Monday, 24 December 2007

It's all so beautiful / like a landscape painting in the sky

No matter what your beliefs are, may your life be blessed with Peace, Beauty, Love and Happiness. Thanks for reading me, thanks for being there, thanks for the support, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Driving home for Xmas...

Well, actually we didn't drive, we flew home. But the spirit is the same as in the song, because we started our travel (almost our journey!) yesterday in the morning and we arrived home at night. But it's really nice to meet (again or, in some cases, for the first time in person!) with those who have been supporting me all the time.

I am quite excited about these Xmas! :)

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The Source of All Things

When you decide to move to another country, it has to be clear that there is a lot of things that you are going to miss. Besides your friends and family, of course, most of the things that you are going to end up missing are quite surprising, because they are quite trivial, like fried corn, the music of a jackpot machine in a bar or water-filled ashtrays, and because you realize that you miss them the first time you see them again.

Other things you know you are going to miss from the very beginning. Before moving to Austria I told someone here that one of the things that I was going to miss the most was the sea. He looked at me with a strange look on his face and he told me that I should not worry, because there are lots of lakes here in which one can go swimming in summer. All right. Great. It is not what you can do on the sea what I miss. I miss the sea. Just like that. But they don't get it. Maybe because they are not able to understand it at all.

But I am not alone. I know there's someone who understands me. I get understanding from my friend K's blue eyes, where I am able to see the sun reflection on the North Sea over the bow of his Phaleron. I get understanding from the sarcastic smile of a Swedish girl, who asked herself what is really the point of all those Germans who buy themselves a boat to sail around a lake.

But, what is it about the sea? Why do we all who grew at its shores miss it so much? Why do we feel so attracted to the sea?

My mother always told she needs the sea because it is an escape way. Because knowing that the sea is there, she does not feel trapped on solid ground. She might have something there, but I believe there is a deeper reason.

Because the sea is the source of everything. The sea gave us life millions of years ago, and it keeps us alive ever since. It is the sea who gives us our bread. As I look at the sea, I marvel at its incredible beauty, and I could spend hours and hours watching, listening to the waves breaking onto the cliffs, letting the smell of the salt into me, stepping down in respect in front of its infinite power. As I look at the sea I think that everything began just there. And it is still there, after all that happened, and this provides a security and cosiness quite similar to the one you might feel going home. Because I think that the sea is, actually, our home.

I live far away. But I know it's there, and I just need to close my eyes to see the colours, to hear the waves letting their white hair go before dying on the sand with a murmur.

Friday, 14 December 2007


Do you know what do all those little green lights mean?

Yessss! Our Internet works again! YEY!!!

It stopped working on November 4th. The healing process has been really tough and we've already been to almost all cafeterias with wireless LAN in Salzburg. But today it works again!

I am so happy! :)

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Brot + Spiele

During last summer's Salzburg Festival, a number of stickers were found around the city, on traffic signs, bus stops and doors. They mocked the official logo of the Festival with the words Salzburger Brot+Spiele (bread and circuses) instead of the original Salzburger Festspiele. At first I did not understand what it was about, but Mar explained to me that "bread and circuses" was used in the Late Roman Empire, referring to the fact that, providing your people with enough food and distractions is a very successful way to avoid them from questioning the fairness of their governors. The stickers claimed that politics in Salzburg seem to be all about one single event (the Festival), from which the population does not really take a significant benefit, which diverts a lot of resources from other more important topics, like housing, or social issues.

When I hear people saying that Humanities are not useful, that they are of no practical use for our daily life, it always makes me very sad. Because I think that Culture, having some knowledge about our world, about our History, allows us having a little more idea about who we are, why we are here, where we are going to. We live in a world that appraises technical knowledge above all, as if it were the only valid knowledge. Technical knowledge is good, everyone should know about s = 2πr and F = ma, but everyone should know as well who Plato, Cervantes, Leonardo, Descartes were, and why are they important. Because that kind of knowledge makes us more robust against smoke merchants, against unfairness, against random will. Because Culture is like a torch, that brings light into the never ending darkness, that lets us make a fire to keep us warm while it is so cold out there...

And I think one must be curious about things, and one has to keep oneself always eager to learn. It's something like not loosing the natural curiosity of children, always wanting to learn a little more, always wanting to know why. Sometimes my Austrian friends are surprised because I know facts about Austria, about Salzburg, that they didn't know. I do not think that there is something so special, it's just that I am still curious about the world around me.

