Are You “Regular?”

Okay, everyone… I am sure this is a topic that few blog about and I do understand the very personal nature of the subject. I will endeavor to keep this blog story at an appropriate level of discretion.

I am certain that many of you recall TV commercials in our youth about Ex-Lax,  the likely parental discussion we had as children about what it meant to be “regular,” and the specific purpose of a laxative. I recall my dad putting it into terms that I would readily understand… “A laxative helps make you poop!”

Indeed throughout our lives, we of a certain age have learned that our bodies respond to different FullSizeRender (24)foods in curious ways. Gone are the days in which we discuss these effects only attributed to prunes! Some could say there is a movement beyond that created by prunes. The laxative responses we get to various fruits and other foods leads me to conclude that doctors and others giving medicinal advice have their favorite remedies to keep us “regular.”

In February I had hernia surgery in Spain. My care was excellent and very efficient. That is certainly a topic for another blog as my surgical experience was quite different from what is done in the U.S. Regardless, the prescription from the Mijas town doctor following surgery was to eat two kiwis a day even though I told him that orange juice would work just as well! He is a determined, friendly man so I enjoyed two kiwis a day as well as a glass of orange juice!

My fresh apricots
My fresh apricots

I have discovered a new fruit that also does the trick!! It was a bit difficult to narrow it down as there is currently an abundance of fresh strawberries and cherries at the end of their season and the beginning of apricot time in Austria. However, through process of elimination (I proudly chuckle at my choice of words) I have found the magical properties to exist with apricots! Yes, they keep me “regular” and running (I chuckle once again) to the nearest toilet. Last week as I enjoyed fresh apricots, apricot dumplings, apricot liquor, apricot jam, and so on, I made sure to always be aware of the location of the nearest toilet…just in case!

Fresh apricots (“marille”) are wonderful and abundant now in Austria.They are sold at weekly town markets in Melk, Spitz and Krems,  in grocery stores, and in roadside stands throughout the Wachau Valley. What a special time to be here and experience the “Apricot Mile” near Rosaatz! I hope you enjoy this story…and I send along my wishes for your regularity!

Apricot Dumplings
Apricot Dumplings

My Kremser Experience

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Statue (1682) to returning crusaders

Stunning medieval architecture and extraordinarily beautiful countryside is found throughout Lower Austria. Captured in photos of Aggstein, Durnstein, Rosaatz, and Melk I have shared on Facebook many of the old structures, castle ruins, monuments, stone-terraced vineyards, and the picturesque Danube River that make the World Heritage Site of the Wachau Valley unique and special.

While many find the charm of Austria to revolve about Vienna, I have opted for a more rural area in which to holiday for the past three months. My residence has centered on Krems an der Donau, maybe the oldest of communities in all of Austria. Here people are referred to as “Kremsers.”

Part of the Rathaus 1452
Part of the Rathaus 1452

Located down river at the end of the Wachau Valley, the town of 25,000 inhabitants even today remembers and celebrates ancestors from the Middle Ages and their influence in creating Krems. The town is very long on memory, pride, and tradition including personal dress, food, wine, religion, and music.

In this blog I am primarily sharing photographs. While I can tell stories, the photos speak! They shout of the history and pride that Kremsers feel for their community, their ancestors, their architecture, their food and drink, their traditions…their way of life.

As I enjoy a slice of cinnamon-sweet apple strudel at my favorite outdoor cafe, I pause to listen to the chimes of the Steiner Tor. I hear the commuter trains in the background. I see lovers holding hands and smell roasted coffee which beckons me to sip a caramel latte. I hope you enjoy my reminiscences about Krems and can envision the beauty that makes Krems a wonderful place to feel the past while in the present.

Old Testament scenes etched in 1561
Old Testament scenes etched in 1561

I have deeply absorbed Krems’ preservation. It is there for the taking by Kremsers, me, and future generations. The soul of this community is in, and its voices come from, its landmarks, traditions, and people. So gathered here is my collection of photographs that I have found particularly interesting to these ends as I explain in captions.

