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Goodbye Austria: 11 Things I Learned Living in Vorarlberg

June 10, 2011 · 23 comments

in Austria,Changes,Drinks,Gluten Free,Preserves,Spring,Summer,Vegetarian

elderflower syrup image sasasunakku

*Short trips are awesome. I’ve always been a quit-my-job-and-travel-until-my-money-runs-out kind of person but living on The Continent (an anachronism I know, but it nevertheless (or therefore?) amuses me) has awakened me to the pleasures of three-day jaunts.

*In extremely rural mountain villages in valleys in the Bregenzerwald there are people whose houses were built in the shade (Schattasitta in dialect or Schattenseite in high German) and those whose houses stood in the light of the sun (Sunnasitta or Sonnenseite). Both are prejudiced against the others and ne’er the twain shall meet!

*How to dress for the weather. Previously, a mixture of vanity and obliviousness to the importance of layering meant I’d wear impractical get-ups and spend the entire day complaining of cold. Now I know this: down is my friend. Also, living for nearly two years in a ski area and still being a beginner probably means I should let go of any Olympic hopes.

elderflower image sasasunakku

*Having no-speed limit on the (German) autobahn results in some spectacularly frightening crash scenes – I’ve been sickened by seeing several cars completely upturned by the force of the impact. Conversely, in the sticks of Austria, a 40 km/ph speed limit seems to mean 20 km/ph. Also, driving behind tractors sucks.

*People from the internet are almost always just how you imagine them when you meet them in real life. I wish I could pack up all the London and Berlin bloggers (and the Denver one) I met and take them home in my suitcase. Or at least just have some sort of wormhole interface through which we could visit and post food.

*It’s perfectly fine to leave your horse’s droppings on dappled paths through the woods, but definitely not your dog’s. Not sure why, because piles of horse manure are way bigger and attract more flies. My technique: close my mouth and screw up my eyes as I go past – you know what happened to the old lady who swallowed a fly, doncha?

*The meaning of g’hörig (ker-rig). Vorarlbergers use it as an adjective for anything that is, broadly, the way it ought to be: well-trimmed hedges and things that are otherwise proper and conform to expectations. It’s extremely g’hörig for the lawn never to be any more than 2 cm long. Even if the (constant) noise of the lawnmower drives your neighbour to drink.

elderflower syrup photo sasasunakku

*The importance of sticking to something. Being in general a project-focused person, I tend to throw myself into something until it’s done and call it a day. Blogging has taught me how enjoyable it is to see the fruits of your labours when you work at doing something bit by bit.

*Pending further investigation, Spring might be the new black! I’ve always been a summer person but the delights of Spring in Austria might have turned me. The slew of new (to me) greens that accompanies it helps.

*Dumplings ≠ always meaty despite what gyoza and XLB say. See: Germknödel, Kärtnernudeln. Also, umlauts have really grown on me.

*Making elderflower syrup is a total cinch. A five year old could do it. If you have one (a five year old, I mean) see if you can get them to make it while you put your feet up. Actually, no don’t – I just remembered boiling water and kids don’t mix well but if you can find an elderflower tree about, try it – you won’t be sorry.

What have you learned recently m’dears?

Elderflower Syrup

3 unwaxed lemons

15 large or 20 small elderflower heads

40 grams citric acid

1.2 litres boiling water

1 kg sugar

In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the sugar and citric acid and dissolve.

Zest the lemons into the bowl and slice them, adding those too.

Shake the flower heads and cut the stem completely off and stir into the bowl, if there are a few tiny bugs don’t worry, they’ll be strained off.

Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and steep at room temperature for 36 hours, stirring once or twice a day.

Strain through a clean cloth into a bottle and refrigerate and use within a month – or you can use sterilised bottles and seal them and keep them much longer.

Enjoy with water in a 1: 5 ratio, or to taste and in Hugo cocktails.

Print this recipe

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Emily June 10, 2011 at 11:32 am

I’ll miss you Sasa and knowing you weren’t so far away but I’m excited to hear more about your new life back home and hope all goes well. Thanks for all these Austrian posts which have taught me so much about the language and cooking. What have I recently learned? That baked strawberries in cakes aren’t really my thing, how to cook rice in a pan so it tastes good, that I like raw pears after all and I’ve now moved onto step aerobics Mittelstufe which I’m really proud of. Take care, xx.

Sasa June 18, 2011 at 12:30 am

Aerobics! Fun.

Glenn June 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Hey I just learned that I like capers! Never had the little buggers until the other night-yummy.

So you’re moving? Where ya headed to? Going to keep the blog going I hope!

