Saturday, November 22, 2008

More notes

It snowed today for the first time since we've been here. We had decided not to bring snow clothes (crossing summer/fall/winter created difficult packing decisions). This means that many pairs of socks were used for mittens today. Many.

My very sweet new friend, Sharon, took me around Vienna yesterday. We really enjoyed stopping in at Cafe Demel ... chocolatier to the emperor. My piece of cake is on the right. Do you see the purple candy on top? I resisted buying a box of those candies ... I'm not known for buying depreciating assets like purple candies for 16 euros. But it was a delicious piece of purple, and they are known to have been a favorite of Empress Sisi.

Here we are, after traipsing around Vienna in the rain, looking for those hard-to-find European good deals. Have we ever mentioned it is NOT a good deal to shop here?

Well, Steve complained that my piece of cake got a blog entry and his trip to Innsbruck received nothing. In spite of my jealousy, it's not my fault. I don't blog someone else's trip. In closing, did you know we have a secret passageway?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Eating a lango in Vienna. The boys shared one ... they are like a garlicky elephant ear.

- I've been told that if you don't have a scarf on your neck, your cold will get worse. You will possibly even catch cold.

- If you don't go for that line of thinking, they sure look great. I bought some. And a sweet new friend (Hi, JoAnn) taught me how to use them.

- I was in the changing room this week taking Sammy and Si to "tournen" (gymnastics). In the midst of moms and dads ... five women changed their pants into something more comfortable for Mommy & Me class.

- I love getting the kissy-kissy-cheek-press from my new Austrian friends. I'll miss them.

- People will stop you on the street to "scold" you for not dressing your little child warm enough. Silas is really good at getting his socks and shoes off. Did you add those two together?

- I'm worried about Silas' Afghani friend who played with him the entirety of every Thursday night. He was supposedly transferred over the weekend. He seemed so kind and lonely.

- Iranian tea is possibly the best tea ever made.

- Rice can be quite complicated to make - if you want to do it "right" according to my neighbor from Iran. Who knew? Now I do. Come on over for dinner.

- Silas learned how to say "octopus". This is a major accomplishment for our quiet little boy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Castle ruin

We hiked for what felt like an hour (and could have been) up a tree-filled hillside. The trail wound through on its way to the ruin we had spied some time ago from a swimming pool in Baden. It is called Ruin Rauheneck. It is also supposed to be from the 12th century and even has a ghost story - but we read it in German, and I don't think we're good enough to translate it. I found a little history on the castle here and there. I don't know how much of it is true. But suffice it to say, it was really an eerie-beautiful place that we fully enjoyed.

Above you see the little chapel altar in the castle. There was a stone cross above the door into the room. It was fun to imagine what it looked like.
Trees growing inside of the ruins that makes it seem so very ancient and special. Steve loved taking more pictures than you'll ever want to see when we return. It makes history come alive to imagine real people living real lives so many years ago.
Well, I just accidentily deleted an exciting picture for the boys ... the spot from where the archers could shoot arrows. They liked climbing out and looking down to the ground. It was fun to walk out for adults, too. Too bad I don't feel like uploading it again. :)
The tower at this castle is a triangular one. It was really dark and musty. The day was foggy and the fog began to descend into the valley while we were there. It made it very beautiful as we looked out and then began our hike back into town and to the train for our way home. We had a really nice day and everyone voted these castles as the top thing to take y'all to if you come visit us in the next three weeks!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You would think

You would think we had hit some castles by now. It's been on our list for a long time, and we didn't even actually try to go to any castles yesterday. We tried to visit a medieval abbey that is still in use, but the buses didn't cooperate with us. So, after much deliberation (which included unnecessary train rides in the wrong direction), we decided to brave the iffy weather and hike to some castle ruins. We had a great, mostly non-rainy day ... probably our favorite sight-seeing day so far. We hiked out of Baden up to beautiful Ruin Rauhenstein first. Here you see the cliffside view.

We could find almost no history on this castle ruin, except that a former owner took the roof off to pay some tax in time past. We loved the peacefulness, the fall colors, the trees growing in the middle of it, the hiking and the price - free. It is set directly outside the lovely valley of Helental, which is supposed to be beautiful, romantic and famous for it's hiking. People love to hike here ... they call it wandering. And each little, carefully-marked trail is called a "wanderweg". (literal translation - wandering way)

We climbed the tower and could see the town of Baden surrounding us. It was easy to imagine times gone by. Looking to the hill straight across, we could see the next ruin we wanted to visit. I loved the view of the castle without its roof. Steve loved that it was a ruin. The boys loved the toilet that was merely a hole leading directly to the outside of the castle.

All in all, it could have been very romantic. Here is a peaceful picture taken by our fun neighbor, Adam, who joined us on our outing.

Of course, romantic hikes through castle ruins from the 12th century are always a bit interrupted by the "girls have cooties" crowd.
We hiked on to our next ruin ... saved for the next post.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


For most of our two months, we have lived normal life. Coming with our four children has meant that we still get to clean the same amount, cook the same amount, supervise the same arguments, school the same children, wash the clothes and make the boys pick up their room. We may be in Europe, but we're still grocery shopping. (Actually, Steve is grocery shopping - it turns out our schedule pretty much only allows HIM to do that honor.) That's not a lot to write home about, except that those same things can be and are all different and harder. They take longer, too. So here are some things that are normal .............. but not.

Going to the bathroom: While it may not be the squatty potties I encountered in India, it does have it's own special flair. We have performed unscientific experiments and discovered that smell travels faster in air than in water. Note the special "shelf" in the toilet making all our experiments possible. We like the U.S. ones better. :)

Shopping is a normal activity. But it's not Safeway or Albertsons. It's called Billa or Zielpunkt. Without a van, we walk and carry all our own food (six people eat a lot). With a baby-sized refrigerator, we shop often. The food must have fewer preservatives here, because it all goes bad much more quickly. We pay for our shopping bags, so we re-use them. At most stores, you must put a coin in the cart to use it. Don't forget to weigh your food and mark the price ... the cashiers do not do it for you. And be quick about it at the check out. Really quick. Our Bend Fred Meyer grocery store cashiers wouldn't last five minutes here.

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Or die. Or be arrested or fined or something. We all recycle. But Austrians RECYCLE. Paper bin. Plastic bin. Colored glass bin. White glass bin. Milk carton bin. Old food bin. Metal bin. Regular trash. That's not all, actually. Here's the sweet set up in our neighbor's apartment. Much cooler than ours. I admit: I like recycling.

Cooking is three times a day here, too. We have fewer ingredients, because we didn't want to buy a new pantry for three months' worth. The pans in our kitchen are awful! I'm not used to cooking with gas ... so I burn a lot of dinners. I think my sweet Iranian neighbor thinks I actually can't cook. We eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day. Muesli. Muesli. Muesli. The biggest difference? The size of the items. I present to you the largest bag of flour we have found so far.

Television. Actually, we don't have it. But we watched it on vacation. Did you know that Strawberry Shortcake is called Emily Erdbeer (Emily Strawberry)? And Curious George is called Coco. As expected, it's in German.
Have a great day! Steve is at The Oasis right now. It has been our all time favorite thing to be there. The people are absolutely wonderful. It's what I would want to post about every day.