Linzertorte!

I have always wanted to make Linzertorte.  We never had the equipment to make it while we lived in Austria – our small kitchen had only the basics, i.e. no food processor, or tart pan.  Winter is long here in Missoula and now that we are back in the states, an invitation to a late-winter dinner party with request to bring dessert seemed as good an opportunity to try it.  I’ve given up desserts for Lent but allowed myself one small slice of this delicious raspberry and hazelnut yummyness to make sure it was acceptable.  More than acceptable! I doubt God will mind. :-)

This torte is said to have originated in Linz, Austria.  You can read more about that here.  Meanwhile, grab some hazlenuts and start baking!  You can use a variety of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) and various jams for filling, but I prefer the hazelnut and raspberry combination.  This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit’s Linzertorte with Cranberry and Apricot filling, here.

LINZERTORTE

slice of linzertorte - raspberry-hazelnut goodness

slice of linzertorte – raspberry-hazelnut goodness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of cloves
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 large egg yolks, divided ( 2 and 1)
  • 2 teaspoons of 1 whole lemon peel, fine grated, reserve remainder for filling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Filling

  • 1 cup seedless good quality raspberry jam
  • Remainder of grated lemon peel

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut piece of parchment paper to fit removable bottom of 10-inch diameter tart pan.

  • Combine 1 cup flour and nuts in processor; blend until nuts are finely ground. Add remaining 1 cup flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon; blend 15 seconds. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until coarse meal forms. Add 2 egg yolks, lemon peel, (and vanilla) and process in pulses until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; Knead gently; divide in half. Flatten half of dough into disk; wrap and freeze 10 minutes. Press remaining half of dough over parchment-paper covered bottom and up sides of 10-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Mix together raspberry jam and grated lemon peel. Spread filling mixture evenly in crust.
  • Roll out chilled dough between sheets of parchment paper to 11-inch round. Peel off paper. Cut dough into 1-inch-wide strips. Carefully move strips, placing 5 strips across top of tart, spacing 1 inch apart. Top with 5 strips arranged in opposite direction, forming lattice. Trim ends of strips; press to crust edge to seal. (or roll out pencil thin string from remaining dough and press around edge of crust where lattice meets it.) Brush dough strips and outer crust with egg yolk mixed with a little water.
  • Bake tart on cookie sheet until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Place tart on rack. Cool tart completely.
  • DO AHEAD Can Should be made 1 day ahead, as this gives flavors a chance to meld and soften the crust a bit.   Cover loosely with foil and let stand at room temperature. Push up pan bottom to release tart. Cut tart into wedges.
  • Serve with ‘schlag’ (“Schlagobers” – whipped cream stabilized with powdered sugar) and a few fresh raspberries for garnish.
  • Note:  This dough was a little bit hard to work with. Did not roll out super-easily or pick up easily in strips as it was a bit brittle.  I wonder if adding ¼ more butter to dough mixture or kneading more would help? Also tart did not release easily from sides, but was fine once the tart was cut for the first wedge. Came apart easily.  Might consider slightly greasing sides?

Options:  could sprinkle almond slices on outside edge, all around and brush with egg to cement in before baking.  Could pipe stiff whipped cream all around edge before cutting.

Auf Wiedersehen aus/von Österreich

Our time in Austria is coming to a close.   This will be our final blog posting from Österreich.

 

We’ve spent the past few days walking around the city we’ve grown to love:  a last look at Karl Franz Universität; one more church visit –Dreifaltigkeitskirche (the Ursuline Holy Trinity Church), built on the site of the early city moat; shopping for some gifts; trying out a few new restaurants (tapas and traditional Styrian haut cuisine); and stumbling onto some surprises along the way (a Big Band playing in the Hauptplatz during an passive energy fair; a race up to the top of the Schlossberg).   It seems each time we walk, we run into this kind of thing!

 

main building of Karl Franz Universitat, Graz

 

Bill at the well before his office building

checking out of Graz; changing our meldung (enrollment) at city hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

water display at Jakominiplatz

Big Band Music - Jazz is basically the same everywhere! (they even have the same playbook our son, David, does!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

race to the Turm at the top of the Sclossberg

love the shoes! they matched his outfit, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

church across from Schlossbergplatz (Ursuline Holy Trinity church)

Bill and his Gekochter Tafelspitz vom Almo at Stainzerbauer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

me with our shared Steirisches Schokoladenmousse mit Rhabarber-Erdbeerragout

me with our shared Steirisches Schokoladenmousse mit Rhabarber-Erdbeerragout

 

the Renaissance courtyard of Stainzerbauer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve also set aside time to be with some of our fondest acquaintances here in Graz – Sebastian, the blooming ornithologist (look out David Sibley!); Steffen and his family; Christina and Gernot, with whom we visited Christina’s childhood home and family on a farm and their alpine Hütte (hut), both on the border with Slovenia, only 1 1/2 hours from Graz, where we were fed (again) and warmly welcomed.

