Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ahoy, Bratislava!

Welcome to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia! We've spent a short, but fun filled weekend in the quiet, beautiful town.
This is the suspension bridge that goes over the Danube River. The forest on the other side of the river is actually where the Iron Curtain used to be 23 years ago. It was interesting to hear about the Communist reign from a real Slovakian. She is very happy to be able to visit neighboring countries again. In fact, the same trail that we were walking is 90 kilometers long and goes all the way to Austria. Next time I come, I'll be sure to bring my bike. 

This is part of the original Old Town. There are very few shops, but tons of pubs, restaurants and cafes. If you're hungry, you will be fed and fed well. I would recommend getting a potato pancake! So good! So fluffy!

While in Bratislava, I would also recommend finding the local honey shop. Their, you'll find anything from honey with ginger to honey with lavender. The shelves are lined with honey with different flavors along with honey candles and soap. The shop keeper is also really nice, which is a plus. I bought four jars. :)

Bratislava has been incredibly relaxing. I am so glad we came. The perfect break before our final days in Prague.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snow: Jekyll and Hyde


 Do you see this? This is snow, and right now in central Europe, there is a lot of it. In the past two days, I have experienced two very different cities and two very different types of snow.

For our last day in Vienna we woke to a blanket of calm, beautiful snow. After putting on our snow boots and bundling up we went on an adventure in search of Cafe Sperl, a Rick Steve's recommendation, in the heart of the city. It took us quite a while to make it to the cafe itself, but we didn't mind. Walking in the snow was enjoyable. After asking several locals for directions and winding down side streets we ended up finding Beethoven's House and eating in what is now a very traditional Austrian restaurant. Even though we still hadn't found our original destination, it didn't matter. The snow seemed to stop all stress and sense of time. We were simply enjoying ourselves.  After walking off our meal and stopping in the local shops, we finally found Cafe Sperl. There, we sat for hours and enjoyed each others company over pastries and coffee. A perfect ending to a peaceful and mellow day.

The next day we left for Bratislava for our next adventure. Little did we know that we were leaving our calming snow behind.The further we drove, the windier it got. The further we drove, the hardier it was to see the road. The further we drove, the more I felt like we were going to experience a storm that I've never experienced before.
Somehow we made it to Bratislava. It took us quite a while because we ended up having to take back-roads because of road closers due to bad weather or reports of buses tipping over. Comforting. After slipping and sliding from the windy, snowy and slushy highway, we almost made it to the hotel. Unfortunately, the bus couldn't make it up the hill, so we faced the wind and walked in what was now almost two feet snow. I don't think I have ever been so cold or had the feeling that I was Ronald Amundsen searching for the Northwest Passage, but now I know. After conquering the mountain and dropping off our things, we had to figure out a way to make it to our concert downtown. Once again we faced the elements and walked through the heaping snow and angry wind down to the main road. We ended up crossing a street that cars didn't want to stop on because they were worried they couldn't get going again. After several anxious minutes we made it across the street to the city transit bus Frogger style. Clearly, we have left the Vienna snow behind. This was a brutal storm.

We survived, the storm passed and both Vienna and Bratislava have left a story to remember. After reading this blog, if you ever travel central Europe in January, bring your snow boots.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vienna Boys' Choir: A student teacher's perspective

For those of you who don't know, I have recently graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in music education. I decided to go on this amazing Austria, Slovakia and Czech Republic trip to continue my education as well as experience music in the places it was premiered. The other day I went to the Vienna's Chapel of the Imperial Palace and attended my first mass. If seeing a very traditional service in a beautiful chapel wasn't enough, I was heard the Vienna Boys' Choir perform (along with talented tenors and basses) Mozart's Coronation Mass.

Sitting and listening to the boys' choir reminded me of my student teaching experience. No, it wasn't because our choirs we're up to the Vienna Boys' Choir caliber, but because you could tell that the conductor had extremely high expectations. Student teaching at the elementary level has taught me many things, the most important being to have nothing but the highest expectations of your students. Once you do that, you'll be amazed at what children can do.  In the beginning of student teaching, my worst mistake was thinking, "oh, that's too hard for them," or "I'm going to figure out an easier version for you to play." When it comes to teaching children, these are thoughts you need to stay away from.  Matt, my cooperating teacher, told me that if you don't believe children can do something and hold them back, then they'll believe they can't do it and put themselves in a box. Your students will be successful if you have high expectations, believe in their capabilities and provide them with the knowledge they need to get there. Not only will you be surprised, but truly amazed at what your students are capable of.

After listening to the Vienna Boys' Choir, it helped reignite my passion for teaching. I can't wait until I have my own classroom and can direct an ensemble with a similar teaching philosophy. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Today I saw the Vienna Philharmonic. Woah. We had standing room only tickets so I made sure to wear comfortable shoes and a lightweight dress to help with the heat of a hundred music enthusiasts in one small room.  I couldn’t really believe that we were going to see the Vienna Philharmonic in Vienna! I mean seriously, how lucky am I?

I discovered I wasn’t as lucky as I thought during the second movement of Beethoven's 7th. For some reason my body was telling me that something was wrong, I tried the whole mind over matter technique and stayed to listen, but that didn’t end up turning out so well. After making it through the main theme of the second movement, my body couldn’t take it anymore, so I grabbed my purse to go get a glass of water. Not knowing what was actually happening to my body, I was able to figure out very quickly in the next thirty seconds.  In the first ten feet I lost my hearing. The next two steps I lost my vision.Finally, the last thing I remember was that I was falling and everything was black.

