), raining, muddy and we would have to climb down a mountain to go anywhere fun, we stayed in the room and just talked and played cards. There was no tv or internet so our options were somewhat limited.

It was actually a really fun night, but it wouldn’t be study abroad in Austria if we weren’t scared somehow. Everytime we looked up at the ceiling we spotted a new “Mitbewohner” – but not the nice kind – spiders. They were everywhere. We were freaking out. Vanessa actually got up on a chair to kill the spider but had a massive freak out when she came face to face with the gigantic beast. I even started tearing up I was so scared – but that’s just me. – I HATE spiders. It was horrible. We laid in bed cuddling and telling stories trying everything possible to distract ourselves and avoid gawking at the horrible beings. In the end we finally fell asleep. That was the end of day one in Salzburg.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lange Nacht der Kirchen

Today we went to Die Lange Nacht der Kirchen. This is where all the churches leave their doors open all night and you can listen to music and concerts and tour the churches.  We first went to the Stephansdom and listened to a children's choir. Then we went downstairs to see the catacombs. That was really cool. The catacombs of the Stephansdom holds the most human bones in all of Vienna. It was dark room after dark room filled with bones. Some of the walls were actually stacked bones and skulls but the bones within the rooms were just thrown in together with no apparent order and no identification. There were a few full skeletons of more important people laid out but for the most part it was just a mixture of loose bones. Creepy. It was just like being in a scary movie. The passages were narrow with low ceilings and practically pitch black. Not for those who get spooked easily. But it was actually one of my favorite things I've seen here. I thoroughly enjoy somewhat dark and creepy things because the stories behind them are fascinating. 
We also went up to the top of the Stephansdom. That was quite exhausting. It was 348 steep stairs up this tightly winding spiral staircase. I was dizzy within the first few steps. It took probably twenty minutes to get up to the top. Needless to say after what would have been the equivalent of about 40 floors worth or stairs, our thighs were on fire. Up at the top of the Stephansdom we were able to look out these windows and see far into the city which was at the time lit up with lights. After a few minutes of enjoying the view and catching our breath, we began the long climb down, which, for me, was worse than going up. The stairs were oddly shaped triangles of various uneven heights and I had the constant feeling that I was going to stumble down them at any moment. But I safely made it down. That was the end of my church tours. I would have loved to see more, but I wanted to get home before the subway stopped running so as to avoid a hefty taxi charge.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Concert at Schönbrunn


Tonight there was a free concert by the Vienna Philharmonic at Schönbrunn. There were thousands of people there and absolutely zero concept of personal space.  But the music was lovely. Or at least I’m pretty sure it was. From where we were standing, the stage was about an inch tall, so we the only sound we received was from the speakers set up around the garden. So it was honestly like listening to a cd. But the scenery and experience of being at Schönbrunn made it well worth the long train ride.

Arriving at the concert several hours before it began:

Pretty gardens:



Today we went to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It was serious business. We had to be professionals and go through security and get temporary id’s to be allowed in the building.  After going through all the security proceedings we met with Susanna Lööf, Press Officer, OSCE Secretariat.  She briefed us on the history and purpose of the OSCE.  The OSCE strives to bring stability, prosperity, and democracy in 56 states.

After our meeting with Susanna Lööf we met with Elizabeth Kaufmann and Forest Atkinson, whose jobs it is to promote the U.S. in the OSCE.  The OSCE is not well known, partially because decisions and actions take a long time to put into effect. The OSCE operates on consensus, which means that all 56 states have to agree upon the same decision. Something I found interesting was that decisions are politically, not legally binding. This means that nations are somewhat held to only the honors system.  Because of the high probability that nations will not always uphold their end of the bargain, “Name and Shame” meetings are held, in which the OSCE talks about which states are not upholding their commitments.  Even though there are 56 states in the OSCE, there is a sense that everyone is unique with their own government yet at the same time they get along. They have barbeques together, go to café’s, and basically shoot the breeze together. A lot of diplomacy happens outside of the office and then the official decisions are made within the board room.

