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?




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!

Americans in Paris: part 1 of our trip to France

Ah France!  The country of my dreams, thanks to a wonderful teacher in high school who instilled a love for that country.


Monsieur McConnell was a Frenchman, or at least a Francophile, in what appeared to be Scottish skin.  He taught all the classes of French at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia, for quite a while until joined by another colleague.  By that time, I had continued on to the higher levels and his classes were the only choice.  Lucky us!   What stands out is the last year of our classes – beyond Plus-que-parfait, Passé compose, and Imparfait verb conjugations (yes we learned those, too!).  The 4th year Français was a year of immersion in culture.  We conversed only en français, created or ate French food nearly every week, and learned about the history of the country, from Clovis to de Gaulle, who was President of France at the time.  Hugo, Voltaire, Molière, St. Exupery, all came alive in that classroom. When the holidays rolled around, we sang “Un Flambeau Jeanette Isabella” accompanied by Mr. McConnell on his autoharp.


Mr. McConnell’s specialty was art (well, maybe his specialty was languages and music, but he certainly knew a lot about art, too!), and everything remotely affiliated with the French “stream” – which included all the European painters and sculptors, from Romanesque to modern – came alive via slide shows, reproductions, and visits to the National Gallery of Art.  We learned about the symbolism of colors in early Gothic and Medieval art, and wove our way right through Poussin, Fragonard, David and Ingres to Manet, Monet, Guagin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Degas, Rodin, Seurat, Utrillo and Chagall.


These are lessons that have stayed with me right up to this day and, when the synapses are all firing (if you don’t use it you lose it), I can manage une petite conversation, as well.  So, imagine my happiness when we learned we would mount a visit to our friends who live near Lyon, with a short trip to Paris beforehand.  Oui!  It was my first.


We had only 2 ½ days in Paris, and saw everything on our ‘short list’: The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay, Les Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, Champs Élysées, l’Arc du triomphe, La Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame, Musée de Moyen Age, the Latin Quarter, Rodin Musée, L’Orangerie,  Montmartre, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and a boat ride on the Seine.  We met some great people from Paris, Norway, the Czech Republic, and even Cleveland, Ohio!  We walked much of it, even the entire length of the Champs Élysées and up all the steps of  l’Arc du triomphe. We lingered over late dinners and enjoyed leisurely lunches.  We had only un petit incident with a pickpocket without any luck on his part.  Yes, we spent only 2 hours in the Louvre but saw all that was possible at each of the other museums we visited. (And frankly 2 hours at a museum as big as the Louvre was enough.) Once again, staying in a non-tourist area (the 10th arrondissement) allowed a glimpse of ‘real’ Paris, if such a thing exists!  A wonderful experience at the B and B, with a charming, helpful and articulate host who prepared breakfasts that should be framed, (they were so artistic) simply capped it off.


Back then, I am not sure if any of us had any idea of the extra work and time Mr. McConnell put into his teaching so that we could experience ‘France’ with as much reality as American teenagers in the 1960’s could. Remember, this is before the internet and easily accessed information.  Whatever Mr. McConnell presented, he had to do the research first.  By hand.   But I am quite certain of this:  his words ‘stuck’ and his love of teaching (so entertaining) shone through.  He was, frankly, brilliant.   I am a teacher and my daughter-in-law is a teacher, so I have some idea now of just how much of himself this man brought to his fortunate students.  But then I didn’t.  It’s time to say, ‘thanks’.   So les chapeaux off to you, Monsieur Adair McConnell.   Merci, merci!


les petites déjeuners artistiques; our host, Jozsef; courtyard of B and B


Day One

scenes from le Louvre



at the Eiffel Tower



Pont Neuf, Les Tuileries, Pont des Arts, The Musée d'Orsay


The Musee d”Orsay was being renovated, but most of the upper galleries, with all the impressionism, had been moved down. There was also a top-notch (and very popular) exhibit of the works of Édouard Manet, who is often confused with Monet.  As my father would say, “Not the same animal, at all.”


