Friday, 28 November 2014

November

What?! A recap BEFORE the month is by?! Yes! :)

(Since we're flying to SA in 10 SLEEPS for a visit, I thought I'd better get on top of things here!)

November started with a visit from Cath and Wes, who were on their way to start their own new adventure in the UK. They were here for one night, but we saw a bit of Frankfurt and some of Marburg's Oberstadt.



I was so good to see Catherine again, and to finally meet Wes, the guy who stole her heart and married her earlier this year.

At the beginning of November I also started teaching a small group of beginners English. It's been... interesting. I find it frustrating how spelling and reading in English is so complicated in comparison to German, but at least there's only one 'the' and one 'a'. I also like the little group, and seeing them progress is so rewarding. The book we're using teaches not only English, but english stereotypes, too. So, we've drunk a lot of tea together. (And I'm becoming more and more aware of how many people find it weird to have milk in tea.)



A highlight this month, was meeting for a bring and share dinner with others who used to live in our building. It was great to get together again and catch up. Plus, when meeting with people from around the world, there's always interesting and delicious food to discover! These people feel much like family over here, and getting to celebrate the birthday of one of the children was sweet too! Unfortunately, since then, we've heard that we won't be returning to our old home. It's been a ride of ups and downs and constant hoping, but it's been confirmed this last week that we need to find another apartment. It's sad, and I'm disappointed, but at least we have a concrete answer of what the next step is, 5 months later. We'll begin our search for a new home in January, and see what we find.



The dinner was in CenTral, which we're graciously allowed to use now and then. There's been a lot happening there recently and now things are getting ready for Christmas. Christmas decor is up, and parties and get-togethers are being planned. It is a shame that we won't be here for most of it - if only one could be two places at once!


The rest of Marburg is also looking all Christmassy now, with the lights and decor up. Tonight is Marburg b(u)y night, which we're looking forward too, though I expect it'll be much the same as last year


It's also getting colder and cosier... legwarmers are out for ballet, and it's boot-and-scarf weather again. I'm hoping it snows this next week before we leave! 





Little things still manage to amaze us, too. Like, one afternoon coming home, we spotted these mushrooms. I've only EVER seen these kinds of mushrooms in story books and drawings... seeing them in real life made us stop and admire them for a few minutes. Spotty mushrooms and squirrels turn us to children all over again :) 


Now, I'm off to fetch our Christmas decor from our apartment and bring it to our current one - I hadn't been planning to, but since we have to move everything out eventually, we might as well do it now and have some festive-cheer at home!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Vienna {Part 4}

Our last full day in Vienna, the Monday, we decided to go and see The Sch├Ânbrunn Palace. I hadn't done a palace tour before, so wasn't really sure what to expect, while Malcolm has seen inside the Wurzburg Residence. 

With Luitgard's advice, we made use of the audioguide which is included in the price, and embarked on the "Grand Tour" of the Palace. I was at first apprehensive about the audioguide, since it makes the whole experience rather zombie-like, but there is very little info printed so one does rely on the audio to find out about the rooms. It was really interesting and our history knowledge improved greatly! Unfortunately, there are no photos of the interior since photos aren't allowed, but that's what Google images is for, right? It was breathtaking and the rooms are beautiful! 




After touring the palace, we went out into the gardens. They were a bit dreary, as can be expected on a cold, grey day in Autumn. But, we made our way up to the Gloriette and enjoyed the features along the way.







We made it to the top, and hung out a little while, reflecting on the lives of those who had seen this monument and palace built. What it must have been like to live in such opulence and go wandering the garden in those little shoes the ladies wore. Marie Antoinette grew up here, and I can hardly imagine what it must have been like. Seeing the portraits of her and all her siblings, she seems so insignificantly placed as child #15, with the fact that one of her other sisters was her mother's favourite being no secret. It's easy to judge, glorify, or feel either warranted or unwarranted sympathy for historical characters, and my interest in history only goes so far as wanting to understand and see things from multiple perspectives, a lesson in empathy more than facts and dates.


On the way back down we passed by the Obelisk as the sun started making an appearance. It is covered in hieroglyphs supposedly telling the tale of the Habsburg family, though, as the information board clarifies, hieroglyphics was only translated much later than this was constructed.


The Palace does also have a maze garden and a zoo, but we passed those by and left the palace. Feeling hungry, we went to the Naschmarkt again, and tried out some snacks sold along the market, before settling at a restaurant where Luitgard then joined us. Afterwards, we went for a walk through the streets and she showed us an interesting shopping passage way, where we then came out at the Museums Quarter. We went over to the Natural History museum, which we got to see with a blue sky, which makes it a lot prettier in my opinion, and then peeped inside to see the large domed ceiling. We really wanted to see the museum, but time was short and it'll be on our to-do list if we visit Vienna again! 


