Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sylvester in Aflenz.

The band is wearing the blue socks indicating an historic attachment to Erzherzog Johann

The fireworks and explosions started early in the dark evening. I went outside at about 21:00 and could hear explosive volleys all down the valley. By midnight when we fired off our rockets, there was a crescendo of activity so that I could photograph the effects without knowing who was firing them off. On the way home the road was littered with spent rocket sticks. In the daylight I found 6 sticks in Mitzi's backyard. I don't think any of these were ours. Where ours went, I have no idea
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Passing through Kapfenberg on Silvestertag(!) on our way to Graz. It was -8C at the hotel and -11C at Mitzi's place this morning.
The sun is just coming up in Kapfenberg - everything is cold and misty. The trees on the hill are covered in frost and smoke hangs in the air. Now we have gone through a road tunnel and are on the sunlit side of the hills. No frost here and the world has changed to colour from black and white.
Just passed a cream coloured mini with a crumpled nose against the right hand crash barrier on a sweeping corner. Uschi and all the cars following had to swing out to miss it. Probably they hit ice when cutting the corner.
As we get closer to Graz (15km to go) the weather has gone misty and cool. It was sunny and comparatively warm since we left Kapfenberg.
11:00 Cafe Edegger in Hofgasse.
Christine worked in Graz from age 16 to 19. I had an EsterhasseSchnite while Uschi and Christine had Cheesecake Struedel.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christine near her old kitchens

Telling us about when she worked in the kitchens.
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Local and Neuberg

Today we were going to go to Graz, but we slept in as Uschi and I were fatigued from the trip and niggling ailments. We never got to Mitzi's place until 10:00 when we had meant to get there at 08:30.
As the day was gone we decided to just do a local. We went to the ruin on the hill, but didn't climb up to it. It was about -6C and slightly breezy. Noticably chilling to the body and the most uncomfortable I have been on the trip so far. For a short time the cold is not a problem but after a little while a persons extremities begin to sting a little.
The three of us walked around the area below the ruin and we worked our way to the site of the Pengg works which used to be the old railway station.
Near here, where there is now a nail factory, was the site of Christines old kitchen, where she worked for Pengg for 13 years.
Auheim Villa is nearby and is the Pengg family home. One of the existing associated buildings seems to be used as a storage building and maybe has the heating furnace for the Auheim/gallery complex. This particular building was where Christine lived for most of the time she worked in the kitchen for Penggs.
She noted a number of times that when she started work at 08:00 she only had to be up about 5 minutes beforehand. This seems to have been the happiest time of her life.
Because Christine couldn't climb to the ruin, we decided to put it off for another time.
We went and had lunch at the cafe near the goat statue of Aflenz, then went to Neuberg to see the munster.
On the way we found our way blocked by many cars and buses, which upset Uschi. The area around there was thickly covered in snow. We got to Neuberg and spent some time in the munster. Unfortuneately the Kreuzgang was closed. We then decided to go to the old town of Kapfenberg and set the Tomtom for a direct route. After travelling only a short distance we stumbled on the Hundertwasserhaus. Uschi had been desperate to see it, but couldn't exactly remember where it was. We took some pictures in the late afternoon light.
Shortly after this we found the route blocked by a police car. An accident ahead. The policeman said the detour would add about half an hour to the trip. Into the Rax area, but it actually added more than an hour and it was dark by the time we got to Kapfenberg. It would have been quicker to retrace our path through Thoerl.
So we didn't look at the old town, we just grabbed some food (and fireworks) from the Spar supermarket and went back to Mitzis. Mitzi was inordinately pleased as I organised a simple tea of eggs, cheese, turkey and brown bread for us and the kids.
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

28/12 Mariazell

09:45 Have just stopped at Seewiesen for some pictures at 1250m and -8.5C.
Brandhof appeared closed as we went passed.
When we got to Mariazell the air was about -5C and we couldn't get a park. Uschi took the car to find a parking spot with the plan of coming back and finding Christine and me near the church. However, after waiting a while I found it too cold and I parked Christine in a coffee shop.
Uschi eventually turned up and we all had Almdudler, coffee and cake. Then we went over to the church.
The schatzkammer was closed so we couldn't view the contents. Uschi bought some things for her friend Theresa. We went to the candle grotto [Kurzengrotte] but it wasn't too exciting. We wandered down the street to the cable car but it was really too expensive to justify going up.
At 13:15 we had dinner at the Hotel of 3 Rabbits [Drei Hasen]. I had a goulash with parsley potatoes, which was quite nice.
Coming home before the sun set we visited Aflenz cemetery and found the (now) unmarked plot of Christine's father. We lit a candle there too. After that we went back to Mitzi's in the dark, where we four talked about past things, including war stories for about 2 hours. Herbert and Franziska had absconded to Schladming(sp?) to go skiing. The 2 kids, Stephan from Voitsberg and one of Julia's friends were there under the watchful eye of Mitzi.
We came back to the hotel but at 20:00 it was too early for bed. Uschi and I went to the hotel front bar for beers and diary writing.
Uschi thought I had come down to dinner in my socks. Now she can't stop laughing, with relief I imagine.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lazy day in Aflenz

