Meeting biologists and partying like a Finn

Holiday is now over and it’s time to get back to normal life. Well almost normal… For me this  last week was really different from the others, because finally my other courses started and I was leaving Vienna for an ornithology field course that was held in Donau-Auen National Park! Because we arrived late from easter trip on Sunday, I had to spend Monday doing laundry and getting everything ready for leaving. However, I was so exited to finally meet local biology students and spending some time together on the field!

On Tuesday I met part of the group members and we took a car together to Ort an der Donau. The National Park itself is situated between the European capitals Vienna and Bratislava, preserving the last remaining major wetlands environment in Central Europe. Danube’s free-flowing creates also a habitat for numerous animal and plant species, some of which are rare.

Tree taking over an old abandoned house

First day we just had an introduction lecture and time to get to know each other while having dinner and beer. It turned out that I was the only exchange student in whole group, but everybody took me in so nicely, ask a lot about Finland and I didn’t feel like an outcast at all. Again I got to note that ecology students are really nice people no matter where you come from. It also felt really familiar, that everybody were interested in same kind of subjects and nature in general. For instance if someone saw something interesting on the field, everybody rushed to see it also and try to identify species. Just like back home!

We spend in total two days in the field doing bird point counting. For me this method was already familiar so I concentrated mainly learning new bird species and finding totally new species for me. In both days we woke up at 6:00 and worked until 16:00. First day we luckily had a nice weather, but in next one our luck turned and morning was rainy. Our professor decided that we are not doing counting in that day and everybody were free to get back to Vienna. Our car group, however, didn’t feel like leaving, because we already paid for the hostel night. When others left Ort an der Donau, we headed back to forest and made there about 4,5 hours walk and even rain stopped! I really enjoyed these few days in the Austrian nature, spending time with biologist and getting to see even new species for me for example golden oriole, European serin and collared flycatcher! We also tried really hard to find even a single kingfisher, but this time luck was not on our side. Besides of birds we also found lots of interesting things!

Last week was also special in a sense that first of May (Vappu) was coming! When I came Vienna I already braced myself for the fact that I might not celebrate first of May this year, because in Austria it’s not as big thing as in Finland. For my big surprise there was actually a Finnish style Vappu celebration organized by WIESO, which is organization for Finnish students in Austria. I was so happy about this possibility!

On Mayday’s eve me and friends gathered together and went to see how they placed the graduation hat on Sisi statue. I know this seems really odd tradition, but after that you normally put on your own sailor-hat-looking hat and start the party. We even got some sparkling wine to celebrate this and weather was really warm and sunny! Afterwards party kept going by the Danube and WIESO was offering even Finnish vappu food for free and it was also possible to buy Finnish drinks like lonkero there! While receiving vappu greeting from home I felt for the first time really homesick, but his event really helped a lot!! How homemade doughnuts, and potato salad can change a feeling?

In first of May me, Tjaša and Charlotte went for a picnic in Prater. There was some kind of free outdoor festival and because of nice weather also soooo many people! We still fitted there with others and just spend a day enjoying good food, sun and atmosphere. In the evening I also had my dancing lessons and this time it was particularly fun! Even though this Vappu was quite different from the others I really enjoyed it and I was so glad to hear that others had also great time getting to know this traditional spring fest.

Glada Vappen – bara vatten!


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