Up the Champs Elysées - transport, woman begging, l'arc, view to La Defence, King Tut


Day Two

the amazing Sainte-Chapelle! (favorite church ever!)


orchid from our b&b; palais du justice, l'arc in our 'hood, Notre Dame


While Notre Dame was lovely also (we stayed through part of the Mass for the Ascension of Christ),  with some amazing relics and carvings (not to mention the rosette windows), we so enjoyed the Musée du Moyen Age, housed in the former l’hôtel de Cluny.  This is not a hotel, but the headquarters/residences of the abbots from the Cluny Abbey (Burgundy) when they were in Paris.


les fruits de mers; Cluny Museum (of the middle ages) - Latin Qtr.



Lady & the Unicorn (Sixth 'sense' part) tapestry, Dürer stamp, The Annunication


By afternoon, we were at The Rodin Museum with verdant gardens – a nice respite from the sun.  Rodin’s work is so powerful and evocative.


Hôtel Biron at the Rodin Museum, The Kiss, detail from one of groupings

We finished with l’Orangerie, a tribute to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, but also a home for other great art from Picasso, Renoir, Rousseau….really, is there anywhere in Paris that great art is not?


details of Water Lilies, Picasso The Adolescents, a young artist


We were not completely finished with the day, however.  After this, we climbed on one of Les Bateaux Mouches for a ride down the Seine, with approximately 1000 998 other people.  And then topped it off with dinner at Chez Francis while we waited for the Eiffel Tower to begin twinkling.  Chez Francis wasn’t the top of the food chain, gastronomically speaking, but it has an unimpeded view of the Tower….location, location, location!

Bridges, Twinkling Tower, Bateau, St. Genevieve, from the back on Pont de la Tournelle

Bridges, Twinkling Tower, Bateau, St. Genevieve, from the back on Pont de la Tournelle


Day 3


We finished our stay in Paris with a morning trip to Montmartre, that hilly part of Paris that was (is) home to artists, Sacré Couer Bascillica, windmills, great food, and, now many tourists!   We found tasty boulangeries and creperies, interesting art, a movie shoot, and some unexpected sights!   Parisian writer Marcel Aymé lived in Montmartre, and is immortalized with a bit of artwork not far from his former home.   He wrote  Le Passe-Murailles, which roughly translates as “the walker through walls,” a short story about a man who discovers in mid-life that he can pass through walls.   The windmills were part of the culture of the hill, which housed many bakeries that needed, well, flour to create the small brown bread of the same name (galette) sold with a glass of milk.


Sculpture, artist, pâtisserie, Le Moulin de la Galette, Sacre Coeur

We left Paris but not before we took a few more photos of the environs.


metro station, crepe maker, le Moulin rouge, fire fighters in our neighborhood of Paris

On the way to Lyon

We left by the Gare de Lyon to Lyon, on the French high speed train (CVG):  two hours nonstop!  (oh, how I wish the US would get ‘on board’ with rail travel!)  The Gare had a great little ‘refreshment’ stand, sponsored by the water companies we are sure, to encourage people to rehydrate.  We were only too happy to oblige!


Gare de Lyon, place de la bastille monument, rehydration station


Et bientôt, Lyon!

Vienna Walk-About

The great thing about many European cities is that they are immensely walkable.  When we’ve stayed in Vienna for a few days (mostly due to Bill’s professional meetings) I’ve had the time for and pleasure of walking around.  Sometimes there is a small trip via the well-positioned and timely U-bahn but mostly it’s step by step.  It’s my favorite way to explore a city.    Maybe you don’t get to all the tourist destinations but you see so much more that way.

