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European Travels Part II - Austria

More photos from the September trip to Europe with my father (part one here ). It’s been difficult to narrow down a large set of photographs to a user-friendly number!

cafe breakfast
breakfast at a Viennese coffee house, Cafe Pruckel, which opened in 1903. The cafes in Vienna were the meeting spots of day in late 19th century / early 20th century.


what year is this? 1955?

vienna cafe newspapers
take your pick of newspaper to read, a daily offering at cafes for decades.

mozart statue at burggarten vienna
A statue of Mozart found in the Burggarten (court garden) which was made after Napoleon’s army demolished the defensive structures which previously occupied the land. It served as a private royal garden for the Habsburg family, from the time of its design (1818) until the end of the empire in 1918. The Neue Burg section of the Hofburg Imperial Palace is in the background.

imperial napkin The way to fold the Imperial Palace Napkin is still a closely-guarded secret. The "royal bread holder" is still used at state dinners today. Only two people know how and they pass it down to the next generation of royal napkin folders before they die. The silver collection tour at the Imperial Palace was one of my favorite museums. Seeing all the different serving pieces and the centerpiece dessert service with ceramic cream cups Queen Victoria sent as a gift of friendship to Emperor Franz Joseph in 1851 was fascinating.

museum quarter People hanging out at the Museums Quartier (called "the MQ" by locals).

naschmarkt lunch at the Naschmarkt Deli. Spinach salad with a disk of grilled goat cheese, fresh-baked bread and a glass of Grüner Veltliner. The Naschmarkt is Vienna’s open-air, mile long food market.

naschmarkt

stephansdom
St. Stephens (Stephansdom ) Cathedral. Consecrated in 1147. The towers were finished in 1433 and are still the highest point in the Vienna skyline. The pattern on the roof is comprised of 230,000 glazed tiles.

salzburg austria
We took a train to Salzburg, which is about 150 miles from Vienna. Salzburg, the 4th largest city in Austria (pop 150,000), is famous to Americans as the setting for the Sound of Music, you know as in "the hills are alive with…"

salzburg festival
Salzburg is famous with Europeans for being the birthplace of Mozart and the location of the world-renowned music festival, the Salzburg Festival . In the middle of Mozartplatz (Mozart Square) they had a wine bar with some very relaxing-looking seating. Even though it wasn’t five o’clock (11 am?), I decided I better investigate.

so, while i hung out with Mozart, dad, segway-ed his way around Salzburg. Salzburg is a fun little city. We were only there for a day, but could have spent 2 or 3 days there seeing everything. Some more sights from Salzburg follow:

Relatives & Travel Chris 26 Jan 2010 No Comments

Happy Birthday Aunt Meredith

This was take two. I asked Saxon to sing a little louder…You can hear her saying, “OK, I’ll tell it a louder” at the start of the video. Samantha chimes in providing both backing vocals and some percussion. Oh, and Saxon was apparently playing the role of a mouse at her pre-school drama class.

Relatives Chris 05 Nov 2009 1 Comment

European Journeys with Dad - Part One - Vienna

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of traveling with my father to Europe. Seeing Europe with a veritable walking encyclopedia of history has its benefits! I often joke that my dad was my World Wide Web before Al Gore invented the internet. We figured the chances of the dollar improving, any time soon, against the Euro, were about as remote as our beginning to age backwards and get younger.

So, off we went.

biz class
Business class on american airlines is the perfect place for a gadget-lover like my dad.

amenities
American Airlines recently upgraded the amenity kits. No more cheap pouch-like sack. Improved socks! Burts Bees products. Bigger eye mask. Our long travel day, which began in the afternoon in Dallas, landed us early in the morning in Frankfurt, Germany. We had a couple of hours to kill before taking our connecting flight to Vienna, Austria.

We took the short flight from Frankfurt to Vienna on Niki Airlines. Even in my jet-lagged, sleep-deprived state, I thought it was odd that Niki’s logo/icon is the…housefly (huh?) and I found it amusing to see both English and German (Speißsackerl) on the barf bag. But we made it to Vienna, or Wien, as it is known in Europe, checked into the Hilton Vienna (free room - thank you very much Carey for the Hilton points!), and hit the ground running.


A reception room inside the original part of Vienna State Opera House, built in 1869. Much of the building is new, or relatively so, since Vienna was bombed fairly heavily during World War II. Apparently, the Vienesse were supportive of their native son, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi rule, so Churchill decided to give them a smack down that would serve as a reminder.

Box seats at the opera (Wiener Staatsoper), which houses 50-60 operas per year in around 200 performances. Both my dad and I recalled my grandmother, who died several years ago, saying she always wanted to go to the opera in Vienna. But I recalled her having gone, and my dad did not. A lesson in the importance of recording your history to pass down to others learned?

Could not find any signage for this sculpture. Figured it must be a monument to Bruno the gay Austrian fashion reporter. If that offends you, don’t watch the movie. Seriously.

Bugaboo Limited Edition 007 Denim Edition.


I had stumbled upon a NYTimes article about a large beer garden called Schweizerhaus that has been open since 1766 in a park called Prater. Schweizerhaus fit to a T the type of experience i like to have while abroad. Locals. Authentic or “Typical” as they would say in Italy. No ugly Americans. Real. How real? Almost too real, since most of the tables are reserved, due to standing Well, how about starting off with a Budweiser Budvar, the original Budweiser. But this wasn’t your daddy’s Bud. A great Czech pilsner served in a cold frosty mug as cold as any Big O from Georges.