Sasa June 18, 2011 at 12:31 am

Have you tried them in packed in salt rather than brine? You’ll never go back.

shaz June 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I recently learned that elderflower trees are supposed to grow up to 10m tall. So I hurriedly dug up the plant I’d stuck in the ground of my apartment courtyard and potted it. Phew! Maybe I’ll get elderflower blossoms next Spring, then I can try the cordial :) Good luck with the move, and looking forward to NZ posts.

flo June 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

Another delightful blog!

flo June 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

post I mean , of course

Ute@hungryinLondon June 11, 2011 at 11:23 am

What a shame for Austria to lose its most charming blogger, good luck going back and everything!

Lana June 12, 2011 at 6:15 am

Good winds, my friend! I am sure that we will meet one of these days, face to face, even if I have to travel to NZ:)
I love the elderflower syrup! My mother never made it, but we always had a bottle or two in the pantry in the summer time. Now I want to find an elderflower tree here in California – my girls have never tasted this drink; what a shame!
Looking forward to hearing from you once you get settled into your new life:)

Mairi @ Toast June 12, 2011 at 7:23 am

Safe travels Sasa, & hope to catch up with over here on the other side :)

Alli June 12, 2011 at 10:01 am

Great post Sasa and we look forward to you being on this side of the world and your belongings from here.

amber June 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I was secretly hoping to come meet you one day in Austria, but I’ll have to save it for your next location. ;)

Without a kitchen recently, I’ve begun to learn just how much I rely/relied on cooking as a pastime. :(

Sarah June 13, 2011 at 9:18 am

Looking forward to having you back in Aotearoa Sasa! xxx

Sasa June 18, 2011 at 12:34 am

Thanks Sarah, see you soon!

Anna Johnston June 13, 2011 at 10:06 am

So true…., you’ve got me chuckling here… nodding away. Enjoying your observations I am :) Enjoy your getaway Sasa, safe travels :)

Su-Lin June 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Good luck with your move home!

Am staring at your elderflower photo in the hope that I’ll recognise it one day!

SMITH BITES June 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm

great post my dear friend Sasa ~ what have i learn?? hmmmm . . . not nearly enough, i’m afraid . . . regardless of how organized i am, there will always be something unexpected so embrace it . . . ALWAYS trust your gut, it NEVER lies . . . traveling to another time zone sucks . . . the laundry reappears week after week (as do dishes) . . . sometimes just sitting, watching the birds is exactly what i need . . . oh, and friends like you were never, ever a possibility without the internet; and for that, i am quite grateful!!! cannot wait to hear about the next chapter Sasa – it will be an adventure for sure! xo

my spatula June 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm

safe travels and all the best for your new adventures!

Stephanie June 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I hope you really enjoy your journeys, Sasa — both your long journey to New Zealand and the journey of setting up a new life in New Zealand. Bon voyage!

I have recently learned that I prefer salads with fewer ingredients, although, of course, that means all of those ingredients must be stellar.

I’ve also recently learned that packing is, in fact, even worse than unpacking. So enjoy the unpacking in New Zealand!

chiquita June 16, 2011 at 2:33 am

Not really new, but it’s definitely been reconfirmed that I’m “ibsolutely mintal” in a myriad of ways. I suppose we also managed to ascertain that our English skills are still intact, which is a very good thing.
Enjoy family and friends. Till we meet again.

Sasa June 17, 2011 at 3:09 am

Yis, will you are. Mintal I mean. In the best possible way x

Marie July 6, 2011 at 8:53 am

I hope you have a great trip back to NZ and that you bring all those warm clothes for this rainy, cold weather we are having, hurumph! I am currently involved in a huge project and so my wee blog is suffering, but I hope to catch up with you soon in the blogosphere or beyond:)

Carola July 16, 2011 at 2:57 am

Dear Sasa,
What a lovely post! I’ve got an elderflower tree in my garden, once a year, combined with elderflowers collected in the forest, we make syrup. You can also dip the whole flower in a runny dough mixture and fry them in a pan, it’s called “Holderküachle” (=little elderflower cakes)…I prefer the syrup, though. It tastes really flowery.
It’s very funny to read what you learned in Vorarlberg ^-^

I hope your trip back to NewZealand was good, and that you’re doing well! You’re a great Japanese teacher, by the way – I actually understand more things when I watch Japanese movies or shows (but I still need subtitles), and it’s really helpful to know the most important gestures! ^_^
The “summer” in Vorarlberg has been quite cool and rainy until now, but I see it as a training for Iceland, where I’ll be going next week.
So: what I recently learned is, that people who have lived hundreds of years with volcanoes, glacial floods, and other dangerous environment, don’t panic easily. They stay cool and come up with solutions incredibly fast, although their daily life seems tranquil (definitely not the fast paced stressy lifestyle like in central Europe). Maybe one could say the same about New Zealanders…?

Greetings from Vorarlberg!

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