Monthly Archives: April 2017

Seriously sunny holiday destinations: Doha, a unique blend of the tradition and modernity

Quizzing enthusiasts will know Qatar as the country with the highest per capita GDP in the world. A few more may know it as the host nation for the 2022 Football World Cup, but not all of us will be able to place the tiny Middle Eastern country on a map and its easy to see why. The country is smaller than Montenegro in size and has just over 300,000 citizens. Doha, the only sizable city in the country is generally overshadowed by the regional superstar metropolis Dubai as the go to destination for people looking to experience the desert, magical Arabian nights and to get a glimpse of the oil wealth that has completely transformed the region in a matter of a few decades.

However, for those who have been rather taken aback by the rather cold weather that has been persisting in Wien since December and for travelers who like to indulge in learning different cultures, I would definitely recommend a short stay in Qatar to experience the many delights that this small country has to offer. I would even recommend it over Dubai for people looking for a more quieter, less commercial (and cheaper) vacation. Students on a tight budget may choose cheap flights run by Pegasus or the many other budget airlines that fly there.

Breathtaking view from the Doha International Airport

To being with, Doha really has one of the most picturesque airports I have been to. Right by the faultless gleaming aqua marine waterfront, a modern highway connects the Doha International Airport to the city. The water, sand, exquisitely maintained lawns and the beautifully designed infrastructure all come together to make it a really special welcome lounge for visitors.

Almost everywhere you go, you get to see the transformation that oil (largely natural gas actually, but lets not get pedantic) has had on the country. Most locals drive big, expensive 4x4s and you see some remarkable constructions wherever you look, but the city does continue to maintain its Eastern charm. Qataris generally dress up in their traditional costumes and you have pockets in the city, where you find old markets (souqs) and other remnants of the old ways of life here. Qatar also hosts some of the best museums highlighting Arab and Islamic Art. A number of scenic locations in Doha have the mesmerizing blue sea as a backdrop and feature architecture that incorporates modernity and tradition in such a seamless fashion that its hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins.

Qatar’s architecture – A blend of heritage and modernity

If you happen to know any locals, you must visit ‘Majlises’ that big families host regularly. Guests are welcome and everyone gets a warm reception and excellent snacks. Most Qataris are extremely soft spoken and have a easy going charm that you will come to appreciate almost immediately. Young locals are usually highly educated and have spent time in (often top) western universities, so you can have interesting, informative discussions with them. The country also attracts a lot of affluent expatriate talent, which means that you may also find people hailing from your nationality if you look around (expats comprise over 80% of the total population).

The best time to visit the country would be from October to March to escape the intense heat and humidity, but if you don’t mind some sun, then just go there in the early or late summer.

Hope you enjoyed the post! Do comment if you have anything to add.

Afternoon at the Albertina!

Hello everyone!!

If you like contemporary art, modern art, impressionism and Schiele, you can’t miss the Albertina museum ! There’s the amazing permanent collection ”From Monet to Picasso” in which you can admire more the most important artists of the last two centuries, with some awesome paintings of the puntinismo and impressionist period ! Then there are always two or three short term exhibitions that change every 4 or 5 months !

(I’m sorry, you missed the Italian beauties exposition!)                           

Right now and until the 18th of June there’s an amazing exhibition of Egon Schiele ! I really appreciate the fact that everything was well explained in English (and of course in German too) and that you can really relate to this complex man.

I already knew this artist but I didn’t know a lot about his background and his psychology under the paintings… even if his paintings can seem a little negative and not always full of joy, he’s in love with life and with human kind especially ! A good quantities of quotes from Schiele himself are on the walls and they really lead you during the whole exhibition, making you understand better his complex figure and thoughts! One that I really liked was: “At present, I am mainly observing the physical motion of mountains, water, trees and flowers. One is everywhere reminded of similar movements in the human body, of similar impulses of joy and suffering in plants.”

And if you’re thinking to go more than one time at the Albertina you better become a Freunde der Albertina, which allow you to go any time you want paying the card price and nothing else (I took the Student’s semester card and it’s just 15 euro, so less then paying the entry ticket twice ! I already used it four times so.. it worth it!).