Quite near our favorite pension just off the Grauben, there are two lovely but quite different churches and then a little further away, the amazing and in-the-throes-of-reconstruction Karlskirche.  Vienna is primarily a city that exudes Baroque/Rococo and Neo-classicism.  Aside from Stephansdom, in its Gothic splendor, many of the churches and Important Buildings reflect the embellishment, massiveness and, to modern eyes, sometimes-over-the-top gilding of the late 17th century to early 19th century architectural styles, inside and out.  Ruprechtskirche, a Romanesque church, and the Secession building, offer refreshing oasis in the midst of all this opulence.

Here are a few glimpses of some of the sites and impressions in my walk about Vienna.

On the way to Karlsplatz, one finds the lovely museum, the Secession, an icon of the Secessionist movement in Vienna. From Wikipedia: “Unlike other movements, there is not one style that unites the work of all artists who were part of the Vienna Secession. The Secession building could be considered the icon of the movement. Above its entrance was carved the phrase “to every age its art and to art its freedom”. Secession artists were concerned, above all else, with exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition.”  The building is commemorated on the Austrian € 0,50 piece.

a bit of whimsy! Love it!









Across the street was a surprise, however!  The Nashmarkt – hello Missoula Farmer’s Market X 100 !  Asparagus in 3 varieties: white, green and wild, cheese whose smell knocks one over, fish, meat, flowers, prepared food from any culture you can name!  Too bad it was only 10:00 AM and not time to eat or drink!



As one heads from the Nashmarkt to Karlsplatz, you find the unexpected:  The  Vienna University of Technology with some pretty interesting ornamentation, the old Karlsplatz stadtbahn station (another icon of The Secessionist movement), a park with children, ducks on/people by the reflecting pool in front of the Karlskirche, and someone setting up for maybe an outdoor concert.


And then, right there, is Karlskirche, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI’s tribute to his saint namesake (Charles Borromeo), in gratitude for the end of the plague (1712).



It’s huge.

Inside it’s as baroque as they come,










but the outside is perhaps more famous, with the huge dome and the two towers of bas-relief.  They are working on Karlskirche, restoring the frescos and other elements.  You can take a ride almost all the way up to the very top, and then walk up the rest of the way, so I did.  (You know, in the US, they would never permit people to do this!)  I doubt I will ever be as close to a ceiling fresco again.  It’s amazing how UN-detailed the painting is close up!



view from through a high window, ceiling fresco closeup, money=prayers, the way up


Rick Steves says not to bother with the museum that is also part of Karlskirche but I bothered anyway.  Aside from a wonderful exhibit of modern photos of the church, there was an exhibit of various depictions of Christ.  Amid the drawings and sculptures by school children,  there was this, by artist Oskar Kokoschka whose work I had also seen in the Belvedere a few days before!


Later that day, I wandered into the Peterskirche, another baroque church, and just in time for a horn and organ concert.  If I had been on some kind of timetable, I would have missed it altogether!  This clip is actually from the rehearsal, just prior to the concert.



The next morning, I strolled past Peterskirche, and over toward the Danau Canal, and Ruprechtskirche, quite possibly my favorite church of all I’ve seen in Vienna.

Although there is currently some debate whether the Ruprechtskirche is truly the oldest church in Vienna (possibly founded between 796 and 829), it is simple in design and felt  like an oasis to me.   It is dedicated to Saint Rupert of Salzburg, patron saint of the salt merchants of Vienna and is located in one of the oldest parts of the city, the section of the Roman Vindobona. It’s not a parish church today but used for religious meetings…maybe even meditation?  I had a little conversation (auf Deutsch) with the caretaker who was present about the age of glass (~700 years old).  The one you see in the center below is  Romanesque.


Ruprechtskirche was notable for the absence of tourists – only two other people and myself were there that morning to enjoy the stille.  But we were the lucky ones.

Thanks, as always, for reading!






Beauty in the eye of….