27/12Having a much lighter breakfast this morning. Only some cheese and Erdaepfelkaese


The snow is gently falling and the flakes are about 3-5mm diameter. I have just come in from shifting the car. We parked it outside the shop last night as all the hotel parks were full. I went into the shop to buy a coke (0.99E) and the clothes I was wearing stung from the cold. I only walked about 50m from the hotel to the shop. All the cars are covered in soft flakes.


(written the next day)
Uschi and I spent a long time walking around the shops in Aflenz. We spent a long time in the sports clothing shop. I nearly bought a 130E coat but the only one in my size was damaged. I may go back and buy the next size up. We went past the bakery but didn't go in due to too much food over the last few days. We spent quite a long time in the shoe shop (surprise). I bought some apres ski boots and Uschi
bought some attractive brown boots. The lady from the shoe shop sprayed some waterproofing on them and it turned out that she knew Mitzi as she was one of her students. The community is very small and many people know each other. We finished up by walking down the road to the Apotheke where Uschi bought some Renis and I bought some throat pastilles.

Around 13:00 we went to pick up Christine to take her to the Thoerl cemetery where her mother and brother are buried. After sitting for a while and lighting a candle, Uschi and Christine walked around the cemetery with Uschi reading off the names on the headstones. Christine seemed to know about 50% of the people and was able to remember them as the postman, driver, cook etc. In some ways it is strange that the entire 1930s community of this small area only exists in the memory of a few old people. We drove out to Schwaben bartel after cleaning the car. The road was icy and the light fading, so it wasn't a very inspiring trip. When we got back to Mitzi's place we found Gretel and Franz were already waiting for us. They had heard on the grapevine that Christine was back in town and they came round, on spec, to see her. They spent about 3 hours talking to Christine and kept evryone from having tea(!). In the end they offered us a lend of a tripod and Franz made two trips back home to get it. The first time because he couldn't find it in his shed. I must say at the end of the trip they forced us to keep the tripod, which was very kind of them.After they had gone home Franziska made us all a bread and meat tea, but I was really too weary and full to enjoy eating very much. Went back to the hotel and fell straight to sleep.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

My Name Day and Voitsberg

Uschi was a little sick last night which she put down to eating too much. After returning from Max and Giesl's place last night we sat around in Mitzi's kitchen. The H's were playing board games when we turned up. Franziska tried to force more food into us, but we argued her down to a soup only. I was falling asleep where I was sitting in the kitchen. Uschi and I went back to the hotel at about 20:30 and I fell straight to sleep.

As I was sitting here this morning the church bells pealed, for early mass, I suppose. The town is now
covered in a light frosting of snow. The weather forecast for Graz for the next few days is about -5C
and clear, so it should be good sightseeing weather, if somewhat cold. It was -3C here yesterday evening.

Journey to Voitsberg

Uschi and I drove to Voitsberg to see Renate and family. We have to drive past Graz in the longest road
tunnel I have ever been in. Over 10km long.Renate's place is the first floor of an old building with huge, high ceilings. The upper floor is used by others. We had lunch with the family and then in the afternoon we went to look at the local sights.

The park with the fountain of Moses was under snow, with the fountain itself wrapped in plastic. We walked around the snowy park and then went to the Hundertwasser Church. Uschi was very keen to visit that.
Later we went to Piber to see the horses at the Lipizzaner horse stud.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

I woke up this morning at about 07:00. It was still dark but I could see the clouds scudding up the valley. As Uschi and I walked out of the room to breakfast we could see there had been a very light fall of snow. It looked like rain but fell a lot slower. The mix is more rain and less snow now but there is still a white frosting on the buildings outside. We are just across the road from Uschi's baptismal church. Apart from the normal cheeses and meats on the breakfast buffet there is bacon and omelette available. There is also a champagne available with the juices. [A truck with a snow shovel for clearing the roads has just gone past]

The trip up yesterday was fairly easy with the Tomtom showing the way. We got straight up to Thoerl. There was a little rain on the way but not much. We went through a couple of longish tunnels, about 2-3 km. When the Tomtom lost the GPS signal the music stopped too! Last night we had our evening meal with the Fs at Mitzi's house in Thoerl. The Hs were also there. After tea the presents were handed out - great good impressions from Uschi's cards and the song book of Christine went around several hands. Mitzi said it was better than gold.

