My Home in Steyr
May 2, 2012
It was about a five-hour drive to Steyr from Karnten through the classic hills made famous in The Sound of Music,which was filmed in Salzburg. I definitely slept for an hour of it but saw enough to be thoroughly impressed by Austria. It is so green and mountainous. It reminds me a bit of Oregon and the northwest in that there are tons of trees and wilderness. But the landscape is a bit different. There are huge open spaces with lush grass and hillside and many small villages that have probably existed for a thousand years. The country seems very well preserved and you really just don’t see any crummy areas. I guess I have not been here for long but it seems that the standard of living is very high, which I am sure is true since Austrians pay 50% of their salaries to taxes.
Steyr is beautiful and I just spent the morning walking around the cobblestone streets, peaking in doorways and taking pictures. Although it is the third largest city in upper-Austria, it is definitely a small town still, with only about forty thousand people. The old town has typical European architecture and I feel like I am walking around a castle everywhere I go. I am staying with our team captain, Richard, and his house is big and comfortable. He just graduated from law school and has some time off before he starts his job in June. So he has been showing me around and taking me mountain biking and exploring. He has a huge backyard with a garden and pool, and after reading and swimming for a couple hours
yesterday his mom made a nice and simple cold dinner of different meats and breads and cheeses. We drank a bottle of white wine, which even I enjoyed—I don’t usually like wine all that much. all in all, I think it will be great to stay here for a while. I’m enjoying having the day to myself a little to check out the city and be on my own. We played our first match of the season yesterday and today I am resting because my calf is bothering me and I want it to heal so I can start running. I think it will be amazing to run in this area and am sad that my leg is not letting me. I did however, just spend an hour walking around the gorgeous, antique streets that are Steyr, and now I find myself, as I have in various countries and continents, in McDonalds, where the air smells
of French fries and the internet is reliable. What a weird world. There were half dozen adorable coffee shops along the river and in the old city any of which would have been great to write in. But they don’t have wifi. So here I am, surrounded by annoying highschoolers destroying their bodies with an unending supply of saturated fat and cholesterol.
The match yesterday could not have been more of a success. Although I was pretty nervous to start out, I ended up beating the Bulgarian that the other team brought in solidly 6-1, 6-1. It was a huge relief to start the season off so well and the match was exactly how I had hoped this experience would be. About
twenty-five of the club members came out to watch, many just to see me play, and they spent the afternoon drinking wine, eating lunch, and cheering. They made me very welcome and a few different people told me how happy they were to watch me and how impressed they were by my skills. All I can say is that after so much time grinding, playing qualifying tournaments at Futures, and often being disappointed by my results it was a huge ego boost to be a big fish finally and show off for people a bit. It is nice to have a different level of comparison for a change to remind myself that my hard work has paid off and I am in fact very good at this game. And it was fun to have people cheering for me and to be part of a team again, which I haven’t had since college.
I felt solid on the clay, and the Bulgarian was actually a good player, although he may have been sharper a few years ago. He just was not consistent enough to stay with me from the baseline, which made him go for too much and play overly aggressive at times. It was a good match though despite the score and was definitely not a blowout. As a whole, the level of play in the league is fairly low when compared to the professional environments I have played in. But the guys are awesome and they take it seriously, really getting into the matches and competing hard. We ended up winning as a team by the final score of seven matches to two, which was good enough for first place in the league. Although it is only the beginning of the season, this is the first time in
the history of the team that they have led the league, so everyone is happy and seem to be satisfied with the decision to bring me onto the team. The final match of the day, which was important because it decided whether or not the team got a bonus point for the win—which ended up putting us first in the league—came down to my partner and my doubles match at the second position. My partner’s name was Libish and he played the bottom spot for us in singles. Apparently he struggles with nerves sometimes so he was ecstatic when we came from behind to win our match in a tiebreaker in the third set. I was feeling pretty confident and a bit cocky after my success and all the congratulations I had received from the singles. But it turned out one of our opponents, who
had been demolished earlier by our five player, was a doubles specialist. He humbled me a bit early on by poaching on one of Libish’s returns and hitting me pretty hard right in the head. That was enough to put a damper on my ego trip and snap me back into the match, which we managed to squeak out close in the third. The club was very happy with the result and rounds of beer started flowing from every direction. Hans brought out a Murder Cake, which was made by a famous chef in the local prison, and everyone was happy to celebrate and prepare for a night on the town. I probably had a few too many beers because I had to take a nap before dinner and drink a bunch of coffee in order to be ready to go out. But it ended up being a great time and we staid out
till five in the morning making an unofficial pub-crawl of the local Steyr nightlife. At this point I think the guys really like me and the Austrian part of this experience appears to have turned out to be all that I could have hoped for and more. They really seem to appreciate that I want to be a real part of the team and care about them and the club. I guess a lot of teams hire players who just come in the day of the match, take their money, and leave. So they like the fact that I want more than that. I have the rest of today and tomorrow to chill a bit and be on my own and then I’m off to Fulda, Germany where I’ll meet my second team and prepare for my first match there next week. Hopefully my situation in Fulda will be
close to as nice as it has turned out to be in Steyr.