Sunday, July 30, 2006

Innsbruck Diary (5) ...

It has been a busy week, so we decided to stay in Innsbruck this weekend to enjoy its Old City and hike its beautiful trails. Unfortunately we also have a lot of professional work to do, so we spent much of Friday and Saturday at the University.

The highlight of the week was a concert at Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck’s spectacular castle. We dined on the terrace there, then listened to a very talented young pianist named Gary Cooper. He played classical music selections on an eighteenth century piano in a beautiful hall at the castle.

Last Tuesday we hiked from Igls to Patsch, two charming little villages just outside Innsbruck. The views of the Alps were breathtaking.

Friday we did some “urban hiking” from our apartment to the Old City and back. Dinner at the Goldener Adler put them on our recommended list. Especially nice in Innsbruck is the ability to eat outside in shaded cafes while listening to live music played nearby.

Yesterday we visited Hall, a medieval village near Innsbruck noted for its large Old City. At the church, notables of times past are buried in the walls, that is, their skulls are encased in glass with gems for eyes. Spooky.

Hall is also the location of an ancient mint where the Tollar, was made. This is the origin of the word, dollar. We enjoy strolling the old city of Hall and occasionally find church music and sit in on a free concert. Hall also has the best and largest ice cream cones around.

Today we are going to ride a cable car, the Patscherkofelbahn, to higher ground than we have hiked thus far. We will do part of what is called the Zirbenweg. We tried yesterday, but the clouds were too thick and it was raining at the top.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Innsbruck Diary (4) ...

We had a good time on our trip to Ljubjlana, mostly just wandering through the old city, and can now recommend it for up to two days.

The past week was midterm, and the tests of my students encouraged me. Maybe I am getting through to them after all.

This weekend we visited Vienna, one of our favorite cities. This time the big story was heat! We saw the major sites, St. Stephen, the military museum, etc., but the record breaking, stifling heat, dominated the agenda.

In relative cool we thoroughly enjoyed a musical at the Konzert Haus, and later had a sort of a farewell dinner the night before we all got on trains to various places and on back to Innsbruck. The dinner was in the Vienna Woods at Grinzing, and all, including the new wine, was just right.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Innsbruck Diary (3) ...

On Sunday we took a bus ride to Berchtesgaden, Germany, just over the Austrian border. This was the location of Hitler’s getaway home, “Berghof,” sort of his equivalent of Camp David. The home was heavily damaged in the war, plowed under, and is currently part of the site of an Intercontinental Hotel.

2000 meters above was the famous “Eagle’s Nest,” an engineering marvel of its time and now a restaurant. There are no reminders of its history anywhere on the site. There is a museum where vivid displays document the horrors of the Hitler regime.

Others visited the concentration camp at Dachau. During the week there was a presentation by a Holocaust survivor. We are trying to take advantage of our location to make history come to life.

This weekend we are in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, and about a six-hour train ride from Innsbruck. We toured a castle high above the city and wandered around the old city. There is a sort of Western veneer to the city, but the vestiges of the Soviet era still show themselves in the poor meal service and diffident employees.

On last night’s menu, in a restaurant that felt like a hunting club, we were surprised to see various dishes with horse meat. We were not the least bit interested, of course, but were steered away from mixed grill dishes.

The food here is very greasy and it is hard to find de-caf coffee or artificial sweetener. I guess we use these things to measure a comfortable commitment to Westernization.

As we write this, Saturday morning, we are about to go on a walk through the old city and do some shopping. Ljub may win us over today, but as of now I don’t think we can recommend that you visit.

Others traveled to Venice this weekend. Next weekend we will join the tour to Vienna.

My classes will visit the Grassmyr bell factory this week. I think I remember that it is a FOURTEENTH generation family business.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Innsbruck Diary (2) …

On Sunday we had our first faculty meeting. It is an interesting and accomplished group, more senior than I would have guessed. A younger faculty member suggested that our salary just covers expenses. Teaching just for the pleasure of being in Innsbruck is less attractive to an early-career person still with student loans to pay off.

Sunday ended with an “Opening Ceremony” extravaganza, featuring a traditional (“oompah-pah”) band on our arrival, a string quartet during the ceremony, and a jazz band for the banquet. Susan did a great job emceeing the speechifying by various bigwigs.

Classes started Monday, and I think I am going to enjoy both of mine. There is some kind of rite of passage for the American students that they drink themselves sick in the first week of classes. At least I hope it gets better after this week.

Fourth of July is no big deal here. In the evening we did go to an art show of the works of UNO students. None of the artists were there, or I think they might have had some serious explaining to do.

We have neither a television nor an Internet connection at home. We have found a few hours each day, which now go to an afternoon coffee and pastry break, a leisurely cocktail time with Matt and Ross, a little reading, and an earlier bedtime.

Our first week of classes is over now. Most of the students have gone to Munich for the weekend, including Matt and Ross.

This weekend we will visit Berchtesgaden, site of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest getaway. Professor Loch Johnson of the University of Georgia leads the group and adds perspective to the tour.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Innsbruck Diary (1) ...

LONG trip! Two hours sitting on the plane on the ground in Philadelphia did not help.

Arrived in Munich at noon Wed (3 am body time) and went through the incredible bureaucracy of buying a French car in Germany for use in Austria. Nine hours later we get to sleep. I am getting too old for this.

I am checking out computing facilities at the University now, and they are OK. The German keyboard is a little confusing. Getting all the system and network messages in German is unnerving, but I just answer yes to everything.

Our apartment in Innsbruck is not so bad. We went to the grocery with Matt and cousin Ross, and it was quite an experience. Imagine a "supermarket" about the size of a convenience store, almost no familiar labels, and all product information in German. We pretty much guessed right, but haven't yet tried what we think might be butter.

We went for a walk last night and got completely lost. The streets are all curved and change name every block or two rendering maps almost useless.

Else, Susan is working while I play on the computer. It is kind of like when we are home.

Susan’s office is HUGE. It is in a corner of the building with beautiful views of the Inn River and a backdrop of the Alps on both sides. It is a beautiful day today, but could be as hot as 85 degrees over the next few days. Few places here are air-conditioned, so 80+ can be a problem.

Another problem that I am having is how common smoking is here. Charming little cafes often reek of it, which is a deal-breaker for me.

On the pro-environment side, they are recycling maniacs here. There must be ten categories of recyclable materials here that make it pretty difficult to manage household waste. We have one waste container, and can’t find a bin for “stuff we were too lazy to sort.”


jbv's Competitive Edge