During the past five years I have blogged about my adventures and observations of places, people and their cultures. To my surprise, my stories have been read by people in 73 countries around the world!
The worker statue in Mijas Pueblo in Spain reminds me that most of my stories sprang from adventures and explorations. These adventures began on the side of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Southern Spain.
This story, my 100th, is like a fireworks display… lighting up the sky with brilliant flashes with loud blasts! It commemorates those stories that I find most enjoyable.
This story is dedicated to those who have encouraged and inspired me to write and to those who read what I have written.
In the past several years I have traveled throughout several European countries and grew fond of really great coffee. I believe that most people have not experienced the aroma and smooth taste of truly great coffee.
It isn’t that I think of myself as a connoisseur or an advocate of beans from specific places throughout the world. I also don’t believe I am a snob because I rather enjoy a cappuccino or a latte than a cup of black Americano.
This story is about exceptionally great coffee with a particular emphasis on cafes and coffee in Europe. Like the one in this photo inside Cafe Konditorei in Vienna, Austria, many European cafes sell delicious pastries along with exceptional coffee. Fantastic coffee, pastries and food are also found at the famous Cafe Central, also in Vienna
My blog exploration adventures are presently followed by people in 56 countries. During the past two and a half years, my regular readers know that I like to write about interesting aspects of my life during my travels. Sometimes my topics get a bit personal. Even though I have readers, I remind myself that I write this blog for myself and I try hard to not offend anyone.
In past stories I have reflected on the effects of apricots in “Are You Regular?” and the potency of wines while lamenting in “One Too Many.” In the spirit of the song “Dance to the Music,” I present my story, “Peeing to Sounds of The Blue Danube Waltz.”
How do I write a story with a theme that is intensely horrific? How can I grapple with remnants of history and do it in a way that makes sense of an extremely painful period of human existence?
How can I write a story with full knowledge that it will be incomplete, inadequate, and certainly more deserving than the feeble words I present?
It is with these questions that I write a story that I have avoided for two years even though I knew I wanted to write it. This story is about my exploration of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria and Vienna’s “Nameless Library” Memorial to its 65,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
A few days ago I moved into my apartment in beautiful Vienna. Not only do I love Vienna (having blogged several times) but also the apartment is quite nice.
A beautiful stairway leads to the third floor of my apartment. The apartment has interesting uniqueness such as the beautiful 19th century parquet flooring which makes wonderful creaking sounds as you walk on it.
Just as the snowfall in Brno reminded me of home, hearing the creaking also reminds me of growing up in Somerset, my hometown in the USA.
Yesterday was my departure day from Austria and the conclusion of my current exploration there. I am returning to Spain from my holiday and I am heading to the Costa del Sol, Sun Coast, on the Mediterranean Sea. Once again I will reside in Mijas Pueblo through winter because the temperature doesn’t approach freezing and, most importantly, the choice to be in snow is mine. I choose NOT!
During my last few weeks in Austria I have been reflective of my exploration and the people, places, and culture which I have blogged about and reminisced through photos on Facebook. Before leaving Austria I went to Stadtpark, City Park, in Vienna one final time. It became one of my favorite places in Austria. Envisioned by Emperor Franz Josef, the center city park was set aside for people like me and future generations to enjoy the wooded paths, the pond and the wildfowl that take to it, and the serene escape that comes with it. Classical music from Shubert, Strauss, Mozart, and many others is celebrated in the park with memorials lining the walking paths.
With autumn in Austria, the evening light is dwindling, leaves are turning colors, and the reflections in the pond foretell the coming of snow and cold. On my last park exploration I stood by a child tossing bread to the ducks and enjoyed watching people snapping photos. I saw an elderly gentleman with a heavy tan blanket on his lap, confined to a wheelchair and his wife standing behind him watching the activity. Although his expression didn’t change you could see the same joy I felt as I looked into his eyes.
As evening approached the woman wheeled her husband from the park as the chill in the air intensified; it became time for me to leave. I made my way back to Wolkersdorf to enjoy the warmth and glow of the fireplace one more time. I will return to this wonderful Austrian city again. But for now, I will continue my exploration from the warmth of the Spanish Mediterranean coast where more adventures await in Marbella, Palma, Tenerife, and many other places.
In three weeks the time on the clocks will change here in Central Europe and we will be on “Winter Time.” Summer has come and gone as I spent much of it exploring Austria on holiday and in two weeks I return to Spain.
