Last week Phil and I were in Northern Italy for a couple of his team's races, and after that, we trekked up to Austria for his Worlds Mountain Bike race in a tiny town north of Graz. It was a beautiful area, with huge, lush mountains, people willing to help you regardless of the language barrier, and with the worst city planning experience of our lives. Honestly, they have no restaurants in that entire Graz Metropolitan area that are not tiny bars serving only wiener schnitzel or ultra fancy spots in the "Zentrum" of the city. We did manage to get great service at a last resort - Hooters, where the waitresses were quite pleasant and not-so-well-endowed - and then at a small Italian restaurant where they spoke no italian whatsoever (he couldn't understand what Phil was saying when he ordered the "Gnocchi Pomodoro". Quite funny, given that it's on the menu written that very same way...
We stayed at a tiny little B&B in a suburb of the tiny city where the race was held. And by tiny, we mean one street with my estimation of about 43 people living there. It was adorable, we thought, until we realized there was no front desk, and quite frankly, no one anyone who could tell us how the tv and internet might work, after they let us in the room. Speaking in complete Austrian-German. I ended up knocking on random houses around the neighborhood to find the old woman who had initially spotted our car drive up and had given us the keys to our room.
All in all, it was an awesome adventure. The mountain bike race was going so well for Phil until his handlebars became loose, mid-climb, and flipped around so that he couldn't brake well. After waiting for a fellow Canadian's allen key and fixing it himself, he got back in the game.... only to flat his front wheel after about 50 km. Sadly, the race was over then, so we jetted onward to the other feed zones and helped out the other Canadian rider, Tim Carlton, as he came through. After the race ended, the Austrian mountain biking community livens up even more with fresh beer on tap and music. This culture is much different than that of the road biking community. Both have their perks, but we both find the mountain folks to be in such great spirits regardless of the outcome, that it has become a new group of people that I feel right at home with.
As for my Fulbright plans, I'm in the thick of finalizing our apartment situation. Phil will stay in Italy through the end of September, while I move there and dive into my research. The tricky thing with the two apartment finalists are that they are so unbelievably different! I can't even describe them (probably because I'm judging off of emailed photos and words from the owners in text form), but also because one is outside the city about 15 minutes, and it's a little more expensive, while the other is in Barcelona, a bit cheaper, and has wifi internet (but may be a bit more crowded). Sigh. I have faith that without worrying, I'll be able to truly enjoy my last few days with Lucca and Phil than if I take even one more minute to stress about not knowing where I'll put my minimal "stuff" once I'm there.
Off to go for a run now, as the temperature seems to be cooling a bit (from 90F to 87F or so)!