Author Archives: jokerj98
Scattered amongst soaring mountainous terrain; pulsating snow covered cliffs, surrounded by climbing forests in multiple shades of green, lies a small bilingual community, whom have found common ground in their complicated history, and pride themselves in both their language and heritage.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of visiting Bozen/Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, a state in the very north of Italy, where history, geography and language have created division for nearly a century. You won’t sense the tension that scathed the land following the annex of the region from Austria post World War One. On the most part; it seems a thing of the past. What you may see though is an identity-crisis struck from living between two nations and two languages as the population attempt to identify their true mother country.
I was lucky enough to get the local experience as I was staying with some Südtiroler’s. What I found interesting was that although they were all bilingual, and we were in Italy, Deutsch seemed to be the language of choice between them – though, from what I heard, it certainly wasn’t German *tongue in cheek*. To me it’s the equivalent of an English speaker hearing someone from very Northern Scotland, perhaps even speaking Glaswegian. Although my German is still in the works, I was told that indeed many native German speakers struggle when understanding Südtiroler’s, which made me glad I wasn’t alone.
From the conversations we had, most locals seemed to be quite proudly Italian, yet preferred to speak German, which I found fascinating. I have to say though; this conversation came about when discussing football. They didn’t seem too keen on the Austrians. Funny that. But either way, they do of course speak Italian, most of them natively, and this caused a cultural experience I had seldom come across, whereby my limited Italian and decent German were at war with one another. Depending on the bar, cafe or restaurant we went to, the greeting and conversation would be mixed, so one really had to be alert. In fact the venue was wüscht (doesn’t make a difference) as they would say, rather each individual had their own preferences of language.
Quick side bar: anyone from Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, or many other countries I am sure of, this experience is probably quite normal. But coming from a country (Australia) isolated from the rest of the world, surrounded by English, this is really an experience.
So there I was sitting in an Irish bar. Of course an Irish bar. The ambience was yellow; the lights were dim, the temperature was warm, the music was soft and mellow, I felt quite gemütlich [cozy]. Having driven for over 7 hours, my stomach was running on empty, so being in Italy – pizza was the fuel of choice. Your man came over – this is an Irish place after all – and gave me a good ole, “Bitteschön” i.e what are ya after. He’s speaking German I thought, beautiful! I ordered in my best German accent, he walked away with a face full of comprehension and I thought ‘hey this isn’t so hard’. Next thing I know, your man, well another man this time, comes over holding a pizza and starts ranting away in Italian. It was „Bolognase“ this and „Berlusconi“ that…at least that’s how it sounded to me. I stared at him for a few seconds, mouthed a „waaaaas“ to my friends, before he switched to German and I was back on it. I even gave him a cheeky „Grazie“ to finish the job.
Language aside, the mountains were gorgeous and I was lucky enough to be taken on a hikking tour with one of the locals the following morning. The winding drive up the mountain was not one to miss, with a new view of the mountainous countryside after every bend. The friendliness of the locals was definitely not lost on me, with motorists passing by all smiling and waving their hands. The best was when a tractor steaming along at full throttle, attempted to overtake us up the steep climb. That’s when you know you’re really in the country.
After reaching the near top, we disembarked from our car and began the apparent ‘leisurely’ two hour hike to the summit. The incline was steep, and after the first fifteen minutes, ‘leisurely’ started seeming strenuous, causing me to rethink my fitness. An hour and a half in we wandered passed a group of elderly Nordic walkers. You know those dorky walkers with the ski-pole-style sticks. To be honest though, at that point I kind of wish I had a set too. Seeing my slightly struggling they mouthed off a cheeky, “don’t give up you’re almost there” in Südtirolien German, which I was amazed I actually understood. This definitely gave me some motivation. If these old geezers can do it, why can‘t I!?
I was surprised as well at the amount of snow towards the top, it being the end of April and all. I was informed that had we attempted the hike a few weeks early it would have been a lot tougher, so I took grace in the fact that I got the advantage of seeing the snow, but not needing to trudge a few miles in it.