Then we went to observe the permanent council proceedings.  This was by far the highlight of the day. It was a gigantic room with an ambassador from every country in the OSCE and all of their assistants. Along the side of the wall you could see the translators in their booths. We all had headsets and could control whatever language we needed.  For example, when the ambassador of Kazakhstan was speaking, I toggled back and forth between the English and German translators.  It was fascinating to watch. The translators in the booths were listening to the speeches at the same time as everyone else and simultaneously translating them.  That is just so impressive to me. You have to be able to listen to what they are saying, remember it, simultaneously translate it, while listening to what is being said while you are spewing out the translation.  So they are listening and talking at the same time and always just a few words behind the original speaker. It was unbelievably impressive.

Sometimes a “relay” is used.  This is when the original speech is translated twice over.  For example, let’s say that a Kazakhstanian is speaking and it needs to be translated from Kazakh to English but there are no English speakers who know Kazakh.  But perhaps there is a French speaker who also knows Kazakh.  In a “relay” the original Kazakh would first be translated by interpreted one from Kazakh to French and interpreter two would listen to this French translation and translate the French into English.  This is all going on within seconds of each other so that the audience gets the message only moments after it is originally spoken.  That is complete craziness. I can’t believe anyone’s brain can function that quickly.  The “relay” technique is often used because it is impossible to find translators for every language into every other language.  So you get translators who can cover several bases, and then in a sense cross multiply them.

At the end of our minds basically being blown away by the intensity of the council proceedings, our group had another meeting with Nikolay Borovskiy, Chief of Language Services Section.  He informed us that the six official languages of the OSCE are English, French, Russian, Spanish, German, and Italian. The language services provided are written translation, oral interpretation, and editing. Additional money is spent to have important texts revised by another person to ensure perfection.  There are three different kinds of interpretation that the OSCE employs: consecutive, simultaneous, and whispering.  Whispering is a technique in which someone stands next to or behind someone and interprets directly into their ear. This technique was first used in the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.

All the interpreters and translators of the OSCE are freelance. They are hired for each session, which lasts approximately one year and they can also work daily contracts. Currently, French and Russian are the most in demand languages in the OSCE.

I was super excited to learn about the salary of the interpreters. 427 Euros/day for a minimum of 300 days/year is awarded whether you work those days or not. Interpreters are also allowed only a maximum of 8 meetings/per.  That comes to about 128,000 Euros, which is roughly the equivalent of $180,000. Every year. That sounds pretty darn good.

United Nations


Today in the afternoon we went to the United Nations to sit in on a briefing. We got a bit more insight as to how translation and politics combine in the United Nations. After our meeting, we got the chance to circle the floor and peak in on other rooms. We came across one meeting and there was a representative from every country in the United Nations and they all had head sets so they could switch to whichever language they worked in.  It was pretty awesome. Too bad pictures were not allowed. It’s all very top secret.

Fountain and flags outside the UN:

That night we met up with some Austrian students of Professor Camilla Nielsen and went out to eat at a Heurigen.  We were all Americans studying abroad in Austria and they were all Austrians wanting to study abroad in America so we thought it was a good trade off.  The only thing that was disappointing was the Heurigen itself. The food looked good, but was above all of our budgets so we ended up not even having dinner that night.  And what’s more, they had very a limited drink selection.  No pop, juice, or even water. The waiter was thoroughly insulted when I asked him if he had one of these options.  Apparently Heurigens only sell drinks that they produce themselves, which is wine and beer. The waiter rudely told me that I shouldn’t have come if I didn’t like beer.  Yet another fine example of the excellent service here in Vienna. psh.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ottakringer Brewery Tour and Die Fledermaus

Today we went on a tour of the Ottakringer Brewery. The tour guide showed us all the various machines and explained how the different kinds of beer was made and the processes of beer production. 
Vat for some process of the beer:

Various types of wheats:

