29 September 2009

Work in Progress

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but...as you'll see, we've been busy.

When we moved to Vienna, the team had arranged a well located apartment for us that is a good size and cheap, but needed a lot of work.

The owner of the apartment had moved out in 1991 but had left all of his stuff behind.

The team , generously, pre-cleaned the apartment which was buried in 18 years of dust and dirt.

It also was in desperate need of modernizing and redecorating.

As I have to work all day and coach at night, Kelly put on her work clothes and attacked...with a vengeance.

Armed with a scraper she went at the wallpaper.

Even the ceilings were wallpapered !

We rented a wall paper steamer machine, but it kept blowing the fuses....which are circa 1962. There isnt even a circuit breaker box, they are screw in fuses, which turns out they don't sell anymore !

The house was a complete disaster area, but Kelly was undeterred...she showed no mercy to the double and triple layered, nicotine encrusted wallpaper.

Then....she painted.....the entire apartment.

It took many days but....Viola ! We now have a crisp clean bright white apartment courtesy of Kelly...destroyer of wallpapered surfaces.

We had new floors put in during the same time....its like a brand new apartment !

We also got a new bed and couch from Ikea...and got our cable/internet installed !

Next up ? On Monday the water gets shut off for a week so they can replace the pipes and remodel the bathroom & kitchen !

22 September 2009

Ljubljana, Slovenia !

Only a two hour train ride west from Zagreb is Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia.

We took a 7am train and arrived in Ljubljana just after 9am to make sure we got a full day of sightseeing in. We headed down to the river where there was an antique market going on and lots of artists were also displaying their stuff.

We sat at a cafe' and had some toastie type sandwiches. Kelly had one with vegetables and a local mystery meat that turned out to resemble prosciutto (after all slovenia is next to Italy).

My ham & cheesey sandwich was served on focaccia bread with a horseradish sauce..yum.

Kelly was all fired up to go up the looming mountain to see the castle...I soon found out why.

Yet another funicular railway. Kelly is obsessed with them. It can't be the excitement of them, because they dont go fast and the ride is pretty short. Yes it is up a hill, and you do get a nice view. No for Kelly, the wordsmith, its the actual word "Funicular"...she must have said it 300 times over the course of the weekend. She would look at me and just say "Fuh-nick-you-lerrrrrr". A bus would go by and she would say, "Thats not Fuh-nick-you-ler".

above, Happy Kelly with her Funicular Railway in the background. To pose for this picture, Kelly ran ahead and cut somebody off to get the good spot for the picture. The other person turned out to be a priest. ooops.

So once we got up to the castle we were surprised to find that the mountaintop castle has been completely overhauled and modernized. Lots of new glass and fancy architecture blended in with the old.

We decided we liked it as a place to live, but not so much as a touristy kind of place. Took away a lot of the castle charm..but it was very well done.

Once we were finished at the castle we decided to walk down along the scenic route. We had a pleasant stroll down the mountain and back into the city. (Me: This is a nice walk huh? Kelly: Funicular, Me: Are you going to be saying funicular all day again? Kelly: Funicular)

As most of you already know, besides reading and saying funny words, Kelly's favorite past time is touching things she isnt supposed to. There have been several international incidents, reaching across clearly marked barriers to touch ancient Egyptian artifacts when no one was looking at the British Museum in London, popping into a guard shack in Copenhagen until one of the Royal Guards yelled at her, and trying to steal a piece of the ruins at the Forum in Rome....to name a few.

Kelly just has to touch everything. On Saturday, we had noticed the plant "Lambs Ear" at several gardens in Zagreb...later that night in the hotel, Kelly unloaded several leaves of Lambs Ear from her pocket ! What the ! Her justification "its so soft, i like it. wanna feel ?"

That's why when we came across this, she didn't know what to do.

This shop has what appears to be a hole in the window so you can grab a bar of soap ? Now, not being able to read Slovenian, we didnt know what to make of it. Kelly of course walked up and thrust her arm through the window and started rummaging about like it was her stuff.

As is her nature, it made her nervous and happy at the same time. Watching the puzzled look on her face made me laugh the entire time.