After a couple of hours we finally made it to the summit, with a brilliant view of the mountainside. At the top lay a perfectly placed lodge, calling our name as we were dying for some nourishment to heal ourselves from the journey. We sat outside and admired the view whilst ordering some Kaiserschmarrn, a delicious Austrian delicacy, some bacon and eggs, and of course Weißbier. Content barely gives the experience justice
Südtirol really is Italy’s little Austria. Whilst both Austria and Italy share the Alps, Bolzano definitely screams more Austrian, with German the language of choice and Austria culture highly noticeable.
Where else can you get real Austrian Kaiserschmarrn and real Italian pasta in the same place? I will be coming back!
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS
The first sentence says it all,
“I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man.”
With 24 bestselling novels under his belt, there’s no doubt Coben knows the formula to bring you into a thriller from the outset and have you begging for more. As delicately crafted as his first sentence, the blurb is just as tantalizing,
“Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie.”
So I paid the $11.99 on Amazon to download the e-book addition and spent the next 3 days racing through it. It was indeed what the critiques call a page turner – though that phrase seems to lose its value somewhat in the e-book world – his thrilling prose and slow drip of facts had my heart racing right through the first half of the book.
It was about this time however that I recognized the author’s style. For a second I thought I had actually read the book before, but then I realized it was another book. Funnily enough, it was actually Coben’s first ever book, Play Dead, which is about as literal as it suggests, which I had previously read on a trip through Europe. I had just finished the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and was drooling for some more crime/thriller excitement. For me ‘Play Dead’ was the epitome of a thriller gone cheesy. As much as it had me on the edge of my seat, the missing person story was all too cliche, and the culminating sibling complex climaxing at the end was all too predictable.
It just shows you not much changes in a 20 year career as Six Years wasn’t much different. Although the book did have me spilling my coffee as my gaze seldom drifted from the
pages screen, the random pack of; mafia, witness protection, missing persons, string of murders etc. all culminated in another fairly predictable ending.
Coben also seems to have a love affair with Latin as the novel is filled with short terms and phrases in the language which either shows his pretentiousness, or perhaps just my lack of basic Latin. I’d rather go with the former. It’s not like I plan on following his style with my future novel by throwing in random German phrases. At least I don’t think so…
But aside from this I give the book 3.5 stars. There is a reason he is a best selling international authors and it isn’t so much his prose or his plot ideas. Rather it’s his ability to sell, and he is damn good at it. I bought the novel didn’t I? But hey, we force ourselves through pathetic reality TV shows, and dribbling American Sitcoms, so there is definitely time for a bit of a thrill in the air. And even if you find yourself predicting the ending, just enjoy the journey along the way and you should be somewhat satisfied.
But don’t take my word for it. Watch the book trailer below.
(A book trailer? Really? That exists? I told you this guy could sell!)
When ever someone asks me how my German is I never really know how to respond. I am definitely not fluent, though friends keep wondering why I’m not. For anyone who’s actually learnt a language before they know, it takes a while! So here I am, two and a half years of learning German, and mind you I have spent most of that time in a German speaking country, yet if a German asks me whether I speak it or not, my reply is still ‘ein bisschen’ (a little).
Though I was saying ‘ein bisschen’ when the extent of my German was ‘zwei Bier, bitte’, ‘dankeschön’ and ‘ich bin schwanger’ (you can Google that if you want. Don’t ask me why I knew that back then…)
I’d like to think I know a little more than ‘ein bisschen’ right now. But perhaps out of all the new words I’ve learnt I just haven’t quite learnt those few words to describe the extent of my German. Do I know a little, a little more than a little, am I pretty good, am I OK am I not bad… even in English nothing sounds very good. I mean I’ve met travelers who say they, ‘only speak a little English’, then end up reciting Ulysses before my very eyes. I think it’s just a confidence thing. From the moment you start learning a language, until you can fool a native speaker to thinking you’re native, you’re probably just going to say ‘a little’.
