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Posts from the ‘Side Trips from Vienna’ Category


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 (

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



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.



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!






Because in the book of life, everyone should have a chapter about Paris. – KC Blau

There’s a lot you can do in two hours time. If you’re adventurous and bad at planning and expecting guests for dinner, you can attempt the 2-hour turkey cooking recipe. If you’re bored and your electricity is down you have to entertain a bunch of friends, you can suffer through 2 hours of monopoly together. If you were an average employee with an average work day back in 2007, you wasted an average of two hours a work day every day. If you live in Chapel Hill, it will take you about two hours to hit the waves (unless it’s hurricane season and they come to you). And if you’re a good date, you can spend 2-hours of quality time with that special someone experiencing the new Star Wars film in 3D. And if you live in Vienna? You can fly to Paris.

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris – final resting place of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Modigliani, Proust, Rossini, Moliere, Edith Piaf and Getrude Stein.

Which is what I did this past week. Which is why I didn’t blog. Forgive me because I’m not sorry. Passé, perhaps, but I love Paris.

Clock at the Museum d'Orsay on the Impressionists floor overlooking Sacre Couer

Clock at the Museum d’Orsay on the Impressionists floor overlooking the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

In Paris, with over 300 types of cheese to choose from, you have to leave off most of the endings of words, just to give yourself enough time to have a bite or two. And you find yourself forced to slaughter a language that when spoken by a native French person, sounds so seductive that even the subway guy announcing the metro stops makes you loosen the top button of your blouse. Nothing in Paris is in English and no one ever seems to know any despite the songs and films from – gasp! – America. But Pierre knows he’s strict and after letting you flounder a bit, when your Parlez-vous’ start to provoke some Parlez-Please-don’ts, Pierre and his Parisian friends will indeed toss their sweet boorish foreigner a life preserver with a sudden epiphany that, oh yes, well maybe they do indeed perhaps understand and speak a little — well some — English after all. A Parisian miracle.

Christmas exhibit in the Notre Dame

Christmas exhibit in the Notre Dame

Ahh Paris, the City of Light. Every museum holds a masterpiece, every masterpiece a deep underlying symbol, every guy a fashionable scarf, every girl a colored brassiere, every street corner a cafe, every cafe eclairs, and the Eiffel Tower always keeps a gentle watch over her cultivated flock.  Visiting Paris from Vienna is like a whirlwind tour with the crazy friend who makes you dance, laugh, eat, drink, spend more money than you intended, and then eat, drink and spend more than you should. When you finally wave a remorseful au revoir, you drop into your cattle class 5B contraption called a seat and before the stewardess can tell you to turn off your electronic devices and the guy in 5C can give her an I-dare-you-to-say-something stare as he inserts his earbuds, you instantly fall into a 2-hour recovery coma. Paris…

KC Blau in Paris

Me in Paris but from another trip – the book of life is big enough for many Paris chapters

Because in the book of life, everyone should have a chapter about Paris.

Some interesting literature:

Mentioned in this blog: Average Work Day Wasted Hours

The book I picked up in the apartment where I stayed and couldn’t put back down again: Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The movie I downloaded from i-Tunes and watched while in Paris: Paris, Je T’aime

The song that always makes me think of Paris: “Comptine d´un autre été: l´après midi” Yann Tiersen



Austrian Natural Disasters – Avalanches

Growing up in small town PA, I received ample instructions on how to “stop, drop and roll” in case of a fire and chariots-of-fire myself to the basement in case of a tornado. Fortunately, life never put me in a position where I had to click my red shiny heels to there’s-no-place-like-home myself back to Pittsburgh. However, on a few occasions, I actually did have to brace for a hurricane in NC, but found myself hard-pressed to locate a cellar and woefully uncertain whether the little closet under the stairs, the bathtub or the kitchen table would offer the best shelter.

 In Austria, there are other disasters to worry about. No tornadoes or hurricanes but an occasional earthquake will hit. When that happens, it’s the talk of the town but usually centered someplace in Italy and so subtle that people who can claim they felt “something” are countered with skeptical nods. “No, really, I felt it. Something swayed at 4 am. It did! It really, really did!”

