Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Craig Writes;
28/07/13 I am really starting to develop a liking for train travel. Not the crammed in cattle class with five changes in five hours, but the spacious seating and descent foot space of first class train travel. The reality is, that it is not that much more expensive to travel at the pointy end of the train than it is to travel with the baggage. I love the gentle swaying, the click clack click clack, the huge picture windows to look out and feast on the often beautiful passing countryside. It could be sloping velvety green hills with meandering rivers flowing by, cute cottages puffing out thin wisps of smoke from their tiny brick chimneys. Cows grazing in fields or distant snow capped mountains. People riding bikes or tall blocks of city apartments. If they had trains across the oceans I don't think I would ever fly again.

When we arrived in Vienna it was very hot and very sticky. With no obvious taxi rank we joined a young couple of Brazilian girls we had met on the train and proceeded to try and hail a cab. If first impressions count for anything, Vienna's not ringing our bells yet. I'm only judging this by the train station and the cab ride to our apartment and I'm hot, bothered and tired, so no real judgements yet.

Vienna is the capital of Austria and with a population of 1.8 million people, it's quite a reasonable size city. It is commonly know for the naughty Mr Freud and the place where the likes of Mozart and Beethoven used to bump around but we found it to be so much more. Beethoven was such an annoying bastard with his continuous banging on the piano, beating on a drum or clashing of a symbol that his pissed off neighbours made him move 36 times. Now there are 36 nice shiny brass plagues scattered around Vienna saying, Beethoven Lived Here, and they're all true.  

One of Beethoven's last homes
See, it's official
The Celts were the first settlers to get to Vienna about 500BC and a succession of people from one persuasion or another have called it home ever since. In 2001 UNESCO designated the city a World Heritage Site. 

It is a beautiful city
We're looking forward to meeting our friends Nora and Anastas who we had the pleasure of meeting in Krabi Thailand. That seems ooh so long ago now. We're catching up tomorrow and getting to see a bit more of why this the city was deemed to be the 2nd most liveable place in the world, behind Melbourne thank you very much, in 2012. I'm not sure how much credence you can put in some of these surveys, everyone seems to do one, but still. 

29/07/13 We went hunting around this morning for bread, milk, fruit and the main prize, a good coffee.  Mission accomplished. 
We're meeting our new Bulgarian friends today, Nora at 2pm and a later catch up with her fella, Anastas. We had no idea what she had planned for us. We ended up clothes shopping of all things, eating amazing ice cream, drinking more coffee, grabbing a few train rides and a tram ride and ending back at her place in the Grinzing area of Vienna. 
I had to put this in. This is a poster promoting the new Kick  Ass 2 movie hung up in a shopping mall. Can't help but think this might lead to some awkward moments.
Hey mummy, what's a ....?
It was so nice to be shuffled around from one train to another not having to stress with furrowed brow that we were hopping on the right train and hopping off at the right station. We all just followed Nora, taking in the surroundings.    A few tasty local bevvies at their place then, yes you regular readers will have guessed it, lock the kids in with fruit, chocolate, peanut butter sandwiches and a PlayStation and off we headed for a short walk into the little village they call home.

WOW, this is what we were looking for.  That little magical moment that will always remind you of a place. Beautiful narrow streets with houses and restaurants dating back to the early 1600's.

There were so many little alley ways just like this
For centuries now the locals have been allocated small allotments of land where they have been studiously planting vineyards. Most of which now have a restaurant or a guest house attached to them. 
There is an old tradition that when a restaurant/wine house has a vintage ready to drink they hang a small branch out the front with a light above it.

We walked past one restaurant with a framed photo of a grinning Bill Clinton standing next to a wide smiling proprietor. The picture gallery of other guests included Presidents Carter and Kruschev , Telly Savallas, and a host of famous Austrian glitterati.

A tourist trap we are warned so we keep walking down the road to one of Nora and Anastas favorites  where they brew a good local beer, make a mean schnitzel and cook up a local dish of  sirloin steak in a rich gravy with fried onions on top. Very nice.

Beer, meat , good friends and a beautiful girl, could I be any happier!

Len Evans would tear up at the thought of how many bottles these would have opened over the centuries
A couple of beers and a walk past one of the last places that Beethoven stayed in and then back to tear the boys of the Play station. Nora thankfully drove us back home.

30/7/13 What a great day. Started off about 12pm got home about 12am. We met our wonderful new friend Nora and off we went. Firstly up to the heights of Kohlenberg to get the most magnificent view of the Danube and the city proper. 
The magnificent Danube from the heights of Kohlenberg
This is quite a famous hillside, it is where the march of the Turkish Ottoman Empire on Austria was stopped in it's tracks by a coalition of Hungarians, Russians and Austrians. Then we headed back into town for a late lunch then on the road to Kreuzenstein Castle. It's like a mini Hogwarts. 
Just need Hagrid to pop his head in
The outside was a patch work of architectural forms. It's not that new having been rebuilt in the 19th century on top of the ruins of an old medieval castle. Unfortunately the castle is often used as a film location and unfortunately there was a production of a US reality show called The Quest in the process of being filmed so we didn't get to go inside. In fact we almost didn't make it because Nora our Unexplorer took a wrong turn. She's so cute. After the castle it was the boys turn, although they did enjoy catching a glimpse of the castle and having a chat to the carpenters making the set for The Quest. We headed to the Weiner Prater Amusement Park. Fantastic. Open 365 days a year, it has some terrific rides and some great restaurants. 
A very funky slide, the boys loved it
Strapped in and ready to fly

Up up and away
Now that's a good zoom lense
Let the race begin
We could have stayed later, and spent a heap more Euros, but by this time it was approaching about 7.30pm and time to head to the exit and pick up an enormous hunk of roast pork with crispy crackling, coz that's what you do here, and head back to Nora and Anastas place for beers, pizza, salad, archery and of course, hunks of juicy pork and lashings of crispy crackling. 

Have you ever seen a more beautiful picture in all your life?
What we have here is a perfect example of what happens when you take the time to be friendly to strangers. It started on a street in Krabi Thailand with a simple, "gidday" and ended up months later, a blossoming friendship in Austria with two fabulous people, and their daughter Anna, being chauffeured around the magnificent city of Vienna.  

31/07/13. Our last day before leaving and we headed to the Naschmarket to Noras Aunty's Palenchenken restaurant.  We ordered the Topfenpalatschinken.  What's that you ask? It's the best damn crepe you'll ever have, filled with quark cheese topped with vanilla custard and fresh blueberries.  Oh yeh!

Topfenpalatschinkenn, trying saying that after a few beers
After indulging in the best Topfenpalatschinkenn ever we continued walking into the centre of Vienna to see St Stephens church, the most amazing Swarovski store, not that I'm so much into it but they had this stunning crystal block worth about 100k euros, it was quite stunning. 
No change out of a $100,000
Then onto St Nicholas church, compact but very very impressive.

Small but so stunning in it's detail 
We detoured through some rose gardens looking for a taxi and looking across the park saw more stunning gothic towers and spires. We never did get to find out what they were.

The Grand Spires of ...
Finally, we made it home, sushi for dinner and an early night.

Bavaria here we come. 

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