Vienna is a wonderful city for art.  From classical to modern, it has both in abundance.  On several trips to Austria’s capital city, I’ve had the chance to take in some of each.  In early April, I spent nearly all day in the Kunsthistoriches, Vienna’s collection of pre-modern art.  In early May, I spent maybe too much some time at the MUMOK, one of Vienna’s modern art museums, and then more time at the Belvedere, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s  ‘country’ palace and one of Vienna’s first public art museums.  Some art I had hoped to see was either ‘on loan’ to another museum (good for them, bad for me!) or simply rotated out, but there were plenty of redeeming works to make up for it!

The Kunst has an extensive Reubens collection, a smattering of some from one of my all-time favorites, Caravaggio (the wizard of ‘lighting’ in oil paintings), and a whole roomful of huge assembly of Breugel, to say nothing of a few by Rembrant, Bosch, Dürer, Raphael, etc.

Madonna of the Meadow - Raphael

Caravaggio - the passion of Christ













Hieronymus Bosch

Bruegel - Peasant Wedding















Imagine coming ‘round the corner, expecting but not finding Gone were most of the Arcimboldo works of ‘portrait vegetable art’ – but how could I complain? They were on loan to Washington, D.C. and Italy!



Equally enjoyable was watching modern artists try their hand at reproducing the masters.














The MUMOK (MUseum MOderner Kunst) is the largest Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Central Europe with an extensive Collection of international Art from the 20th Century and the Present.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t thoroughly check the website before going or I would have learned that much of the collection of was rotated out.

The minimalist abstract art exhibit wasn’t all that bad – it was good for its genre, but there was so little of it.  (heh heh)


Richter - Fuge in Red and Green


However, I started on the bottom floor with “Actionism” and some VERY disturbing photos/videos of self-and other-mutilation.  Perhaps that is the point – to shock.   I found it just plain creepy. And  I didn’t see anyone trying to reproduce this stuff!


John Cage’s music action was simply great, however!  See it here.  My parents used to watch I’ve Got A Secret.  It was funny to hear it dubbed in German! (no dubbing needed for the actual music however!)


But there was nary an Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Jasper Johns and Roy Liechtenstein to be seen anywhere. Boo!

In between the extremely noisy exuberant students who were having a lesson with docents,

group of young students meeting; this was at their quietest. Mostly they were running around all over the rooms!











I found these two gems!

Paul Klee - Boats and Cliffs

Kadinsky - Obstinate









Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely support that art museums encourage love and knowledge of art at an early age and keep right on doing that up through older age.  And I am not the ‘don’t touch the books and don’t make noise librarian-type’, but the activity did make it a wee bit hard to concentrate or even hear the audio guide!  Sometimes the art becomes the people IN the museum, which is maybe what actionism is all about!  The fact that I am still thinking about all that modern art is a testament to its gift to stimulate pondering and discussion!


The Belvedere I visited after our trip (on non-trip) to the American Embassy (whoops – we needed to visit the consulate instead – that’s in another part of town!).    Side note:  A sad sign of the times, apparently – the American Embassy is cordoned off from the rest of the world, where as the French embassy is on a beautiful street, merely surrounded by a simple, elegant wrought iron fence.

The French Embassy in Vienna

The US Embassy in Vienna












No photos were allowed inside the Belvedere, but there I found a happy marriage of the old and the new(er) in this museum devoted mostly to works by artists of the central European region.  The medieval art – the carved altarpieces, and sculptures were stunning.  Works by late 19th and early 20th century artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka both delighted and probed.

All photos courtesy of the Belvedere Museum website.

Gustav Klimt - The Kiss

detail of Znaim Altarpiece











The Kiss is like an icon, both figuratively and literally, with so much gold overlay!  The Znaim altarpiece is the biggest one I have ever seen!  It must have been 15 feet high!

Oskar Kokoschka - TigerLion

Egon Schiele - Embrace











The extensive outside grounds had lots of potential but the gardens were still ‘in preparation.’  It was a cold and blustery day!