I have to thank my parents for the seed to this curiosity, although they might not be fully aware of it. I always loved reading, and I use to read in bed before I sleep (almost always I fall asleep on top of the book! :)). When I was 12 we used to live in a quite small flat, and there wasn't really much place to keep stuff. My parents bought an encyclopedia, and the only free spot by then was in my room, directly above the head of my bed. When I went to sleep and I had no book to read (which happened quite often) I would just randomly pick a volume from the encyclopedia, open it and read whatever catched my eye first. Some topics were boring, but others were quite interesting, and I leaped back and forth searching for a related topic, and another, and yet another. It was like entering a huge Library before sleeping, learning something new every night. Sometimes my “research” would last for more than an hour and I would be sleepy the day after, but it was definitely worth it. I think with that encyclopedia my parents made me, quite inadvertently, one of the best gifts I've ever had.

I am happy I never lost that curiosity. And now, with the exponential possibilities that the Net puts in our hand, my “research” acquired a new dimension: Google and Wikipedia are two of my best friends. Because you are just one click away from the next discovery, one single click away from you entering a new room of the Library.

A whole new world of knowledge is just one click away from us. Are we going to let this chance go?

PS: Our internet connection is not fixed yet. It seems it got a cold, and you know, they are quite bad this time of year. Not being able to answer random questions that keep coming to my mind is driving me crazy!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Technical difficulties...

Due to some obscure technical difficulties, I do not have Internet access at home for a week now :( It was a really funny surprise that we found as we came back from Barcelona last week. I am trying to take a look every now and then from Internet cafés, but I can't write really much. I am there, though.

As soon as my dear friends Tele2 and Telekom Austria solve their multiple misunderstandings and differences, find their peace of soul and put our line together again, you'll hear from me!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Going home...

If there were a place on Earth that I could call home, it would surely look like this...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Des samma mia...

What has a dance metal band like Rammstein to do with traditional Bavarian oom-pah music? I was shown this video a couple of days ago, one of the best dubbing works I've ever seen. Even the audience sing-along goes with the song!

I like it also because the song is sung in Bavarian dialect, which is quite close to Austrian dialect. I love the Austrian dialect, especially since I am able to understand it a little bit. Austrian German (and Bavarian German, too) has a much sweeter melody than Standard German, as well as a great number of own words.

I have a challenge for all those who can speak or are learning German. The first (non-native) who transcribes the singer's dialogue with the audience wins a box of Mozart balls. Good luck! :)

Thinking blogger?

The Spanish twin of this blog, Und komisch spricht das Murmeltier... has been awarded with the Thinking Blogger Award, thanks to the most generous Gebirg. Many thanks, Gebirg, you're the best, and I love winning prizes!

Gebirg says that, even though I might not know it, I made her realize how important small details are. Well, I do care much about details, but I didn't know that this feature was so transfered to my posts. Curious...

According to the rules, I have now to give the prize to 5 bloggers that make me think. Well, I'm not very good with lists and nominations, so here are my 4 winners. The 5th spot is left freely open for anyone of my anonymous readers...

El sastre de Ulm, from El diario del sastre de Ulm (spanish), because his posts and comments not only make me think, but also make me miss my mathematical undergraduate ages.

Alexandra, from Building Bridges, because she is always really fast leaving me comments (time difference may be sometimes fun) and because we learned of each other through a glimpse to The Order.

Silencio, from Ruido (spanish), because he broke his silence and let me put a name to the mysterious red little point near Chicago.

Di, from Impossible not to, because I love her perspective, because thanks to her I am discovering a lot of little things (not only squirrels) that I wouldn't even notice. Di has been so kind to award this blog, Die Murmeltierjahre im Land des Frühschoppens, with the Thinking Blogger Award!!! :) As my two blogs are really twins, I consider myself as awarded, but I won't be tagging anymore, since I already did it from Und komisch spricht das Murmeltier... Thanks a lot Di! :)

Many thanks again to Gebirg for thinking of me, many thanks to Di for bouncing back this award to Die Murmeltierjahre, but especially thanks to all of you, readers in the shadow, readers in the light, for allowing me having some minutes of your lives and for sharing them with me.