I have most recently been living in a small village in Wolkersdorf but my travels have taken me far and wide throughout the country to Krems, Horn, Melk, Tulln, Semmering, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck, Villach, the Wachau Valley, and Vienna. Many of these beautiful places, people, and artwork have been captured in photographs that I have shared on Facebook, blog entries and in messages to friends and family.
It is both happy and sad to be returning to Spain in two weeks. I have greatly enjoyed my holiday in Austria and with Winter cold and snow coming and the time change bringing darkness earlier in the day, I am anticipating the warmth on the Costa del Sol and friends there. I will miss the people I have met in Austria, the confectionaries, lattes, apple strudel, wiener schnitzel, and this distinct culture that I have appreciated.
Today’s blog is all about places I have captured in photos while in Austria. I hope you enjoy them!
My initial stop in Austria was in Krems an der Donau. It is one of the oldest settled communities in all of Austria and was an excellent place to begin my Austrian holiday. Many people speak English in all of Austria but especially in Krems. I wrote a few entries in my blog about Krems but my favorite one is here. Following Krems, I stayed awhile in Melk. In Melk I particularly enjoyed the park at the Abbey and wrote about my Melk holiday. Krems and Melk are the bookends of the Wachau Valley. Famous for apricots and grapes for wine, the Danube River flows through the Wachau passing many small villages with Spitz, Durnstein, Rossatz, and Emmersdorf among my favorites. The castle ruins at Aggstein are in the Valley and well worth the visit. I wrote about Aggstein and its famous “Little Rose Garden.” I especially enjoyed visiting the ruins during a Renaissance festival and loved the food and writing about my visit to Aggstein.
In many of the places I have mentioned I went by train and boat to visit towns and cities in Austria. Most notable to me was Salzburg and is certainly one of the places I want to visit again someday. Salzburg is the location for the movie “The Sound of Music.” The scenery in the mountains and lakes is stunning and in the mountains one cannot help hearing Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” While in Salzburg I visited Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” where the beautiful mountain views take your breath away. I wrote two blogs about my visit to Salzburg and Eagles Nest. One can’t help but to be inspired to write in these places with beautiful skies and spectacular peaks.
I have taken so many photos that it is always difficult to determine which to include in any blog or to post on Facebook. Staying in Vienna presented a problem in that there are so many places one wants to visit and if I were to reflect on them all, the blog would be way too long. The city offers so much… classical music by Strauss and Mozart among others, opera, historic, beautiful monuments and architecture, and wonderful food and drink. I narrowed my photo selections to a few and decided to write about the “City of Dreams” from a perspective that focused on present day Vienna as dreams that have been realized. There are also memories in Vienna that are sad such as the 65,000 Jews who never returned during the Holocaust, the NAZI annexation of the entire country during World War II, and the oppression by the occupying Russian forces following the war. Vienna was also the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and there are wonderful and sad stories throughout the history of the Empire. These are captured in the numerous museums throughout the city.
Hiking along the Wachau Valley Trails brings you to many of the famous places I have mentioned previously. There are many selections of trails to take and one can always find solitude and reflection somewhere in the Wachau. Surprisingly often you find yourself in one of many vineyards. The grapes from the Wachau are particularly desired for making Gruner Veltliner wine which is loved throughout Austria and Germany.
Two of the towns in the Wachau Valley are Rossatz and Durnstein. Each are known for many things but my adventures were often focused on taking photographs, eating different foods, learning about history, and tasting wines.
Rossatz in particular is quite beautiful. Located across the river from Durnstein in the Valley, the town is often identified as the heart of the Apricot Mile. In the Summer when apricots are ripe, they are for sale everywhere. In addition to fresh apricots, apricot dumplings are particularly popular. There are all sorts of drinks and syrups made from apricots. But in Rossatz I enjoyed its quiet charm. Many just don’t know about it and the serenity found there in the vineyards, throughout the community, and along the beach. That’s right, there is a beach on the Danube very close to Rossatz. It also turns out that there are several along the Danube.
My excursions have taken me to many fascinating places in Austria and I have captured some of those memories in this blog. I enjoyed my Summer holiday very much and look forward to returning sometime and reliving many of the memories that I have described and many more. So for now I will say “Auf Wiedersehen” from Austria as I plan my return to Mijas Pueblo, Espana, later this month.