 

The Birk family

 

Sebastian and Martina

Gernot and Christina outside at her childhood home near Eibiswald

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the bell tower of a small church high on the border of Austria and Slovenia

 

 

 

looking over at Slovenia

 

OE = Oesterreich

RS = Republic of Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am standing in Slovenia

we were standing RIGHT THERE when the bells started to ring at noon (101 times!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

looking toward Graz - der Schöckl is the large mountain with the flat top

 

 

our dinner after the hike to the church on the border of Slovenia

these flowers looked totally artificial but they were real!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had to change tables three times.  Once to move to a larger table than the only too-small table  available when we arrived, a second time to give a larger family a bigger seating area; the third time because the person sitting next to us dropped his mug of bier and it went all over my hiking shirt, Gernot’s trousers and shoes and the seat cushions.  The person wasn’t drunk or anything – the glass was simply slippery!

 

 

Oma Bertha (Christina's sister in law) and Annelena

Gernot teaching Annelena to play soccer - no wonder these European teams are so good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

opening the hut

Christina raking - there is always work to be done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the spring outlet - water in Austria is mostly UNtreated and totally drinkable. Bill did have some suggestions, though, to help with the ants living in the wood and to keep them out of the water supply!

window in the hutte; the hutte was built by Christina's sister - no electricity, a cellar for a fridge; and absolutely quiet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve weighed the bags and are reasonably sure hopeful that the scale we borrowed is accurate and that we are underweight on everything!

 

 

As we leave we will surely take with us the kindness extended, the smells of the woods, the breathtakingly beautiful scenery, the amazing food, the sheer history of this place. We’ll remember, ein bisschen, the dust, which invaded our apartment no matter how often we cleaned!  Graz is known as a UNESCO City of Design (or maybe it is trying to gain this coveted status).  On one of the storefront windows that slogan was crossed out and now reads:  Graz, City of Design Dust.  ♥  As well, we will recall the smiles of children, how people helped us as we stumbled through our Deutsch, which did improve some during our stay.  Wirklich! (although certainly not enough to write this episode auf Deutsch!)

 

We’ve seen here many things which remind us of home—the love of nature,  the prevalence of areas set aside for children, the treasure of music and art, the participation in activities out of doors, the attention to silence, the passion for learning.  There have been differences as well, namely how much these Austrians (and other Europeans) walk everywhere, how knowledgeable they are of world affairs, and how they actually take time time for den Genuss und die Freizeit (pleasure and leisure).  Yes, you still see the interruptions of Handys (cell phones) and Fernsehen  (televsions), but people actually take time to linger with friends at a cafe, walk through the woods, sit by a pond, or just stroll on one of the pedestrian Straßen.

 

 

boy getting ready to slide onto the next station in the Kletterpark near our apartment in the woods

 

 

the rowboats wait on the Teich; when we came the pond was frozen

 

Today, as I am writing it’s the United States celebration of independence, the 4th of July.  What comes to mind, however, is not independence but interdependence.   Spending some months actually living, observing, and being in another country allows one to see just how similar are the people of the world and how much we need each other.  How much we all –regardless of nationality–long for peace in the world.

 

peace rose in the garden of Schloss Seggau, near Graz

 

Tomorrow, 5 der Juli, we will lift off from Graz with a last ride down through the Leechwald and fly to Frankfurt, Newark, Denver and touch down in Missoula more than 24 hours later.   We won’t mind the trip through, because we are coming home to this.

 

 

Our new granddaughter.

 

The Austrians are fond of saying  ‘alles ist gute’ when you shake their hands to say goodby.  I would add to that, “alles ist Gnade” (grace).  We’ve appreciated the support of all our friends, Austrian, French, Swiss, German, and American, and we thank you for reading along as we’ve spent these last 4 ½ months where the hills are most certainly alive with more Gemütlichkeit than you can even imagine and for which we are so very grateful.

 

 

view of Graz from the south

 

Servus and Auf Wiedersehen aus Österreich!

 

 

 

 

 

At last, the Alps!

Six days prior to leaving Austria, we were mourning the fact we hadn’t been able to get into the real mountains of of this beautiful land, which some people say begin in Carinthia; others at the border between Germany and Austria.  In truth, they are both correct as there are three major ranges of the Alps in Austria namely, the Northern Calcareous Alps, Central Alps, and Southern Calcareous Alps. They run west to east across the country of Austria. The Central Alps are mostly granite and consist of the largest and highest peaks of Austria. The Northern Calcareous Alps run from Vorarlberg to Salzburg through Tyrol along the border of Germany. Some of it is also found in the Upper Austria and Lower Austria near the capital city of Vienna. The Southern Calcareous Alps are located on the Carinthia-Slovenia border.  Both of these ranges are mostly limestone.  These are high mountains, but the peaks seem very impressive because you are starting at such a low elevation from the valley floor.