Well the one good thing about doing a course is Europe has a nice little list of letters and numbers to help describe where you’re at. To people who don’t know the CEFR system, it doesn’t mean much, but to the rest, its a beautiful way of classifying us. I am currently B1/1 and will over the next 8 weeks be studying 10 hours a week to hopefully boost myself two levels to B1/2 then B2.
Having not been to a German class since last year, after going to my first few classes I realized that although my grasp of the language is pretty good, I make a hell of a lot of mistakes. I haven’t been using my reflexive pronouns very well, naughty, naughty e.g. ‘I myself am interested’ would be the correct phrase, not ‘I am interested’. Though obviously they both work in English. Typical. And secondly, my articles are down the toilet, just another awesome thing about the German language. What the hell is wrong with just ‘THE!’
I will hopefully keep you updated on the awesome new things I learn through the weeks. Click the button on the right toolbar to follow me 🙂
Many people claim traveling alone can be an arduous task. Who do you dine with? Who do you talk to on those long train rides? Who watches your bags when nature calls? And if you get lost, who do you blame but yourself? Aside from this, there are many upsides to traveling alone which helps bridge your confidence, turning you from shy into a social butterfly as well as the little self-wins along the way which makes doing it solo all the more fun.
In my latest Eurotrip last year, I found myself with a few days of solo traveling. Although a little anxious at first, having relied so heavily on the company of many others throughout my trip, it took an adrenalin fueled event to get the heart fluctuating and ready to embark on a solo journey.
I had just waved my girlfriend Simone off and left myself all but 15 minutes to grab my bag from the locker storage at München Hauptbahnhof and venture onto the EuroStar train towards Liechtenstein. Somewhere between grabbing some bratwurst for the train ride and walking toward the locker area, I realized that Simone had taken the key to the locker with her… No time to waste.
I ran towards the locker office, rambled out some broken German until I could convince the man to open my locker. 9 minutes..
Then I had to prove that it was actually my bag. No tags. Stupid. Oh wait there was a tag there from my flight from New York, it read, ‘Josh Thompson’ (a friend I had traveled with). Shit, this doesn’t look good. 7 minutes..
What to do…I noticed my combination lock was still on the bag so I unlocked it. That convinced him, phew! Back to the office, passport out, filling in paper work, pay fine (25 euro – eh!). Get out. 2 minutes.
Side steps and a few scraped shoulders later – don’t people understand that these German trains are never late – and then I remembered this particular train was Swiss. Even more punctual! Luckily, I already knew the platform. The whistle was blowing just as I threw my bags in and the train departed.
And so it was my first win traveling solo. The heart was racing, the anxiety was over. I could do this.
One thing I should mention about the tardiness of Swiss trains, is you have to be Usain Bolt during the connections. Many Swiss people will daily make connections of trains 2 minutes apart – a far cry from the 30+ minute connections in Sydney – so you better know which platform you’re going to.
After a 4 hour journey, I got off the train at Buchs in Switzerland, just a few kilometers west of Liechtenstein, and searched for the bus to take me into Schaan where my hostel was (the only hostel in Liechtenstein). Once I found the bus stop I went to the ATM to withdraw some Swiss Francs – the true monopoly money. It’s the most colorful money I’ve every seen, and the Swiss seem to love it so much, the ATM only gave me 100’s! So after getting some change from the nearby store I got the bus, paying with a 5 Franc coin (really, a CHF5 coin!) into Schaan.
One would think from here it would be simple with only one hostel in the whole country (OK I know it’s a pretty small country but still). Thus began another venture, with a photo of the map at my side, as I had no internet connection, I began walking left and right, around in circles, following street signs, until I ended up in a field of crops and what appeared to be some kind of bike track. It was getting dark and I had to check-in in the next 10 minutes or no one would be waiting for me… So, thinking I had gone the wrong way, I ran through the crops, jumped over a small creek, rolled under a fence and found myself back on the main road.