Saturday, 20 October 2007


My office colleagues use to make fun of my compulsion to classify the dishes in the dishwasher following a very precise pattern (smaller plates up, bigger plates down, small cups on the right, bigger cups in the middle, glasses to the left, ... it's not that difficult, isn't it? ;)). When someone does not follow The Rule when putting a cup into the dishwasher, I kind of feel disturbed, as if some kind of equilibrium was about to be broken. I do not force anyone to follow The Rule, but I have the irresistible urge to put those damned cups to their right places before switching on the dishwasher! Like we would say in Catalonia, "qui no té un all té una ceba" (lit. "he who does not have a garlic, has an onion", meaning that everyone has some oddity).

I've always believed there is an underlying Order to things, to events and to the Universe in general. My thing with the dishwasher is just an example of my general need for visual perfection, for symmetry, for completeness. I know that my urge flows against the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is quite a phenomenal Law to pick a fight with, but I also know I'm nothing but a little pawn in Universe's big chess board, and I know I'm not alone.

We as humans cannot look at the whole picture, because our brains are too small to comprehend the grandiosity of The Order, but we can get glimpses of it, we have been blessed with flashes, quick shutters that let us guess there is something out there. One of those flashes struck me recently, and I want to share it with you.

As I worked in Barcelona, J was one of my colleagues. After we came to Salzburg, J married his girlfriend J, whose wedding we attended. Some months after I started writing this blog, we learned from a Catalan girl living in Salzburg, G, and we met her for a cup of coffee. It turned out that G and J came from the same town in Catalonia, and she and J's younger sister went to school together. The world is small, one might think. But I'm not done yet.

A couple of months ago my new colleague G started working in our office. Mar and I met him and his girlfriend E one day, and it turned out that E's childhood friend K works with Mar.

A couple of weeks ago we met again G, the Catalan girl who went to school with J's wife's sister, and this time we met her boyfriend M, too. As it turned out, M comes from the same town in Upper Austria as G, my new colleague, whose girlfriend's childhood friend works with Mar.

So, we established an acquaintance loop going through 10 different people. What are the chances for something like that to happen? Yeah, I heard about that interesting six degrees of separation stuff, and maybe it's true that we are really bad at estimating the actual probability of such coincidences, but... isn't it much more beautiful to think of that as a glimpse to The Order?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Autumn light

Sometimes I think about which is my favourite season: summer has some well accepted advantages, I love to hear my own footsteps on the snow in winter, and spring has the beauty of new born life. But if I had to choose, I would take autumn.

I tend to be a little melancholic from time to time, and when Nature shows its most grey face, I've always got a strange inner satisfaction about feeling that way, because it's easier to feel melancholy in cold rainy November than in bright sunny May. That would be a personal, attitude-related reason why I would choose autumn.

But there is another reason, in fact two. First, trees dress the most amazing colours in autumn. I could literally spend hours looking at the forest visual symphony being played every year. Second, this incredible colours have the most beautiful spotlight ever: a still bright sunlight falling down in a low angle. And its combination, dear readers, is a dream for the hobby photographer.

It is said that the best times of day for photography are sunrise and sunset. And there is a reason: When the Sun is very high in the sky, the sunlight traverses just a thin layer of atmosphere before reaching us, and it is too intense, it makes ugly hard shadows and effectively burns up our subjects. On the other side, when the Sun is lower, sunlight has to traverse a longer chunk of our atmosphere, and acquires a wonderful warm red tone along this journey. That happens after sunrise and before sunset.

The problem with sunrise and sunset is that the sunlight is also weaker than at noon, and you really have to catch the right moment. Autumn sunlight is like a 10-hour after-sunrise light, because it falls in a low angle, but it is still strong enough to give everything a wonderfully warm tone that is a joy to shoot at. I would even say that the colour of the sky is different in autumn. Like it was more blue, more intense than ever.

I love autumn light...

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Amazing web powers

I have always been amazed by how rapidly an exponential growth can surpass our common sense intuitions. Let's imagine that a certain bacterium is able to reproduce once per hour, and that we start with a single bacterium in a laboratory flask. Say after one day, we observe that the bacteria fill up half of the flask. Our common sense would say that it will last another day for the bacteria to fill up the flask. But indeed we would have to wait only one hour. Or, most amazingly, how you just need to fold a piece of paper over itself 50 times to get to the Moon.

One of the properties of a network structure is the beautiful way in which it takes advantage of this fact. Each time we add a new node to a network, the absolute number of connections grows exponentially. If we take that as a measure of the value of a network, we may say that this value grows exponentially as we add nodes to it. If the value of my own connection depends on the value of the network, I just need to connect to it and wait for others to do the same. If I would have the only telephone in the world, it would be pretty much useless. But how useful is a telephone nowadays? The networked connection makes the huge difference here.