We split up there, Luitgard heading home and Malcolm and I heading to see the Danube river. It really is big, and the U-bahn station on the island is perfect for hopping out and seeing a bit of it. We walked along the bridge for a while, but it was cold and windy and we still wanted to see St Stephan's again before sunset.



We took the Ubahn back to the city centre and got to see St Stephans again. We went in, hoping to see the interior with less of a crowd. The crowd was less but somehow it was darker than before, so we still couldn't see that much! 


We walked along the streets back towards the Opera house as the sun set, trying to soak in as much as we could on our last evening. In true classy style, we spotted Cinnabon (haven't had cinnabon since we were in PMB!), bought one to share, and sat at the Ubahn station looking over at the Opera House.

We eventually made our way back home to get ready to go out to a Heurigen for supper. It was a really good dinner together with the family all together. 

The next morning we went out to visit Seppy, who was packing up for the summer, and say goodbye. From there, Luitagard drove us to the Airport, we had a chance for a quick photo together, and then it was back into the skies and back to Frankfurt. 



Our trip was so, so, very blessed - we once again experienced such astounding hospitality and had the chance to get to know more family, all while seeing the beautiful city of Vienna.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Vienna {part 3}

Our third day in Vienna, we left after breakfast to go to a little town called Zellerndorf for their Pumpkin Festival. Not really knowing what to expect, besides cold weather, we went with an open mind to see what the Kurbisfest would be like!

Let's sum it up like this: pumpkin can be added to just about anything. Pumpkin fritters and pumpkin-kase-spatzle are definite hits!



 The festival carried all the way through this little town alone the main (only) road. Many of the vendors were in the rooms used to store wine as they are built into the hills. A hobbit's life is possible! It was fascinating peering into the rooms and seeing how huge some are, despite their simple entry ways.
Besides the various wine and pumpkin decor, it was also interesting to see people dressed in traditional Tracht - it really felt like another world!












After seeing all there was to see, and tasting what we wanted to taste, we drove further north to Retz, close by to the boarder with the Czech Republic. We just had a quick look at the town square, and while it might not look all thaaaaat impressive, it apparently has an impressive network of cellars underneath. Also, just outside of town stands the last fully functioning windmill left in Austria - no photo of that though, because I was too cold to want to get out the car...





With the setting back of clocks, the sun set earlier than I was used to as we made our way back to Vienna. We headed up Leopoldsberg to the Klosterneuberg Monastery. We wandered around the grounds in the dark and peered into the church where the monks were chanting and preparing for mass. It was an atmosphere difficult to describe.


We drove further up Leopoldsberg to see a beautiful view of Vienna by night, twinkling below. With hardly anybody else there, and just the lights of buildings visible, it was lovely.

We drove back down through the fancy Grinzing Bezirk and marveled at the huge houses and restaurants with twinkling fairy lights outside. We continued back into the city centre, where Luitgard knew of a good restaurant that was open (tricky to find on a Sunday evening with no reservation!) and we ended our day in a cosy pub-style restaurant for dinner.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Vienna {Part 2}

Saturday morning after breakfast, we headed out for the Great Tourist Experience of Vienna (Yes, capitalised.)

I love being shown around a city by somebody who loves it, and somebody who is patient enough to answer questions like, "ummm, who's Schiele? Klimt? Who?" We arrived completely oblivious and left somewhat more enlightened. I am no longer a stranger to the work of Hollein, Hundertwasser, or Loos.

We started by going the main Bahnhof, and then just outside to Bahnorama. Bahnorama was built as an observation tower to overlook the progress and the main station was rebuilt, and has impressive displays about the whole process. Unfortunatley, now that the station is complete, Bahnorama is set to close on December 31, despite the fantastic view it offers. Even though it was foggy, one could see pretty far and shows just how expansive Vienna is!



It's also great since it's right next to the main station, which means it was then pretty quick to get back to the Ubahn and head into the city, starting at the State Opera.


Just behind the State Opera, is Hotel Sacher (as in, Sachertorte...!). Queen Letizia of Spain happened to be staying there at the time, but we didn't bump into her ;)


The streets really are beautiful, and fantastically clean, and I could have a hundred photos just of pretty buildings. But, my eyeballs saw them and I was overwhelmed and impressed by them, just believe me.



