Thursday, November 15, 2012


I have been terrified of seeing Krampus since I first heard about it. I've already seen Krampus cards and Krampus gingerbread around Bischofshofen, but tonight was my first sighting. I was sitting in a restaurant with two other TAs and we saw two pass by just as we finished eating. I panicked a little bit, but figured it would be fine. The two Krampusse (This is the plural that I found. Please correct if wrong!) had walked by going in the opposite direction of where I live. However, a little bit later, more Krampusse walked by, at least five, if not more! I was really panicking now, but the procession had seemed to pass and the other TAs and I could make our way back to the train station safely so I could see them off to their villages. There was a Krampus in front of us, but we crossed the street to avoid it. Then they ended up behind us making a lot of noise, but they didn't chase us. They seemed to be more interested in all the children galloping about. I was a little scared to walk home by myself from the train station, in case I encountered one alone. Luckily, I didn't see any on the way home. They seem to make a lot of noise, so I am hoping they don't normally sneak up on people. Either way, I'll be looking over my shoulder a lot when walking home at night for the next month! Or I might avoid going out after dark completely!

For those who don’t know what Krampus is, let me explain. Krampus is a mythical creature that is the alpine version of getting coal for Christmas, but a million times more terrifying (OR: a lot creepier). It is the antithesis of St. Nicolas who comes and brings gifts. Krampus takes all the naughty children and stuffs them in its bag and hauls them away to the mountains. Every year, the day before the Feast of St. Nicolas on December 6th, there is something known as Krampuslauf. This is a parade of all the Krampusse around the town. Young men dress up as Krampus and wear elaborate costumes with fur, claws, and scary masks. They chase people, especially women and children (so I've heard), and whip them with tree branches.

In a small alpine village, this begins in mid-November and lasts until Christmas! I've heard that in these villages, the Krampuslauf is pretty crazy, and Krampus will be out and about practically every night. There is a Krampuslauf in Salzburg, but it's pretty tame and touristy. In the villages, like where I am, anything goes! My students and others have told me that I will probably end up bruised after Krampuslauf. We'll just see how the rest of this month goes with Krampus everywhere.

For more information, visit the Krampus Wikipedia page. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012


This has been a whirlwind Herbstferien (Fall Vacation) so instead of recapping everything, I'm just going to mention some highlights and observations.
  • Went to Vorarlberg, the western most province in Austria.
  • The train ride was long, but very beautiful. Part of the ride was on a mountain, so I was able to look down into the valley below. Beautiful, but a little scary!
  • Stayed with another TA and her family.
  • Walked into Switzerland, which is possible from Vorarlberg. Luckily, we did not get stopped, because I did not have my passport with me. (Switzerland is not part of the EU, so you need a passport crossing into it.)
  • Ate veal for the first time.
  • Also ate venison for the first time. It was served in a gulasch.
  • Just generally ate a lot in Vorarlberg. Some other highlights of eating this week include polenta, quiche lorraine, Knödel (dumplings), chocolate cake, apple cake, a sponge cake with berries and finally, cheese! My friend's mother has a knack for buying the most delicious cheeses, especially soft cheeses.
  • After a few days in Vorarlberg, my dirndl that I just bought probably does not fit anymore.
  • I learned that I do not have a talent in buying the right kind of cheese. When I got back home, I bought some Brie from the supermarket and it was awful.
  • Visited Bregenz, the capitol of Vorarlberg. Walked around, saw one of the biggest lakes in Europe (Lake Constance), went to the Kunsthaus (art museum) and saw a bizarre exhibition of line drawings and a good one on art and photography from Nairobi, Kenya. Which just fueled my interest in visiting Kenya some day. Maybe that will be my next goal: move to Kenya!
  • Went on two long walks. One in a snowy forest and the other completely up hill.
  • Also learned to never trust Austrians when they say "We're going on a walk!" I know I have mentioned this before, but I feel like I will never learn this lesson! 
  • Railjet is one of the nicest trains I've been on in Europe. It even has wifi!
  • Spent the night in Salzburg with some other TAs. Who happen to have a very nice apartment!
  • We went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and then out for beers afterwards. Unfortunately, I did not get to eat the schnitzel I've been craving.
  • Stayed up way too late on Friday night. Walked home from the bar and stopped at McDonald's on the way back.
  • Went to Prien am Chiemsee, which is in Germany. This is also a very big lake, though not as big as Lake Constance.
  • Visited one of the islands that has a castle. Apparently the castle was modeled after Versailles, but was never finished.
  • Didn't go inside the castle, except to eat, but did see some reindeer in the gardens. However, I just learned that they were not reindeer, but in fact, fallow deer!
  • A week's vacation didn't feel long enough. I don't feel ready to go back to school!
  • And the best news of all, bought a ticket to go to Berlin in a few weeks! Can't wait!

And now for some random pictures!

Cat in the Old City Bregenz.

Very friendly and even posed for us!

Blurry photo of Switzerland. I think.

Lake, ducks and Germany in the background. Or maybe it was Switzerland, I can't remember!

Lake Constance and me. The light was not the greatest for a picture!

Forgot to take a picture of the delicious cake I had before eating it!

This made me laugh. Don't know what that says about my maturity level.


Old Town Bregenz

More Old Town Bregenz. Hard to see, but there is a pair of antlers hanging over the tunnel.

Interesting cafe next to the art museum in Bregenz.
My friend's cat.

Snowy (and very wet!) woods.

View while on a walk.

For dog droppings. There were many of these on the walk, but of course, I ended up taking a picture of one that has graffiti.

View on the boat going to Herreninsel on Chiemsee.

Some other TAs and me on the boat.

The castle on Herreninsel.

Human body, but frog face.

I think this is a Greek goddess turning people into frogs and lizards.

Here are the frogs and lizards.

And the humans changing into frogs.

Another frog face.

Another fountain in the gardens.

I especially liked this serpent.

Not that impressed!

There was a reindeer! Actually a fallow deer, according to my Bavarian friend.

Attempting to ruin my pictures.

Wasn't supposed to take pictures in this room, but didn't see the sign until after I took this photo. Oops!