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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

TAKE A HIKE – HOCHSCHWAB

Sorry – long time no hear but I swear, I am hard at work with my studies, reading, researching and writing papers. But life mustn’t be all work and no play. So…just for you… some beautiful mementos from a recent hike in Austria’s very gorgeous Hochschwab region.

Bodenbauer Guesthouse, Hochschwab

Bodenbauer Guesthouse, Hochschwab

Spend a weekend at this gem of a guesthouse where the St. Ilgen valley ends and is surrounded by a majestic panorama of mountains: Bodenbauer (http://www.der-bodenbauer.at/der-bodenbauer/anreise).

From there venture up and out into some breathtaking walks, treks, hikes, and climbs.

Hainzerlheutte

Hainzerlhuette

A short hour-long trek will take you to the lovely Hainzlhuette where cows laze happily in the meadow and the Wirtin will serve you up a very tasty Brettljause and refreshing drinks so you can tank some energy to power onwards.

Haeuserlhuette

Häuslalm

Further up the mountain about 2 hours straight up from Bodenbauer is the Häuslhuette situated along a route that is better marked than the Hainzerlhuette route (Haeusl Alm website). The Häuslalm is along route 840. Consider downloading maps of the area before you go because the markings aren’t always optimal. And if you are crazy enough to venture up in pounding, stinging rain, dragging your soaking wet body, step-for-step upwards like I did, you might just have a Frodo-like experience that would make the entire effort worthwhile. Cold, rain-beaten, and tired, you might just enter an abandoned-looking hut after the two hour hike that seemed oh so everlong to find an interior filled with the warmth of a wood-burning stove, the scents of homemade grilled Bratwurst, an abundance of drink and an over-bursting of song and merriment. Unbelievable. Not only was the hut busting at its seams with hikers out in that weather (some who climbed over in hail and snow), there was an accordion, an accordion player and a cabin full of beer-mug-swinging Austrians who knew all the lyrics to all the songs he played. Good times were had by all and I may have been mistaken, but I could have sworn there were some hobbits in the corner milking their Barlimann’s Best. Indeed, thank goodness this world has more to offer than work and perfect weather. Life is short, make the best of it!

 

 

 

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EXPAT 101

An expat is not an expatriate. Whereas Giacomo Casanova was an expatriate who was exiled from Venice in the 1700s (need I say why) and  had to wonder around Europe engaging in his shenanigans abroad, David Bowie was a UK expat who chose to live in New York. Yes, the terms share the French and Latin stems “ex” – “out of” and “patrie/patria” – “native land”, but an expatriate is someone who has been banished or exiled from their native country, and an expat is someone who voluntarily lives abroad – though the terms are increasingly being used interchangeably.

Since almost everyone in the world was born in the world’s best country, why would any sane person choose to reside abroad? In addition to the fact that living abroad makes you a much more conscientious resident of your own country and global citizen of the world, there might be a plethora of reasons why you choose to pack your bag and leave for Timbuktu (actually choose someplace safer in the world at the moment than Timbuktu). The most common reasons that I have encountered for folks to live somewhere else seem to be: 1) to study 2) to work 3) to follow  a love interest 4) to seek (and find) adventure 5) to experience something completely different than one’s homeland (see 1-4 above) or 6) they simply got lost (intentionally or accidentally) and stayed.

With the advent of social media, being an expat has definitely become easier over the years. Not only can you connect with other expats over social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you can also stay connected with your native homeland via Skype, Whatsapp or whatever else you may be using.

View of rooftops of Vienna and Burgtheater

View of rooftops of Vienna and Burgtheater

Some folks move abroad and become native before they’ve even mastered the phrase Oachkatzlschwoaf. Others move and create the world-at-home abroad. They live in communities where most of their neighbors are expats as well, join social groups with the same people and never learn a single word of the native language. They shop in the grocery stores that have the products from home and tune in to all the US shows over iTunes and Netflix. Now more than ever, you can create your own little American haven in just about any corner of the world. I have even witnessed with my very own eyes — I kid you not, hand on heart, pinky promise — fellow Americans (yes, it’s true, my own countrymen and ladies) living in Europe who actually still drink (American!!) Budweiser. (Now the Czech Budweis would be a different story). If that isn’t a sure sign of bull-headed refusal to let your hair down and go even a little native, I don’t know what is. And that’s a pity because if that’s you, you are definitely missing out on more than very good beer so all-natural that hangovers are history.

So what is an upright global citizen to do? Go native in the beginning – maybe the first 6 months or so — and then gradually ease up and mix a dash of fellow expats into your native brew. The problem is that if you don’t go native at first, you may never integrate yourself into the host country and your experience abroad will be like Apfelstrudel without the Schlag, Starsky without Hutch, the yin without the yang. But if you manage a healthy mix of the two, the sky’s the limit and you are bound to form some of life’s most-lasting and strongest bonds. Because nothing says true friendship like a mutual lack of understanding for the humor of Narrisch Guat .