 But there is one natural danger that all Austrian Elizabeths and Josefs have been schooled in from the day they could slip their little toesies into a snow boot and its not one I knew anything about prior to moving to Alpine country – avalanches.

Avalanche Danger Sign

Avalanche Danger Sign

Let’s face it, living in Vienna, I am relatively safe from avalanches since the biggest hill in the city is probably the one at the Gloriette which I will hike up for a coffee and an Apfelstrudel without ever risking the perils of an unfrozen snow mantle burying me on the way. Avalanche dangers here come from “Dachlawinen” (Roof Avalanches) of melting snow and ice crashing on the pavement during the thaw period after a winter storm and perhaps an occasional whirlpool cover flying off a rooftop apartment during a “Sturm” when high winds blow through the city.

 Still, if you want to visit or live in Vienna, you will eventually be dragged out into the mountain air with these mountain loving people (see last week’s post on Fahrvergnügen) and that’s not necessarily a negative but you do want to do so sensibly. That explains why, for me, the image at the beginning of the post, seems more like a festive little yield sign with a Santa cap pulled down over the eyes rather than a warning “Danger! Avalanches Possible”

There were a lot of avalanches this past weekend in the Alps and 10 people didn’t make it out. A few weeks back, two young prospects from the US ski team tragically lost their lives far too young in an avalanche while training in Sölden, Austria.

I too spend time in the mountains in winter and though I am a miserable skier, don’t snow board or go on “Skitouren,” I’ve hiked in the mountains in winter and knew absolutely NOTHING about avalanches. So I thought many of you out there might not as well, and I put together a little something to help us all out and to let you know that yield signs here don’t don Santa hats to get in the season – those signs are there for a reason and should be understood. Don’t avoid the Alps in winter – they’re beautiful – but definitely enjoy them safely!

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Avalanche Map

Avalanche Map from – which regularly updates a map on their website with the avalanche situation in Austria

Avalanche - Stage 1

Avalanche – Stage 1

  • 1 (low)

An avalanche is only possible with a great amount of additional burden on very few, extremely steep slopes. Sudden avalanches (so-called slides) are not to be expected. Generally safe conditions. (This seems to be a thumbs up for your outing).

  • 2 (moderate)

    Avalanche Risk - stage 2

    Avalanche Risk – stage 2

An avalanche is probable with great additional burden particularly on marked steep slopes. Larger avalanches are not expected. The snow mantle is generally well solidified except on some steep slopes. Use caution when choosing routes with marked steep slopes and slope exposure. (This is a thumbs up for an outing without Barney or the members of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss cast members at the beginning of the season).


  • Avalanche Stage 3

    Avalanche Stage 3

    3 (substantial)

An avalanche is already probable with just a small amount of additional burden particularly on steep slopes. From case to case sudden, several middle, single but also large avalanches are possible.  (I think this means that if you’re unlucky, and pick the wrong slope, you could be in for it). The snow mantle is only slightly or moderately solidified on many steep slopes. Experience in judging avalanches required. When possible avoid steep slopes and slope exposure.

  • 4 (great)

    Avalanche Stage 4

    Avalanche Stage 4

An avalanche is already probable with just a small amount of additional burden particularly on steep slopes. From case to case sudden, several middle, single but also large avalanches are possible. (Again, you’re kind rolling dice here) The snow mantle is only slightly solidified on many steep slopes.When choosing a route, stay restricted to moderately steep slopes as well as careful of avalanche run out areas. A lot of experience in judging avalanches required. (Who has “avalanche judging experience – Judge Judy on skis?)

  • 5 (very great)
Avalanche Stage 5

Avalanche Stage 5

Many sudden large avalanches, also in moderately steep slope areas are to be expected. At this risk level, no safe operation of ski areas is possible. (This might mean that you’re considered safe hanging out in the Skihütte). The snow mantle is generally weak and unstable. Refraining from tours is recommended. (I would say, this is the Austrian polite way of saying: Don’t Do it!)


Moderately steep: up to a 30° slope angle

Steep slopes: more than a 30° slope angle

Small additional burden: for example a single skier, snowboarder or snow shoe walker or mean with an e-book but not necessarily my carry on luggage.