At the end of the tour, we got vouchers for 4 free beers to enjoy there. I definitely do not like beer, but I promised to try one since we were in fact in a brewery. I tried Zwicklrot. My first few sips were hesitant, but I tried to become a little more bold with my gulps. But alas, I just do not take kindly to beer. It was truly disgusting. I was trying every technique possible to not taste the beer. But what good is it to have a drink and attempt to pass it directly down your throat, bypassing the tongue and taste buds altogether? It was just not for me. I ended up trading my beer vouchers in for orange juice and was thereafter a much happier camper. 
My much more tasty orange juice along with everyone else's beer:

That evening we went to the opera, Die Fledermaus. It was great to just get student tickets 15 minutes before the show and still have great seats. We sat in the cabins along the side walls and I felt just like Julie Roberts in that scene from Pretty Woman. It was interesting to listen to the voices of the singers because you could pick out various dialects and accents. Some spoke with a very Viennese or Southern Austrian accent whereas others had more of a Swedish accent.

Me and Karla: 

The orchestra pit:

Our little cabin:

Monday, June 1, 2009

A little British comedy


Tonight Vanessa, Donnie, and I had a classy night out on the town. We started off by dining at Café Hummel, which was absolutely delish. I had buttered turkey with a type of mashed hash brown-like potatoes and steamed vegetables. Then we finished off dinner with elaborate desserts. Mine was called Pariesiencremetorte. Oo la la. So yummy. The Austrians definitely have a handle on desserts.

We then went to Vienna’s English Theater and hoped to get last minute student tickets that they begin to sell 15 minutes before the start of the show. We ended up sitting front row for 9 Euros! It’s definitely worth it to be a student here in Vienna. There are so many student discounts for performances! We saw a production called Out of Order, a British comedy and it was fabulous. It was so much fun to sit up close and see all the details.

It was a wonderful evening. Spending a fancy night on the town at dinner and the theater is definitely my version of a good time.


Night at the Movies


So I went to a German movie and it was filled with translation opportunities. Before the movie there was an advertisement being played on the screen and I found it interesting that the advertisement on the screen was in German but it was being read in English.  I don’t understand why they did it that way.

Before the movie began, I was looking at the movies titles and how they differed from the original English titles.  The movie Maid of Honor, for example was translated as Verliebt in die Braut. While the title accurately describes the plot of the movie, it’s not very close to the English title. Another movie, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, was translated as Der Womanizer. Another failure in my opinion.  It gives the movie a sort of negative vibe that just isn’t there in the English title.

When the movie was playing, I relied on the German subtitles to understand the French conversations. Doing subtitling exercises last semester made me pay attention to the formatting of the subtitles in Illuminati. We had learned that there should be no more than 36 characters per line, including spacing and punctuation and that there could be no more than two lines at a time. The subtitles in Illuminati, were much more than 36 characters per line. Probably more than twice that amount. I had to physically move my eyes from left to right to read the lines rather than being able to see the whole line in one glance, which is how they are supposed to be formatted.  They most definitely did not fit the requirements of standardized subtitling.

The Long Ride Home

Last night was very exciting, more so than I would have liked. Vanessa and I decided to go see Illuminati, the new Angels and Demons movie. We found a theater close by that said it would be playing with subtitles which was good because Vanessa only speaks a little bit of German.  So we got in line and bought tickets and the ticket guy said we’d better hurry and I was thinking, why do we have to hurry, we were 40 minutes early. He sold us tickets to a show that started 20 minutes ago. So then I made him give us the tickets for the show I had asked for originally.

Then Vanessa and I waited in the complex for the doors to our theater to open and there was this couple making out not even two feet from me…not just light smooching, but full out making noises and groping each other. It was highly inappropriate. Being the not so subtle American that I am, I felt it was my place to try to eradicate this situation. I began to clear my throat and play with a magazine and talk to Vanessa, all with much louder tones than in normal conduct. But nothing. They didn’t even react to my verbal dislike of PDA. I guess they don’t know what PDA is in Europe.

