Tag Archives: friends

Wiener Schnitzel in the Woods

My final full day in Austria was spent with Lisi’s family, who meet up each Christmas. We travelled across the city and out towards a nearby village, via this fetching building – apparently the longest residential building in Europe at over 1km long. You can read more about Karl Marx-Hof here.

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We eventually arrived at Der Waldhof in Maria Gugging, which oozed character from the very beginning. Could it look any cuter?

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Even the taxidermy was feeling the festive spirit.

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And what else would you eat in an Austrian cabin in the woods? Wiener schnitzel and apple and potato salad of course!

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The decorations were simple and effective, and the bid windows let in plenty of light and a view of the surrounding trees.

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Even the signs on the toilet doors were very cute.

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The food was good, and some of us headed out for a little walk afterwards to blow away the cobwebs. Coming out into the snow was a big shock to the system after the cosy woodburner in the restaurant.

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On our walk we went through an outdoor church, Lourdesgrotte.

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After our walk, we all went back to a family home for tea and cake, before heading home for the evening and packing!

Boxing Day in Vienna

Another day, another hill! This time we took the bus up to Am Himmel, which means “in Heaven”. On the way we went through some picturesque spots in Vienna, and then left the city limits!

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We had dinner in Oktagon, a restaurant right on the top of the hill. The building was windows all around, and almost felt like eating outside, except for the warmth! We had tafelspitz – topside of beef boiled with vegetables and served with apple sauce and sour cream, as well as creamed spinach and potatoes. It was fantastic, especially the potatoes! Lisi and I had hot red grape juice and Aimee had apfelschole, apple juice mixed with carbonated water.

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Now we were well and truly ready for a walk. As we went out of the restaurant very fine snow started to fall, and the cloud hung over the city. We walked through the vineyards. To my surprise, we were visited by a green woodpecker! First one, and then another. The first one made himself known very loudly – you can see him and listen to his call on the RSPB page. Can you see why he was somewhat unmissable?

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The other side offered this view of the city, and Aimee and Lisi were amused by the sign which said that all the wine grown in the vineyard is fertilised by Viennese green waste – the food scrapings and potato peelings that go into the little recycling bin on everyone’s kitchen counter. Apparently “nobody talks like that!”

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On the way back down the hill we walked down some long streets, and Aimee pointed out how different some Viennese houses were from each other, thanks to planning regulations – or lack of them – in some parts of the city. These two are pretty different from one another!

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As we got further down a few neighbourhood cats took an interest in us, coming and asking for a pat. One stayed high up on a fence and scratched its chin and cheeks on some straw which was sticking up, making a very happy face as it scraped away! Occasionally it changed surface and went for the wooden fence post instead.

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Travelling abroad always brings linguistic joy… two stand-out instances came along in just a couple of minutes thanks to this unintentionally hilariously named street, and this amusing family name.

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We eventually got back to the U-Bahn near Karl Marx-Hof, which hides a spectacular station in unassuming wrappings.

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We took the U-Bahn to the Pink Christmas Market, which was festooned in pink and was playing possibly the worst dance remixes of Christmas songs we’d ever heard. Even the people selling their things there were complaining about the music! It seemed to be a very short playlist too. There was a good selection of stalls open selling quality things, though most of them seemed to be food stalls, with lots of preserves and schnapps on offer. I bought some painted papier mache baubles (Lisi encouraged me to buy two, much to the amusement of the stall holder). There was another stall selling these… not quite my taste but they may well delight others!

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After a crepe and some mulled wine (finally!) we went back home. We caught the bus close to this sweet shop with a terrifying window display…

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Happily, the strange mannequin was balanced out by this display of lucky new year pigs and toadstools! Thank goodness for small mercies…

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Christmas Day in Vienna

We started the day in fine fashion as Aimee cooked breakfast, including the Britwurst, which were nice – even if Lisi and I struggled to find the promised apricots in our sausages. We also had eggs and shockingly, SPROUTS! Aimee cooked them really nicely and they were very tasty fried up and seasoned. I don’t even like sprouts particularly, but I really enjoyed these.

Once we had had our boilers stoked (I added some chocolate for good measure) we walked up a hill close to Aimee and Lisi’s place, up to Schloss Wilhelminenberg which shares the hill with some vineyards.

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Schloss Wilhelminenberg was decked out nicely for Christmas, and there were people inside having Christmas treats and looking at the view. The small surrounding Christmas market was closed, but the view was more than enough entertainment.