Then, I just asked someone. First in German, then in English. She responded in English pointing about 50m north. Sure enough there it was, just north of the field that I had ran through. Although I had to ask for directions, I made it. Unscathed, well other than a small scrape from the fence. Again the solo traveler prevailed!
THE NEXT DAY I woke and hired a bike, challenging myself to ride through 3 whole countries in one day! One thing I love about Switzerland and Liechtenstein is the cities are built for bikes. There seems to be more signage for bikes then there does for cars. In fact, they even have signs and different routes for rollerbladers, and Nordic walkers.
In such a tiny country there are lots of open fields for farming, bike tracks and not much else. The mountains are pretty beautiful though and I did manage to snap a picture of the main castle, though I was too lazy to go to the top.
I then proceeded to complete my challenge by riding to Feldkirch, Austria, back through Liechtenstein then into Switzerland. There was a really beautiful river running between the latter two countries which I crossed back and forth several times. I don’t know what it is, but being an Australian I think we have a fascination at the ease of moving between countries in Europe.
In all honesty, had I been with a group of mates, we probably would have cycled for an hour, then spent the rest of the day at the pub. I love travelling alone as it forces me to be active.
I spent the whole day cycling, taking in the fresh air, seeing the changing gradients of the mountains, and generally just enjoying the different cultures of people I witnessed throughout the day. Liechtenstein is a country you really can see in a day.
Travelling alone is not for everyone, I don’t like it all the time, but it’s definitely worth trying. It makes you do things you’d never normally do.
I didn’t meet anyone on this particular trip, the hostel was fairly empty and the town quiet. But these days with technology, there’s always something to keep you interested. In the end, my iPod was my music to talk to and my iPad was my companion for lunch. And with that, Liechtenstein was just another country ticked off my list.
Having never attended a Socceroo’s match I found it ironic the the first international game of football I went to see live was not Australia but rather Austria’s last night thrashing over the Faroe Islands in their 4th match of the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.
A 6-0 scoreline in a World Cup Qualifier says a lot of things on a night that England also destroyed San Marino 8-0. However, if Austria are to really show their mark and make the final 32 for the first time since 1998, they’re really going to have to focus hard on their set plays, and step it up under pressure.
Most of the goals scored where due to bad defending from the minnows whom Austria still find hard to forget, beat them back in 1991. They showed glimpses of their fighting set pieces and kick-behind passes from back in September when they were the better team in the 2-1 loss to Germany, but last night many of them got lost in the wind as they over-kicked and over-ran pass after pass in what really could have been a scoreline in the double figures.
The best goal of the night came from Ivanschitz drilling one low to the left a few yards outside the box, whilst the defenders stood stagnant and perplexed as Austria cruised to 3-0 in the first half hour. The bottom of the table side regained a little bit of possession early in the second half with a couple of attacking chances but Austria scored another 3 goals in the space of 13 minutes much to the delight of the cheering fans to complete the thrashing.
Austria will take a lot of confidence from the win as they set to face Ireland on Tuesday in another must win match, but they really need to get their set plays right if they are to make it with the big boys come June against Sweden then again against Germany in early September.
ALMOST TWO YEARS after Julia Gillard took over the labor party’s leadership from Kevin Rudd and thus became Australia’s first female Prime Minister, the Australian public have once again become swamped with schoolyard drama in light of Rudd’s resignation as Foreign Minister and inevitable challenge of Gillard in Monday’s Labor leadership ballot.
Prior to Gillard’s axing of Rudd in June 2010, the last time there was a leadership change without the public’s consent was December 1991 when Paul Keating took over from Australia’s longest serving Labor PM Bob Hawke, sparking quiet murmurs of Australia’s political system, ultimately leading to the 1999 republican election.
Now that another in-party leadership squabble continues, if Rudd once again takes over as Prime Minister, the public’s view on a republic whereby they can elect their own leader, may grow in strength leading up towards the next election.