 

On Wednesday, Bill’s colleague at Uni-Graz wondered if Bill would like to go with him and one of his graduate students into the western part of Styria to do some field work! This trip would take us into the eastern edge of the Northern Calcareous Alps.  Part of the research area is located within the Gesaeuse National Park .   I tagged along!  We were so thrilled!  We visited four valley locations (near Johnsbach and Aich – ~ 600 m.) and then drove almost completely to the top (few guardrails + narrow roads = glad I wasn’t driving!) of two of the peaks (~2300 m) at both places.  The purpose was to make some discharge measurements of springs and collect electronic water level data.  Some fancy equipment came along (computers, water level measurers, etc.) but also ordinary things like buckets, a hoe, and table salt!

 

The scenery was beyond beautiful and the weather could not have been more perfect!  Everywhere farm fields reached up to the forests, guesthouses welcomed travelers, flowers and cows dotted the grassy meadows.   The farmer and gasthaus operator who owns the land where Johnsbach (means John’s Creek) flows, has created a Kneippanlage, a place to experience the method of water therapy made popular by Sebastian Kneipp.  (We would see this kind of thing again!)

 

While the scientists did some work at the place where the spring emerges in the valley, I tried out the Kneippanlage.  (Anything to help my poor toe!) It was definitely colder than Flathead Lake and I was reminded that clear running streams are always deeper than they look from the surface!

 

We finished the day on top of the last peak, hiking to the beautiful, easily reached lookout point high above Gröbming and the Ennstal: the Peace Chapel of Emil Ritter von Horstig.  There’s a rope you can pull to ring a little bell, after making a wish or saying a prayer.

 

The Friedenskircherl was built in 1902 by Emil Ritter von Horstig in a rocky niche. What makes the Friedenskircherl interesting is not only its exposed location, but also that it is not affiliated with any denomination. Emil Ritter von Horstig built the Friedenskircherl as a memorial for all believers. The famous Styrian writer Peter Rosegger was walking to the Friedenskircherl in 1904 and wrote: “What should I write in these mountains full of sunshine, I can only be silent in prayer and blessed.”

 

Genau.  Exactly.

 

location of alps in Austria

 

 

 

 

view from the meadow at Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

another view from the meadow, Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

Johnsbach, Austria looking toward the Gasthaus

 

 

 

Johnsbach, looking up to the fields

 

 

such impressive peaks!

 

 

reminds me of bladder campion

 

 

scientists at work

 

 

cows coming home

 

 

 

 

the path back to the spring at Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

the Kneip (place of healing) at Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

 

"water fountain", alpen Austrian-style (very common!)

 

 

view from the bench where I took a catnap

 

 

heading up the mountain above Johnsbach, Austria

 

above Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

flowers here at the higher altitudes, too

 

huts above Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

the stream that becomes the spring above Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

mountains as far as the eye can see, above Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

Gasthaus at Johnsbach, Austria

Gasthaus at Johnsbach, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bringing in the hay Gasthaus at Johnsbach, Austria (maybe the scenery makes the work not so hard?)

 

 

to the Ennstal Valley

 

 

 

the farm where we picked up the key to access the research area and road to the peak

farmhouse - they almost all look like this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gauging the stream in the Ennstal Valley

 

 

spring drinking fountain (I drank) in the Ennstal (note dowsing rod in foreground!)

 

 

canyon at Ofen

 

 

another Kneippanlage!

adventure park Ennstal Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

heading up to the Stoderzinken

 

 

looking down on Gröbming

 

glacier on the Dachstein near Ennstal Valley near Aich and Gröbming

 

 

on the trail to the Peace Chapel

 

 

Dr. Gerfried Winkler and his Master's student, Christian - there is always a gasthaus in Austria!

 

 

how would you like to have this playground in your backyard?

 

 

wind vane at gasthaus on the Stoderzinken

 

 

we turn for home

More Music, this time in Graz

We’ve experienced three out of four seasons in Graz.  When we arrived, at the end of February, it was still winter.  Snow thinly blanketed our hill and road, although there was none in the city.   It was cold, and we needed every bit of the winter clothing we brought with us, including the snow boots.  Freeze and thaw brought on mud season.  Spiritually, it’s a rich time; literally, it was awful keeping the flat clean from all that mud and dirt!

 

How quickly that changed in  mid to late March, when suddenly buds starting popping and patches of green took over the space outside.  Why is it we are always so surprised by Spring’s appearance?  Buds gave way to flowers, which have stayed with us progressively as the weeks have passed.  There is always something blooming in the woods, here.  It’s one of the sensory things I will miss about Graz—the smell of these woods.  It brings back memories of those early formative years when I galloped with my chums through the deciduous, creekside woods near my childhood home.

 

Now it’s summer. The birds are still singing outside our windows, and some are on their second or third broods.   Buildings sport colorful hanging flower baskets and boxes; plaza plantings have filled out from their early tentative beginnings and it’s hot!  We won’t be here for Autumn, which we are certain will be just as glorious.  But we experienced the Four Seasons, nevertheless, in a musical performance on Tuesday, June 28.

