Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Airport and Mountains

Lets start at the beginning – the always enjoyable flight from Perth to Europe.  The best part of the journey was probably wondering around Dubai Airport in a sleep-deprived haze taking photos.  Mirrors, lights and green plastic-looking plants.  Lets not forgot the compelling shopping experience that Dubai offers.  All the alcohol, cigarettes and perfume a human could possibly want, in a clean and brightly lit environment.  Nothing like a 12 hour plane ride to leave passengers brain-dead and in perfect consuming form.  Or perhaps it’s the 10% discount that you can only find at an airport.

Anyway, 30 hours after leaving home I made it to Vienna.  Naturally I got a little lost trying finding my flat.  After a train, a few metros and a fair amount of walking I found it. Unfortunately the pin for a safe that I was instructed to use to retrieve my room key didn’t work.  Even after 50 tries. On the 51st attempt I decided to accept the fact that I wasn’t getting into my room and I should probably find a hostel.  I walked for about half hour in a direction where I thought I might find some internet and beer (I was pretty thirsty by now).  I found a nice beer garden and managed to find a hostel easily enough.  It was a very enjoyable beer. Got the last bed at the hostel and had a very satisfying slumber.


One day later I was sitting in a train heading to Villach in the Southern Austrian Alps.  I had organised to work on a small organic farmstead there, through a program called helpX (  HelpX is network where people can do various kinds of work for food and accommodation, and hopefully have an interesting cultural experience.  I liked the sound of working on this farm in the mountains as it involved cooking with the mother, working in a large vegetable garden, and doing odd jobs around the house and on the farm.  One of the sisters met me at the train station and drove me to the farm.  We drove up and up and up the very narrow and windy mountain roads. The scenery and view became more and more beautiful. I was very impressed with how fast this 18 year old could drive on these roads.  I tried not to think about what would happen if there was a car driving down equally as fast.

View from my window

The family was very lovely, and made me feel very comfortable and at home.  The mother and father had 11 children, ranging from 18 – 30-something years old.  Some of the children worked on the farm, some worked nearby, some were working on the farm for their holidays, and others lived elsewhere and often visited.  So people where constantly coming and going.  My German is very limited, as was their English.  However we found it easy enough to communicate with the few words we knew, hand gestures, and a lot of guess work.  There were two girls from New Zealand also working there, Jess and Darrienne.  As they had been working there for a week they showed me a lot of what I had to do, and taught me the names of the family and friends and what they had learned about them.

Here is a list of some of the jobs that I did:

  • Cleaning up after breakfast and lunch.
  • Feeding the chickens (chickens are my favourite animal).
  • Hanging out the washing.
  • Collecting plums off the ground while Elizabeth (the mother) hit the tree with a stick like a madman.  Tried not to get stung by the millions of wasps.  Pitting, and slicing big pots of plums in the sunshine. Then turning them into jam.
  • Making other preserves like pickles; and cutting and freezing herbs and vegetables for the winter.
  • Helping make bread in the wooden bread oven.
  • Cleaning the cellars, and emptying all the ash from the wood ovens.
  • Collecting vegetables and weeding the veggie garden
  • Helping with the potato harvest.
  • Cooking lunch.  I cooked lunch for everyone a few times, and other times I helped the mother.  It was so fun being able to go to the veggie garden to pick all the things I needed – pumpkin, silver-beet, carrots, leeks, onion, zucchini, peas, raspberries, basil, parsley..
  • Baking cakes. That was more for fun.
  • Helping Heinz (the father) move wood from one part of the farm to another.
  • Helping make silage bails.  That involved using long wooden rakes to collect the cut grass from the steep slopes and around trees so a tractor could collect it. Then another tractor was used to compact it. Then another machine was used to wrap the bails in plastic.  I got to ride in the tractor the whole time. And I even got to try and drive the tractor.

        Fun with Plums

Grass Mounds for Silage Bails

Milk Separator

Weeding in the Veggie Garden

The ‘work’ on the farm was very enjoyable and only occupied a few hours of my day.  That left lots of time to go on mountain walks, lake swims, lying in the sun, reading.. We would often get taken along to random places, we would hop into a car and find out where we were going once we got there.  Once it was a massive European annual Harley Davidson Festival. Random.  Another time it was a journey through the mountains, across the boarder to Slovenia, to buy cheap capsicums.  During the process we went in and out of 3 different cars. We were in Slovenia for about 20 minutes.  Some nights we went out drinking with the boys to bars in nearby villages.  Other nights we had bonfires and bbqs, and would sit around the fire drinking beers, waiting for the moon to pop up over the mountains.  Life was sweet in the mountains.

Afritz am See for an afternoon swim

Afternoon Coffee

Me happy in the mountains


– Betty


2 responses

  1. tonialeannegray

    What a beautiful narrative of your study abroad experience. From the Dubai airport to an organic farm in the Southern Austrian Alps. The photos are extraordinary. You look like Heidi in the Swiss Alps!!! The landscape is a far cry from Perth … and the semi arid terrain.

    Lucky the two NZ girls were on the farm before you — obviously made the transition much easier.

    When does University start? Another blog on the horizon I hope???

    Truly appreciate this comprehensive post — look forward to more.


    October 10, 2011 at 10:16 am

  2. warhawki

    Brilliant, no mention of puddle slides. Guess that’ll be in the next one!

    October 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

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