After completely canvassing the old city, we headed a bit out of town to check out the Roman ruins. Ljubljana started out as a Roman setlement called Emona around 14 AD. It was pretty much destroyed by Attilla and the Huns in 452. All that remains is the old wall and some entrances to the city. Still very impressive.

The last must see site for us was Metelkova, an autonomous social center located on the site of the former Yugoslavian army barracks. The Celica hostel, where you stay in former prison cells, is famous as the place where the Metelkova movement started when it was squatted in 1993.

The area looks somewhat like Christiania in Copenhagen, without the positive hippie vibe and the gardens. It just feels like a dirty drug zone. We didn't stick around. (click on our Denmark link on the menu up top to see our trip to Christiania)

We had a 4pm train headed back to Vienna, so we had just enough time to get some lunch. Our destination was HotHorse.

Unfortunately they were closed, so no Horse Burger for me. We had Chinese food instead which came with 1 Euro glasses of wine ! Nasty wine...but wine all the same.

Na zdravje !

21 September 2009

Zagreb, Croatia !

Kelly and I poo-pooed the planned Oktoberfest trip due to bad timing and the fact that friends we were going to meet wouldnt be arriving in Munich til Sunday.

So to fill the weekend gap, we hopped on a train headed to Croatia !

The different train services are always....different, but we were pleased with the quality of the car for our 6 hour journey to Zagreb.

That is until the conductor informed us we were in 1st Class....damn.

So we went back to 2nd Class, or steerage as Kelly likes to call it, and found ourselves an empty compartment. During all the seat changing hub-bub, our headphones got all tangled...but we recovered nicely and soon were enjoying the views from the train as we headed south.

We arrived in Zagreb at 1:30pm, checked into our hotel, and headed straight for a local traditional Croatian restaurant.

I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of our meal which I like to do when possible. As you can tell from the picture, it was delicious ! Kelly had a Tomato salad, some Goulash soup and some local wine . I had Veal Medallions in a white wine based mushroom sauce with creamy mashed potatoes...and a local beer, of course.

Once our batteries were recharged, we headed through the town towards the Upper City, the oldest part of Zagreb.

Let me tell you...neither of us was prepared for Zagreb.

Whenever you hear about Croatia, its always about Dubrovnik, Split or somewhere on the coast.

Zagreb is beautiful !

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the break up of Yugoslavia, Croatia has boomed. It is an absolutely charming city, whoever was in charge of modernizing the city should get a big pat on the back for doing a fantastic job.

The city is small and clean with loads of green spaces. We instantly fell in love with Zagreb.

The Upper City is up a steep hill from the Lower City, so they have a funicular train option if you don't want to walk. (Kelly said the word funicular 300 times on this trip...more on that later)

The Old (Upper) City is even more charming then the Lower City ! How come noone has ever told us about Zagreb !

There are tons of outdoor cafe's and a couple of nice long pedestrian streets to stroll up and down. There are also cathedrals and such to check out of course.

As it was a Saturday, there were weddings going on.....we saw 6 !

I knew that Croatia is a hotspot for people to do destination weddings, but after seeing the Old city I understand why.

We spent the day exploring nooks and crannies, sitting at cafe's and walking around.

We had an absolutely wonderful day in Zagreb. We went back to the hotel, showered, took a nap and then headed out for more of the same at night (without the camera though)

We had a nice long meal at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the main pedestrian thoroughfare and then hopped from cafe' to cafe' sampling their local wines and laughing our butts off.

Thanks Zagreb, you are amazing.

Next stop....Ljubljana, Slovenia !

18 September 2009

You Will Have Fun...or die trying

It was a sunny Sunday morning and Vienna beckoned. Without a specific destination, we hopped the nearest U-bahn with the intention of getting off at a random stop and exploring. It was only after we were in Praterstern station that we realized The Prater, Vienna's amusement park, was just up the stairs. Destination decided! Let's go!

One attraction here is the Riesenrad, a giant ferris wheel and a perennial symbol of Vienna. Built in 1897, survived WWII intact, standing 65 meters tall and feautured in Orson Welles' The Third Man...blah blah blah...Come to Vienna, we'll go for a spin, it'll be fabulous.