 

Our friends, Christina and Gernot, are part of the Verein Sakrale Musik Graz-Mariatrost, a choir about 80-strong, which sings at the Bascilica several times a year and in other parishes as well.  The choir is celebrating its 25th year and for this celebration, as well as the 225th birthday of the Maria-Trost parish, they performed Haydn’s Four Seasons.  The three soloists, choir and orchestra soared! We had the German libretto to follow the lyrics, but it really wasn’t all that necessary, as the music itself is such a great ‘tone poem’ of the cycle of life.

the plaza at Mariatrost before the concert of the 4 Seasons (Haydn)

 

always a beautiful view from Maria-Trost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gernot and Christina before the concert

 

 

the choir and orchestra after the concert

 

the altos with angel! Christina Aigner-3rd row

Gernot Aigner (dark hair with beard)-top row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the soloists

Last visit to Vienna: music in the key of life and death

Our last full day in Vienna, June 26, was a Sunday.  The Vienna Boys Choir sings Sundays at the Imperial Chapel, but one pays 10 € for hearing them at a church service, and tickets are hard to get.  Instead, we took Rick Steve’s advice (for once) and headed for the Augustinerkirche, and equally lovely church, also part of the Imperial complex, where excellent music happens.  Lucky us!  We managed to arrive in time for the Anton Bruckner Mass in E Minor, plus a whole lot more.   The service went on for 2 hours!  But fortunately we had comfortable chairs (instead of sitting in the rock hard pews or standing up) and we didn’t mind.  How could you mind when listening to music in that setting?

 

Augustinerkirche

 

After that, we walked around the Innerstadt

 

water fill up/fountain on Graben in Vienna--Mountain Water take note!

 

Donner's fountain to the rivers in Neumarkt Platz

 

 

detail of fountain

 

man digging for coins in fountain to the rivers in Neumarkt Platz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and visited the Capuchin Church, home to the crypts of the Hapsburgs.   The crypts are beautifully ornate and I find it interesting that death is actually acknowledged, personified and raised here to a level of art, rather than glossed over in a shiny casket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detail of tomb of Elizabeth Christine

death = life veiled?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detail from the casket of Kaiser Karl VI

 

 

We then moseyed over to the MuseumsQuartier, in hopes of finding some live music from South Africa, because we had seen a poster for a South African Festival being held there.   No music, just a lot of art and crafts, but interesting none the less.  Also a fabulous imperial looking sandcastle!

 

 

sandcastle at Museumsquartier

 

The MuseumsQuartier plaza-a lively place

The Leopold Museum is in the MuseumsQuartier and was open.  Hooray, at last!   They have a fabulous permanent collection of Egon Schiele as well as a decent grouping of the works of Gustav Klimt.  What is even better, (unlike the MUMOK), they also have very good explanatory notes in German and in English!  The current ‘exhibition’ was on photography and Ansel Adams was included there!

 

 

Egon Schiele - still life flowers

 

detail of life, from Life and Death by Gustav Klimt

 

 

Ansel Adams photos on display: left, Rocks and Limpets, 1960

We finished our day by walking back to our hotel, taking in the sights along the way.

 

 

reflection along the street in Vienna

 

Having access to all of this art and art history has been fabulous.  I think I will look at what I see in Missoula with new and expanded eyes.

Thanks for reading!

Wachau Valley: On the “blue’ Danube

(note: it is possible to see photos in larger format by clicking once on them and then clicking again.)

 

After consulting wetter.com, we picked Saturday, June 25, as the better day to head up river on the Danau (Danube) to explore the Wachau Valley in Lower Austria.  It’s famous for the production of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines as well as scenic beauty.    Our plan was to catch the train in Vienna through St. Polten, where we changed trains, and then on to Melk.  From Melk we would ride the boat up river to Dürnstein, and then take the boat back down the river to Krems, where we would get the train back to Vienna.  Sounds easy, right?

 

memorial (to children of Holocaust) statue in West Bahnhof on way to Melk

 

Mostly it was.  The train station agent wasn’t sure if we could use the KOMBI ticket on either day (our choice of Saturday or Sunday, depending on the weather). We could (up to 10 days after purchase) and she finally found the information that confirmed this.  The train ride to Melk was fascinating….loaded with bikers and their bikes.   The ride up and down this route along the Danau is gorgeous and not too much of a strain.  We’ve never seen so many helmets assembled at one time!

 

bikers disembarking at Melk and this was just a fraction!

 

 

Melk is famous for the Abbey at Melk, a Benedictine monastery that dates from the 11th century.   Melk was first built as a fort, then a castle for Austria’s Babenberg rulers in the 10th Century. Sitting atop a hill, the location was an ideal spot for trade, to watch for approaching enemies and/or to admire the sheer beauty of the Danube River and the surrounding countryside. In 1089, Leopold II, a member of the Babenberg family who had become unhappy with the town’s reigning clergy, transferred Melk to Benedictine monks. They converted it into an abbey which is now recognized as one of the finest in the world.