So then finally, ten minutes before our movie, the doors opened and we walked into what was the biggest movie theater I’d ever seen. It was huge! Like at least four theaters from Savoy 16 put together. We found our seats, which were assigned, and sat down.

The movie started, and to our surprise it was in German, with German subtitles appearing only when people were speaking French.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand it, because I could…or at least the majority of it. But there were so many scientific words that I didn’t know and they were speaking so fast…it would have been fast in English. It was just one of those movies that you really have to pay attention to and having it in German was just more of a brain exercise than I could handle at the moment.  Another thing we didn’t expect was an intermission in the middle of the high point of the movie. It just cut out and said it would be back in 10 minutes, which totally interrupted the flow of the movie.

But when the movie finally ended, our adventure for the night began. We got out of the movie theater and it was pouring rain. Vienna is experiencing a drought right now and there was like a negative ten percent chance that it would have rained, so you can imagine our reaction.  We didn’t know what to do because we were just planning on walking home, since we only lived about a mile away. But it was raining way too hard for that. So after a few minutes debate of what to do, we made a run to the nearest bus stop and try to figure out which night bus to take. We got on the N6 and I asked the bus driver how close he went to Haus Panorama and he said just about a block away from it. He lied. He never went anywhere near Haus Panorama. In fact, he took us about as far away as possible. We stayed on the bus only because we figured it had to come full circle and at least we could be where we started again, but that’s not how it turned out.

We got off that bus when it was at its last stop and tried to take a variety of other busses to get us a little closer towards something we could recognize. Finally, after a whole slew of busses, and being soaking wet, and close to tears we flagged down a taxi. You may be wondering why we didn’t get a taxi earlier in the evening, but we really didn’t see any, otherwise we would have. Trust me, we would have.  What started out as just a couple minutes away from our dorm turned into a 20 minute taxi ride from who knows where.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sour Service

As an American, I have become accustomed to excellent service. Salespeople are always eager to get you another size or help you in any way they can. This is not the case in Europe. The service is very unfriendly. There's no "hello, how are you today" or smile or "have a good day" or anything. But that's just how the culture is. There's a generally emotionless quality or distance when it comes to service. It may be the culture, but to me it seems the salespeople are not just unfriendly, but outright rude. They snatch whatever item you're looking at out of your hands the moment it seems it may be a bit too pricey or they seem incredibly insulted when you ask them to describe what is in a dish at a restaurant, as if service had nothing to do with their job description.

But it's hard to decipher if they're singling us out or not. There's a lot of animosity against foreigners and the service workers treat you very differently when they see that you're foreign and not a native Austrian, even if you speak German. They want Austria to revert back to its pure roots and will certainly not lift a finger to assist a foreigner like myself in any least not when it comes to shopping.

This whole unfriendly approach to the Austrian (or maybe European) service industry makes me question even further how translation is even possible.  If you're translating a brochure or advertisement for a store, let's say Express because it's my favorite, there are sure to be sayings that would never occur in the other language. The English advertisement might in some way welcome a client into the store with a warm greeting. But in Austria, they don't give warm greetings. So how do you translate it? Do you keep it as a sort of greeting but just turn the warmth factor down to negative thirty, thereby accommodating the culture change? Or do you try to keep it close to the source text? Even if it doesn't quite make as much sense in the target language? It's all very confusing, but I just know that I can't wait to go shopping in America again where people smile when you say hello.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Language Diversity and Multilingualism in the European Union


Today we went to the European Union and sat in on a presentation regarding language diversity and multilingualism in the European Union.  There are currently 23 official languages of the European Union and 800 translators.  Getting a law passed is a long and involved process within the EU. It can be summarized with three general steps: communication within an organization, communication between organizations, communication from an organization to the people it supports.  It was also discussed how one might acquire a position within the European Union.  The EU is always searching for people who have a wide array of knowledge to supplement their language. For example, a translator is more marketable if he/she also has a degree in medicine because you then have a specific set of vocabulary at your disposal and you don’t have to look up every scientific word.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Translating Jokes


