Saturday, August 17, 2013

Auf Wiedersehen, Wien!

Three years and one month.  Three years felt like it would be a long time when we arrived in mid-July 2010 but now that three years has passed, it hardly seems possible we've lived in Vienna for three years.  But today we leave, en route back to Washington, DC.  

We could take this opportunity to reminisce about our time here --- the places we visited, the two cats we adopted, the resorts we skied, the meals we ate, and the many, many beers and bottles of wine we drank --- but that would be a dreadfully tedious post.  Instead, we'll end this blog in much the same way we started it:  with our impressions.  But instead of first impressions, these are our (lasting) impressions of Vienna (and Austria).


(Still) Beautiful

Exit here for the Rathaus
Rathaus on a snowy, wintry day
Hallstatt.  Arguably the most beautiful town in Austria.

Festive

The Viennese certainly don't take the Christ out of Christmas
Punsch and Gluhwein might be one reason the Viennese are so festive during Christmas


Ornaments.  Ornaments available everywhere during Christmas.
Pumpkin Festival.  The Austrians seem to have a festival for everything.

Beautifully Rugged

Solden ski resort.  This one should be framed.
Hochkonig.  Epic powder day.
Stubai Glacier

Charming & Elegant

Is that Mozart I hear playing in the background?
Charming and elegant Lisa at the BonBon Ball
Sometimes charming and rarely elegant Clint at the BonBon Ball
Debutante Waltz in the Grand Ballroom of the IAEA Ball

(Still) Decadent

Apple strudel with vanilla sauce

Reverent (But Not Really Religious)

If you can summit the peak, there is probably a cross on top of it (Raucheck, Werfen). 
The largest and most ornate cross we've seen is, appropriately, erected on top of the highest peak in Austria 

Sometimes Surly, Usually Arrogant
Hans' surliness and arrogance were endearing

Mildly(?) Racist

"Mohr im Hemd":   A non-PC name for a dessert.  Indicative of how minorities are regarded in Austria. 

Hydrated (With Alcohol, Of Course!)

Let's have another round!  
Something to drink after shopping for vegetables for the week?  Of course!
Lazing around at a "beach" bar along the Danube canal.

Farewell, Vienna!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Head It Up, Hans

Hans was the most bad ass Austrian we had ever met.  When I first saw him --- an older, weathered, hard-core looking mountaineer --- I said to Lisa, "That guy is seriously hardcore.  Maybe he is our guide?!?"  Sure enough, a few minutes later he walks up to our table, extends his hand, and introduces himself in accented English:  "Halo, my name is Hans.  I'm your guide."  

For our fare thee well tour of Austria we hired a guide to lead us to the summit of the Grossglockner --- the highest peak in Austria --- and, as luck would have it, we were paired with the quintessential Austrian mountaineer:  highly experienced, somewhat surly, and a bit arrogant.  After he sized us up ("You have climbed before, yes?"  "How heavy is your backpack?"  "Your hiking boots --- they are too soft --- but they will do.") we met up with the third member of our guided group, a German from Trier, then set off.  
At the trail head.  Destination straight ahead.
Straight across the glacier then veer right  
"My first ascent of Grossglockner was 37 years ago.  In sandals.  And wearing lederhosen."
Some klettersteig en route to the hut we'll spend the night in
Brilliant sunny day on the Grossglockner
All of us roped together.  Pretty confident Hans can hold all three of us up with one arm.
I hope your neighbor doesn't smell because you'll be sleeping right next to him!
Sunrise before we set off for the summit
Crampons?  Check.  Stick?  Check.  Helmet?  Check.
As good a time as any to learn how to walk with crampons
Lisa, Clint, and Cornel the German
Cornel = unfazed.  Clint = Not taking any chances.  Lisa = cautious.   
Up, Up, Up!
Short descent before the final climb
Almost there!
Grossglockner Summit:  12,461'.  The highest peak in Austria.
"Congratulations.  You summit once.  I summit 150th time."   
After Grossglockner, we headed to Gerlos --- a small ski village in the Zillertal --- for a few days of leisurely hiking, slow meals, and lazing around in the Austrian mountains.  
The cows wandering through town as if they own the place.
Zillertal ski resort in summer
Even the cows have a high quality of life (well, as high as it can be for a cow)
Krimml Waterfalls:  the highest waterfall in Austria

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ελλάδα

Beta, alpha, eta, delta, omega, epsilon...you would think two people with a marginally working knowledge of the Greek alphabet would be a bit more handy getting around Athens but you'd be (mostly) wrong.  Lisa has a working knowledge of the Greek alphabet so she was pretty handy but I, however, just wandered around trying to decide if the t-shirt, "It's all Greek to me", is funny or not.  It's not.  
No knowledge of the Greek alphabet necessary to recognize the Greek flag atop The Acropolis
It wasn't too hard to find The Acropolis since the high, rocky outcropping is visible from virtually everywhere in the city.  
Parthenon from afar
The Porch of the Maidens
Hail to Athena!
Temple of Zeus:  not as glorious as Athena's Parthenon but at least they didn't ignore him altogether.


The (first) Athens Olympic Stadium was up next.
Panathenaic Stadium:  hosted the first modern Olympic games and the only Olympic stadium built entirely of white marble.
Cue "Chariots of Fire"...
..."Chariots of Fire" about to reach it's glorious crescendo.
"We are the champions, We are the champions...No time for losers, Cause we are the champions, Of the world..."
Among the major European cities we've visited, Athens was unexpectedly inexpensive.  You can eat quite well on the cheap.
This cellar restaurant had no menu.  We sat down, they brought us food and wine, then we paid.  So simple.
Potatoes...

Tomatoes...

...and white wine tapped from barrels served in a no frills metal pitcher.
Sweetened Greek coffee.  
Oink!  Oink!
After a couple of days in Athens, we set off for Crete.
Chania harbor 
Walking the alleys of Chania
Sunset over Chania
The Samaria Gorge:   A leisurely 16 km hike in the blazing sun  
Only 15 more kilometers to the beach!
I guess this hike shouldn't be too leisurely after all
"Didn't you read the sign?!  Danger! Danger! Get walking!"
Oh, how we love thee...
"'It's all Greek to me' still isn't funny."
"Greek letters are hard.  Math is hard."
We also hit up a beach en route to Iraklio.
"Another Greek salad?  Yes, sir!"
Frozen Greek yogurt.  Healthier?  Not topped like this.
We concluded our time on Crete with a day trip, via ferry, to Santorini.
Great views everywhere = Many(!) photos taken
No joke  
I wasn't exaggerating
Lunch in Santorini 
We love you, too
Here's to hoping our cats will also, like this cat, earn their keep