It has since undergone many challenges (fire in 1297, Turkish Wars in the early 1500′s,  occupation by Napolen’s and Hitler’s troops) and reconstructions.  The current construction in the baroque style dates from 1711, with a more modern 12-year renovation completed in 1995, financed in part by the sale of the abbey’s Gutenberg Bible to Harvard!!!  The Abbey houses a superb gymnasium (high school) of which our tour guide was a graduate!  The old imperial residences are part of the tour, as is a well-done museum, and the world renowned library. Formal and informal gardens surround the buildings.  It’s also home to a community of monks, although at least half of them live outside the cloister, doing their work.  (This is typical for Benedictine orders.) The monastery is supported by the agriculture from the lands it owns and tourism.  The town of Melk is beautiful as well, with old streets, and quaint shops.   We ate lunch there before continuing on.

 

The Melk Stift (Abbey)

 

 

 

follow the yellow brick road (gold for Abbey, blue for Danau)

 

wedding shots in the garden of the abbey

Benedict's Way - a side path in the garten. This was accompanied by piped in choral music!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

part of a series of monuments: Uns ist in Paradies

herb and vegetable gardens at Abbey Melk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

top of the gate to the Abbey

Imperial hallway, now part of the Abbey Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

front of the Abbey

looking out on the Danau Valley from the Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ladder and bookcases in Abbey library-home to 100,000 volumes (ancient and new)

the marble hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ceiling frescos of the Melk stift

stairs up.down with mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the view from St. Coloman Courtyard - named for an Irish prince martyred near Vienna in 1082. He's buried now at Melk.

 

After several attempts, we found the DDSG Blue Danube Prinz Eugen (remember Prince Eugeny of Saxony, from the earlier post about Vienna?).  It was necessary to exchange our KOMBI receipt for an actual ticket onto the boat, a fact no one told us.  We could recommend that they label the ticket offices, as really, there are at least two other boat companies!  We stepped aboard and they pulled up the gangplank!  Couldn’t believe we were the last ones on, but we are so glad they waited for us!

 

last ones on!

 

the Melk Abbey from the boat

 

The ride up the Danau (I am sorry Johann Strauss II, nowhere did we see blue water – that must be for the headwaters or perhaps this is the high water time!) is breathtakingly picturesque.  We have decided we really like the relaxing ride via boat.  (who knew? maybe a cruise is in our future!)  More quaint towns and castles drifted by (notably Willendorf), along with a ready-to-go bonfire with scarecrow(?) hanging over it.  We haven’t been able to figure that one out.  Usually there are big bonfires on Summer Solstice, but we were way past that!  We could see bikers along the route as well as residents having fun!  We dodged rain storms all the way up. (so much for wetter.com or as Bill says, it’s a forecast!)

 

The Danau-decidedly not blue!

 

castle at Willendorf

 

ready bonfire with effigy and maipole

 

families enjoying the river - including a ropeswing

 

another castle on a steeply terraced vineyard hillside

 

and more vineyards

 

the Danau is used for tourism and commercial barge travel as well

Now, there's a name we recognized-Admiral Tegettoff

 

The next stop was Dürnstein, home to a castle which imprisoned Richard the Lion-Hearted in 1193.  While the weather was partially sunny (and hot) we hiked up to the ruined castle—warning, short legged people beware or make use of the rack beforehand—and down by a dirt road.  The region invites rock climbers and we could see those brave adventurers, as well as great views, from our perch.  I am not sure how they do it without getting blown off the face of the earth!  It was very windy at the top!

 

 

this way up!

 

 

where we are going

 

great views but we aren't there yet!

 

 

still not there

 

this was--er--the path

 

the top

 

stop on the way down

 

through the archway we spy.....another Abbey!

 

looking down on Durnstein

 

 

and people rock climbing

 

We met a couple from California on the boat, and together we hiked down from the castle and visited a gracious and hospitable wine-producer.  He invited us for tastes (tastes here meant full-fledged pours of wine).  After glasses of two different wines, learning he was a retired school principal with a new kidney, a tour of his production equipment, and a sampling of his schnapps, we stumbled made our way down past his vineyards (all picking is done by hand due to the steep terraces) through the little shops lining the pedestrian-only street of Dürnstein and then realized it was probably time to go!  Next time, Dürnstein would be a great place to spend the night.

 

old Durnstein

 

wine tasting

 

and the winemaker

 

his vineyard (and is that another castle ruin, up there?)

 

Unfortunately, the boat ride from Dürnstein to Krems was canceled for the afternoon, and it seemed as though the train was not coming either (the office was closed).  We found a bus stop, and waited for the bus along with at least 20 other people.

 

waiting for the bus

 

We all squeezed on and the bus driver, who knew the schedule for the next train from Krems to Vienna was tight, drove like he was qualifying for the Le Mans, calling out queries about necessary stops along the way.  People hollered back, “Ja” or “Nein”!  If no one needed to get off, he just sailed right through!  We hopped on the train with moments to spare and got off—surprise—at Spittleu in time to see the Hundertwasser thermal plant in full daylight.

