Tag Archives: travelling

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!

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I spent some time in town today finding some lovely caches around St Andrews. Seeing as I had a travel bug to drop off (my first one) I was glad to find a large container near town to send it off!

We set off to find this one first seeing as it was a little way out of town. We took a breezy walk up the hill and got there only to see a car parked right by where the cache was hidden! Luckily the car pulled away and while Caroline played with a ladybird she also spotted the suspicious pile of rocks hiding St Andrews Travel Bug Motel (GC32HE6) a purpose-built cache for the swapping of travel bugs. I exchanged mine for a geocoin (Schnapszahl Geocoin) whose mission is to reach Germany.

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The next cache, Heroic Honey’s Harbour (GC19ZPP), was in the harbour and told the story of John Honey, who had taken part in a daring rescue. The small cache was in a very appropriately themed spot and was quickly discovered due to process of elimination!

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The next cache, East Neuk – nooks and crannies – Lane (GC4N9WD) was in one of my favourite hidden spots in St Andrews. The container was brilliant and it was only found due to some puns in previous logs! It was the first natural cache of this type I’ve found…

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After that awesome find there was an intermission…

…then came GW to GZ (GC1WVJX) which stumped me for ages, despite being in the exact right location. A different perspective finally led to the find.

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I tried in vain to find The Stakes were High (GCVKVA) but was overlooked so the search was abandoned…

There was another ice cream filled interlude, after which I went to How’s the weather! (GC25EHQ), which is placed near a barometer in town, which many residents are surprised to come across!

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What a successful day!

Birthday Day

The day started with a hearty mutton fry made by Sellappan’s mam, and I gave Sellappan his cookbook gift I had kept secret since arriving. We went for the bus early and I enjoyed travelling back on the 3.33 Electronic City Express in the daylight, watching the scenery change as we left the hills of Salem and went back to Bangalore. We got a phone call from Sellappan’s building manager in Bangalore to say that Holi was being celebrated downstairs – where were we? I had stayed some extra time in Bangalore especially for Sellappan’s birthday and Holi, so I knew what was ahead, but this was a day early, and we certainly weren’t dressed to be covered in powder paint and coloured water!

We got back to Bangalore and took a rickshaw back to the flat, where we saw all kinds of coloured carnage unfolding! The building manager grinned through his colours and approached menacingly – only Sellappan’s cry of “New shirt! New shirt!” saved us from a full on attack! We did, however, receive some green colour on our faces, with cries of “Happy Holi!” We went for the lift before anyone changed their minds!

We unpacked, changed into more suitable clothes and went back out to get supplies for Sellappan’s birthday party. I was pleased I’d brought a backpack for all the snacks and sweets we ended up with! Eventually the shopping was done, and we got back to find another group of about ten people all celebrating Holi. We just managed to put down our bags and take phones out of pockets before all hell broke loose! Between all the different colours of powder, the super soakers and the silver and gold face paint, we were all thoroughly covered in short order!

We must have been playing for a while, as Sellappan’s friends began to arrive – I say began to arrive…three of them walked towards the apartment block and when they saw what was going on they walked slower and slower… clearly not wanting to get too messy! They escaped with some silver paint to the face, and we all headed upstairs, carefully not touching anything.

Sellappan graciously allowed me the first shower, and it took forever to get the colours out of my hair – I couldn’t even tell if they were off my face or not. The soap and shampoo ran magenta into the drain, and I finally managed to come out with some semblance of normality. Poor Sellappan was still standing not touching anything and trying to avoid dropping more powder everywhere. Once he was cleaned up, more people started to arrive and we spent a lovely evening wishing Sellappan many happy returns – with the help of two cakes! Plenty of people managed to squeeze into the flat, and the evening was a great success!

Goodbye to the Salem Network…

While Sellappan ran some errands, I spent the day relaxing and playing with the millions of photos we’d taken on our trips. Zubair popped over and we all had some snacks thanks to Sellappan’s mam.

Later in the evening, Sellappan and I went to see the Doctor at his surgery. As we were chatting there was a sudden rush of patients, so we left and Sellappan took me to a department store where he wanted to get a souvenir for me. He ended up choosing a stainless steel dinner set – I had asked for a plate, which was included in the set – and he got it engraved with the dates of my trip. It’s common practice to engrave cookware with names. As Sellappan’s birthday was coming up, he also needed to get some party supplies like paper cups and plates, so we got those too.

We paid a visit to a kitchen showroom for Sellappan’s mam, accompanied by Zubair. We also went quickly to a CD/DVD shop to get the soundtrack for Highway, the Hindi film we had enjoyed so much. We even managed to squeeze in a few more minutes with the Doctor, seeing as his rush had subsided.

We went to a restaurant and met up with the whole Salem network for a meal. The young waiter ran around for us like the floor was made lava, and we got lots of different dishes. I finished off my meal with a sweet lime juice which was very tasty. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to everyone, and we left to the sound of “Happy Birthday” and “Safe journey home”.