But the 400 (500?) people weren’t there JUST to taste great beer. They come for the schweinsstelze, a spit roasted pork shank that is best eaten with the skin on. Cracklins anyone? While reading the English menu, I was reminded how so often the translation doesn’t quite make things sound as good as it probably does in the native language. I just don’t think I have ever seen Rear knuckle of pork on menus here. As delicious as the Headcheese with onions and pumpkin seed oil or the Beef broth with liver dumpling sounded, we opted for something recognizable - potato salad and cole slaw.

The folks next to us ordered the “fresh white radish (Bierrettich) in spiral cut shape” which looked quite interesting. I later found out this radish is traditional beer garden fare.

All I can say is Holy Cholesterol! Boy howdy this was good! More to come from Austria soon. Chris

Relatives & Travel Chris 05 Nov 2009 1 Comment

Got Skype?

You know those things that once you get, you scratch your head and wonder how in the world you ever lived without? Like TiVo. Or, sliced bread, for the older reader. Well, introduce yourself to Skype’s free video calls for another one of those wow! moments.

On a recent trip to Europe with my dad, (aka "Gran" to our kids), I was able to make real-time video calls home so I could see my family’s smiling faces. With regular voice-only telephone calls, Saxon’s attention span lasted a few sentences. But video calls was something entirely different. Lots of animated stories. Lots of fun. Again, why didn’t we do this sooner.

click here to sign up for Skype

When we returned, we got the grandparents set up on Skype (trust me, it is so, so easy) and have even been Skype-ing with Saxon and Samantha’s littlest cousin, Patrick, in Chicago. So, if you aren’t skype-ing, get with it!

If you don’t have a camera, get one at the Skype store (link: Get a new High Quality Video webcam. Make the clearest, sharpest, Skype video calls yet.)


Hint: Better camera = better video call experience. But we’ve used the built in camera on the notebook and it works fine.

Gear & Relatives Chris 04 Nov 2009 1 Comment

Mountain Trip Part 3 - flying at 70 mph

One afternoon, a few of us trekked over to the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, which served as the 2002 Olympic venue for ski jumping, nordic combined, bobsled, skeleton and luge events. Actually, medals are given in the bobsleigh event to people who ride a bobsled. How’s that for some fairly useless trivia learned on this family vacation? Store it away. Use it wisely at the appropriate time, but do so without sounding like a know-it-all Cliff Clavin .


So, the bobsleigh track (or would it be a bobsled track?!) is still there and used by the US Olympic team as their training ground. Year round, mere mortals can take a ride on the track. In the winter, you can ride one of the actual bobsleds used in the 2002 Olympics. Other times of the year, you can ride a summerized bobsled with tires instead of steel runners.

The Comet bobsled ride at the Utah Olympic park is billed as the "most intense minute of your life. " The sign-your-life-away form included warnings designed to discourage anyone who has ever had back/neck, kidney or heart problems, undergone recent surgeries, have high blood pressure or is pregnant. In big bold print it said the ride is "not for the faint of heart ." After reading this, I quietly asked how many fatalities they had had in 2009. The burly mountain man laughed and said they had only crashed one bobsled, about ten years ago, and that everyone walked away, albeit very bruised.

mimi was glad to hang out with Saxon and form the cheering section.


saxon picking a helmet. sorry kid. you gotta be 14 to ride.

"dad, this is really heavy on my head"

they won’t let you drive, since you have to be pro to navigate the 15 turns at speeds close to 70 mph. that’s mike (above) looking back excitedly. The faster you’re pushed at the start, the faster you zip down the track. Big & strong people make great pushers and brakemen. I was glad someone as strong as Heisman winner and NFL running back Herschel Walker (who finished 7th in the 1992 two man event) wasn’t pushing out sled.

From left to right: von, me (with the wild eyes), teresa (eyes fixed on the helmet in front of her) and the driver guy. The minute I plopped down into the long metal hot dog, panic descended upon my heart and mind for the second time in two days. As a lifelong claustrophobe, the simultaneous reactions of increased stomach acids, the tightening of my chest, nd increased hyperawareness of everything going on around me were unpleasantly familiar.

But I had no time to dwell upon these thoughts because off we went. Realizing we did not have seat belts because we didn’t need them. With 5G’s (that’s 5 times the normal pull of gravity) in the turns I would be pinned to the bottom of the sled if I didn’t follow the instructions. Push against the inside of the sled with my arms as hard as I could and hold your head and neck up with a stiff rigidity to avoid being a life-sized bobble head doll.

Away we went. Faster and faster with each vertical drop. At the turns, it felt like my body had become metallized and the world was a giant magnet folding me in half. The first 30 seconds were exhiliarating. Truly the most intense 30 seconds of my life seemed like a split second.

Unfortunately, the turns started coming so fast that my delicate inner ear thought we were on a dinghy in ten foot seas and sounded the motion sickness alarm. At this point, I could only think of crying for mama. The last 30 seconds [thank goodness the entire ride was less than a minute] seemed like an eternity.


I don’t look very green, so maybe we took this one before the ride!

here’s Saxon sitting on a luge. does her size give you an idea of the scale of tiny saucer people ride down the mountain at close to 100 mph?

teresa tries it on for size.

mimi (above) and teresa (below) in one of the 2002 US olympic team sleds


mimi and saxon wondering why daddy is face down on the pavement after his bobsled ride.

Relatives & Samantha & Saxon & Travel Chris 17 Sep 2009 No Comments

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