Art's Eltern Sind Da!

...and we're lovin' it. It's so nice to share our city with those that know us best. We've been having great food, going on great outings, laughing lots, and giving them a taste of the Euro life.

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{Art with his parents atop the Schloss at the biergarten}

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{Arturo Sr. bought himself an Austrian style hat within a day of arriving and looks quite dapper sporting it, no?}

This past weekend we went to the Schöckl and showed them some true Austrian scenery. Remember the place where Lindsey and I rode the toboggans?

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{the dog freaking came...on the gondola too. We are those people that treat their dog like a child. Not ok.}

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{Lookin' good, Marilia!}

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They're still here for another week-o-fun and I hate that I still have to go to class M-F. We'll try to take a little trip this weekend somewhere around Graz. This is too much fun. We have my sister and her husband coming the day after they leave too...gettin' spoiled...and we deserve it after a year away!


Vienna in 3 Hours

Since Art's parents have arrived safely (Wednesday night at 9pm) after much uncertainty and longer travel than expected due to volcano bomb in Iceland, I'm keeping this short. We're playing with our visitors!

Here's a glimpse of Vienna from my class field trip on Thursday (a short one):

We had GORGEOUS weather...it could have been a smidge warmer, but let's not complain.

Rathaus (during Christmas each window is a day for the Advent calendar)
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Burgtheater
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Parliament
We sat through a session at the end of our visit. I didn't understand a ton, but did hear the word 'Steuer' every other second. That would mean tax.
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Hofburg Imperial Palace
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more Hofburg
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and more Hofburg from the other side
(and a terrible, huge advertisement ruining the beauty)
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Now onto the main shopping streets and always wanting to sit at the outdoor cafés..but no time for that. We were truckin' it.
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And, don't stop to window shop or you might be blown back from the OUTRAGEOUS prices. Granted you are usually looking at Dior, Chanel or Burberry.
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Part of the Opera House. All the buildings were so big and we were so close, I couldn't get a good shot of most. And I didn't bring our nice camera cause it's a lug.
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Ole Goethe-poo
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outside the Burggarten
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Ringstraße
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Some of our peeps
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Riesenrad
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the flowers were beauty!
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Hope you enjoyed a little Viennese culture for today.

I gotta take a Vienna trip that lasts longer than 3 hours! Last time it was to pick up Elsie and that was just a 2 hour rush
there and back. Good thing I'll be back shortly with my parents and sister in July and we'll hit up the famous Belvedere Museum, Schönbrunn Palace and more that I didn't see this time.


..More...


from ole Billy Bry Bryson:


Now he's heading to Vienna:
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{Nobody goes to Graz. Nobody knows about it. It's the second largest city in Austria (way behind Vienna), but it gets left out. That's ok, though. You know why? Because it's not full of tourists, but it's just as wondey, and it makes it especially nice for those of us living here and for the 12 tourists a year that actually do visit (not counting our families...they are way inflating the statistic this year..the Graz tourism industry hasn't seen such a jump since 2003 when Graz was the UNESCO Cultural Capital of Europe.) And, none of that Salzburg tourist crap here that Bill Bryson wrote about. Just genuine Graz. No fanny packs and white tennis shoes. Just those ugly Euro black ones. It's a hidden treasure.}

I'm only putting a few accompanying internet photos because my class is going Thursday for a day field trip and I will show you my own soon!
{I better get some goodies.}

"There is a curiously durable myth that European trains are wonderfully swift and smooth and a dream to travel on. The trains in Europe are in fact often tediously slow and for the most part the railways persist in the antiquated system of dividing the carriages into compartments. I used to think this was rather jolly and friendly, but you soon discover that this is like spending seven hours in a waiting room waiting for a doctor who never arrives. You are forced into awkward intimacy with strangers, which I always find unsettling. If you do anything at all - take something from your pocket, stifle a yawn, rummage in your backpack - everyone looks over to see what you're up to.... ....and of course there is nothing like being trapped in a train compartment on a long journey to bring all those unassuageable little frailties of the human body crowding into the front of your mind - the withheld fart, the three and a half square yards of boxer short that have somehow become concertinaed between your buttocks...

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"At Vienna's huge Westbahnhof I paid to have a room found for me, then walked to the city centre along the long and ugly Mariahilfer Strasse, wondering if I had been mislead about the glories of Vienna. For a mile and a half, the street was lined with seedy-looking discount stores and customers to match.

...but then near the Hofburg palace I passed into the charmed circle of the Ringstrasse and it was like the sun breaking out from behind the clouds. Everything was lovely and golden.

...Graben and Kärntnerstrasse are two spacious pedestrian shopping streets that dominate the heart of Vienna, and between them they provide Vienna with the finest pedestrian thoroughfare in Europe. Strøget (in Copenhagen, Denmark) may be a hair longer, others may have slightly more interesting buildings, and a few may be fractionally more elegant, but none is all of these things. I knew within minutes that I was going to like Vienna."