Upper Belvedere Palace

Looking toward Lower Belvedere Palace and the Stables

Statue near Upper Belvedere













Patterns of (potential) garden between Upper and Lower Belvedere

Cascade of waterfalls and fountains in the middle of the walkway











Next time I will post about some of the churches we’ve seen while in Vienna.

Thanks as always, for reading!

Castles, wine AND chocolate – can it get any better?

Just when I thought we had experienced the ultimate in excursions on Friday, our friends Christina and Gernot called to ask if we would like to go out with them on Saturday.  “Natürlich!” we said.  That has to be one of the coolest words in our auf Deutsch vocabulary. It manages to get in all the hardest to make sounds.

So, we took the tram over to the central exchange point,where we saw a demonstration against eating meat.  What?  In Austria?


told by cop he needed to park differently - ended up blocking trams

We got on a second tram and rode it to the end of the line, which was to a place called Mur Park. The Mur is the river that ‘runs through it’ here in Graz.  Bill was expecting a large city park, but whoa…what was this?  A shopping mall!  Just like the City Park mall, maybe bigger.  Funny, calling places of consumerism ‘parks’.  Since we were heading out of town, a place that offered ample parking on the side of town closest to our destination was the best place to meet our Austrian  friends.

They said they were taking us to some places maybe we would have a hard time getting to on our own and that we would spend the whole day seeing things with some surprises thrown in.  Loved it already!

We headed East out of Graz.  The map below shows the quick way.


The road to Riegersburg


Gernot took instead the slow way, winding through the beautiful Styrian countryside.  I don’t know what to compare it to in the US – upstate New York, maybe, or the palouse of eastern Washington with more than wheat.  It’s full of verdant rolling hills with good roads that curve their way past assemblies of houses and farms.  Make that fruit orchards (apples, pears and GRAPES).  In the US we cultivate apples and other fruits mostly in rows of trees; here, as in northern Italy, they are mostly grown staked out like grapes.   At one point we went through a newly constructed tunnel; Gernot rolled down the window to check the sound level as we zoomed through. Gotta love those engineers! 🙂

“Had we ever been to a castle?” was the query.  Not in Austria, unless you count the berg in Graz.  Well, today, we were visiting a proper castle, one that was both a fortress and a dwelling place.  We could see it from a long way off.


Riegersburg Castle

That’s the castle up there on the basalt formation.  It is actually located just at the southern border of Eastern Styria,  in what is known as Vulkanland.   The fortress itself is built on the ancient cone of a long-extinct volcano.  It was never conquered, due to its impenetrability and steep paths.  It was THE strategic outpost against the Turks and the Magyars and anyone else who wanted to invade from the East.

Here is another view of it from the other side.

another view of the castle - check out those cliffs!

As most of you know, castles exist mainly for protection.  In case enemies would come, the serfs in the surrounding village could make their way up through the (sometimes double) moats of the castle and numerous walls into the interior where they would be protected. This castle has double moats, three kilometres of defense walls with loopholes, seven archways and eleven bastions.    It was quite a hike up; I imagine if adrenaline had kicked in, it might have been a faster trip!  A  cable-train on the north side of the castle can take you up in 1½ minutes but it wasn’t open for the season yet. (and I doubt we would have taken it, had it been open.)


Bill, Christina and Gernot - Castle Riegersburg - first gate/archway


hiking up the basalt road

The basalt road is rutted from years of use by wagon wheels, first wooden, then iron.  Yes it was really that steep!


basalt and 'arrow windows'

This gives you a good look at the ‘arrow windows’, so shaped so the archers on the defense could fire down, but arrows fired up would have a harder time getting through the opening.  With such defense, maybe boiling oil wasn’t necessary!


arrow window

The doors (open for us today) were clad in iron and further had a small door for people but not, presumably, camels. (or horses)


small door - 'wicket' in English castles. Christina called it the 'eye of the needle'.

the people door in case the main door was closed

We were among the few people at the castle this day.  There was a group of maybe 20 people on a tour, and a few other families, but that was it.  The castle itself opens for the season beginning April 1, or the next weekend.  But that was ok by us. Another place to put on a list of ‘visit again’!

