Holidays in Austria 2: Ravelsbach

16 May 2012

After the two days we spent in Vorarlberg, we headed for Rita’s parents’ place in Lower Austria, in the village of Ravelsbach. The drive wasn’t too bad, going through the Vorarlberger tunnel (13 km long, the longest in Austria), then past Innsbruck (very nice), a bit through Germany (now with speed limits on the motorway, although they appear to be entirely optional), past Linz and towards Vienna, then a little “short cut” courtesy of Rita once we got closer to Ravelsbach...

We arrived without incident though and settled ourselves in. Rita’s parents used to run the supermarket in the village, and their house is just over the stream (the Ravel) from the shop, which is convenient. Rita’s room is downstairs, and there’s a sort of self-contained little flat down there with a big living room and entrance to the courtyard/garden, which was very useful for Winnie for the first few days, since she was, unsurprisingly, very uncertain about the whole idea of being in a house with other people, who make noises. I’m writing this after about a week and a half here, and she’s starting to settle in a bit–she spent the evening playing in the courtyard, after eating a marrow bone and a boiled pig’s tail. (What can I say? It’s Austria. It’s the countryside.)

We’ve been taking it pretty easy here, wandering around the local forests, helping out a little with some of Rita’s relatives’ work (getting the rabbits back into their hutches at the end of the day so they don’t get eaten by martens, mowing the thigh-high grass behind Rita’s uncle’s supermarket in Mühlbach, etc.). We’ve also been trying to do a bit of work and a bit of planning for the future. We’ve been spending most of every day with Winnie and generally chilling out. I’ve been working on my German a lot and making pretty good progress with it, I think.

Winnie has been having a good time. She’s been working on her hunting, which is a tricky thing to control. Running after deer or hares or pheasants is a kind of doggie crack for a hunting dog like Winnie. Once she gets going, there is zero chance of calling her back. She was chasing ducks in the stream in the village yesterday evening, and the little ducklings have started appearing now, which means no more off-leash in the village for the time being. No more off-leash in the fields (hares), and only limited off-leash in the forests (deer). It will be good to get into the mountains a bit where there are less animals, and especially less open fields where she can see things to chase from far off. I’ve read a little bit about how to “untrain” this chase instinct, and we’ve started experimenting a bit, but it’s going to be very hard indeed to do anything about it. Too much excitement, too much new freedom, too many new smells for a little dog who spent the first three years of her life without these things.

Anyway, it’s nice here. I often feel pretty stressed in Montpellier–don’t like the city, don’t like my job, don’t have many friends there. Here, I feel like a much better person, much calmer, much happier, much easier to be with. Rita noticed it right away. It’s very good. I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time here over the summer (we’ll be here for all of July and August at least), then moving on and starting something new.

We’re moving on to Innsbruck at the weekend, where Rita has an interview for a place to study occupational therapy. There was supposed to be an interview in Klagenfurt too, but the school there has been monumentally disorganised in arranging things. They said that interviews would be in May, so we arranged to take the whole of May off work in Austria to be able to go to Klagenfurt on any required date. Now though, the interviews are in June... Which means that we would either have to extend our time here (extra unpaid days off work, extending car hire, etc., etc.) or Rita would have to come back here for the (90-minute, in groups of eight!) interview. Not really an option.

So it’s Innsbruck or bust! Well, not really. If she doesn’t get a place in school this year, we’ll figure out something else to do. We’re enterprising mammals and we’re lucky enough to have a bit of a financial buffer, so we should be able to sort ourselves out.