Today we talked about jokes and comedic sayings and the difficulties that come with translating them.  Freud was very interested in analyzing jokes and how they relate to the unconscious. He concluded that the pleasure one receives from hearing a joke is “due to the suspension of the expenditure of energy upon maintaining repression”[1]  But the definition of what is funny differs between social groups and genders. What is hilarious to a man might be offensive to a woman and what is funny to a Caucasian person may be offensive to an African American.  This creates difficulties when translating a joke because it is being converted into a different culture and mindset.  “The very structure of the joke embodies the distancing of existing attitudes and their replacement by a new language of science.”[2]  The function of Jewish jokes was to provide an escape from anti-Semitism by laughing at it.[3]  Does this go to say that a Jewish joke will never be fully understood by someone who is not Jewish? Maybe so.  Most of understanding a joke lies in the experiences and perception one has of the culture from which the joke stems. 

[1] Viennese Laughter, 107

[2] Viennese Laughter, 113

[3] Camilla Nielsen, lecture 27.5.09



Coffee houses in Vienna differ greatly from those in America. They have a much more leisurely atmosphere about them. In America, if you sit at a table for more than an hour a waiter usually asks if you want anything else or in some way indicates that you should leave. Often they give you the bill just moments after getting your food and say “whenever you’re ready” but really they mean sooner rather than later. In Vienna the concept of a coffee house is completely different.  No one is going to ask you to leave after a while.  In fact, people often spend the entire day in a single coffee house. It is a place where one can go to read the newspaper or read a book.  In the past, there were even showers available because travelers would often come and want a place to freshen up and relax.

Freud Museum

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today after class a few of us went to the Donau Insel because it was going to be the last hot day for a while and we wanted to enjoy the weather.  It was interesting to see how uninhibited the people here are when it comes to baring their bodies, especially the old people. They’re just so comfortable with showing skin.

After the Donau, we went to the Freud Museum for a group excursion.  The Freud Museum is where Freud actually lived for about fifty years before moving to London in his final years. It was a very large apartment for the time, and even still is now. There were 19 rooms! But besides him and his wife there were six children, so I’m sure they appreciated the space.  He held his practice within his home so I got to see where the famous couch would have been (the couch is kept at the museum in London).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Difficulties of Translating Freud


Sigmund Freud was a very complex individual and reading his works is difficult enough but translating them presents a whole new slew of complications. He used a lot of scientific words (some of which were coined by him) but spoke about them in a very artistic fashion.  The words he chose also have specific meanings that might not be reached when only looking in a dictionary.  It is important to look at the context of the text – who was writing, what was that’s individual’s lexicon – what was the period flavor and literary style.  There are many things to take under consideration.  When Freud talked about “die Seele” he more likely meant “the psyche” rather than “the soul” which is typically associated with the word “Seele.”  Similarly, Freud used the word “die Kranke” to refer to the patient, not someone who was ill.

Word for Word


It has been said that there is no such thing as an untranslatable text. Everything should be able to be expressed in each language in some form or another. But I think it’s safe to say that a translation will not always match the same format as that of the source text. For example we can examine the German word “Vergangenheitsbewältigung.”  There is no one word in the English language that sums up the sense of “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” but in general it means “(the process of) coming to terms with the past.” So sometimes the translator must take a few liberties with the text to obtain the overall sense of the word/phrase/text, since sometimes a word for word translation is just not possible.

“Make tour today?” - A Need for Native Speakers as Translators


At the opera house someone wearing a costume said, “make tour today?” That proves that while some Europeans (especially shop owners or workers) know enough English to get their point across but that they are by no means fluent. Native English speakers must be the ones doing the translating into English otherwise you end up with sentences like “make tour today?”