Republicanism aside, the labor party in the current system have indeed been cunning in the way they have managed to keep support in their party through their simple changes of face. The 2007 election was an onslaught, brought about through the public’s tiredness in a beaten out Coalition leadership with the desperate demand for change, and Rudd as a bright new face to provide it.
Gillard’s then leadership takeover just months before the 2010 election was another cunning change of face by the labor party, which hid many of the broken promises Rudd had failed in throughout his three year reign as PM. Although many of the public didn’t forget Labors problems, as seen by the mass swing of seats towards the coalition creating the first hung parliament since 1940, there was still enough in the new face of Gillard, to shift anti-Rudd voters, to still vote for the labor party, eventually giving them the balance of power.
Now with the next election being only a little over a year away, and Gillard’s reign in the top job receiving a lot of negative criticism as well as Nielson opinion polls rocketing towards opposition leader Tony Abbott’s favor, a switch back in leadership to Kevin Rudd could very well once again be the saviour for the Labor party.
This change of face has been a cunning tactic by the party, used in the past with the change to Keating to keep Labor in power in the 1991 election. Worse so, the current leadership drama has been played out for all the public to see, questioning whether each leadership squabble has been a kind of conspiracy to keep labor in power as opposed to electing the best leader for the job.
Either way, whether Rudd comes back, or Gillard manages to stay on to the next election, this schoolyard fight has definitely not gone unnoticed in the public’s eyes and whether they have lost faith in the Labor party or not, the question of Australia as a republic will be sure to pop up more frequently in the near future.
Comments from the uninformed!
APPLE’S recent Find my friends app, relseased along with its new operating system iOS 5, has been the cause for much debate across mobile users on where we are moving in terms of privacy. With this app, we can now know exactly (the accuracy is pretty damn good) where our friends, family members, and yes partners are at any time of the day.
STALKER!…. Not quite.
What a lot of people look past is the systems simple privacy options to be able to block anyone being able to see where you are at any time. By doing this, people then look past the amazing abilities this app can then make for their lives.
The TEMPORARY EVENTS function is definitely a keeper, and that seems to have silenced a few critics. In the temporary event, you set up an event and time period for how long you can see you and your friends before you disappear on the map. So festivals, days at the beach, and most importantly, DRUNKEN NIGHTS IN THE CITY, will allow you to never get lost! AND you can even stalk your friends to see whose house they went home to until the event is over 😉
LET’S FACE IT. WE LOVE TO STALK.
Facebook has check-in options already and facebook as a whole is pretty much just a massive stalking website. People are getting more and more use to it. But if privacy is a concern, just remember that you choose who follows you. If you’re good enough friends with someone to allow them to follow you, then you won’t really care about them knowing where you are, in fact in can make things quite useful whenever needing to meet up in unknown locations, or to see how far someone is away when they’re running late.
Sure cheating partners can get caught out with this app. But hey, you shouldn’t be cheating in the first place.
So the other day my manager from work had a spiel to me about how he had downloaded up to ONE GIGABYTE worth of eBooks for his Ipad.
“Ohh it’s awesome I’ve got like the whole series of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the complete works of Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum…” etc. etc. Blah blah blah.
As cool as I thought it was, as a ‘writer’ myself, I couldn’t help but think of how technology has got to a stage whereby eons of collective literature, stories which took years to come up with and write, were able to be freely downloaded with a quick and easy click of the mouse. But is it the same? Will you even read these eBooks, or will they just sit on a hard drive?
Are eBooks taking over?
As technology has been exponentially increasing since the start of the 21st century, it seems that kindles and tablet devices will only continually get more advanced and further lure the users into throwing out their books and giving in to the eBook fantasy land. But how realistic is this idea? Let’s put them to the test:
- A personal touch 1. An entire library in your hand
- The smell, the taste, the love 2. Search for quotes in an instant
- Easier to read 3. Never loose your spot
- Looks good in a library 4. Interactivity a possibility