Thankfully I woke to three very kind Austrians who broke my fall. They were whispering very sweetly to me in German; giving me water, elevating my feet. (Turns out wearing a dress wasn’t the best idea. Hello, Vienna!)  Next thing I knew my lifeless body was being lifted into a wheelchair and taken into the on-site doctor. After five minutes of a very slow revival; it hit me. I had just passed out onto very nice Austrians and ended up showing my back-side to at least fifteen unsuspecting people… Oops.

This embarrassing moment was either a result of being overwhelmed with the orchestra’s beautiful sound, or that I was dehydrated from food poisoning the night before. We’ll never know. What I do know is that Austrians are the nicest people in the world! Once the doctor found out I had come so far to see the orchestra, she asked an usher to find me an empty seat. Thirty minutes later I was in a several hundred dollar seat. What?! Feeling guilty that the rest of my class had to keep standing but also grateful that this seat helped heal by dignity, I watched the second half of the most memorable concert in my life. The Vienna Phil playing Firebird and Bolero has been, and most likely forever will be, the best musical experience in my life. Luckily for me, I have a funny story to help me remember it. 

Stay posted for tomorrow's blog when I can intellectually discuss my experience listening to these fine musicians. For right now, I had to share my unusual experience. Thanks for listening ;)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Salzburg: Modern Art in an Old City

Seeing this figure for the first time wouldn't necessarily make you think of embracing life or making the most of what you have. If you thought this ghoulish figure is something somewhat disturbing, you wouldn't be alone.

Today I had the pleasure of visiting the Salzburg Cathedral. Originally built in 774, this cathedral has been home to many bishops over the years. Many of those bishops are still there today in a crypt underneath the sanctuary floor.

The crypt was originally built by Archbishop Konrad III (1181-1200), but filled in after a fire in 1598. The crypt was not discovered for centuries later when excavators unearthed it in 1956.

 In 2009, the Salzburg Art Project asked Christian Boltanski to come and create a sculpture piece that would invite visitors to visit the historical site. Boltanski came up with the beautiful, but very unique piece, "Vanitas."

"Vanitas," or Vanity, includes several small, delicate metal sculptures that depict the angel of death. Boltanski chose to do this because death is in every future, and is a reminder of things to come. The eerie metal figures are come to life by candle light. If you wave your hands above the flame, the shadows will slowly dance; making your nerves even more uneasy.

While you're looking at the tiny sculptures you'll see a projection of ghost circling the room. It starts out small but gets bigger and bigger as it comes closer to you. You'll also hear a recording of a woman's monotonous voice saying the current time approximately every five seconds. This recording is used to illustrate that every minute we loose, we are closer to death. A charming thought, I know. The artist wanted "time to be heard and sensed. People are capable of many things, but they cannot turn back the flow of time. God is the Lord of time."

Even though Boltanski's message was delivered in an unusual way, I was fascinated with is work and the meaning behind it. Its a good reminder to think of life as a gift, not a chore. Yes, there is work, bills, families and several other responsibilities to think of, but that shouldn't get in the way of enjoying and investing in the life you have. PLU has taught me to think about what I'm going to do with my one wild and precious life and honestly, I don't know the answer. I have plans, but plans usually change. What I do know is this: I have a teaching certificate, I am supported and loved by friends and family, and I'm in Austria. I plan to make the most of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thank you!

Hello blog followers!

This is a bon voyage to my blog. I sincerely appreciate you following me. If there were any strange postings, they were blog topics for my class. For example, Bad Romance was a complete joke. I am going to miss Athens, but I assure you that I am not a "lifeless soul." We read a incredibly dramatic soliloquy in class and I wanted to create something equally obnoxious. Also, in Mixing Wine with Water, I was assigned to write about a normal event and spice it up with a lie. Therefore, I was not chased by police running through the streets of Greece, but I did ride in a cab with George.

I hope this clears up any confusion and I apologize for any worry that you may have had over the month! I'm excited to see you all very soon!


Monday, January 30, 2012

My Moment in Greece

My moment in Greece wasn't at an Acropolis, it wasn't on an island, it wasn't climbing a mountain, it happened to be at last nights dinner. Don't worry, I have truly valued and reflected spiritually at the surrounding beauty, but it cannot compare to the feelings that came over me at dinner. Why it was at dinner, I'm not sure. I've eaten meals with my colleges plenty of times, but yesterday struck a nerve.

Last night we dressed up and had a delicious and filling five-course meal. Throughout our dinner, we listened and laughed with Momma Fin as she shared stories of her young life. As I listened to her story, I looked around all the faces of my friends, the strangers who became family, and reflected on the story we have written. This is when my moment hit me. Our time here in Greece was coming to a close, and I had to fathom the thought of leaving my new-found world. These people are the explorers who walked alongside me in the journey of self-discovery. The architects who built a home amongst the unfamiliar and the counselors who listened in times of pain.

This moment felt like hours. I was overcome with the feeling of love, appreciation and heartbreak. In an instant, thousands of memories flashed before me and my eyes began to fill with tears.

Words cannot define the feelings I have for Greece and the friends who were here to share it. Because of this experience, I know who Katie Fisher is. I found her by answering questions I faced in classroom discussions and living amongst Greek culture. This trip has challenged me mentally, and spiritually and I would not have been able to conquer these obstacles if my classmates weren't beside me. For that, I am eternally grateful.
My moment ended at the sound of roaring laughter. I quickly dried my eyes and became engaged in the conversation. After all, I have the whole plane ride to cry. With the final day approaching, I will cherish every moment I have left.