Some good Youtube resources for Deutsch students

We all know that Youtube is a practically infinite resource for all types of content. Its almost always our first resort when we are looking for some lighthearted clips featuring funny cats, cranky kids, unfortunate pedestrians being swallowed by sink holes, old nearly forgotten songs from our childhood and lessons in how sometimes instant karma gets dished out to bad people. The video sharing site is also a great resource for educational material (although they are not anywhere close to being as popular as Gangnam style) and I went around looking for some good content in Deutsch that could be useful for neophytes like me.

Below are some channels and links that have good, entertaining audio-visual study aids. I must mention that I have not checked if the links are free of copyright infringements. Credits to all content is with the due owners.

Gothe Instutute – Learn German as you follow the life of Nevin!

  1. Gothe Institut: The worldwide Gothe Institut features a lot of high quality content for German students on its online portals. Their Youtube channel has a number of videos and playlists with a variety of content in Deutsch related to current happenings in Germany and useful information for students hailing from different countries. My personal favorite from here are short videos featuring a Turkish girl Nevin, who has moved to Germany recently. They track common situations that a newcomer to the country may face and are handy to get a basic, practical grasp on the language. The clips will also expose viewers to a lot of aspects of life in the OSD.
  2. Lingorilla: A popular online website with video content for people learning foreign languages, Lingorilla has a lot of great short clips for students learning German on its YT page. One of the nice things about Lingorilla is that their videos are categorized by fluency level, so you can jump right to the content that will be most suitable to you.
  3. Deutsch für Euch: My personal favorite! Unlike the other two links, this channel is not produced by a large institute with substantial resources. Instead the videos on the site are generally monologues by a German girl on one topic either in vocabulary, grammar or comprehension. While the videos are short, they are rich in grammatical rules, vocabulary content and I have often had to watch them multiple times to understand everything that is dealt with. I love the videos from this channel because of the unique, unconventional and often funny way in which the presenter will explain a topic. A word of caution – I don’t think that a normal student like myself can follow and remember all the information that is included in a single video in one go, so you may have to persistently stick to one lesson till you perfect all the topics that are touched upon before moving to the next.

I hope that readers will like this list and find it useful. Please comment if you would like me to include your favorite resources in this list as well.

Some popular indoor getaways in Wien

Although, we have had one nice sunny morning this past week, I thought I would play it safe this time around and stick to some indoor recreational avenues in Wien. Almost all the districts in the city have shopping centers and theaters, but some of them make for better evenings than others depending on your preferences. In making this list I have also prioritized places that are easier to access using the U Bahn network, so you may see some popular names missing.

  1. Lugner City: Among one of the most popular shopping destinations of the city, my first tryst with Lugner was way back in 2009, when I visited the center regularly to visit a really reasonably priced, all-you-can-eat restuarant, which has since shut shop (probably because of gluttonous clientele like me I imagine). However, the place is located close to the inner city (the station next to Westbahnhof on U6) and has a variety of shops, which feature good offers quite regularly and a great food court. Lugner City also has a kino for all you film buffs. Definitely a top destination to shop for some clothes and electronics! Do note that the place can get quite crowded in the weekends.

    Lugner City: Great choice of shops and activities

  2. Wien Mitte: Billed as the largest shopping center in the city, Wien Mitte is conveniently accessible by U, S and regional train networks. The place boasts of multiple supermarkets (some open even on Sundays), fast food, coffee houses, shops, restaurants and a multiplex. It does not matter if you are looking for books, hats, consumer durables or just a nice place to dine at, this center has it all.
  3. Millennium Shopping Center: Located in the lower floors of the Millennium Tower (next to Handelski Station on the U6), this is one of the quieter, more relaxing shopping areas that I have been to. Its right next to Neue Donau, so the view from most places within the center is spectacular. The place boasts of some upmarket coffee houses, a spacious and well maintained food court with a really good variety of cuisines to choose from. As with the other places listed above, this center has a multiplex thrown in as well. It also has a great recreational center for gaming and a disco.
  4. G3 Shopping Center: Located at quite a distance from the city, you will need to hop on to the U6 and go all the way to Florisdorf and catch a free shuttle that will take you to the G3 center. While the place is quite far from almost everything, it is quite popular with people looking to do their shopping on a budget. You find a number of brands selling clothes and other merchandise at good discounts and a few coffee shops when you want to take a break from the shopping. It also houses a couple of big supermarkets.

