Into the woods

So.  We have been here in Austria three and a half days and it feels like about two weeks, after all the details we’ve had to attend to:  basically in order, we’ve bought groceries, moved in, unpacked, rearranged the small amount of furniture at our flat, and made numerous trips into Graz to get registered at the city registration bureau, work with the Uni Graz IT wizard to get connected to the internet, open an Austrian bank account, and pick up a used printer for our apartment.  Everyone has been absolutely kind and helpful; most people speak English better than we speak German, although we are trying very hard “sprechen auf Deutsch.”

All of you have been clamoring for photos so here they are with ein bisschen (a little bit) of commentary, for clarity’s sake.

Graz is in the south of Austria, not terribly close to the mountains, although there are rolling hills around.  We live on one of those hills at the eastern end of the city, near a small teich or pond, hence the name Hilmteich.  I am still trying to figure out what ‘hilm’ means, and will have to ask someone local because it’s not in any of the 10 dictionary or phrase books we brought along.

On one side of the pond is an imposing edifice…maybe a former small schloss (castle) but nothing appears to be happening there at the moment.

On the other side is the wooded hillside.  The woods are a mixture of deciduous (beech, oaks, maples) and conifers (cedar, firs, spruce).  Along the way up to our apartment we pass a Dancing School and a Wood School.  We are not sure what the wood school is…I thought it might be an educational outreach, as in nature center, but on the other hand, after hearing chain saws nearly every morning (good grief we can’t get away from them, even in Austria!) we wonder if there is some wood sculpting school going on!

the dance school we pass on the way up our hill

wood school at the bottom on the hill, or maybe it’s really at the top!

We’re about a 7 minute walk from the city street, up through the woods.  The woods are absolutely alive with birds chirping.  So far we’ve only had time to identify one bird…it is the Great Tit.  I am not making this up.  It looks like a chickadee but bigger and has an amazing array of songs and calls.

We can’t wait to have a little more time to explore the woods before spring/summer arrive and presumably lots of people.

Here’s why!

part of the Kletterkurs (climbing/ropes course) located on our hill

Not only is this a major climbing/ropes course but also a major fitness center.  There is a 21 km running course (cross country) as well as signs appearing every few meters, urging people on to greater health and fitness.  We see joggers, runners and just people having a walk in beautiful surroundings every day.  Inspirational, but you won’t see me up there among the trees.

Bill on the road up our hill


Right now, the snow is melting a little bit, although it has been cold here—in the 20’s and 30’s F. but sunny. (Yes, I know it has been even colder in Montana!)  Locals say this is ‘unusually cold’ for the end of February.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?

At the end of the walk is our apartment, one of about six in this remodeled villa.

the 100-year-old villa where our apartment is

There are a few other residents here…one family with a baby, and another with a dog, but we haven’t really had an opportunity to meet them yet.  The apartment is spacious.  The description we read in the original literature about the Technical University Guesthouse mentioned two rooms, plus a kitchen and bathroom.  We had no idea it would look like this:  parquet floors, 18 foot ceilings and massive wooden shutters to close over the otherwise unadorned windows!  The furniture is, by contrast, extremely modern.  There is plenty of storage space.  Here are some smaller photos of our Häuschen.

the door must be 100 years old. It is very heavy to open!

the dining room – balcony and terrace to the right









the foyer
the kitchen – galley style but efficient

the bedroom is part of the subdivided big room. It’s partially walled off from a sitting area by the clothes cabinets.









my ‘office’ is the pass through between the bedroom and the dining room

the view from the terrace (large enough for a good size table and chairs)










the bathroom









The latter might be the one point of frustration for us.  It’s the most complicated machine I have ever seen, and our German is definitely not good enough to decipher the manual.  I have never seen a machine that supposedly washes and dries clothes.  We are looking for some rope and clothespins tomorrow when we venture west of town to a bigger shopping center.

this is a washer and a dryer!

One of the pleasures of living in the woods is the fellow inhabitants.  I was charmed to find these guys (girls?) spending their winter between the storm and inside windows.

we have some other guests in the guest house!

This ladybug is small and efficient.  And it’s  like much of what we see in Austria.  I am struck by the small size of refrigerators, kitchens, washing machines, showers, water tanks, spoons, cars and trash receptacles.  Everything that isn’t waste is recycled.  People here have developed an ethic that is somehow missing in the U.S., where bigger is surely better.   We could learn a lot from these folks.

Lastly, for tonight at least, this is for the Dinosaurs in my (old) classroom at UCCC.

The crystal heart is hanging right where the sun can catch it!

Tomorrow, it’s off for some household essentials (those clothespins I mentioned, laundry soap, and a small rug to catch the mud in the foyer) and maybe on Sunday, the historic center of the city.  Thanks for reading and tschüss!