Enormous century old ferris wheels aside, the Prater is a remarkable place, if for no other reason than that they have devised more ways to tumble your guts than anywhere else I have ever been. On a relatively small plot of land you can be shaken, stirred, suspended, plunged, mixed, jiggled, flung, agitated, swirled, vibrated, thrown, plummeted, spun, jumbled, and overturned in ways that defy the imagination.

Though we passed on actually riding any of the attractions, we were like little kids pointing them out to each other “Holy crap!! Look at what THAT one does!!” And we’d watch 9 poor souls being shot up, dropped down, twisted and turned upside down in a matter of 3 vomit-inducing seconds. Good fun people, good fun.

At any given time there are at least nine mechanical contraptions moving in your field of vision. This place is an orgy of site and sound.

One part Coney Island, one part Disney Main Street and three parts traveling carnival, there is a surreal tone to this place. A menacing undercurrent that none of those other places have. Maybe Coney Island's seediness, slight air of desperation and side show freaks come closest. Something malevolent, yet not overtly threatening, lurks beneath the surface and that, in my humble opinion, is a large part of the Prater's charm.

This place used to be the Royal hunting grounds. And even after Austria’s Emperor So-and-So opened the land for public use, much of it remains rural and wooded. Does that explain why Grimm images of broiled orphans and poisoned princesses come to mind? Wandering though this park, past hawkers and dizzying rides, bier gartens and cotton candy machines, I conjured up insane clowns, evil jack-in-the-boxes, and warty old crones.

It was all very Something Wicked This Way Comes meets IT.

Maybe why my eyes kept catching sights like this...

...and this (What is that thing?!?) The underbelly that plays at least a small part of every carnival atmosphere is alive and well here.

There were families, sunshine, laughter and a carousel with real ponies, but it just felt like something unnamed skulked. Like 99 people will go through that haunted house, but YOUR kid might be the one to disappear forever. I suspect if I checked the local newspaper’s archives I’d find an alarming amount of people get electrocuted on the bumper cars, or have their necks broken on the tilt-a-whirl. That the giant robotic gorilla advertising the King of the Jungle ride actually fell and crushed someone in 1987. That a chain broke on the Chair-o-Planes ride and sent three people plummeting to their deaths in '72 AND ‘94. That something toxic got into the gas lines last year and all the beer served on May day poisoned hundreds.
I'll get back to you after my research is done....

I couldn't tear my eyes from (or turn my back on) this guy. Funny, but also slightly unnerving. As we passed I gave him an overeager attitude and an accented voice for Chris's benefit: “Hallo, my name ist Klaus und I am ze spirit of MUSIC! Shall ve have some fun??”And the whispered finish... “Come closer little kinder und I vill grab you ven your mutter is not looking!”

Maybe the Dungeons of Doom really will be where you meet your end? Maybe the fun-house mirror that shows you 10 times actual size will cause you to compulsively eat yourself to death? Perhaps the stodgy frau operating Cinderella’s Magical Tour turns into a leering flesh eating gremlin once the giant swan boat disappears down the tunnel?

Or maybe you will wake up tomorrow and be trapped in the body of that giant baby. Or worse, trapped in the tiny fedora'd man that the crazed giant baby drags around through eternity. Or not. You never know. And that's what will keep me coming back to the Prater.


16 September 2009

Daytrip to Hungary

Sopron, Hungary, just 70km from Vienna, is a cheap and easy day trip. We decided on a quick trip to Sopron on Sunday for lunch even though most of the shops would be closed. It was nice walking around the old city on a quite Sunday.

We wandered around the city of 30,000, picturing what it would be like if anything was open and debating the many choices in restaraunts....and then we saw Attila's...seemed like a no brainer.

What to order ? Another no brainer....Gulash...and the local beer. Delicious !

Sopron was home to one of the pivotal moments of the cold war, the Pan European Picnic in 1989 which basically started the fall of the Iron Curtain.

There is a nice cold war / border display in Sopron which was neat to see. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Picnic and the opening of the borders. Its hard to believe that its been 20 years....back then I was a 19 yr old soldier, patrolling the German / Czech border....how times have changed for us all !

Thanks Hungary, we'll be back next month when we visit Budapest !

14 September 2009


Crobag = ??

An especially heinous and amazing insult: Cro-magnum Douche Bag.
A sandwich shop selling croissant & baguette sandwiches.

I like the first option.