Hope you find the list useful! Please use the comments to add your suggestions to the list!

Together is the way forward with a new language

I know you are thinking that the heading for the article looks like the slogan for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign and that does not exactly bode well for someone looking for an interesting and informative read. However, in the context of learning Deutsch, I think being a part of a diverse class has many benefits and wanted to make it the topic of this write up.

While having a bunch of interesting chaps from different cultures bumble their way through the arduous maze of picking up a foreign language with its many well concealed traps is a proven goldmine for British comedies, it is also a very good idea to be a part of a multicultural group when you are learning a new language.

Currently, in our class, we have people from four continents and over nine countries. All the diversity helps add to the richness of the classroom experience. We have students who are for example stronger with their German vocabulary than in pronunciation and vice versa. Its common to see such pairs help each other out with the course work. These different backgrounds also help in bringing different perspectives to the proceedings.

I do not want to peddle stereotypes, but I have noticed that people with more exposure to Deutsch (live closer to OSD) are better at the pronunciation, while people from outside Europe generally do better with the grammatical rules (similar to seeing non native english users do better than native speakers in the GMAT English section). This becomes a great aid for teachers as they mixing people up in groups for activities and see students help each other and learn at the same time (teaching something cements the concepts in your head as well). So, yes, being a part of a diverse class helps everyone learn better! Share your take on the topic in the comments section below!

…what a real Heuriger is!!

Here I am again!

I know you were scared that I wouldn’t tell you anything about the Heuriger… I just wanted to create some suspense!!! The first time I’ve ever heard about the existence of Heurigers is during my first Italian class as a teacher… I was arrived in Vienna on Friday and on Monday I was already in the class, more scared than during High School exams, because I didn’t know how to approach to them, most of all because I couldn’t speak any German. Luckily they were a B1 level so we could easily speak in Italian and I was already thinking about how to entertain them when… I needed to do nothing because they were so interested in me, asking me why I’m here, what do I study, what do I want to do in my life ecc… that I had to do nothing! And the funniest thing is that when they understood I was in Vienna just for three days, they started to give me tips on places I must see and things I must do! And one of them was of course going in a Heuriger!!!

So after my two hours walk I decided to walk a little bit more! And I descended following the 1 path towards Nussdorf. This paths brings you into the vineyards and so in Heuringers! But let’s explain a little for those who don’t know what I’m talking about! Heuriger is the abbreviation of “heuriger Wein” (this year’s wine) in Austrian and Bavarian German. Originally, it was a simple open-air tavern on the premises of winemakers, where people would bring along food and drink the new wine. The Heurige are renowned for their atmosphere of Gemutlichkeit shared among a throng enjoying young wine, simple food. But how to distinguish a Heuriger??? All of them have a bush of pine twigs hanging at the entrance when they are open! And I can tell you that in the way down you will see lots of bush of pine hanging outside! The one I went was actually not really on the route, in fact I was following the path when I saw a little city far away on the Donau at my left and I decided to leave the main street to go there, luckily on my way to get to the village I found a super nice Heuriger with an amazing view! It was lunch time so I stopped there, I had typical food (of which I don’t know the name but I can swear it was amazing: mainly meet, Knodeln and Kraut) and of course the wine of the year!!! A simple unique atmosphere and experience!! The name of the place was Heuriger Hirt and from there I descended until the village I saw from the top and I actually found a bus that brought me to Nussdorf again! Everything worked well and also if I didn’t plan the day I think the ingredient is to enjoy the moment!!!

A trip in the countryside!

Hallo everybody!

Today I’m going to reveal you one of the things I loved the most since I’m in Vienna! I have to say that I’m the kind of person who love nature and as soon as I have the time to escape from the city I like to discover new, isolated and not crowded places in the green! So yesterday after class I decided to go at Kahlberg and from there to get lost in the vineyards around there!