The internet might be the biggest human-made interconnected network in our world. As I started writing this blog, I wondered how would I get any reader because, how would anyone be able to find it in the first place? But it happened. At first I looked at those little red points on the world map trying to guess who was behind, and how did they learn about Die Murmeltierjahre. Then I started posting comments here and there, and then someone came over, and others followed, and someone liked me and put me on their link list, and so it began. The exponential growth started to unfold in its wonderful way.

Most important here is the human factor. Because it is people who sit behind the screens, it is you people who bring the whole system into life. When you read blogs, you get the opportunity to peek through little windows that very generous people decide to open into their lives.

I have been lucky enough to meet a couple of "buddy" bloggers, and it is kind of an experience. Because you've already read so much about those persons' lives that you know them already. Through the words they wrote, you've got a feeling about them. And when you get to meet them in person, you might still feel like you're meeting a stranger, because you didn't know the colour of her eyes or because you are surprised by the sound of his voice, but the way this person makes you feel is exactly the same feeling you get as you read. If you enjoy reading someone, you will enjoy a conversation as well. It is amazing to realize how much of ourselves we put in our blogs. And how much our blogs say about us.

I like the Net. Because it continues to allow me to meet, virtually or in person, with some extraordinary people, who make me laugh, who make me think, who let me see through their eyes even those things that are already so usual I wouldn't notice them anymore.

I like the Net because I feel as if it were a living organism. I like the Net because it puts the amazing power of exponential growth in our hands.

Monday, 1 October 2007


I've always liked words. Language is one of the greatest inventions, one of those breakthroughs after which there is no way back. We, as humans, were probably meant to be intelligent, but it was just when we started to talk, as we started being able to communicate with each other, that we finally woke up from our long sleep, holding a torch in our hands, bringing the light of knowledge to a million year long and dark night.

I love words. But I like some better than others. For most of them I am not able to tell why. Just because they sound great or beautiful. Or maybe because they remember me of something happy. Or just because they remember me of something. Sometimes it's because they are, somehow, round. And sometimes, I don't know, they are just perfect.

I've decided to add a new label to my blog, favourite words, where I am going to present, from time to time, words and expressions that I love. I am not promising any regularity here, because they come and go, but I promise as soon as I find anything I will share it with you.

Today I've got an expression, a German one, which goes: Mühsam ernährt sich das Eichhörnchen.

Which means, literally, "The squirrel feeds laboriously", and it's a German Redewendung (figure of speech) meaning something like "slowly but surely". I love the word Eichhörnchen (squirrel) because it is a diminutive and it remembers me of Einhorn (unicorn), although it has nothing to do with it. And I love the word mühsam, when used as in "laborious, strenuous", but not when used as in "cumbersome".

I love the visual power of this expression, because mühsam is exactly the way a squirrel eats a couple of nuts that you feed to it in a park, say in Schönbrunn, in Vienna.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Groundhog Event: Rupertikirtag

Today, September 24th, is the Rupertikirtag, the Patron's Day here in Salzburg. Saint Rupert of Salzburg is the patron and protector of the city and state of Salzburg. Even though I've just read in Wikipedia that Rupert's feast day is March 27th, Salzburg always honors him from September 20th to September 24th. Don't ask me why.

The Rupertikirtag is quite interesting, because schools, banks and public authority have the day off. Unfortunately I don't belong to any of these categories, so I had to go to work. There is a kind of funfair (Dult) in the three squares around the cathedral. The fine weather on Sunday was too big a temptation for the hobby photographer in me. Such venues always provide a thousand details that deserve to be photographed!

I like Rupertikirtag. Barcelona's patrona (a female patron), La Mercè, is celebrated on September 24th as well. And Tarragona's one, Santa Tecla, just one day before. It's not quite the same, but I love the coincidence!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The importance of words

If there is something I like about Austrians is their sincerity and how do they say stuff in a straight way. For good and for bad, they do not talk in roundabouts. Which is something quite nice, because understanding certain euphemisms in a foreign language is no easy job. Like the time I was at the doctor and the nurse asked me if I could make a Hahn (which may mean rooster, tap or valve). Even though I said yes without a doubt, used as I am to understanding things after a little delay, I guess my face might have been quite explicit, because until she had some mercy and pronounced the word Urin I did not realise that she was asking me for an urine test.