We walked back down through the city and the Christmas decorations were all switched on on the way down. Not really sure what went wrong with this tree…

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Aimee enjoyed pointing out all of these handwriting style neon signs which seem to be everywhere in Vienna. There’s something nicely old fashioned about them.

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Some interesting santa-style figurines… garden gnomes perhaps?

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We were really hungry when we got back, and got started on our Christmas meal straight away. We had boiled the rice for sushi earlier, and so were ready to make lots of tasty rolls. Aimee and Lisi started by chopping vegetables and I did the first couple of rolls, then Aimee and Lisi made some too. We made plenty of sushi!

I really enjoyed making “Austrian” sushi, which contained sausage, pickle and mustard. It worked surprisingly well, though there might have been too much mustard in it! None of it lasted long. Alongside the sushi we had a bit more tokaji.

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And what December 25th is complete without setting your dessert on fire?

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Christmas Eve in Vienna

Today, it was Christmas! You can check the title again if you want… In Austria, Christmas is celebrated on the evening of the 24th and people often have a pretty ordinary day at work before going home to Christmas in the evening.

We started the day by going for brunch at 12 Munchies, an American/British cafe in a nearby district. We took the tram there. Inside the cafe there was a mix of furniture as well as interesting things on the walls and on the shelves at the back of the cafe. Aimee pointed out two tablet blister packs which had been put in a frame. There was also a box of books for kids – Lisi and I found Walter while a child on the table next to us read a book in French about the green cross code.

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As for the food, I am reliably informed that the coffee was good, though I’m not a coffee drinker myself. I had a lovely hot chocolate – I should have really ordered a large one though as the small one was really small! We started with sandwiches and bread. I had a roast beef sandwich and a small tomato bread, while Aimee and Lisi had sandwiches with pecorino as well. For dessert there was pecan pie and raspberry buttermilk muffins, which were tall and thin and very soft – full of real raspberries.

The cafe was very busy, with lots of people coming and going, dodging in and out of the furniture or sitting around looking achingly cool. Lisi spotted that all the people wearing glasses were all wearing the same glasses… even the kids. Once you’ve seen that you can’t unsee it. Happily Lisi and Aimee weren’t in the same-specs club, though Aimee did say she had a pair like them at home.

As well as being a cafe, 12 Munchies also proclaims that it sells “Britwurst” (as opposed to Bratwurst) and we picked some up for Christmas dinner tomorrow, along with some bacon.

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Back outside in the extremely windy fresh air, we headed up the hill towards Tuerkenschanz Park where there was a small Christmas market.

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In this one all the sheds were painted red. Most of the stalls sort of looked like charity shops – one notable object for sale being a plastic Psy dancing Gangnam Style – but we all bought something from a stall selling various flavours of schnapps and jam.

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After the market, Aimee went home with the frozen food and Lisi and I continued to the food co-op. On the way there I spotted a very old-fashioned looking shop, which Lisi said was always closed… except today! We went inside and found lots of toys and games, as well as a lot of wooden kitchenware and baskets. Everything seemed really cheap but nicely made. Lisi bought a nutcracker as she and Aimee had been given a bag of walnuts by Gudrun, their neighbour. The was really looking forward to cracking them with her new nutcracker.

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We spent quite a long time looking around the shop – complete with old fashioned till – and then moved on to the food co-op. I had expected just vegetables and fruit, but the co-op also sources beer, wine, juices, dairy products, meat… there was a lot there. It operates on an honesty system, where you pre-order what you would like. Funds are then transferred into the co-op’s account online. You keep track of your purchases on a sheet, and top-up your account when you need to. Some products are not pre-ordered, and you can take what you like from those, adding them to your account. We got everything which Aimee and Lisi had ordered, except for eggs.

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In the not-ordered section, there was fruit juice, wine and chocolate made by Zotter, a well known Austrian make. Lisi and I spent a long time opening all the cardboard boxes and making our choices. Some of the bars were for presents, and I also picked up some drinking chocolate. There are many, many flavours available, and lots of unusual combinations. We totted up our totals and Lisi filled in the account book, then it was time for home.

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When we got back we were really pleased to finally get out of the wind!