I’ve already went once at Kahlberg and I can say it’s an amazing place, not really isolated but for sure a good point to relax and reflect! The part I love the most is not really the panorama point (its worth also to go there just for that) but hte way to get there! In fact you can get there in two ways if you don’t have a car: with the bus number 38A from Grinzing (another beautiful area that I love) or… by walking!! And that is just an amazing experience, with a real contact with nature and where you can discover the Viennese countryside and vineyards! For this last option you have to plan the ”travel” a little because it’s a real trip, meaning you need comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and at least three hours of time! Everything is super well explained at the site https://www.wien.gv.at/english/leisure/hiking/path1.html and also once you get at the starting point at the end of the tram D in Nussdorf, there are signs that indicate you the way to follow! So no stress, just a little bit of energy and willing to walk in the forest! In addition to have a wonderful view during all the path, it’s also nice because if it’s sunny you actually don’t die because trees protect you! After 2  hours you arrive at Kahlberg were an amazing view waits for you and also a cup of coffee or an ice-cream 😉 in fact there are few bars right at the top with view over the city! Then you can choose if walk more or take the bus to go back in the city, of course I chose to walk and most of all… to discover what a real Heuringer is!!!

Up at Kahlberg the view is pretty cool! Don’t you think so?!

Some great things about studying at Deutsch Academy

In my third month of studying at Deutsch Academy, I thought it would be a good idea to pen down why its a great place to learn the language. Its obviously a great choice for students because of the brilliant teachers and its convenient locations, which helps us save time on the commute and go out for a quick bite in the break time! However, there are many small things about the pedagogy and the time we spend here that makes studying here both enjoyable and rewarding. Here is my take on what makes the Deutsch Academy experience excellent!

A game makes things more fun!

  1. Use of well designed activities: The instructors at the academy try to incorporate a variety of activities and games to help us practice new concepts and grammatical constructs. Students generally have to work in groups to solve a puzzle or to play a game that incorporates new words or sentence completion rules. The games make classes more interesting and add variety to the proceedings, while giving you the all important practice.
  2. Practical, flexible schedule: Personally to me, the 4 days a week, 3 hours a day schedule is perfect for someone looking to learn a new language. The classes are sufficiently long to do justice to topics, at the same time we are not overloaded with information. We also get 3 day weekends to plan some out of town activities to enjoy the great tourist locations close by.
  3. Helpful, friendly office staff: Office staff at Deutsch Academy are really helpful towards the students and ensure that they do their best to help us with our issues. Be it with accommodating delays in making payments against a seat reservation or helping you decide which studies level would suite you best, you will see that the staff will go out of their way to ensure that you get the best advice and flexibility possible.
  4. A simple, fun environment: One of the things I absolutely adore about DA is the simple layout that greets the students. There are no busts of Sigmund Freud or Bismark, or wall hangings with odious, patronizing quotes on how learning foreign languages makes the world a more beautiful and safe place for our children. What you get instead are clean, uncluttered, well lit rooms with simplistic, yet comfortable furniture that helps us focus on whats happening in the class.

Hope you enjoyed reading the article! Comments welcome!

Some tips to top up on new languages (Part II)

Hi everyone! Last week, I came up with some tips for students learning German and with some additional reading on the subject, I thought that we could expand the list a bit further for the benefit of my readers. As stated in the earlier blog post, language learning is an extremely personal process, so not all tips will be relevant to you. Its all about experimenting and finding out what can work out!

  1. Find an app that works for you: One can choose from a number of teaching apps that can help you in your quest to learn a new language. Many of them offer a decent amount of quality content including practice exercises and reading material. These will help you practice and consolidate your skills and can be used to keep up with your quest even while commuting.
  2. Make friends with whom you share just this language: The best way to practice is to have real life conversations and to force yourself to dive in headlong. I notice that having friends with whom you just share this new language is quite useful as otherwise, you often tend to default to a language you are all more comfortable with (usually English). This is not as easy as it sounds in Wien, as most people here do speak good English and kind of try to relive you from the blushes of making mistakes in rudimentary Deutsch, but with some searching around, you will find suitable partners. Make sure you chat with them regularly and don’t worry about the mistakes, but try to notice your weak areas and work on them. Also, if you are unable to complete a sentence, try using an online translator rather than switching to your native tongue.
  3. Figure out your study pattern: Some experts recommend that you try to try to saturate your brain with information in study sessions to pick up skills quicker, while others say that you may try making your sessions more fun with imaginative exercises such as trying to translate your favorite rhyme. Try out many methods and with time you will figure out what works for you and then stick with it with a slight amount of further tweaking to optimize you studies with your learning pattern.
  4. Consistency is the key: Ensure that you devote some time to leaning German every day. Taking long breaks from the language can reverse some of the gains you have previously made. Habitual practice will reap rewards over time!

