So the first two weeks have passed, but many things have happened so far. First when we landed in Vienna, we immediately had to navigate through a system of trams to get to the part of the city where we would hop on a bus. The tram tickets were inexpensive and easy to obtain. Once we got to the bus stop, we met some other people that were also traveling to Graz, so we struck up conversations. Mostly in English, but we would switch to and from English and German. I personally fell asleep on the bus ride so I cannot speak for all of the scenery that is Austria, BUT as we traveled closer to Graz, I saw some of the most beautiful castles, snowy hills, and fields I’ve seen before. Once within Graz city-limits we made our way to the Hostel. The Hostel was not what I expected… in a good way. The room was very very nice and the front service was extremely helpful. Luckily the Hostel was right next to the Hauptbanhof (main train station), so it was not hard for us to get around since the trams and buses mostly stopped there. Next, we met my Austrian buddy and went to go eat.
The following days all run together in my mind, because we were always on the go. We had to get our keys, unpack, fill out paperwork for the room, go get registered, buy groceries, etc. But to do all of this, you must first master the art of the Graz Buses. I’m not going to say that the buses are hard to understand, I’m going to say that if you have a hard time with street names you’re gonna have a hard time. I could not remember all of the different names, in the beginning they all sounded similar. So what I did was count the stops. I would look at the bus schedule that is posted at every bus stop, see if the bus that was coming to this stop was on route to where I needed to go, and then count how many stops were between me and that place. It’s not a perfect method, but it works. Now, I can read the names of the streets and know roughly where I am.
Once you have the buses down, your next task is shopping in the local grocery stores. There are two that I have seen so far: Spar and Billa. Apparently there are a few others, but they’re not close to me, so I’ll probably never go to them. Inside the stores, you will not be able to find many American brands, so you might get confused and frustrated, but don’t fret, they have what you need. I recommend buying the following to start off with: bread, snacks, and water. Later you can buy more specific things. Also, you have to buy the bags to carry your stuff in, so buy one, keep it, and shop lightly. You can use the bag over and over again, so don’t sweat spending 0.35 euros on it.
Next, you will probably want to go out to eat at one of the many restaurants that you’ve seen on your journey all over the city. You can always find a Backeri (bakery) or a Kebaphaus. Or if you’re feeling adventurous on the first few days, you could go into a bigger restaurant. When you go in to one, you sit yourself at an open table big enough for your party. Then the waiter will ask what you would like to drink, only it’ll be in German and it’ll be extremely fast, so you might not catch it at first… I didn’t. To order, it’s either from a menu or a piece of paper that is on your table. The menu is self explanatory. The papers are a little bit more tricky, but not bad. There are many different colors of paper that you can choose from, and all of them are titled differently. One will say “Hamburger,” another “Pizza,” and some even “Waffle.” Once you choose which paper to use, you have to fill it out; penciling in which ingredients you want in or on it. And be warned now, an Austrian “Kleine (Small) Pizza” is not what an American would consider a “Kleine (Small) Pizza.” It’s enough to feed two people. Once you get your food, don’t inhale it. Eat slower and talk to the people that your with. It is not uncommon for people to sit and eat for two hours before leaving one another. This is the hardest thing for me to do. Once your finished eating and you are ready to leave, it’s time to ask for the Rechnung (bill). If you don’t understand them when they tell you how much your meal was, just hand them 20 euro and wait for the change. If your meal is over 20 euro, don’t eat there for a long while. Once they hand you your change, give them one euro as tip. You can tip more if you would like but it is not necessary. Tipping is not as grandiose as it is in America.
These are all of the things that have happened these two weeks, from my personal experience. I will continue to post as the days go by, and especially when my schooling starts at the University. I have actually started my German Intensive Course class, which I highly recommend to everyone. Over the past few days, my German language skills have increased so much, and I’ve learned a few things about Austrian dialect. For example, if you say “Guten Tag” in Austria, the locals will immediately know that you are not from Austria. Instead they say “Grüß Gott,” as they pass people in the streets or stores. I think that’s a nice little fact.