Thursday, June 26, 2008

Home again, home again

Readers who followed my hike of the USA will recall that the oddest thing to happen to me over those seven months (and that's saying something, given the number of wacky adventures I had) was that my hair turned blonde due to being outside in the sun for about ten hours a day or so. What might be even weirder, though, is that by now, any hair that was exposed to the sun during my hike has certainly been guillotiened by my barber, but lo and behold, I'm still blonder than I am before the hike even though I haven't been spending any more time than usual outside over the last few months. Um, any theories here folks?
To perpetuate a dumb stereotype, I even had a blonde moment during my trip to France last week. At some point my credit card went completely AWOL and I have no clue how, where, or why. That marred what was otherwise a great, if at times grueling trip from Vienna to Germany, Switzerland, and France, which included a highly successful birding trip to Provence and the Camargue in France with my friend Jeff. I saw 13 new species including long sought-after European specialties such as European Roller and European Bee-Eater, not to mention the symbol of the Camargue, the Greater Flamingo. Heading there and back, I managed to see other friends in Strasbourg and Geneva, work in two productive business meetings in Switzerland, and conduct some genealogy research in the Black Forest in Germany.
All in all, a great trip, but as I was either driving or on trains for an average of 7 hours a day, each day, I am very glad to be back in Vienna. Not that this is an oasis of serenity by any means, though. A severe thunderstorm that passed through town last evening caused a mandatory evacuation of the outdoor screening area where 70,000 people were watching Germany's exciting 3-2 victory over Turkey in the semifinals of the European Soccer Championships. Also, even though the game was played in Switzerland, the worldwide TV transmission for the game was coordinated out of Vienna, and that was knocked out by the storm during the second half just before the deciding goals were scored. Oops.
Next up for the Danube Dispatcher: making headway on the outline for the book on my family's history, lots of triathlon training, and finally getting into the apartment that I bought two months ago, hopefully within two weeks time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back in Vienna - Fun with Deutsch!

Now that I’m back in Vienna, I’m back to having no excuse not to blog. I had a rather exciting two weeks in the USA, though, before returning to my Viennese haunts yesterday. Highlights included my 5th college reunion, working at the national quiz bowl championships in Chicago, spending an afternoon at the Jersey Shore, and passing the tryout test for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. We’ll see if I’m accepted into the contestant pool- I should know within a few weeks.
I will send along a more complete update on my progress towards some of my goals later on this week, but for now, I’d like to pause for a moment and consider some of the more amusing words of the German language. Just for kicks, you know.
1. Hochzeit – This is the German word for wedding- translated literally into English it means “high time”
2. Schnitzeljagd- The German word for “treasure hunt.” Translated literally, it means “schnitzel hunt.” Well, sort of. The German word Schnitzel is a South German derivative of Schnitt, meaning a cut. Usually of meat, but in this sense, it refers to the cut up pieces of paper one employs for a treasure hunt.
3. Handschuh- The German word for glove. No extra credit for guessing why this word ended up on the list.
4. Unkraut- This is the German word for weed, as in a plant that’s growing where it’s not supposed to. Kraut, in German means herb or plant. Meanwhile, the prefix “un” in German has the same meaning that it does in English. So an “unkraut” or weed, is actually a “not plant”
5. Paradeiser- An Austrian dialect word for tomato, which means, as you might have expected, “native of paradise.” Given the current hullaballoo surrounding tomatoes in the USA, this seems a tad inappropriate this week, don’t you think?