Significant additional burden: for example a group of skiers without safety distance between them, a snow groomer, or an avalanche blasting crew – or maybe me WITH my carry on luggage.

Avalanche report recording is available free of charge throughout Austria under the number 0800 501 588, also a newsletter and App is also available free of charge under: (

More to Read:

Lawinen Quiz in German:

The New York Times Report on US skiers Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle:


Heading out of Vienna for the Weekend – 8 Tips to Up Your Fahrvergnügen

“There’s a better life, and you dream about it, don’t you?” – “9-5” lyrics, Dolly Parton

If you spend more than a week in Vienna, and especially if you have a car here, you are likely, at some point, to notice that the Houdini-like parallel parking skills required from Sunday night until Friday morning in Vienna’s single digit districts are no longer needed for the magical 48 hours from Friday afternoon until Sunday. Because “der Berg ruft” Austrians weekly, come Friday, there’s no more resisting that primal call. No one in this city seems to be a true geborener Wiener except maybe Richard Lugner. Nope. And most definitely not the ones who drive their own cars. Those are the Zuagroaster, who come TGIF day, line up in their weekly convoy to head back to the “provincial” roots – the little villages far and wide along the A1 stretching from St. Christopher to St. Lorenz.

Eventually, if you’ve been here long enough, you too may become infected with the weekend desire to get out of Döbling. In that case, here are some things you should know about venturing out for a weekend:

  1. The Autobahn is not THE Autobahn

Ah, yes. Names can be deceiving. You’ve dreamt about the Autobahn ever since Auntie Em gave you your very first cherry red matchbox Porsche and your Uncle Hank mentioned that there is a special place in this world where drivers can speed along 8026 miles of straight, pot-hole free highway and not get a ticket – the German Autobahn. And in Austria, the symbol designating the highway might look like the sky blue signs with white racing lines on the German sign, and the Austrians might even call the A1 the Autobahn, but do not mistake the A1 for the Autobahn of your Nikki Lauda dreams. Germans recommend that you keep a speed of 130 km per hr (80 miles per hr) on their Autobahn. Austrians REQUIRE you maintain a speed of 130 km per hr or even less in some zones.

2.  The Ugly Walls

All those ugly walls along the highway aren’t meant to obstruct your view of the rolling green fields of St. Pölten and the golden arches of the next McCafe, they’re called Lärmschutzwände, Sound Protection Walls, and meant to act as sound barriers between the highway and villages.

3. Geisterfahrer (Ghost Drivers)

Driving along, listening to Carole King sing her heart out on Radio Oberösterreich, for the second time in one trip, you’re passing Amstetten and already feeling your pulse sink. Then a loud voice interrupts Carole’s lovesick lamenting with a heart-stopping “Achtung! Achtung! Alle Autofahrer!” and you hear the words “Geisterfahrer” and notice all the cars, even the German drivers, merging to the far right lane and no longer passing. “Ghost Driver?” you think. You turn to your passenger seat to check if Ichabod Crane has joined you to brace for an upcoming encounter with the headless Pinto driver heading your way. But hopefully Ichabod can tell you that a Geisterfahrer might not be headless (brainless perhaps, but not headless) but should definitely get your pulse pumping because he’s (it always seems to be guys, sorry gentleman) actually a nitwit who managed to enter the Autobahn going the wrong direction and something in his frontal lobe hasn’t set off any alarm bells to motivate him to pull over and end his little adventure. Or maybe the Lärmschutzwand (see above) doesn’t give him space enough to do so. An Austrian phenomenon. I guess we must have “Ghost Drivers” in the US too but for the life of me, I have never heard of or witnessed one. Maybe they all have a healthy fear that such behavior in a place like LA could provoke road rage sufficient to draw the Ghost Driver’s death wish to a timely Glock-filled end.