Old Woman and Big Flowers

Monday, May 25, 2009

Today we went to the Jewish Museum after class today. It was actually less exciting than I had hoped it would be. All the items were rather small. What made the most difference is that we didn't have a guide and just had to wander around by ourselves and try to figure out the significance of each item.

One of the most fun parts of the day actually came on the bus ride home. I sat next to this old lady and we ended up chit chatting the whole ride.  Her name was Autina and she was very sweet.  She talked some about her children and grandchildren and the big flowers which she was carrying.  It was exhilarating to have a conversation with a random person in German.  Back at school I really only use German to talk about books and symbolism. But being here in Vienna and witnessing that the language really is used in daily life and not just for the dissection of Goethe's Faust is truly encouraging.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Church and Museums = Best Day

Sunday morning Tina, Karla, Professor Lowe, and I went to church at St. Augustine’s Cathedral. The church was absolutely gorgeous, as was the music! There was a phenomenal organist and orchestra, which by the way, all the musicians came from the Vienna Philharmonic! How fabulous is that?! I think we should adopt that policy for all of the churches in America. 

After church we went to grab a quick bite to eat and I got my sacher torte. Of course.

Then we went by the opera house where visitors were being admitted for free as long as you had a ticket. We went up to one doorman and he said that all the tickets had already been distributed and that we were out of luck. But we weren’t going to give up just yet. We went around to another entrance and the lady guarding the door said she had four tickets that we could use! Score!  The opera house is heavenly inside. We got to sit in on the Vienna Philharmonic’s rehearsal of the Nibelungen Ring opera. Those singers were remarkable. They just filled up the space completely with sound.  

Then we went to see some dancers from the Vienna ballet rehearse Anna Karenina, which premiers June 8, 2009.  They were such a treat to watch and I could even tell that the female was wearing Bloch Serenade pointe shoes. How strange is it that I can recognize the kind of pointe shoes she was wearing when they practically all look the same.  

Then we went up onto the stage and got to pretend like the spotlight was on us.  It felt so good to be in the center of the stage and look out to an auditorium with five balconies. Oh man I miss being on stage and having that rush of adrenaline that only performing in that environment can bring. 

After the opera house Tina, Karla, and I went to the Belvedere Museum.  We spent hours in there just gawking at the magnificent artwork.

Overall, this was probably the best day I’ve had so far on this trip.  I got to do everything artsy that I like, and I didn’t have to pay for any of it except for the sacher torte! But that, of course, was well worth it. I hope I have many more days like this to come.

Leonard Orban and Multilingualism

According to Leonard Orban, the European Commissioner responsible for multilingualism, “many Europeans already speak a great number of different languages. But still, language skills are unevenly spread across countries and social groups in Europe”. [1] Vienna is a very multicultural city and most everyone here speaks several languages. But this is not the case throughout all of Austria or all of Europe.  People residing in larger cities speak several languages because of several reasons. They are near Universities and with higher education comes multilingualism. Large cities attract tourists and foreigners, which by default introduces new languages.

Orban also made the point that multilingualism has increased with the recent economic downturn.[2]  Shop owners cannot afford to turn anyone always simply because of a language barrier.  It is very common for business people to know enough of several languages to make a sale.  Because money is tight these days, shop owners are making a great effort to accommodate their customers.

It is also true that the work field for translators has increased since the economic crash. It is becoming more and more important to converse with each other on a more global level. With tensions running high all over the world, it is important that all messages are accurately and appropriately conveyed.  When non-native speakers translate, they often make mistakes, whether it be in grammar or colloquialisms or what have you.  It is important that the translator not only be a native speaker, but also exceptional in that particular language, to ensure that everything is translated to the highest degree.

[1] Orban, Leonard. A Bridge to Mutual Understanding,

[2] ibid


One of the things I have to do for GER 496 is keep a daily journal of my translation observations while here in Austria.  At the end of the trip we have to present our findings to the class.  In addition to posting my daily excursions, I will also be posting my translation observations just in case anyone would like to read what I'm thinking as well. I will label all of my translation posts as "translation" so feel free to skip over those if you just want to know what I did that day.