 

back in Vienna - hundertwasser power plant

 

Now THIS is blue!

detail of the stack

 

 

What a day!

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Going Away Heuriger

You know time in Austria is drawing to a close when you receive the memo and invitation for a going-away Heuriger**  for all Fulbright grantees.   How did all these months slip by so quickly?

 

We headed to Vienna once again for this event, on June 24, and because Bill was helping with interviews for 2010-13 student Fulbright grantees on Monday, we stayed the entire weekend. This meant we were able to attempt an exploration of the Wachau Valley (up the Danau), a simple (?) day trip out of Vienna.  Sweet!

 

It was great to see all the people we had met in early March, and compare stories and experiences. (We had missed the mid-way point seminar in Altemarkt due to my back injury.)  The party was also for Austrian students and grantees who were soon beginning their Fulbright in the USA.  We had a great time, even when the skies opened and it poured buckets for 20 minutes.  On the way home we came through an umsteingenpunkt (exchange point) at Spittelau where we saw the thermal (garbage burning)  plant, a fabulous creation by the artist Hundertwasser.  His work is known all over Europe (maybe also all over the world), and was on my list of things to see.   I nearly jumped up and down.  OK, I did jump up and down!  So excited, even if it was almost too dark to see it!

 

outdoor garten at the heurigan; inside - the music, which is traditional at heurigans; Bill with Fulbright colleagues Isaac and Jim; staff of Fulbright office

 

an entire street of Heurigans, and the rain!

Hundertwasser thermal plant

**Heurigers are restaurants that are licensed to serve only their own (produced) wine; usually this wine is ‘new’ wine.  They are normally limited to serving a buffet of foods, not offering a selection from a menu.  There are lots of Heurigers (from the German Heurig meaning  this year’s) in Vienna; they are comparable to the Styrian Buschenschanks I wrote about early on.

Sommer Spaziergang

We are at the height of summer now in Graz.  It’s hot in the days (high 70’s to mid-80’s), and often humid.   Colorful flowers adorn all the plazas and hang over the balconies of the buildings.  Thunderstorms appear frequently in the late afternoon or evening, sometimes accompanied by hail!  Still, most days are glorious with bright blue sky and sunshine.

 

 

We spent one day with ‘interesting skies’ (that is, looking like it might rain at any moment) walking around and seeing some of the sights of Graz we hadn’t really looked closely at yet.

 

Come along!

 

At the end of one of the downtown Graz passageways is the Landhaus.  It’s termed the ‘Renaissance Jewel’, one of the prime examples of secular high renaissance in central Europe. Created by/for the Protestant nobility, the Landhaus has a central courtyard with well.  The well is of cast bronze and dates from 1590.  The little statue is modern, although he kind of looks like Krampus‎.

 

The landhaus in Graz

 

 

love those Renaissance arches and decorations (downspout)

Walking away from the Landhaus, one soon comes to the River Mur.  Several bridges cross the river and most are bicycle-friendly.  We borrowed bikes in Graz but didn’t use them much, as it was difficult to get up and down our hill with the skinny tires and just as daunting to navigate the streetcar tracks!

 

In the middle of the Mur sits a curious feature – the Murinsel.    It’s on a floating island (but anchored), and is a restaurant accessible from either side.  It also features a performance area and playground for kids.

 

Crossing the Mur; the Murinsel

 

Here it is at night.

 

photo by: Taxiarchos228 from http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Graz_-_Murinsel1.jpg&filetimestamp=20110206172849

 

On the other side of the Mur is the Mariahilfekirche, a parish celebrating their 400th year of existence as a parish church, which places its origin at 1611!   The baroque church is also the home to the Franciscan Kloster – with a beautiful and playful courtyard and inside, the crypts of the Eggenberg family.  We often see brown-robed Franciscan brothers walking around the city.  The original Franciscans actually arrived in Graz around the 13th century.

 

crypts of the Eggenbergs, Mariahilfekirche outside, statue of St. Francis

 

Mariahilfekirche courtyard, plaza with schlossberg in the background, interior of church

Not far from Mariahilfe is Graz’ modern art museum, the Kunsthaus.  It was dedicated  in 2003, as part of the activities when Graz was the European Capital of Culture.   The Murinsel also dates from that time.  Unfortunately, we will miss the opening of the Ai Weiwei exhibition in September 2011 !

 

The Kunsthaus, and Jakominiplatz at the height of summer

 

 

Graz is a really walkable city.  We’ve trekked all over the downtown area and through the university areas, plus our around where we live.  We’re still finding out about other parts of town.  Our friends, Gernot and Christina, walked us to dinner the other night – for about an hour and a half!   We met them at Jakominiplatz (downtown), went through the city park, with its fabulous fountain, and sweet smelling trees, past the university stadium (where a sports fest was going on—it lasted until 4:30 am the next morning).  We ended up, actually, more on our side of town, at a semi-rural gasthaus known for great beer and Styrian backhandl.  Then we walked home.  I hope all this walking will counteract the food and the beer!  We don’t have much time left to enjoy it!