The archways are supported by giant blocks of basalt.

looking through the doorway - blocks of basalt outlining the edges

This edifice has undergone many transformations, as is true for so much of the architecture in Europe.  The first record of a castle here is from 1138, built by a knight, Rüdiger von Hohenberg.  In the late 16th century, the castle was extended in  Renaissance-style  by the Barons of Stadl.  From 1637 on the castle belonged to Baroness Katharina Elisabeth of Galler, who further enlarged the castle and created the ornate baroque rooms that are the venue for many weddings and other events today.  Unfortunately, because the castle was not officially open, we weren’t able to see the interior.  In 1822, the Duke of Liechtenstein acquired the castle and it still belongs to that family today.


And now, I am going to stop with the commentary and just let you enjoy as we did as we walked through.


view of town over the side wall



the wall - one of them, anyway


further up the road - note wagon wheel ruts


one of the towers



vines on the inside


vines on the outside


vineyards everywhere!

At this point, let me interject that this is a BIG HINT as to what we were in store for next.  But I digress.


better view of town and surrounding farms



one of the bastions



our dear friends



onward and upward



the moat


…and the new guard of the moat! Appropriate for this season!

There was actually a rabbit hutch under the drawbridge!   The Liechtenstein Family lives in the village — perhaps their grandchildren care for the rabbits?


the drawbridge


I wonder if this guy is a spy?

the watchful turk



more gates to go through on our way down


More odd creatures on the way down!


beetle at Riegersburg Castle

We couldn’t see the interior of the castle which includes 100 rooms, twenty-five of which are used for the two museums:  one on Witchcraft (and the witch hunts and trials that went on from 1673 – 1675 and which resulted in many women being burned at the stake) and the other on Legendary Women, including one of the owners of the castle who was an independent woman, unique for that time.

We could however visit the castle chapel which was simply gorgeous.

outside the chapel at Riegersburg Castle

Inside, it was dark as usual but light was streaming through the NEW glass windows.  A glorious sight!


streaming light


Best of all we were treated to an impromptu concert by our friends.  Both Christina and Gernot are musicians.  She directs the children’s choir at her school and he plays the trumpet.  They both sing!  Here they are singing an Austrian folk song.  Enjoy!

Right click on the photo and select ‘open link in a new tab’ and the video will open.

From Graz-3-26-11-Riegersburg Castle-KronbergSchloss-chocolate factory with Christina and Gernot

If the day had ended right there, it would have been enough.  Dayenu!

But there was more!  From the castle we visited a small wine shop close to the castle, which offered free tastes of local wines,  bottled juices from the local farms, and handmade gifts.  We tasted several white wines and one very fruity rose but ended up buying only some juices and needlework there, as our friends said we would go directly to the farmer to buy the wine! This is the part of Austria known for its white wines!

That was our next stop!  Bill’s colleagues at the universities asked me not to mention how good these wines are or for what price they are sold.  It’s one of Austria’s best kept secrets.  I just wish I could figure out a way to bring back more than 2 bottles!


wine barrel at one of the regional winemakers

Many of the wine farmers (wienbauern) also run small restaurants, at which they offer their wines.  These buildings are not in the village, but rather out in the hills you can see from the castle.  We parked next to the barn, walked past the apple storage and into the foyer.   We only bought wine and didn’t stay for dinner because we had a few more stops to make first!

Next up was the furniture maker-restorer, Famille Golles-Valda, which took us back over other hills close to the castle.  On the way we passed several odd looking, wind-driven wooden structures, which Christina said were to keep the birds away.   She called them ‘klip-klaps’ so named for the sound they made, although some could be set up to ‘sing’ musical notes!