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"I went to a nearby Konditorei for coffee and a 15,000-calorie slice of cake and read in the Observer Guide to Vienna."

"The woman at the postcard stand didn't speak English and when I held up a Dürer postcard and asked her where the original painting was, she just kept saying, with that irritableness for which the Viennese are noted, 'Ja, ja, das is ein postcard,' as if I had said, 'Pardon me, is this a postcard or is it snack food?' and refused to try to grasp my question until finally I had no choice but to slap her to the ground and leave." (Oh Billy, I feel your pain.)

Apart from her, however, I didn't find the Viennese especially rude and pushy, which rather disappointed me, because I had heard many times that they are the most disagreeable people in Europe. I was also promised that at the famous Café Landtmann, 'the waiters and cloak-room attendants treat you like shit' and this was certainly close to my experience. I didn't feel precisely like excrement, but the waiters certainly did have that studied air of superiority that you find among a certain class of European waiter. I always think, 'Well if you're so hot how come I'm sitting down and you're doing the fetching?'

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"Vienna is certainly the grandest city I have ever seen. All along the Ringstrasse colossal buildings proclaim an imperial past - the parliament, the Palace of Justice, the Natural History Museum, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the opera house, the Burgtheater and above all the Hofburg, with its 2,600 rooms. They all look much the same - mighty piles of granite and sandstone with warlike statuary crowded along the roofs and pediments. A Martian coming to earth would unhesitating land at Vienna, thinking it the capital of the planet."

And I'll stop there before he gets into Austrian politics and President Waldheim.

I hope you enjoyed these little excerpts. Almost the whole chapter, actually!

I'll let you know my own take on Wien after our little trip!


Blooming Branches

I love me some blooming branches. LOVE 'em up.

Isn't this spread from Southern Living simply beauty?

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Those vases (or antique wine jugs) are wondey. I be needin' some of those on the double.

The article is all about forcing blooms. I just recently heard this term 'forcing' for the first time, and kinda thought it sounded weird. "Forcing Paper Whites" was the title of the article. Forcing them to do what? Grow. Kinda feisty and impatient. Right up my alley.

But, now, there's no need to force anymore as they have decided to come out on their own. Graz is teeming with Forsythia this time of year. And, some of these trees are so dense it's like a big ball of yellow pluff.

We have one outside our window in the front. It's not as full as some, but I kinda like it like that because you can see the branches mixed with the blooms...the best part in my opinion.
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and this one is almost hard to see in front of the yellow house.
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But, pink ones are actually my fave. And we have one outside our kitchen window. Is this a redbud? I don't even know. But, I love this lover.
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{too bad it's been dark and dreary lately}

up close. Can you see the raindrops on her? Damn rain has been here for a week.
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So, that's really all I wanted to share. I'll be back tomorrow with more from Bill Bryson.

Observations of Austria...from someone else

I stopped into our neighborhood library the other day when I had some time to kill before the next tram and just grabbed the first book that caught my eye. It's called Neither here Nor there and it's about an American journalist's travels through Europe.

I immediately flipped to the chapter on Austria and some parts had me laughing, while many had me nodding my head saying, "totally". The book is from 1991, but so many of the author's observations still hold true, of course. I'm gonna share some excerpts with you. It's nice to have someone else do the writing...someone who is an actual writer...and who has been to more places in Austria.

At times he can be harsh, and in my opinion, sometimes tries too hard to get a laugh (believe me, I know about this) but he is honest about what he experiences (all over Europe...not just in Austria).

And, by the way, I love going to the library. We have sort of abandoned this idea in America...at least I had in favor of a trip to Barnes and Nobles and a stop inside the Starbucks. This is budget-friendly and there's a certain fun and sense of nostalgia in going to the library. The building's pretty too:
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So here we go. In the words of Bill Bryson:

"Innsbruck really is an ideal little city, with solid baroque buildings and a roofscape of bulbous towers. It is carefully preserved without having the managed feel of an open-air museum, and its setting is as near to perfection as could be imagined. At the end of every street you are confronted by a towering backdrop of mountains, muscular and snow-peaked beneath intensely clear skies."

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Innsbruck {photo from here}

"..one of my first vivid impressions of Europe was a Walt Disney movie I saw as a boy..The Trouble with Angels. ...what made a lasting indent on me was the Europeanness of the background - the cobbled streets, the toytown cars, the corner shops with a tinkling bell above the door, the modest, lived-in homyness of each boy's familial flat. It all seemed so engaging and agreeably old-fashioned compared with the sleek and modern world I knew, and it left me with the unshakable impression that Austria was somehow more European than the rest of Europe....for the first time in a long while, and even on this trip, I felt a palpable sense of wonder to find myself here, on these streets, in this body, at this time. I was in Europe now."

"This is the down-side of Austria. The same impulse that leads people to preserve the past in their cities leads them also to preserve it in their hearts. No one clings to former glories as the Austrians do, and since these former glories include one of the most distasteful interludes in history, this is not their most attractive feature."