Top 10 things expats should do to get the ultimate experience:

1) Learn the native language – no and, ifs, buts about it. You must or you will never fit in – check out the “Austrian Phrase of the Week” and “Word of the Week” on this site too.

2) Dress like a local – though Dirndls are only worn in Vienna for special events, no one will hold it against you if you can’t resist donning one to the Heurigen or someplace else. Who can ever be angry at a dirndl-clad expat? The charm factor is too disarming.

3) Read local news media and watch local news– highly recommend “Der Standard” but if your German is not up to speed, indulge in the Krone or gratis subway paper Heute. You have a good excuse to look at a paper with more pictures than words and a page three image that would make Oma blush. And why yes, Austria does indeed now have more TV stations than ORF 1 and 2. Then again, if you are dutifully paying your ORF fees (as you should and must!), you definitely want to try to get your money’s worth and there’s more to that than Bergdoktor and Colombo re-runs. Maybe, though, opt for ORF 3 – that’s where the public money is seriously put to good use.

4) Listen to the local radio stations – Ö1 is kind of like NPR and has great reports at noon each day. Ö3 is what is popular while Superfly and FM4 are a bit more hip and chilled.

5) Read local authors – old and new — to get into the mentality of how your new neighbors tick, see the world, and maybe even you. For Austrian authors, try Arthur Schnitzler for older stuff and some soul searching, Torberg for some more good stuff from the 20th century (particularly Der Schüler Gerber, and Auch das war Wien, Wolf Haas for some light, modern but humorous crime stories that take place in Vienna, Peter Altenberg for some 1900 poetry, Karl Kraus for a critical, almost cynical view of pre-WW I Vienna, Adolf Loos for some well-written turn of the century (but still apt) essays criticizing society, Erich Fried for some terribly romantic and often tortured love poems, and and and… No excuses, get to Thalia and lose yourself in the Austrian literature section (at Wien Mitte they are even open on Sundays).

6) Listen to the local music (no matter how painful David Hasselhof’s love songs may be) – for a real treat turn on Radio Wien and you might become convinced you’ve entered a time machine back to the 60s and 70s.

7) Get to know the locals by joining some kind of group – running, reading, cooking, yodeling, there must be something you want to learn. Or get a dog if you live in Vienna – this is a 100% surefire way to engage locals in daily conversation.

8) Celebrate the local holidays. And in Austria there’s so many to choose from and don’t forget to invite the locals to yours. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a group of people from 5 different nations, sitting around the living room in a post-turkey daze, politely feigning excitement at the pumpkin pie coming their way.

9) Eat and cook the local cuisines (though you can always claim to be allergic to Blutwurst, Hirn mit Ei, Leberpastete, and Beuschel and no one would think any worse of you).

10) Have a positive outlook and be willing to laugh at yourself, your mishaps and any steps backwards you might definitely will take.

Once you integrate, connect with those back home via social media, online chats and phone conversations, instagram, youtube and  – my favorite – podcasts.

And how do you meet up with those who are also far away from home? Check out organizations like this one:

Living in AustriaThey were created over 10 years ago and have gone worldwide and currently boast more than 1.5 million members with 6000 in Austria. They regularly organize meet-ups and have lots of blog posts about anything you’d ever want to know about anything else.

Another resource you might want to check out is a rather new site called Flying Yak (where you’ll find me as a voluntary “ambassador”): flyingyak.com

But no matter how you go about it — be sure to make lots of great memories!

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NEW YORK CITY AND THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MUSEUM

When you visit a city on a return visit, or after several return visits, you are free of the pressure to cross off site-seeing lists, making return visits almost always more rewarding because you can finally ease into a place and let the day take you where it wills without maps or guide books. Sometimes, however, the will of the day takes you where you are not eager to go, but definitely need to be.

On a (return) visit this past week to NYC, one of my days willed me to two gaping holes in the earth where two towers once stood that years ago had afforded me impressive views of the city. This time, however, instead of cruising in an elevator hundreds of storeys skyward, I descended into the depths of the National September 11 Memorial Museum.

Steel beams displayed at the September 11 Memorial Museum

Steel beams displayed at the National September 11 Museum

Words are insufficient to describe what it is like to stand dwarfed next to naked steel beams once an integral part of a skeleton great enough to extend the whole way up to the “Windows of the World” and to be overwhelmed by the fragility of life reflecting in the smiling faces of portrait upon portrait of those who didn’t manage to make it home the evening of September 11. Volunteers in blue vests stand discreetly next to exhibits and politely answer questions as you navigate in stunned silence through bare concrete halls displaying poignant reminders of a day forever etched in all of our memories.

Having studied in DC and often visited the museums and memorials there that are free, I was struck, even before entering the National September 11 Memorial Museum, by the steep entrance ticket price of 24 USD per adult and 18 USD per student. If the funds were going to the families of victims and first responders, the fee seemed a small price to pay. But if not….