Medieval mural in Krems center
Medieval mural in Krems center
Bell tower in Krems Stein
Bell tower in Krems Stein
A typical Krems street
A typical Krems street
A favorite stop for coffee and strudel
A favorite stop for coffee and strudel
House built in 1210
House built in 1210
The status Simandl is about the hen-pecked husband begging for the house keys so he can stay out late with the boys
The statue “Simandl” is about the hen-pecked husband begging for the house keys so he can stay out late with the boys
Typical alley in Krems
Typical alley in Krems

Gladiators

gladiator_movie_russel_crowe_3_1024x1024_wallpapername.comIn the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe plays the role of Maximus, son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Maximus’ life is relegated to fighting for his life as a gladiator after Commodus takes power and strips Maximus of his general officer rank. By several historical accounts, however, Maximus, as portrayed in the movie, is largely fictitious and a composite of several individuals. But Emperor Marcus Aurelius is real and died in 180 AD in a Roman camp in modern-day Vienna, Austria which is about an hour and a half from my apartment in Krems. Roman influence is still sometimes felt throughout the region. Last weekend I went to Tulln (a past Roman settlement) and was reminded of the Roman influence as modern-day gladiators with Maximus’ desire, determination, and dedication competed. More about that later.

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Tulln is located on the right bank of the Danube River between Krems and Vienna and I have journeyed by train there three times in the past couple months. Tulln was settled well before the Romans arrived over 2000 years ago. The Roman Empire had an outpost in present-day Tulln and the Danube at one time was a boundary for the Empire. Near the Danube, in the area where the Roman fort was located, is a statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and an excellent museum with artifacts and items attributed to Tulln’s Roman past. There are few visible, physical remnants of the town’s Roman-period existence except those excavated and now preserved in the museum.

I certainly enjoy visiting such historic places like Tulln and museums dedicated to their history. This museum is especially good with numerous artifacts and explanations of them. But on my post-retirement adventure in Europe I also crave several things that are simply American like pancakes with real maple syrup, eating hamburgers with real beef (think about that for a minute and you will understand), and so on…. One such craving is my passion for American football. That is what lured me last weekend to Tulln to see modern-day gladiators with the Tulln Air Force Hawks competing against the Blue Hawks from Asperhofen in a real American football game! It is wonderful that here in the middle of Europe I can experience watching the game I enjoy and witness things that have been incorporated into the game day.

American football in this area is what Americans would call a “club sport.” The players come from all over Lower Austria and are playing for the love of American football. Where football (soccer) is king, these gridsters may eye being discovered for an opportunity to play on an American college football team or may envision a professional career as the NFL in Europe gains traction. Regardless, they are modern-day gladiators.

The announcer spoke in German and added color in English like “Oh my God, quarterback sack!” Each team’s starting players ran onto the gridiron through “smoke” out of a large inflatable helmet as their names were announced. The officials marched onto the field (although out of step) photo (17)and there was real respect  for them. There were cheerleaders too! They came from the Vienna Wildcats and cheered for the Tulln Air Force team. There was a lot of fan noise throughout the game with horns, drums, clappers and other devices to support their hometown team! Noise was unending and only stopped at halftime and during injury time-outs. About 300 faithful fans attended. There was no halftime show and I observed that halftime was like a social outing among friends.

On the initial kick-off a player was injured. Every player on the manicured grass field and sidelines and every cheerleader went on a knee for this and each time a player was injured. I thought it to be respectful and almost like they were jointly sending a prayer that the injury not be serious. The food at the concession stand was interesting. Remember, this is Austria. The choices on the chalk menu were grilled frankfurters, grilled hamburgers (see note above), and, of course, grilled pork. Beer, wine and Coke were also sold along with cigarettes which were permitted to be smoked anywhere other than in the bleacher area.

photo (19)Finally, Tulln’s gridsters just didn’t have an adequate passing quarterback and lacked a punter so they ran on every fourth down (including a 4th and 20 from their own 20!). Asperhofen’s Blue Hawks had a dominating defense and at the end, the hometown gladiators lost the contest. However, I give them and the game a “thumbs up” as each of the modern-day gladiators, the fans, and I enjoyed the day of American football.