Vienna, the “City of Dreams,” is much more than Freud’s dream studies in Vienna. In Vienna, dreams are much more expansive and expressive than his work alone. The ever-changing, diverse city holds dear all forms of artistic culture. The visions of dreamers extend into every aspect of the city at the Staatsoper Opera House and numerous concert venues. Mozart’s, Strauss’ and Schubert’s dreams of beautiful music come alive in Vienna. And native son Klimt’s paintings adorn the city along with Austrian masterpieces in the Belvedere.
Dreams leap to the present from the imperial past and the stately palaces at Hofburg and Schönbrunn and numerous museums depicting Austria’s past and dreams for the future. Public places depict the dreams of emperors from the bustle on the Ringstrasse to the relaxing calm at Stadtpark. Dreams brought to reality are exhibited in numerous festivals like the Film Fest held outdoors at the Rathaus town hall and numerous other sites that attract people from around the world to both visit and to stay.
The visions of past Vienna dreamers have affected and continue to shape the future of Austria and the world. The city continues to set an example for quality of living as it is identified as #1 in the world according to the latest Mercer “Quality of Living Survey.”
During August 2015 I experienced many of these dreams and the quality of life as I lived in the city and have seen how, over time, the dreams have become reality in this City of Dreams.
The Vienna dreamers emphasize remembering the past and you see it everywhere. Be it simple as enjoying a latte in Stephansplatz with Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s bells tolling or a visit to the multitude of museums, it is evident that the dreamers for this city want to leave their mark as a commitment to past memories so that future generations will learn from the city’s past. The Technical Museum is a fine example of this where the emphasis on industrialization and dreams for bettering life live on.
As mentioned previously, music and art abound in the city. Monuments to song and dance reside many places and have been left by past visionaries. The most notable of these monuments is the Staatsoper Opera House where beautiful paintings adorn the luxurious grand stairway and patrons delight as one senses the sounds and sights of beautiful music and dance.
Dreams are also found in the political history of Austria as it was once was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There are grand stories of the dreams of Emperor Franz Josef and his Empress Elisabeth. While Franz Josef was the visionary for much of the way we see the city today, the impression left to us by Elisabeth is quite interesting.
Known as “Sisi,” Elisabeth dreamed of not being tied to royal expectations of court life and lived her dreams by traveling. Her story is fascinating and worth writing a blog about her but I will save that for another time.
Vienna is an enchanting city and it is understandable to be called the “City of Dreams.” One can just feel the presence of the past and the visions of many and their contributions for now and the future. If you have a bucket list item to visit Europe, Vienna is your necessary stop to be embraced by the City of Dreams.
In 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.
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) 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.
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.
Here’s an update on my adventure following retirement. Read about what’s happening and my plans for my next stop.
It has been several weeks since I blogged about my odyssey to obtain my residence card from Spain. Hopefully, when I go to the local police station to retrieve it on 16 February, everything will be found to be in order and I can be granted residency.
A lot has transpired since my last update! Recently I was out for a walk and on a whim just decided to begin hiking up the 1600 meter mountain I live on (see the photo). You may recall from a previous posting that I did this once before in October and got thoroughly soaked. This time I took a different trail and went a good deal higher up the mountain than I had previously. Probably I made it half way up. You can see a picture of the white pueblo in the photo from Fuengriola, Spain. As you can see in the other photo, the views from the side of the mountain where I went to are terrific! Mijas is the white area in the lower left corner and the Mediterranean Sea is in the middle left.
I could have gone much higher on the trail but decided to not for three reasons. Since I was really out for a stroll, I didn’t have proper shoes as the trail became more challenging. I also hadn’t brought along water (not a good idea on a hike) and I didn’t bring any protection if it rained. The getting wet part really was the clincher as the clouds became threatening and were enveloping the top of the mountain. I went back down the mountain to Mijas and it promptly began to rain. I had made a good decision to return when I did!
Other things have been happening also. One day in December I lifted a canister of butane incorrectly and developed a hernia. My tests are complete and my worldwide medical coverage is in place so I am to have surgery on Thursday to fix it. The surgeon, anesthesiologist, and staff are all women and so far the process has been very efficient. I admit though that I am more involved with the insurance company than I would be in the U.S.
Finally, my stay in Mijas will end on 31 March. I have made my next plan to move from Mijas on 1 April. My next stop then will be in Krems, Austria where I will stay for two months. I will post more about Krems in the future. It is a lovely town of about 25,000 inhabitants and is located on the Danube River about an hour by train from Vienna.Here are a couple photos.
That’s all for now from my adventure after retirement! I don’t think about work at all!