17:00 in the home of Giesl and MaxUchi and I took Christine and Mitzi to visit them. I think it was a prearranged visit. The old couple had a huge dish of biscuits on the table when we arrived and plied us with herbal tea. Max spiked it with cherry rum which made the room seem hugely hot and gave me a headache. After encouraging us to eat the biscuit mountain they then bought out a cake to have with coffee. Max also poured everyone an Almdudler at the same time as we got the tea. My headache was getting pretty bad so I headed outside for half an hour. When I got back I was just in time to join in with a meat platter. These meat platters seem to be the in thing for special occasions in this part of Austria. Only Uschi and I, and to a lesser extent Mitzi, ate from the platter. We are all too full from eating for the last two days.

Lunchtime we had a big meal of meat pieces, probably turkey, cooked in a white sauce. Also served was a soft noodle (Austrian, I think) with a green sauce. There was a side salad of lettuce with pumpkin seed oil (Kürbiskernöl). A very Styrian salad.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


At the Schonbrun Cafe. It has been perishing cold. At least for me. We all had "Forestberry Cocktail" tea. I had a "Habsburger" (very humourous, a cheap gimick for a hamburger). Christine had goulash soup and Uschi had a nice chocolate mousse. Christine berated me (twice and probably rightly) for having chips.

This morning we went to the crypt to see all the dead Habsburgs. It is under the Capuchin church, also known as the Kapuzinergruft.
We also stopped into Lobmeyrs. Uschi was looking at a lovely pair of green antique glasses. On impulse I purchased 2 fine glasses.

After Uschi pays for the meal we intend to go up to the Gloriette. We are the only guests along the side of the cafe, the "Winter Garden". We conned the staff into letting us sit in this area due to Christines limited mobility, even though it is meant to be closed. They didn't really want us there as "it wasn't heated" although it was better than outside and the main restaurant was stifling anyway.

While we were sitting there, seemingly hordes of people came to sit in the side section.

1530 at the GlorietteWe all shared a "Sisi Gugelhoepf", I had an "Almdudler" lemonade which was quite nice. Uschi had a white wine Gluehwein and Christine had a red one. I had a sip of them both and I think the red one was better. On the way up to the Gloriette we met another group with a wheelchair. They had a small boy who was evidently recovering from some fearsome burns with some of his fingers gone. Uschi spoke to them for a while about South Australia, and surprisingly I could understand the conversation reasonably
well. I gave the boy a clip on koala.

The sun is now setting and the light is shining through the rear windows of the Gloriette highlighting the decoration on the ornate architraves.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Hotel Sacher and Albertina

It is 1000 and we are in the Cafe Sacher. The decor is extravagant, red plush on the bench seats and fabric panels on the walls. The fabric panels have corded margins. There are mirrors and oil paintings of people prominent in the Sacher story. The menus are supported on little racks, similar to those for newspapers found in some hotel and library reading rooms. The menus also have a potted history of the cafe and hotel. The hotel has been in operation since 1830. As it is the famous cafe Sacher I had "Original Sachertorte". Uschi had apple strudel and Christine had a topfen strudel. With tea and coffee the morning tea came to about 25 Euro.

After the cafe we went to the Albertina. A lot of paintings by many artists were there. Amongst others I saw:

Degas; Two dancers around 1905. This was a pastel done by Degas as his eyesight was deteriorating in latter years.
Monet; The flood of the Seine at Vethueil
Seurat; Locomotive
Renoir; Portrait of a young girl (Elizabeth Maitre)
Klimt; Liegenderand about 4 Picassos.

These were mostly from the Batliner private collection.After that we visited the state rooms. The walls had fabric panel covering like the Hotel Sacher, but much grander. The same fabric was used for the curtains and upholstery too.