It just seems wrong that any company or individuals should make any profit from anything related to 9/11 or any such tragedy for that matter. Neither of the two volunteers I asked were able to say for sure where the money for the tickets went. Since then I’ve looked online. I was surprised to discover that according to Wikipedia’s National September 11 Memorial Museum page, the museum is not administered by the National Park Service like the Flight 93 National Memorial but rather a non-profit corporation?! After trying to figure it all out, I still don’t really get it. How much more costly can this museum be than all the museums in Washington DC that are free? I also don’t quite understand who owns the September 11 Museum, who runs the museum, the logic of a non-profit corporation as opposed to a national park service and where all the funding goes and for what but it would seem to me if the museum is a public museum, funded by public funds and sincere in its mission statement, any and all balance sheets related to the administration of the museum as well as meeting minutes, etc, should be publicly available online directly from the museum website at the click of a mouse button. Sadly, it didn’t seem from what I could find that steep ticket costs were being used for the health and well-being of any of the families at all but I could be wrong. I definitely hope that I’m wrong.

September 11 Memorial Museum

September 11 Memorial Museum

When you visit NY, you immediately recognize that there is no place in the world with as much pulse, edge and grit as NYC. There just isn’t. At the same time, beneath all the chaos, glitz, glamour and lights, you have what really makes the city great – the New Yorkers themselves – the brash, no-nonsense, genuine New Yorker who didn’t hesitate that morning on 9/11 to rush down to the eye of the hurricane and sacrifice his/her life to help another or spend weeks in the ruble searching debris and now dedicates retirement days to discreetly standing next to exhibits patiently answering visitor questions.

Lots of my fellow Americans – particularly those of us who grew up more in the burbs and countryside like I did, often don’t get the gushing, outpouring of enthusiasm for New York that many Europeans seem automatically prone to. But I do. I get it. And it has nothing to do with the neon lights so bright on Broadway.

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TOP TEN THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN VIENNA IN DECEMBER

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Vienna gets lots of visitors in December and that’s not too surprising because the city is beautiful this time of year. Here’s the top 10 things you’ll want to do and see while here in December to get the most of your visit.

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    1. Visit a Christmas Market. With over 20 markets to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a list of Vienna Christmas markets from my 2014 post with links. Note that the special events have probably changed but otherwise the markets and descriptions usually stay pretty consistent year for year.
    2. Indulge in some Glühwein while at that market. For your own Glühwein recipe – check out my “How to make Glühwein” post.

      Gluehwein at Schönnbrunn Castle Christmas Market - photo courtesy of M. Gardzina

      Gluehwein at Schönnbrunn Castle Christmas Market – photo courtesy of M. Gardzina

    3. Have lunch at Cafe Central – they have what’s called a “Menü” option on the weekdays and it is usually a soup and a main meal consisting of a meat or non-meat dish and rather reasonably priced. Be sure to make reservations or you might have to wait for a table or not get one at all. You can write to them for reservations at the email address on the Cafe Central website but reservations are only valid if you receive a confirmation email (usually pretty quick response time).
    4. See the mosaic of the Last Supper. Do this after your visit to Cafe Central, since the Minoritenkirche with the mosaic is a two minute walk up the road from the Cafe.  More about this amazing piece of art work in my post: “Napoleon, Jesus and the Free Masons: the Last Supper in Vienna.”
    5. Have an authentic Austrian dinner in one of Vienna’s oldest restaurants – the Griechenbeisl. Again, reservations are a necessity. Check out my post about the Greichenbeisl restaurant entitled, “If the Walls Could Speak – A Schnitzel with Turkish Invaders, Beethoven, Twain and Johnny Cash.”

      Fancy Schmancy Aida Krapfen

      Fancy Schmancy Aida Krapfen

    6. Try a Krapfen. Don’t know what that is? Kind of like a apricot jam filled doughnut – more on the subject here: “Krapfen – Getting Fat in Honor of Fat Tuesday.”
    7. Definitely, definitely, visit a Coffeehouse to catch your breath, read a newspaper, discuss the world, and maybe even have some coffee. These two posts should help you with that: This one has a list of choice coffeehouses: “Vienna and her Coffeehouses – Sit Back and Smell the Coffee,” and this one describes a bit of the coffeehouse culture: “Place to Visit in Vienna – Coffeehouses.”
    8.  Digest some art and see some museums. Check out my post “Things to See in Vienna – Art Museums and Street Art.”

      Entrance to the Griechenbeisl

      Entrance to the Griechenbeisl

    9. Visit the Austrian National Treasury and check out some amazing artifacts like the legendary holy lance/ Spear of Destiny. More about that on my post:”The Holy Lance (“Spear of Destiny”) & the Power to Rule the World.”
    10. Take a stroll through the park of the Schönbrunn Castle and be sure to hike the hill behind the castle up to the gorgeous Gloriette where you can have a hot cocoa and if you’re timing is right, listen to some live piano music.
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