Vienna ist fur Kinder

Vienna ist für kinder!  Vienna, Austria boasts castles, boat rides, music history, gorgeous Hapsburg-yellow buildings, and fantastic parks.  We lived in the 19th district of Vienna for six months with two young kids and we fell in love. Many activities and museums are designed specifically für kinder (for children) and others are just naturally fun für kinder. Here are a few of our favorite hidden family hotspots. Read more »

Skiing in Austria with the Family

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Reflections on Austria

Things are different in Austria.  This is why we came of course.  If things weren’t different, we’d be wasting a whole lot of energy on this trip.  First off, I should be very clear that Austria is not Germany.  They are pretty particular on this point.  Austrians ruled the world (or at least a big chuck of it) for 800 years and they did it relatively peacefully.  The collective consciousness is calm and independent.  Maybe they are calm because of the wind that never stops blowing (my own personal theory) and independent because they have had 5 different governments over the past 90 years (and only the very independent can survive the school system). Whatever the reasons, they have been amazingly successful within the EU and are certainly benefiting from the lifting of the iron curtain. Trams wait for pedestrians to cross in front.  Drivers are prepared to stop for Read more »

What I Don’t Like About Vienna … and What I Do Like

Everyone we’ve spoken to has asked what I don’t like.  So far there are only three things.  One is ordering in restaurants with our kids.  There just aren’t always choices that make them happy and we’re getting a lot of sudden outbursts: “I hate hotdogs” or “I hate pizza” but this is getting easier every day.  Last night, I gave in and made macaroni and cheese – they were very happy!!  Then we watched Ratatouille after ice-skating at the Rathaus (town hall).  The second is the toilets.  The system of a WC and a sink in a separate room is fine but in old buildings (such as my office), it means that there are often only 3-4 Read more »

Postcard from Austria

Life is great.  I know this is the least interesting part for everyone else.  Who really wants to get a postcard from Hawaii saying ‘It’s beautiful here!”  I should begin anyway with what a big success our Austrian Adventure has been so far.  We’ve seen opera and ballet, visited Eastern European countries, gone skiing in the Alps, and eaten an enormous number of pastries.  An unexpected bonus has been the family time.  Since we are somewhat isolated here, we spend a lot of time just the four of us and this is wonderful.  We have some new family traditions now – heading to a “heurigan” (wine house) after school on Fridays if we are in town or taking the tram whichever direction comes first.  We’ve maintained the weekend pancake tradition but it has metamorphosed into Swedish pancake/crepes with Nutella and “schlag”(whipped cream).  The girls are growing and learning so fast it’s hard to keep up.  Logan goes on exciting field trips for school, is loving piano lessons, and can say “fart” in several languages (I know I know).  She plans to be reading before we leave Austria.  Zoey can ride the public bus, transfer to the Read more »

Skis and Fish

I squeaked in another ski day!  With the rising spring temperatures, the rapid loss of snow at the local ski areas, and the distance to the high elevation Alps, I thought my ski season was over.  But I resisted sending my ski equipment home when the opportunity presented itself, in the faint hopes that I could find the snow again.  That hope blossomed last weekend when we went to Lunz am See.

BOKU has an aquatic research center on the shores of the lake in Lunz, about 150 km west of Vienna.  The center is the second oldest active research center in the world that is dedicated to the study of freshwater ecology.  Ashley was invited to take part in a five-day course there on the basics of fish, zooplankton, invertebrates, and stream morphology.  Since everyone at her institute at BOKU loves to go to Lunz, she invited the rest of us along thinking that we’d also enjoy the opportunity of hanging out at a mountain lake for the weekend. Then, late last week, one of my collaborators at BOKU told Read more »

The Hair of the Smokey Dog

Some more cultural observations from Vienna:

From my own personal experience I know that there are many ladies in North America that augment the color of their hair.  I’ve heard that the number of women who periodically dye their hair there is amazingly high, but I never paid much attention because, except for a few noticeable cases of angst, the overall goal of the dye-job is to make it look reasonably natural.  That is not the case here in Vienna!  Sure, there are still the teenagers with protesting heads of blue and green, but there are also seventy year-olds with funky patches of orange, fifty year-olds with not-quite-natural shades of red, thirty year olds with streaky multi-colored mixes, and women of all ages in their obviously-not-so-natural basic black.  And the hottest current color and all-time favorite, or maybe the one that stands out the most to me, is the bleached blond.  Sometimes Read more »

The Ski Adventure

Several years ago, when Ashley first mentioned the idea of a sabbatical to Vienna, I began to daydream about skiing in the Alps.  From watching the Olympics as a kid I knew that Austria is the center of the skiing universe.  I had listened to friends talk about skiing there and read all the stories in the many skiing magazines that come through our house.  News of last year’s low snow accumulation and short ski season only increased my excitement, because I figured that there couldn’t possibly be two years in a row like that, regardless of climate change.

When we finally got here, though, reality set in.  Vienna is in “lower Austria” – the lower not referring to the southerly direction – and the big mountain ski Read more »