4. Radio Oberösterreich

I recently found myself trapped in a car in which the driver insisted on listening to Radio Oberösterreich for the length of time it actually came in on the radio. This ended up being a torturous stretch from somewhere before Mondsee until about Haag. First we listened to some song by Carole King followed by an interview with a real live geborener Welser who explained to us why he has always and will always live in Wels and why Wels is THE place to visit. Yes, he knows all the Welser in town but if he ever feels the need to get away from it all, there’s plenty of woods around where he can escape for a few hours. Noticing the beckoning Wels sign ahead (fate?) I naturally suggested we give into destiny’s call and see for ourselves what Wels could do for us. My suggestion was ignored and the journey and radio experience continued. From Wels we listened to Dolly Parton’s 1980 hit “9-5” which the radio, obviously surprised as us to be playing such music, displayed as “Milly Parton.” I couldn’t resist commenting that Radio Oberösterreich must be the only station on earth that still played Dolly Parton, only to be countered with some Dolly Parton trivia about the insurance policy on her two greatest assets. Ah, the conversation topics that Radio Oberösterreich can inspire. Dolly was followed by a more modern tune for Radio Oberösterreich – “Millionär” – from die Prinzen from a mere two and half decades ago but then we were catapulted back half a century to the Hollies’ “I’m Alive.” What long forgotten nuggets were bound to be unearthed next? What decade would we land in? Our Radio Oberösterreich encounter crescendoed into a guest interview for the Linzertorte program – a researcher specializing in the fascinating field of fruit flies. Who knew that fruit flies have a grand advantage over other living species due to their “compact brain” that measures ½ mm wide and 1/3 mm high. Sadly, however, this was the point that Radio Oberösterreich faded and we had to bid the hodge podge of Radio Oberösterreich Pfuiti Gott. One question won’t give peace, though: who is the target audience of this novel station?

5. Rest Stops – the Price to Pay

Be sure you have 50 cent coins packed for your trip or you’re liable to get a rude awakening when you make an urgent stop along the way only to find yourself confronted with a turn stile blocking your path to the WC. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

6. The “W” in your license plate

“W” plates are for those who live in “W” and frowned upon beyond the city walls. I have a dear friend who has been dating a guy who lives in the countryside (for Viennese anything beyond the 21st district qualifies as countryside but he lives a bit further away than Liesing). As a sign of his seriousness about her and their relationship, said guy has agreed to move from his comfortable life of Supermega Spar aisles, US-sized parking spots and friendly folk who Griaß di everyone, to an uncertain future in the big city in a yet undecided district of Vienna. The willingness to forfeit his countryside license plate for a Viennese one, however, is about as big of a commitment as a girl could demand of her Lederhosen darling. I’ve known folks who have lived and worked for over a decade in Vienna, but somehow, they just can’t bear the final break with their home town by dropping a single letter like a B or E or L, O, T,U or Y to go from a place like the WB (Wiener Neustadt-Land) to plain old lonely “W” (Wien).

W driver in the countryside? Watch your speed and if you screw up and take a wrong turn, no worries, the locals will expect nothing less from a “W” driver.

7. Sunday & Holidays – Wochenendfahrverbot

I love this rule. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, tractor trailer trucks (LKWs) are not allowed to drive on Sundays and public holidays. In Austria, the Verbot starts on Saturday at 3 pm and lasts until Sunday 10 pm. Trucks also aren’t allowed on the road between 10 pm and 5 am in general. Don’t have a hissy fit, though, if you happen to see a truck out at 11 am on a Sunday morning. There are some exceptions to the rule, like for trucks carrying perishable food and those assisting other vehicles or clearing the roads.

8. Return to Vienna on a Sunday

If you’ve gone away for the weekend, I strongly urge you to try to get back into town sometime before 6 or 7pm or you are liable to be forced to park somewhere in Niederösterreich. Also, if you are constantly suppressing the fact that stores are closed on Sunday and return to find that you cannot suppress from your stomach the fact that your fridge is completely empty, you can always make an emergency food run to a gas station or to one of the grocery stores at the train stations. But I would only recommend that if you’re truly desperate because there are a lot of foreigners in the city in denial about stores being closed on Sundays and they all throng together in a mess of elbows and grocery carts at the Prater Billa on Sundays. Remember, you can always order pizza. And if you’re nervous about doing so over the phone in German, order online over

Bring a little of the Outing Home to You

And if you want to escape and can’t manage to unparallel park your car, you can always bring a bit of that countryside home to you: In fact, if you are in the US and don’t believe that there is still a station somewhere in the world rocking 9-5, give it a try. You might like it. And learn something fascinating about fruit flies.

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