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Salzburg {Photo from here}

"I travelled the next day to Salzburg. I found it hard to warm to, which surprised me because I had fond, if somewhat hazy, memories of the place. It was full of tourists and, worse still, full of shops sellings things that only a tourist could want: Tyrolean crap and Alpine crap and crap crap and, above all, Mozart crap - Mozart chocolates, Mozart marzipan, Mozart busts, Mozart playing-cards, Mozart ashtrays, Mozart liqueurs."

"...The streets of the old town, crammed into a compact space between the River Salzach and the perpendicular walls of the Mönchsberg mountain, are undeniably quaint and attractive, but so overbearingly twee as to bring on frequent bouts of dry heaving...When I crossed the river to the more modern right bank, I found I liked Salzburg much better. A long, quiet street of big houses stood overlooking the Salzach and the views across to the old town were splendid: the ancient roofs, the three domed spires of the cathedral and the vast, immensely heavy-looking Hohensalzburg fortress sinking into the low mountaintop at its back. I had a coffee in a Konditorei where every entering customer got a "Grüss Gott!" from every member of the staff. It was like on Cheers when Norm comes in, only they did it for everybody, including me, which I thought was wonderful."


There is actually more I want to share, but I'll stop with the long paragraphs for now and come back later.


A Year of Life in Graz

It appears I missed my 1 year Blogiversary last week. Yes, that is a term.
First post
was about that tiny bed we had to endure for a month.
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Apple strudel cake for everyone.

That means we've lived in Graz for a little over a year and a month now.

Two or three more to go.

Not that I'm counting down. Ok, some days I do think in those terms. Some days are hard. Most days are normal, live-your-life days, and some days are extra wondey.

Am I glad we did this? Yes.

Have I learned and grown a lot? Yes.

Do I have days when I think "Why'd we move across the planet?" Yes.

But then do I go down the street and get a double scoop of gelato for 2 euros and remember why...for cheap ice cream. Yes.

ha. That's the ONLY thing that's cheaper. That and olive oil.

In all seriousness, I'm REALLY glad we chose this path for ourselves. And, I have to say..I'm kinda proud of myself for doing it. I'm a bit of a homebody and never strayed too far from my Houston (and BIG extended family) roots. College was a mere hour and 15 minutes away, and after a year stint in Washington DC (I did move there alone, and thanks to some fabulous Georgia girls..had the best time), I was back in ole H-town.

I'm not always proud of myself for being unemployed and my progress in the language, but I promise you, IT IS HARD. People think you will come back six months later fluent. Maybe some people do, but most do not. If I was in a situation where I was forced to speak the language, that might be the case. But, it's sort of a catch-22 where you can't get a job unless you speak the language and it is really hard to learn to speak the language unless you are forced to speak it daily in a work setting. So, that's my disclaimer. Please don't ask me to read Der Spiegel like my husband did. {Cute husby is way overestimating my progress.}

It's a different situation in a big, international city like Vienna. There are English speaking jobs available and tons more jobs to start with. Here in our little town of Graz, things are old school and there's not a big job market besides the big employer, Magna Steyr. Kinda like Houston vs. Abilene, k?

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{The blogging station. How nice is it to sit by these windows with my coffee in the morning? A perfect way to start the day.}

So, being unemployed (although I count my German class as employment since it takes 5 hours a day), this blog has been a huge plus. I didn't really realize how much I would enjoy it. It's not for everyone. It does take time... something I probably have more of than most people. And I think it fits my personality/interests well. You're thinking "yeah, your interests are talking about yourself and your dog". Well, not exactly. That's the hard part. Sometimes you just don't want to talk about yourself all the time...and, quite honestly, many times don't have anything interesting to say (at least about yourself).

But, that's the thing with a blog. It's narcissistic in nature. Please forgive me.

The blog has also kept me feeling connected. It's even helped me meet new friends here and it's just been an overall upper in my life.

And, should I be flattered or annoyed to know people have ripped me off?
No shame.
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I ran across this a couple of months ago..my header design and my map! Royalties please.

So, here's to another year? Yep, we're going for it. Stay tuned meine Freunde.

Boris Eltsen Yeltsin Gets a Taste of Her Own Medicine

Elsie met a new friend at the church park this morning. As soon as we turned the corner, I saw an English Cocker puppy that looked a lot like Elsie at 3 1/2 months. It was a boy, though. I believe his name was Schnoopfy? {A German version of Snoopy perhaps?}

He would NOT leave Elsie alone. It's almost as if he thought she was his {quite young} mother. I was laughing because she was getting annoyed...she wanted to be with the big dogs..not with the baby. How does it feel to have someone following you around, Els?

{I had my camera in my pocket...I'm sure Schnoopfy's owners thought I was a bit crazy snapping away....but, hey, I gotta job to do. {and my dog's better than yours..she never barked that much})


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