 

In Grazerstadtpark: fountain, trees, and monument to Kepler's planetengesetze (planetary laws); also a large tree on our trek to the restaurant (upper right)

 

A small hike: nach/aus der Schöckl

On our 2005 trip to Switzerland, we discovered the joys of ‘civilized’ hiking! By that, we mean, a ride to the top of a mountain via a funicular or gondola, and hiking around, to the next valley and down another train …. but not before wandering across a quaint hut selling yoghurt or absolutely the freshest cheese imaginable, or coming ‘round the bend to find a full-scale restaurant, or sitting down to peach cake and beer in a guesthouse plopped right in the middle of a meadow.

 

valley with huts in Switzerland

Friends here in Austria had told us of places like this in Austria (that is, in most of the country) where huts for food and resting were available in the alms (or meadows) of the high peaks. (Hiking ways and guesthouses are also available in the areas that are necessarily mountainous.) We had hoped to be able to do a real trek to one of these higher destinations, or between several, but have simply run out of time!  So, one weekend, we did the next best thing:  we went to the Schöckl, a popular recreational peak 1400 m. above sea level, and about a half-hour away from Graz (ele. 365 m.).  It is known, somewhat jokingly, as Graz’ ‘Hausberg’.

 

the Schöckl from a distance

 

If really good maps of the area exist we couldn’t find any, but downloaded something from the internet.  Our plan was to take the funicular up and hike down. After a bus ride from Graz to St. Radegund bei Graz, we found ourselves at the funicular station.  Everyone disembarked and immediately headed to the bakery counter in the lobby where they loaded up on honey buns and cinnamon rolls.  We decided to wait to get something at the top!

 

Three restaurants appeared at the top along with a playground, a bobsled-like ride, communication towers, and gorgeous scenery.   We figured we’d hike around the top and then try to find the correct route down.  There were several routes – one basically straight down, and others that ran more around the mountain.  The latter is what we were aiming for – not too steep but not too long a hike, either, plus we wanted to end up in the same town where we started.

 

 

the tram station at the top of the Schockl, playground on the edge, the toboggan run, hut

 

 

two Germans we met on the bus; one of three restaurants at the top, communications tower

 

wildflowers everywhere

 

At the top we found a curious structure, a wooden platform of some kind.  We asked some other hikers about this (auf Deutsch) and they explained (in English) that it was the take-off platform for the hang-gliders.  Now that we know something about, except if this were in the US, it would be surrounded with big “danger” signs, or maybe a locked fence.  We could hardly believe how close some of the hikers (and their children) came to the edge!

 

 

take-off point for the hang-gliders, the view

 

We struck up a conversation with the men.  As with every Austrian we have met, they were interested in what we were doing here, (assuming we were on holiday). We, of course, were interested right back in finding out about them! They wondered if we wanted to have a bite to eat or drink in one of the small seasonal huts.  Naturlich! This hut was not an ‘established’ restaurant, but the family who ran it had permission to operate because they also summered their cattle on the mountain.

 

Florian and his dad, Rudolf; flowers; cross at top of mountain

 

We shared the table with the people already inside, who were having cold ‘buschenshank’ type food, or toasts, or cake.  Our new friends ordered hot tea with schnapps, which was another new experience for us!

 

little hut, inside, outdoor restroom (notice how brown is the tree!)

 

At the end of our snack, Florian and Rudolf asked if we wanted to walk down with them and catch a ride back to Graz.  It was, they said, only a hike of about 1 ½ hours. (point to note:  these men were quite physically fit!)  For most of the way, it was basically straight down, over rocky terrain, or through woods.

 

these were not dairy cows; heading down, looking up

 

 

I am not sure we ever would have found whatever trail we had intended to take, as there were a lot of signs pointing in many directions, but to us, the numbering system was not all that clear.   On the way down, we had a great discussion of Austrian and US politics, school systems, and the general state of affairs in the world.  Both Florian and his dad were articulate and well-traveled, with a good deal of knowledge of current events beyond their own borders!  We find this often in Europe and wonder how many Americans can claim the same?  We learned more about how the forests in Austria are managed:  and that while there is ‘state’ ownership, a great deal is privately owned, by individual farmers, or ‘clubs’ and the Roman Catholic church!  This conversation was also great because it took my mind off the fact that my left big toe was being hammered against my hiking boot.  (yes, I am going to lose the nail, now. Time for new hiking boots!)

 

and down....a 'club' guesthouse, flowers

 

Our flat was on the way to theirs but the first stop was a rural guesthouse not too far from us, that we didn’t know existed.  It was Father’s Day in Austria (a week before the USA celebration of the same) so they stopped to pick up some “to-go” desserts from the guesthouse bakery.  Naturally we had to do the same!  The best part of that?  The warm vanilla cream sauce sent home in a jar!  Most often you see vanilliesauce served with apfelstrudel, but they gave us so much we ended up using for days on every possible food we ate!