The gallery was good but like the modern art galley in Tehran, some of the best were away in storage. Uschi was particularly miffed as she had been looking forward to seeing Durer's rabbit for ages and only a facsimile was on display (and the praying hands too).
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Historisches Museen

In the Historisches Museen Cafe (Cafe Nautilus). Uschi had an apple strudel flavoured tea with Gulaschsuppe, Christine had Terra Tulsi Multivitamin tea with Sacherwurstel. These are long, thin (300x10mm) sausages. They are served with senf, tomato sauce and freshly ground horse radish. I had potato soup, "Weine Erdaepfelsuppe". We have been in the museum about 2 hours and have only been around the 2nd floor and vivarium near the entrance. We walked here from the Pension via the Hofburg and the National Library. The Library was closed today so we couldn't go in. The Silver Museum at the Hofberg was about 18 Euros per person, so we didn't go in there either. On the walk to the Hofberg I bought a small container of potato from a Nord See fast food restaurant. It was quite a delicious snack in the cold morning air.
Uschi wasn't too well this morning as she had a bit of a lingering sore throat. We got up very early, still on Dubai time, and had breakfast at 0615. After that we went back to bed for a rest. After getting out and on the move, Uschi felt a lot happier.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In Transit

The Dubai airport has some of the biggest lifts I have seen. Due to Uschis mum, we were parked in the "special handling" area. Many people were asleep in the airport. This is the first airport I have seen with chairs for transit passengers that are a bit like lazy boys. Quite possible to sleep comparatively comfortably in. We left Dubai at 10:08 local time. The flight took us over Iraq, just inside the Iran/Iraq border. We followed the Tigris and passed near to Baghdad.

Touch down in Vienna was 5 and 3/4 hours after take off. The trip to the hotel was under a dreary grey sky even though it was the middle of the day, a bit different to Dubai. After resting in the Hotel for a little while we headed out for an initial look (for me) at Vienna. Cold, dark and lots of Christkindlmarkts. No snow yet, which is a little disappointing. I got my first look at Stephansdom and we went to the Post Office where I bought a post card for Pam and Jack. While we travelled about Christine hadn't dressed properly for the cold.

I was experimenting with a beanie and scarf which made the cold much more acceptable. In the end I gave the scarf to Christine as she forgot her gloves and her hands were very cold. We went back to the pension at about 21:00 and Uschi was a little disappointed as it was somewhat early and we didn't see everything straight away, but we had been up and on the go for more than 18 hours.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Dubai Souks and Boat Trip

As today was Friday there was not much open in the morning. The ubiquitous malls being the only things.

We went to City Central, which was a moderate sized one. Then we went back to the hotel for a rest and everyone slept about 1-2 hours. At 1600 the old town souks were supposed to open so at 1530 we took a taxi to that area. Amazing number of people milling on the shore near the water taxis. The taxis would come in bunches of 4 to 6 sometimes. We walked up the old souk which was so packed there really was no room for the wheel chair. Uschi and I both purchased pashminars. I also bought the rest of the bits for my head dress. I had already got a head dress band from the Emirates mall.

After watching the water taxis for a while we caught the "water bus" a more modern vehicle which Christine didn't need such skill to embark on. We just jumped on but had no tickets! The attendant took our money and ran to get some tickets for us. The water bus took us far along the Dubai creek to disembark near the Dubai local government buildings. We walked along the riverside for a while looking at the dhows then caught a land taxi (!) for the gold souk. The taxi pulled up in the middle of the road to collect us. At the lights about one block on the driver of the car behind got out and had a rant session with our driver. While it wasn't best parking etiquette I didn't think it was that bad.

We walked around the gold souk and even had a go at buying a small bracelet, but when I showed somereal interest the price suddenly went from 100 Dirhams/gram to 120! I had already seen 97 as the dayprice and the seller started to spin a line about "old" gold or maybe something from India. I declinedhis offer.

The three of us then wandered around the souk and found the main covered way. After about 1/2 an hour we had to leave to get back to the hotel so the evening cruise could pick us up.
They said about 1930, but turned up around 1915 . We got in a people mover with about 7 others, all males and apparently from the subcontinent. The people mover bought us back almost to the Gold Souk in Diera and we got on board the boat.
About half past eight there was a great cloud of black smoke which enveloped the boat as they started the engine. All the lights flickered out then back on again. The boat sailed up river to the Floating Bridge and then out to the mouth of the river about a 14km round trip I think, which took a little over 2 hours.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tour of Dubai and another (!) mall

In the back of the Landcruiser for the tour "Bur Dubai", we drove past the computer souk and the street of banks. Past the back of a number of foriegn embassies and then we stop by the creek. The tour dropped us off at the museum, which we had to rush through due to lack of time. This was a pity as the museum seemed pretty interesting and I would have spent a bit longer there if I could have.