I hope you benefit from reading these tips! Comments are welcome. As noted earlier, I have borrowed and paraphrased a few ideas from these two links that you should definitely check out.

  1. 22 Tips For Learning A Foreign Language
  2. 10 Tips And Tricks To Learn Any Language

Tschüss!

 

Taking Wien’s temperamental weather in your stride

It would neither be particularly interesting, nor fair to say that this spring has not been all that conducive for some sun and frolicking. After all, Wien is not known for sunny beaches and warm weather. Its a central European city, situated very close to the Alps, which make for a cooler, unpredictable weather.

This aspect of local climate was brought to the fore last week, when people were somewhat surprised by snowfall in the middle of April. Most days of the month saw cloudy or slightly cold weather and it did feel like winter was not really ready to loosen its grips on the region and make way for spring. So, personally, my earlier blog on a spring outing location may have been a bit optimistic. But take heart, not all is lost! Out of season snowfall is a pleasant surprise and life goes on as usual. However, I thought that a few wardrobe tips may be appropriate for students or backpackers planning on coming over.

  1. A raincoat is in order – It does rain quite often in the city, so be prepare yourself with a raincoat or an umbrella. I suggest both!
  2. Have a mix of clothing – while it can get quite warm in the summers (Austria is landlocked), the weather can take a turn for the worse pretty quickly thanks to the mountainous terrain, so make sure you pack both light and heavy clothing. Since its not very humid, people don’t tend to perspire much, so you don’t need too many sets of clothes as long as you manage your laundry well.
  3. Stock up on warm accessories – the cold weather does mean that you may be needing thermals, think hats, gloves and earmuffs. Summer season travelers can ignore this tip
  4. Take it in your stride – rain may temporarily ruin your planned outings, but rest assured that a bright sunny day is right around the corner and the city has some great places for memorable excursions and outdoor activities!

I hope you find these tips handy and useful! Let me know if you have any tips of your own in the comments section below!

 

Another perspective!

Hello there! It’s me again 😉

Tonight I will go to bed with just an image in my mind: the beutiful view over Vienna! In fact sometimes it’s beautiful to change perspective on how we look at things! I think we all agree on how wonderful is Stephansdom… in any different corner you look at it, there are new surprises to discover!

For just 4,5 euro you can see everything from another point of view, and not just the kirche, but the whole city ! In fact the main tower it’s 137 meters high and after 343 steps (don’t worry you can do it ! The end it’s closer than you think!) a breathtaking landscape is gonna surprise you (the double sense is allowed)! After about three fourths of the stairsnyou come outside for a while and walk a few metres on a narrow cornice (don’t be afraid, it’s wide enough and the banister is solid). At this point the first reward for your effort comes, as the north-eastern part of Vienna lies below you. When you enter inside the tower again, you come into a relatively roomy space with high ceiling. An information sign says that in the past this was the location of Pummerin, the biggest bell in Stephansdom cast three hundred years ago of captured Turkish cannons. A little more effort and you are the king of the city with the amazing view you were promised to see!

I personally loved the possibility to be closer to the roof: it is an artwork by itself. The roof is made of 230,000 glazed tiles of different colours which form various mosaics and patterns. On the south side of the roof  the mosaics represent the double-headed eagle, symbol of the Austrian empire under the rule of the Habsburgs. You can stay upside as long as you like and once you decide to go back there’s a good news: descending is much faster than the way up!

A good reward after so much effort !! Really it’s worth it !