 

looking down one of the valleys; flowers at the end, by the car

 

One of the pleasures of our Austrian sojourn has been seeing the beautiful scenery – the villages tucked away in lush valleys and surrounded by towering peaks.  But even more memorable are the connections we’ve made – heart to heart and mind to mind – and the generous, spontaneous hospitality of the Austrian people.

 

I hope that one day, as Arnold said, ‘we’ll be back.’

Back in School

As an educator, I had hoped to be able to see for myself the differences in the Austrian and N. American school systems.  There are some differences.  The day for the Austrian children begins at about 7:45 am and is over by 12:30 pm.  Kindergarten is not public.  Childcare and extra classes (like English) are offered after school but these are fee-based programs.  There are other differences as well, most notably that children enter the ‘high school’ or gymnasium at about age 11, provided they have the test-derived aptitude, and proceed after that to university (which is free for all Austrians!) after graduating at age 18.  At university, one can attend classes or not;  one merely has to pass the test at the end of the class to receive credit but there is NO time limit in which to do so. (well, in Bill’s class at Uni-Graz, there is a time limit, because we won’t be here after the June 30th end to classes.)   Children not passing the end of primary school tests can proceed to a Volkschule where they can learn technical trades and skills (electricians, hotel industry, etc.).

 

At the primary school level where my friend Christina is a teacher, in Nestlebach-bei-Graz,  the teachers stay with the same group of children for the entire time they are in the school.  She’s had this group of 8 and 9 year-olds since they began at age 6 and will have them for 2 more years.  It’s a small school (maybe 120 students) and the relationships between children and teachers, and teachers and families are close.

 

In so many way, though, the schools are the same.  (I did notice how unfailingly polite these children were and the respect they had for each other.)  There are many academic levels represented, even within the same class, and, of course, the helpful ones, the ones that need to be close to the teacher, the ones who are strongly independent, the ones who have that certain ‘spark’ in their eye  -  great intelligence and perhaps also ein bisschien mischief mixed in.

 

I was fortunate to spend two days in Christina’s classroom.  The first visit, we sat in a circle and I taught them English songs.  We sang some of the same songs we sing in my classroom.  They sang back to me some Austrian songs, one with the SAME tune as in the USA, and some beautiful folk songs in harmony, and as a canon.  Christina uses a guitar in her classroom and leads the School Choir.  I watched the group, with the Headmistress of the school, practice a folk dance they would do in a Folk Festival for parents later that month.   Children recited poetry for the class, and presented research projects on squirrels and on the skeletal system.   I was impressed with the level of scholarship, even though I could understand only a few words.  (This is when one realizes the importance of visuals!)   As you can see the classroom is rather typical, with children’s work hanging up and around on the walls.  Compared to many classrooms in the US, the computers are old…..but this is a small school in the ‘countryside’, so perhaps technology is not as easily obtained, at least financially.

 

 

Christina's classroom, my project, their project, the playground in back, complete with stream!

 

I attended the folk festival, with performances from all the classes, on a late Friday afternoon.  Among the similarities of proud parents, lots of cameras, squirmy brothers and sisters I have these two comments:  1) I doubt you’d ever see a school in Missoula holding an event on a Friday afternoon and 2) at the party afterwards, you’d never have beer and wine served!

 

 

Children sing and dance; presentation to a descendant of the Hapsburg family!

Listen to one of the songs at the Festival  here.

 

The second visit included a presentation by me about Montana – I brought in a ‘poster’ and also made a slide show.  But the main part of the day was a field trip to a woods about a half-hour away from the school.  These children who live in Nestlebach-bei-Graz need no introduction to the woods.  They live surrounded by them, at home and at school.  But it was fascinating to see the ‘nature education’ provided that day:  everything from wood economics (logging, hunting) and identification of animals and plants to team building games and skills.   We arrived on a large, and comfortable bus (for Missoulians reading, think ‘beachliner’).  The children on the bus did what children do everywhere – they chatted and laughed and pulled out their electronic devices:  ipods, smartphones, and handys (regular cell phones).  Once in the woods, they were attentive and engaged.   These woods are mixed – deciduous beech and oak, coniferous fir and spruce.  They are quite hilly and at the last station we came to a cliff with a rope to hang onto while we descended and OMG, am I going to have to go down THAT? descended a ravine (by rope)   to a creek where there was a rope bridge.  I did the descent by rope but opted to jump the stream in order to take pictures while the kids came across.

 

on the bus, bus backing up, arriving at the woods

 

 

looking back from the woods; orientation, learning about forestry practices

 

learning about wild forest animals

 

 

dogs are used for hunting!

 

 

time for snacks, a juice stand in the woods, plant identification

 

 

the living bridge

 

picking berries and eyeing beetles

 

 

climbing down the ravine and over the creek

 

 

After that, we returned to by bus to the school. I was glad we didn’t run into any other busses on the narrow road out.  On our trip to the woods, we met another large bus which had to back all the way up the hill to let us pass!

 

The hills this day were certainly alive, with the sound of children!