There is another couple on the tour too. They are Charles and Celia from Newcastle (UK).

The driver points out a lot of 4 and 5 star hotels, as if that is the main attraction of Dubai (maybe it is!). Through the Al Shindahga tunnel past the gold souk and on our way to Diera.

We stop near the Sails hotel for a photo opportunity.

The tour also stopped at an upmarket sales centre with very interesting, and expensive, goods. None of us tourists want to buy anything. The tour ended with the driver dropping us off at the Dubai Mall. Apparently this is a bigger mall than the Emirates which we visited yesterday.

We had lunch there including a hugely slow (15+ minutes) Koobideh sandwich at Pars Express. Hardly express.

We spent about 2 hours in the aquarium and then we wandered into the middle of the mall. An area called "the gold souk". Uschi and I tried to capture pictures of the changing colours on the ceiling. We had a little drink at a cafe called "The Cafe" in the centre of the mall.

The drink was a "sparkling date drink" which was an 80/20 apple date drink.
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Off for a tour

Reflections on a bus.

Us in the 4WD
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Dubai Mall

Yesterday after the Dubai mall gold souk we went to look at the skating rink. Christine was enthralled by the ice. Then we went looking for lifts as I wanted to find the "Hamleys" shop. The information people kept sending us to far away lifts. By the time we found one we were on the other side of the mall. We tried to go up into the book shop from the "Fashion Atrium" via the lift, however when we got
to the bookshop we found there was still construction going on so the bookshop was blocked off and we couldn't get in that way!

The Fashion Atrium itself was not really in use as many of the shops were still under construction. We finally got to the bookshop, then after spending 45 minutes browsing in the shop we were disappointed as their phone lines were down and they wouldn't accept credit cards.

At the end of the night we headed out to the nearest indicated taxi rank only to find it wasn't in use and we had to go completely across the mall (again) to the only operating taxi rank. Luckily the queue wasn't very long. The attendants did send us to the front of the line eventually when we were only about 3 places away anyway. At the Mall of the Emirates the day before they waved us straight to the front due to Christine's wheelchair as soon as they saw us.

Although reputedly bigger than the Mall of the Emirates, poor service, lack of open shops and hidden lifts made the Dubai Mall less pleasant than the Mall of the Emirates.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Emirates Mall and Snow

After the stop by the Mosque this afternoon we caught a taxi for 35 Dirhams and came straight to the mall.

Now we are in the "Karam Beirut" Lebanese restaurant at the Mall of the Emirates. We have spent a pleasant enough hour or two wandering around the mall. All three of us bought gloves from the Ski Dubai shop, in preparation for cold weather in Europe.

Christine was very excited to see the artificial snow when we first entered the mall. The photo on the left shows a view of the snow from a down stairs restaurant, the Lebanese restaurant is on the first floor.

The Lebanese restaurant was picked as it has main windows facing onto the ski slope and had a much better view of the "snow". The restaurant was empty when we arrived but they were a bit reluctant to seat usdue to all the tables being booked for later. The Maitre'd seated us on the proviso that we would be less than one hour, ie be gone by 20:00. I ordered minced meat in pita called Arayess.

Uschi had eggplant kebab and Christine had chicken livers.
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A Mix of Cultures

Sitting outside the Starbucks at Japengo Cafe on Al Jameira Road. Uschi has ordered some cold drinks for us. We are across the road from the Jumeira Grand Mosque with the call to prayer coming from the minarets.

This is the only mosque in Dubai that is open to non muslims.

We have just walked from our hotel, the Rydges. There is lots of building and road work which made wheel chair access very difficult. On the way we went through the Al Ghazel (Gazelle?) Shopping Mall and had a coffee for Uschi and her mum with a lemonade for me. We also shared a very nice Jaffa mousse.

The weather is fairly pleasant and cloudy. The sun is a little hot when it comes out, There was a very strong wind and rain squall around 12ish which we could see from the hotel.

We arrived this morning at 0730. The plane waws a little late landing at about 0610 but then we had to catch a bus and travel for ages to the terminal building. Emirates are using a new terminal building all their own. We all had a big breakfast when we got to the hotel and then all had showers and a few hours sleep.

Sitting here at the cafe Uschi and Christine have lemonades (I was the trend setter there) but I have gone for a Coke Zero this time. It has arabic lettering and advertising for the new James Bond film on it.

A strange mix of cultures.
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