Wine, Pork, Apricots, and Apple Strudel in Lower Austria

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Danube River in the Wachau Valley

Lower Austria is a state in Austria where the Danube River flows through the country. The state is in the northeastern part of Austria and is named “lower” to indicate elevation which is lower than in the mountainous regions of the country. I am presently residing in Krems which is at the end of the Wachau Valley in Lower Austria and have previously documented the beauty of the region in other blog posts.

In this entry I want to tell you more about the food and wine. Food and wine are very serious topics for which there is great pride in heritage, taste and visual effects. Principle meat products in the region come from pigs. Beef is extremely expensive. In addition, chicken is available but overall pork wins out as the primary dietary meat component. Roasted and smoked pork products are in huge demand and are sold in grocery stores, markets and are everywhere during festivals. Pork is on every menu and it appears to me to be in just about every lunch and dinner. I like eating the roast pork and schnitzel.

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Terraced Vineyards in Spitz, Austria
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Gruener Veltliner Grapes

Wine is sacred in the Wachau Valley! Vines are grown all along the Danube River in the terraced slopes on the hillside in the Wachau. The stone terraced slopes (pictured) are traditional everywhere in the Wachau. Gruener Veltliner (picture copyright Wikipedia) is the main grape grown here and makes up about 35% of Austria’s wine production. That is more than any other grape in the country. It dates back to Roman times and makes a dry white wine that white wine lovers enjoy… I personally prefer a red. I have been on two winery tours since arriving in Austria and they were both very worthwhile. In the tours you obtain a sense of the wine production methods, quality control and how intensely important wine production is to the people who live in Lower Austria.

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Apricots (marilee) are another main crop in the Wachau Valley. They were introduced to the region before the Romans arrived, more than 2000 years ago. While wine grapes are mainly grown on the slopes of the left bank of the Danube, the largest apricot growing region comes from the right bank near Rossatz. The area orchards are often referred to as the “apricot mile.” So far, I have enjoyed the jam and liqueurs that are made from them. Soon, though, there will be an abundance of fresh apricots on sale everywhere here. I will be stuffing myself with them!

Just as wine is sacred to the residents of Lower Austria, apple strudel is sacred to me!!! Every restaurant and bakery has an abundance of sweet apple strudel, served warm and enhanced by vanilla sauce and / or real whipped cream. I enjoy the strudel any time of the day but especially at breakfast with a nice, aromatic coffee. Frankly, I haven’t found an apple strudel that I didn’t enjoy!

That’s the update from Austria today. I hope you enjoyed my observations about local wine and foods!

The Architecture is About the Lines

Hello, Friends.

The past few days as I roamed through parts of the Wachau Trail in Austria, I came to realize that I am taken not only by the beauty of the buildings and ruins but also by their simplicity and unique architectural lines. As I see these buildings with lines that are not straight, have bulges, and often lack symmetry, I understand that I am finding them to be very beautiful. I look at the craftmanship that has gone into the buildings and see works of art.

imageFor example, today I enclose two photos taken in Durnstein and Krems. One is of a Krems house that was built in 1210 and the other is ruins from the Durnstein Castle built in the twelfth century. IMG_0248Notice the lack of symmetry in the house and imagine the castle ruins taking structural shape based on the rocks high in the mountain overlooking the Danube River.

Of course there are architecture representations where engineers of the day constructed buildings that have almost perfect lines, like the Steiner Tor built in the fifteenth century. This photograph isn’t mine as I just can’t seem to capture it well. But it is beautiful at the western entrance to old Krems.