Tours and gay bars

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today we went on a walking tour of the medieval part of Vienna with Professor Bruce Murray (from the U of I).  He knew so much about every little thing – every plaque, café, statue, you name it and he knew what it was.  There were a lot of cool buildings and the sheer age of everything here is mind-boggling. Every thing has such a deep history. We walked by a church that was built in the 11th century! 

Everything we saw had such historical significance. We stopped in front of the building wear the last Holy Roman Emperor gave up the throne to Napolean!

Late that night we went out dancing to a gay club called the Viper Room and it was sooo much fun!  I think I had such a good time because I felt completely 100% safe. European men are rather forward and it made me feel a bit uncomfortable at another club. But at the Viper Room all the guys were only focused on other guys, which meant for a good time for me. Tamara Mascara was our D.J. and she/he (I don’t really know what pronoun to use for drag) was an exciting character. There were people taking pictures for promotional purposes and our group was so fabulous that we made it on to the website!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


On Thursday, May 21 we took a hike through the Vienna woods and it was absolutely gorgeous! Here's a few pictures from the hike.

Me at the top of the Vienna woods! If you look really hard you can see my dorm! (far left)

Hiking in the Vienna woods!

Me in front of a vineyard.

Here's the group (minus Donnie) in front of a gorgeous rose bush.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I love shopping!

Late Wednesday afternoon we went to Mariahilfe Straße where there is excellent shopping. We came across this store called HUmanic and saw cute shoes and purses, so of course we went inside. When I was fully immersed in the store, I could feel my heart begin to warm with excitement. It was the biggest shoe and purse store I'd ever seen in my life. It was over 3 floors, each about the size of Bergners. It was a girls' dream shopping experience. Too bad all the prices were only meant for the rich and famous. I did try on a few pairs to satisfy my sweet tooth, or maybe the expression sweet feet is more appropriate in this instance? They were those kind of flats that are elasticy so they stay better on your feet. They felt so incredible, but they didn't have a color that I really fell in love with and they were like $300! So I had to say goodbye to them.

After all that shopping, a girl has got to get some sustenance, so of course we thought sacher torte would be the best. And it most definitely was. We just went to a little cafe on the street but it was still amazing. I can't wait for later in the trip when we go to the sacher torte school where they perfect this fabulous dessert that they are so famous for. Definitely going to where stretchy pants on that day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gardens and Museums

Wednesday afternoon Tiffany, Vanessa, and I went walking around the city and visited the museum of natural history. 

Vienna is famous for having spectacular gardens everywhere.  You can walk through them and there are benches set up where people come to read or relax. They're so pretty and well maintained. 

We went to the museum of natural history and I was attacked by a lion! Just kidding. He was stuffed but it was still pretty intimidating standing so close to him because he did look quite real.

This is a picture of a really big elk. It was huge. I think I came up to it's kneecap. 

We passed this car a few blocks after the museum and at first glance we all thought there really was a naked lady just sitting in the car.  But there's no need to avert your's only a mannequin.  Still kind of scandalous though.

Döner, Elephants, and Bachelors

Tuesday night Donnie, Tina, and I went to get Döner. It's a Turkish kebab similar to a Greek gyro. Omygoodness it was soooo good.  For the past two days I haven't been impressed with Austrian food and that really disappointed me because I had heard it was super good.  But this Döner changed everything. It was amazing. And it was way cheaper than eating in a restaurant because they are sold on the street.

We then went to Mariahilfe Straße and looked at the awesome architecture and statues. There was this elephant statue outside of the museum of natural history, so of course we had to take pictures.

After a little while longer of walking, this man that had feminine products all around his waist came up to us and told us that he was getting married and that tonight was his bachelor party and he had to sell all the items around his waist to girls on the street. So we helped him out and got a fabulous picture and laugh out of it. 

This night was so much fun. It really made me start to enjoy being in Vienna and I can't wait to see what else it has to offer.