But I am loosing my focus. I was saying that Austrians do not like roundabouts and tend to call a a spade a spade. As an example, the piece of news that I read yesterday about the doormen of one of the most poshy locations in Salzburg, who did not let in an Iranian and a Bolivian because, using their own words, "there were already too many foreigners inside." No roundabouts. No evasive answers. And no shame, I would point out.

The arrest of an alleged group of Islamist terrorists in Vienna (who were, in fact, nothing but three morons that used the Internet to utter threats and, allegedly, could have got some information about what would they have to do in the event of having to get themselves some explosives) has been all too good for some critical voices with Islam and its presence at the heart of Europe. The usual hatemongers appeared on the media right away: Jörg Haider, from his Carinthian fief, championing a veto on headscarves and minarets, and HC Strache, shielded by the intellectual elite in Brigittenau, picketing the building of an Islamic cultural centre. The novelty this time is that they come along with some other characters, who do not lean so much to the right, like Lower Austria's Landeshauptmann (something like the head of the provincial government), Erwin Pröll, a couple of weeks ago.

There is no need to erect a mosque in Lower Austria, stated the guy, because "minarets are foreign (etwas Artfremdes). And, in the long run, foreign does no good to a culture." And let us stop here for a moment to weigh the word choice. It is difficult to translate the word Artfremd. It might be something alien, something foreign. This word is by no means new and has some quite negative connotations. It was used, along with entartet (degenerate, depraved) and ungesund (unhealthy, noxious), to refer to the work of Jewish artists. In 1937 the Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) exhibition opened in Munich, featuring over 650 paintings, sculptures, prints and books by modern artists like Oskar Kokoschka, Marc Chagall, Otto Dix or Emil Nolde, selected by the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda among the 16000 confiscated by the Nazis. The exhibition wanted to horrify the visitors with the depravation of Jewish art. Interestingly enough, it has been the most successful modern art exhibition in Germany ever since, with more than 2 million visitors.

Mr. Pröll might have chosen fremdartig (exotic, alien, unfamiliar), which sounds far less harmful than artfremd. Although I have read that he also likes to use Überfremdung, a word meaning something like "foreign infiltration", which is one of the favourite words of the right wing extremism, and was voted Faux-pas Word of the Year (Unwort des Jahres) in 1993 by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (Society for the German Language).

Setting the word choice aside, I think claiming that foreign does no good to a culture is very sad and shows an alarming simple-mindedness. How would be Lower Austria today, had the "foreign" Celtic and Roman people not come? But I guess that my buddy Pröll, seeing how extended that profound ignorance that identifies Islam with terrorism is, does nothing but catching a cheap argumentation train. With quite undesirable travel companions, might I say.

Maybe it is the need to feel themselves members of a group, the need to feel special, what drives those not-any-more-teenagers to believe that shouting Allah Akhbar before pushing that little button will bring them into Paradise... Maybe we all have this need to belong to a group, to feel special.

From my side, I do feel quite special when I realize, for example, that the Spanish word zanahoria bears no resemblance to any other language whatsoever (neither the English carrot, nor the German Karotte or Möhre, nor the Italian carota, nor the French carotte, nor the Catalan pastanaga, nor the Occitan pastenaga, nor the Greek καρότο), except perhaps the Portuguese cenoura. When I realize that "Spain is different", and probably the most admired here Spanish spiritedness, have their roots in Al-Andalus and in Islam. When I listen to the lively phone conversation of that friendly man wearing a turban who sometimes shares the bus with me on the way back home and I realize that, if I don't pay much attention to the words but only to the melody, he could be perfectly taken for someone from Málaga or Córdoba.

And on realizing all that, I feel really proud of that Moorish DNA, of that Maghreb and Arabic heritage that we Spaniards have in our blood, an old and wise heritage that, were we able to listen to it, would tell us its story. Our History.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

What would I miss?

When I was younger, I could not understand why were there that many different newspapers. "There is just one piece of news," I thought, "only one event happened, it has to be the same for everybody and it should be reported in the same way... shouldn't it?" I had not realized yet that it is not what you say what counts, it is how you say it.

One of the silent readers of this blog, my friend S., told me last week that I seem to adopt a rather negative point of view when I write about my life in Salzburg. I was a little surprised, but looking back at my short blogging history, I have to admit that he may have a point.