We walked along a major shopping street and peered curiously into many shop windows at the interesting things they sold. An advantage of touring with a local, though, is that one gets their insider tips... like taking an elevator up to the top of a department store to get the view over the roof tops.


On making it into the centre of the city, where St Stevens Cathedral is, I was first impressed by this controversial glass building, designed by Hollein (note his signature petrol-station roof...), in which the old building are reflected. I love these juxtapositions of old and new!



This "Stock im Eisen" is also really interesting, and has an interesting tradition behind it.




It was pretty cold, and ducking into Trzesniewski was a good break. (Go ahead and try pronounce that...) Inside the small shop, not knowing what to expect from its blank exterior, we were surprised by all the little open sandwiches with odd toppings! Malcolm and I made a really fast decision, and chose some toppings, which were all pretty tasty!!



Heading out, we went into St Stevens Cathedral briefly, but it was sooo full, that besides finding it impressively large and imposing, it was difficult to enjoy the little details. The outside though, with its patterns and spires, are great to look at (Living in Cologne and seeing the Dom so often has kind of ruined me for all others though, since the Kolner Dom is so massive.)
One can also smell where one is, since the horsedrawn carriages are no scarcity in this area!


For lunch, we took a chance and went to Figlmueller, a well-known restaurant in St Stephans Platz. Somehow, at peak time and without a reservation, we got a table for 3 and sat down for a Wienerschnitzel. It was thin, but GIANT, and so, so good.


After lunch, our tour continued, and we walked to the Jesuit Kirche. We had been walking along a road and a gateway was up ahead, and I assumed we'd walk through there. But then suddenly *BAM* giant church on our left! It was quite a surprise, how a huge building can be so hidden. We were breathtaken at the beauty of this one, and it's a very different kind of architecture than what we've seen before. 




We also got to glimpse inside the Greek Orthodox church, but only briefly. The warm carpets and heavy colours were impressive, and it's a pity we couldn't stay longer since the lady there was closing it up. This area is really interesting and there are lots of little alleyways to peek into.


We also visited another church (name forgotten...), where a wedding was going on. Exiting the church, we once again saw the contrast of old and new!


We continued down the road towards the Hofburg Palace, and found a coffee shop, Cafe Griensteidl, in the square. It was nice to sit for a while, and recharge with a Melange and cake while experiencing "Viennese Coffee House Culture".



After coffee, Luitard had some things to prepare, so Malcolm and I headed off on our own. We went through St Michael's Gate and into the courtyard in front of the Hofburg Palace. Since we were there the day before the National Day, the courtyard was full with a display of the various military equipment. As much as it did sort of ruin the square with 80s dance music, the display was interesting and one could peep into the tanks and see things up close. Malcolm was totally in his element, surrounded by tanks and helicopters, statues and a Castle.




It was rather cold and my toes were going numb and I had no feeling in my nose anymore, so we decided a brisk walk would revive our extremities. We headed towards the Museums Quatier, where we had a look at the Naturhistorisches museum with the Kunsthistorisches museum opposite it, with Maria Theresa seated prominently in between in the square.




They really are beautifully designed buildings, and all the statues all over them make them interesting to inspect.
We marched onwards though, and passed the Parliament buildings. Barricades were being set up, again because of the Nationalfeiertag, but it was interesting to see how close to the street the building is, not far removed and locked down as one might expect.


Further along at the New Town Hall, there was also a lot happening, with displays and things. The building is, once again, beautiful. And grand. And Big. And the flower boxes make it look sort of happy and welcoming.


Lastly, we stopped by a McDonalds to get coffee (after weighing up if it would help defrost out fingers or if them being exposed to hold the cup would make it worse) and walked across to the Votif Kirche. It reminds me of the Kolner Dom, but isn't as big, and the advertising outside seriously makes it less apealing. However, inside it was warm and it was good to sit down and defrost. I find it interesting how often Malcolm and I find ourselves seeking warmth and shelter in churches!


It was easy enough to find our way back from the Votif Kirche to the Strassenbahn and then to the Ubahn. We got back to the apartment and rested, before heading out again to meet my 3rd cousin and a friend of hers to see Vienna at night. After walking around a while, we found a place that looked good, and spent the evening there chatting and getting to know one another a little. 

On our way home, we walked through the Ubahn station, where we stopped to take a photo in one of the mirrors making up the "Pi" art project. I love how even the Ubahn system (some lines at least) have art exhibitions! 


It was a good thing that the time changed and we set our clocks back an hour that night, since it meant that despite getting to sleep very late, we had an extra hour!