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After some tea and chocolate sampling, we had a game of Settlers of Catan – a game that Aimee does not dislike, despite not being a big board game fan. I have only played it a couple of times, but we ended up having a really good battle with Lisi winning a turn before I was able to! After that, Aimee cooked while Lisi and I kept her company in the kitchen, providing sous-chef assistance when required, and otherwise doing origami. I started making a little string of “Pop-up jewels” in different colours, and Lisi did some more artistic models – including a pig.

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Aimee’s paneer curry was lovely, and after we had eaten we brought the Christmas tree through to the living room and gathered around for gift exchanging. Afterwards we watched the Snowman. If you haven’t seen it…here it is with an introduction by David Bowie, which Lisi hadn’t seen before.

In return, we watched Dinner for One, a sketch which is always shown at New Year here. You can watch it below…

We enjoyed some quince schnapps and the Tokaj that Aimee and and I had brought back from Hungary. Then it was time for bed!

Walking up the Hill

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We had a quiet day today, but we did ride the tram number 43 all the way to the end of the line to meet up with Lisi’s family. The old trams in Vienna are really cute!

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As I was taking this picture, I was joined by an older gentleman who was doing the same. He looked very happy to be photographing the tram. Lisi’s family arrived on the next tram, and we walked together up a wooded hill on the edge of the city.

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We came back into the city as the sun was setting, and I spotted my first Austrian flag of the trip. The photograph doesn’t really do the sky justice, but it was a beautiful end to the walk.

Back home, we had homemade vegetable soup and tea, and I spent some time playing the ukulele with Lisi’s sister who also had one. We had fun comparing notes and finding songs we both could strum along to.

Seven Hours in Budapest

I first went to Budapest when I was about 17, travelling to meet a whole bunch of friends I’d met online. After a few more flying visits, once again I found myself in striking distance of this city that I enjoy so much. I last visited in 2009 with my dad, as part of our interrailing trip.

The alarm went off at six and I got up quickly, having been too overexcited to sleep well. I got my things together and prepared for our day trip to Budapest! Aimee awakened herself with a cup of tea and then we headed out to the bus. We had to sprint a little at the end but we made it! Then we ran down the escalator to the U-Bahn to the West railway station. It never ceases to amaze me that building a shopping centre around a train station is the done thing in many countries – Austria included. After negotiating our way through to the ticket office Aimee bought our return tickets to Budapest, leaving in ten minutes.

Aimee asked if we were able to buy food on board, and the answer had been “You can, but it’s Hungarian”. Pass the paprika chicken please… We had just enough time to grab a couple of croissants out of a bakery before getting on to our train – just in case there was nothing we fancied.

We had been warned by the booking website that this train would be really busy, but in fact we had our six seated compartment to ourselves for a lot of the way. I chanced letting a few friends know we were going to be in town, and waited to see if they were free to join us. We crossed the border into Hungary after a short while, and our mobile phone companies let us know by sending us texts full of prices.

After a while longer, two people got on who also had seats in our compartment. We took this as a good moment to investigate the restaurant car. In the end we just got a drink. I had a really sweet hot chocolate in a glass cup, and Aimee had a really sweet cappuccino, which looked incredibly uninspiring. It was more covered in scum than with actual froth. As the train rocked from side to side, a few tablespoonfuls were lost to the saucer on either side. Needless to say, Aimee wasn’t disappointed about that.

We sat in the restaurant car for the rest of the way, and I finished my chocolate. Just as the final station was called, out waiter returned and gave us the bill in Forints. They accepted Euros too, which is lucky as we didn’t have any Forints yet! I tried out my extremely rusty Hungarian – just politeness phrases – and was pleasantly surprised that I still had some left in my brain!

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In the meantime, I had received a whole bunch of messages from team Hungary, who had gotten their heads together and come up with a meeting plan. We were to go to a cafe, Rengeteg, which is fairly close to Keleti station and have hot chocolate. Only one of my friends, Sirpi, could make it, so he booked a table for us and we arranged to meet him there. Once we arrived at Keleti we had to get some Forints, go to the loo and sort out a transport ticket for the day.

Since last time I was there they had put in a metro line connecting the station to the rest of the network, and had redone the area around the station. Areas right next to stations are never the most pleasant, but the atmosphere was improved from last time. We got ourselves sorted out with transport cards and then headed towards the cafe, planning to find it first and then explore the area around it for a while. We had a go at finding three different geocaches but failed them all. We ended up in the Corvin shopping mall in the warm looking for the last one, but didn’t manage to find it either.

