Compass

Fresh Perspectives You Can Use.

Horizons Journal – Settling In Austria

SnowSnow! Finally, it started coming down in buckets here on Monday afternoon and never stopped until two days later. We haven’t seen any in 22 years of living in South Africa and for us it’s magic, even though it caused havoc for motorists. Ski resorts up in the mountains are relieved, too : winter has come very late this year.

As planned, we arrived in Austria just before New Years Eve in pursuit of our new home : having spent a month in Germany and Christmas with family and friends, we drove south to Bavaria and then through the Alps to Carinthia in Austria in the most miserable conditions imaginable.

If you are used to the N1 in the Karoo and traffic in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, driving rain and near-freezing temperatures are treacherous on the road. Little did we know that a full-blown blizzard was waiting for us three weeks later, when we had to drive the 30 km from Spittal to Villach and back. We made it, but that’s another story.

We are in Spittal an der Drau at the moment, our base to look for a new home in Carinthia – a quaint little town as picturesque as you can imagine Austria, with medieval facades and cobble-stoned squares inviting you to wander and wonder about cultures and people.

Carinthia is the southernmost area in German-speaking Europe you will find. It is on the southern side of the Alps and there, amongst beautiful lakes like Lake Millstatt and Lake Wörth, only a few minutes by car from the Italian border, is Villach – that’s where we’ll be living.

We’ve found a very nice, brandnew flat to rent from where we can walk to Villach’s historical inner city in 15 minutes along the Drau river – you can find a lot more about Villach on Wikipedia in German or Villach on Wikipedia in English. With almost 60.000 inhabitants it is not too big, offers everything we need and distances are very manageable.

It wasn’t easy to choose where exactly we want to live, but we had a list of criteria and they match Villach. One of them was infrastructure, climate another one : when hurricane winds caused widespread damage and flooding in Europe north of the Alps last week, we never saw any of it, except on TV.

We are now tackling part two of our mission to live in Europe again : organise a new household to move in to by 1 March. It takes a surprising amount of running around to find out what, where and how – we thought we would know, but a lot of things have changed in 22 years, and Austria is not quite the same as Germany, after all.

A popular saying here states that ‘Austria is the better Germany’, and in many respects it seems to be true, at least for us : life is well structured, but less frenetic than in Germany. People are generally cheerful, we see a lot of smiling faces – many shops off the mainstream close for a very civilized lunch-break from 12:30 to 14:30 which reminds us of the ‘Siesta’ in Mediterranean countries.

After two months on he road, living out of suitcases gets a bit tiring and we are looking forward to having a familiar habitat again. On the other hand, there is so much new waiting to be discovered by us…

In the meantime, best to enjoy one day at a time – the snowball-fight was fun today!

More soon from : Berend

Thursday, 25 January 2007 - Posted by | 1. COMPASS eNewsletter, 7. Horizons Journal

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