IMG_0271There are numerous statues in Krems many IMG_0181of which are depictions of religious figures. One that I have not yet learned about was constructed in 1682. It appears to me to be an old knight, possibly from the crusades. Crusaders traveled this way.

Signs of Spring are everywhere now! The apricot trees are in bloom and soon the millions of grape vines will be growing again on the Wachau Valley slopes on both sides of the Danube River. Both apricots and wine are specialty products in this area and I am looking forward to enjoying them throughout the Spring and Summer.

One last photo for today is taken from the castle ruins in Durnstein. King Richard I of England was imprisoned here in 1191 on returning from the crusades. The castle overlooks the river valley below, the town of Durnstein, and the numerous vineyards. The Wachau Valley is a very beautiful place!

All for now!

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“Old” is a Relative Term in Krems, Austria

So the past few days I have been out and about in Krems, Austria and there is so very much to absorb here! Yesterday alone I walked over 7 miles in awe! I am like a sponge soaking up Krems and I admit it is overwhelming! I will be writing more in the future about what I am seeing and doing as well as my reflections of this beautiful, historic town and area along the Danube River.

As I have said previously, Krems is “old” and I am so consumed with the architecture that I am rapidly filling the memory in my iPhone as I take one photo after another. But today I felt like I have to draw a line otherwise I would be taking pictures of everything! So the line I drew is this…unless it has some particular aesthetic value, I want to take photos if the structure (or whatever) came about prior to 1600! So that, for now, will be my guide for photographing and sharing “old” Krems.

FullSizeRender (4)Krems is the eastern gateway to the Wachau Valley which is a World Heritage Site. Today I want to share with you a photo of a local fountain and the story that goes with it, The fountain is near my apartment and is of a man on a knee before a woman with the inscription “SIMANDL”. I thought it was a man proposing marriage but it turns out that “simandl” means “henpecked!” The monument is about the story of the town’s men and, in this case, a man imploring his wife to give him the house key so he can participate in a man’s night out! You can read more about this very interesting fountain at this link here.

The food is terrific! I have eaten pork in many ways and there are so many cafes to grab a fragrant coffee, bold wine, or warm strudel in vanilla sauce. Even though it was cold today, I along with others ate fresh-made ice cream! Who can resist a cone for 1 Euro (about $1.10)!

More soon, my friends!

From 28 C in Mijas, Spain to 5 C in Krems, Austria!

I Love SpainYesterday I arrived in Krems, Austria where I am residing on holiday from Mijas, Spain. It was a chilly 5 degrees C (41 F with snow flurries) when I arrived in Krems which is in stark contrast to the 28 degrees C (82 F with people sunbathing on the beach) when I left Spain!

After six months in Spain my lease had expired and people are returning for the hot Summer. My plan has been to stop next in Austria for several months and Krems became my choice after visiting in January. I am posting a few scenes of the architecture in Krems.

Krems 2The town of approximately 25,000 may be the oldest in Austria. A few years ago a child’s grave was found in Krems and is thought to be more than 27,000 years old! The town is along the Danube (Donau) River and is easily accessible by train to nearby Vienna and elsewhere throughout Austria. Many tourists will soon be arriving by bus, boat and train to explore hiking trails, the river, food, culture, architecture and nearby castles. Since I like these things too, I will be a tourist for the next few months!

Krems 1On arrival my landlord recommended I eat at El Gozo in Krems. It is his favorite restaurant so I met Lu, the owner. She is recently from Madrid and enjoyed helping me order tapas and wine. The food and value were outstanding and I have written a separate review of the restaurant on TripAdvisor. What a coincidence arriving from Spain and eating my first dinner at the sole Spanish restaurant in town!

After eating I had planned to shop for groceries… after all it was only 8:00 PM. Lu reminded me that in Krems, the grocery stores close at 7:00 PM which is sharp contrast to life in Spain where things are just beginning then for the evening! So I went grocery shopping today!

More to come so please return to my blog in the future and read about my adventure in Krems an der Donau!

Auf widersehen!