We wandered back around to the cafe and went inside…

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There isn’t a lot around in this street, but the cafe really stands out with its red door, and when you go inside you go down the stairs and find this…

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As well as the coffee and tea and chocolate all stacked up around the counter, there are also lots of old bits and bobs scattered around the place, especially teddy bears. There are also lots of games and other toys, as well as some completely unknown objects. On the handrail on the stairs there’s even an old ticket validating machine from a tram/metro/bus.

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We got a table and soon Sirpi arrived – shortly followed by Mária! What a great surprise! She wasn’t feeling 100% but had come along to share a drink with us. It was really lovely to see them. Some hot chocolate soon woke us all up. There was no particular menu for the hot chocolate – I was told to just come up with a flavour, so I did… below you can see my hot chocolate with orange. The hot chocolate itself was really thick and almost like angel delight, but not bubbly. I ate mine with the spoon.

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We had only expected to meet for a drink, but Mária suggested a whistle-stop tour of the main sights in Budapest by car – we headed straight for the Hungarian parliament building as Mária talked us through lots of the sights along the way. She used to work as a guide and claimed not to remember much any more – even so she barely drew breath until we jumped out of the car and took a walk by the parliament and along the bank of the Danube.

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The number 2 tram is a lovely old-fashioned one, and Mária recommended it as a good way to see the sights as it goes along the Danube and has great views.

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After the walk around the parliament building Mária drove us up the hill to look at the beautiful view from the top. We parked slightly outside the car park, which is apparently jam-packed in summer at peak season – even in the winter it was quite a busy spot. We managed to get into some space and take in the view.

We came back down the hill and Mária and Sirpi dropped us off at Deak Ter in the centre of Budapest. We were really hungry so we went to a “Traditional Hungarian Restaurant” closeby which seemed to have a very high turnover. We had lángos, which are somewhere between a calzone and a pancake. Mine was filled with delicious paprika chicken.

We paid and left quickly – with not too long left before our train. Near the metro station was a big Christmas market selling all kinds of things. We got some tokaji for Christmas after tasting a few of them, and stood in the queue for kürtőskalács, cakes which are made from spirals of dough and then cooked over coals. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to wait to get some of our own, but we did have some sausage and potato fritter to keep us going – we’d hardly had anything to eat all day apart from our hot chocolate!

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After packing our bags, we went down the high-speed escalator to the metro and went back to the train station for our three-hour train journey back to Vienna.

Ice Cream and Chips

We started the day by heading to Roskilly’s, a working dairy farm and cafe! Before we got as far as the ice cream we had a look around the farm. The first piece of entertainment occurred almost as soon as we got out of the car, as a goat we were looking at casually jumped the fence keeping it in. It stood happily grazing just outside its enclosure as if to say “because I can”. We went into the cafe to let someone know, and upon reporting the goat’s antics were told that it was a regular occurrence and someone would come around and stick it back behind its fence soon. We were also asked if we would like a goat.

We moved on to the chickens and other fowl, and clearly inspired similar thoughts of escape. These fancy chickens lined up along the fence to pose for us.

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We went back down to the cafe and had some delicious ice cream outside in the sunshine. There weren’t many people around, but it was nice that the place was open given it’s November. After we’d finished, it was back in the car.

I snapped a quick picture of Goonhilly as we went by. The huge satellite dishes just appear over the brow of a hill – very impressive.

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The next stop was Perranporth. Perranporth is named for the patron saint of Cornwall, St Piran, who apparently arrived here from Ireland. It’s a popular seaside holiday destination because of it’s beautiful beach. Something about the place rung a bell for me…

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There was another reason for visiting Perranporth, as if you needed one. Pieces of Lego have been washing up on Cornish beaches for a long time, and I had read about this recently in a BBC news article. It would be interesting to find some Lego washed up here.

We walked along the beach for a while and had a quick hunt around the more stony areas but to no avail. But what a gorgeous beach! It was when I saw these pools that I was certain – I came on holiday here when I was about eight.

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By this stage I’m really starting to think that Jon’s stories of Cornish bad weather are purely a fabrication.

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We left the beach to go on a hunt for fish and chips – an ultimately fruitless search! Lots of cafes and chippies about, but none of them open when we were hungry. Happily, we managed to get our hands on some when we got to Truro, and they disappeared very quickly when we got back to Jon’s.