I began writing this blog because I wanted to talk about what surprises me about my life here, what catches my attention. Reading it now, it turns out that most of the things that I considered worth blogging about, did surprise me in a negative way. But, hey!, I don't want to be taken for one of those whiney Spanish expats, always moaning about the weather, about the language, about how hard it is to make friends here, always looking for the Spanish expat community because "you are going to have the need to grumble about the locals with a couple fellow countrypersons."

I think I may have a communication problem. I think I might have failed to transmit how much do I enjoy living here. I think I might be putting too much weight on the negative sides of my opinions. Perhaps the way in which I express them happens to be too direct. Perhaps I happen to express myself in a too self-confident way, while I am doing nothing but speculating about, guessing, trying to put some order in the world around me. I think what I say might not be correlating with how I feel.

Mar told me something very beautiful yesterday. She thinks of her blog as nothing but a collection of all the warm memories that she will want to keep along from our Murmeltierjahre in Austria. And I think that is very wise. That's why she sounds so warm and so cheery in her blog, that's why mine seems some sort of evil twin when putting them side by side.

That's why I decided to come up with a list of all those things that I would miss about Salzburg, about Austria, should I now have to leave.

(i) Salzburg has just the right size to bicycle around. I could never do it in Barcelona, because motorists are not used to consider bikes as road users there, there are few dedicated lanes, and your bike is likely to be stolen the five minutes you don't look at it. I love commuting by bike. The 45 minutes ride to my office helps me start working full of energy in the morning, and helps me leave all work issues at the office when riding back home in the afternoon.

Volksgarten, Salzburg, May 2005

(ii) Living around wonderful lakes and superb mountains. I always admired mountains. I used to spend summer vacation at the Vall d'Aran, in the Pyrenees, as a child, and I always loved going back there from time to time. Now I live at the feet of the Alps, and I can get postcard views of them every day.

Untersberg, Salzburg, February 2006

(iii) If I want to be in contact with Nature, it is just five minutes away from home. Really. I just need to take the lift up the Mönchsberg and I am already there. How cool is that? Salzburg is green. So green it even hurts the eyes of someone like me, who grew up in a quite brown, dusty and hard landscape, which I also love, by the way. Most of Spain looks dusty because it doesn't rain enough. Everything looks bright green in Salzburg because it rains a lot. It might seem trivial, but it took me a while to realize that!

Wolfgangsee, Sankt Gilgen, August 2007

(iv) I think for a hobby photographer like myself there is nothing more appealing than the orchestra of colours that play wonderful symphonies every autumn. Dark greens, ochres, yellows, reds, oranges... I can't get enough of them!

Thumsee, Germany, October 2006 / Wolfgangsee, October 2005

(v) Spending a rainy afternoon in a coffee house, reading a book, having a good conversation or simply letting life pass around me.

(vi) All kinds of wonderful edible products that you can get directly from the farmers at the marketplace. Kohlrabi, lots of pumpkins that look like aliens, Speck (a kind of bacon), Steirisches Kürbiskernöl (pumpkin seed oil from Styria), Kren (horseradish), and a seemingly endless row of Würstl (sausages) that you eat at the Würstlstand, quite an Austrian institution.

Naschmarkt, Vienna, August 2007

(vii) How easy it is to have your life organised. Working times are reasonable here, and I love having lunch around noon and being back home at 18h to have dinner around 19h. It might seem to go without saying, but try to do something like that in Spain.

(viii) The Fingerlos breakfast.

(ix) The winter. I mean, a real winter with snow, with minus temperatures, with frozen nose, ears and finger tips. Where it takes five minutes to put on all clothes you need to go outside. Where you might even be able to walk on a frozen lake.

Fuschlsee, January 2006

(x) Having the chance to practise a foreign language every day. Having to live in a foreign language might be often quite despairing, but it is the only way to get to master that language. Seeing it as a challenge and not as a burden is, I think, the right approach to it.

(xi) I did not like beer back in Spain. Then I came here and it was clear that I had to review my beliefs. Even the much acclaimed Czech Budweiser beer does not match Salzburg's Stiegl (hey, that's my poor opinion!).

Freilichtmuseum, Grossgmain, May 2007

(xii) I will certainly miss those little advantages of being a stranger. For example, being able to ignore the subtitles at the last Almodóvar movie and understanding every single joke in it. Or knowing how incredibly silly are the lyrics of the last latino hit song. Or knowing that, even though this one song is in Spanish, the guy singing sounds more like an Italian...

And, of course, I am going to miss a lot of great friends that, in spite of all the Spanish whiney expat folklore, I have been lucky enough to find here.