When we arrived at the Famille Golles-Valda business, the sign said to call for an appointment on the weekends.  Never mind, with typical Austrian hospitality, we were invited in to look around.  The work was gorgeous, mostly antiques which had been totally refinished or restored, although I can see the Keno twins on Antiques Roadshow cringing a little when you mention antique and refinish in the same sentence!

The view of the castle from the business was breathtaking and gives you a better sense of its height!


view of the castle from Golles-Valda

With all this touring we had worked up quite an appetite, although it was only 4 o’clock and we had consumed delicious Styrian apples on our trek up the castle road.  Nevertheless, to the Buschenschank!  These are little family-run restaurants that offer fresh, local fare, usually cold — served on large wooden platters. Some of the Buschenschanken also offer rooms for overnighting, so they become an ideal way to spend a weekend in the country, eating great food and drinking local, fine wines without worrying about driving home!  We ‘ve noticed that Austrians are VERY observant about not drinking and driving.  The driver almost never drinks alcohol.  (This, of course, is in stark contrast to the embarrassing suggestion of one of our 2011 Montana state legislators who feels that drunk driving laws need to be MORE lax.)

Buschenschank Platter

So we ate and had a great time visiting over delightful plates of food.

But there was still DESSERT!  On to the ‘surprise’ which was a chocolate factory, also right out there in the country!  I don’t  know what the factory is doing out there, away from the population centers, but there were tons of other people who also had the same idea as we, so the Zotter family must be doing something right!

Think Tillamook Cheese factory only with chocolate:  viewing windows with chocolate bars riding by, for the taking (if you pay for the tour), free samples of chocolate from the –oh 200 or so–varieties displayed along one wall of the building, tastes from three different chocolate fountains, or try the liquid over a cacoa bean, or best of all, select a grab bag stuffed with chocolate seconds for only 1,50 € ! (That’s what I did!)  The best thing – it’s all fair trade!


omg-chocolate at Zotter Schokoladen Manufacktur & Theater


chocolate conveyor belt


slot machine for chocoholics - it's how you get free samples


rows and rows of chocolate - and this is only a partial view!



oh, and did I mention the candy counters with individually crafted chocolates?


we make for the car with our loot - whose that guy in the back, left? 🙂

OK, now we were saturated with good food, good sweets, good wine and good views.  Anything else?  You bet!  The final stop on our excursion was Schloss Kornberg, another castle, not in the same league with Riegersburg, but beautiful all the same.  Dating from 1284, it’s now a gallery for arts and items crafted in the area.  Christina and Gernot had wanted to show us the display of 5000 rugs from all over the world, but the vendor for that gallery had closed for the day.  No matter, there was lots more to see!


from the Schloss website - aerial view of the castle

Castle Kornberg as we approach


interior Renaissance courtyard of Kornberg Castle



interesting iron work


And the shops had many handgesmacht items, perhaps most impressive of which were the Easter eggs in all sizes and styles of painting!


hand painted Easter eggs at Castle Kornberg

For those whimsical in nature, there were some adornments for the garden.


funny bird garden decorations at Kornberg Castle

They actually reminded Bill and I of some bird ‘art’ we gave his mother, Flora, for a gift one Christmas.  Sapsucker on Rock, it was called. I think she kindly displayed it for a season. When we went through things after her death, we found it carefully wrapped up in the basement. 🙂

Now we were done touring the countryside and it was time to come home.  I had made a fresh strawberry pie early that morning, a real kochen-coup, considering I don’t have a proper pastry blender or pie pan!  So, we came back to our flat and ate pie and talked for several more hours!

I can’t imagine what could top this, but stay tuned, you never know!  Next week we are off to Vienna for some meetings, so I won’t be posting quite so regularly!

Thanks, as always, for reading!


Vienna, the Imperial City

Our visit to Vienna got off to a less than auspicious beginning.   We arrived in plenty of time at the Hauptbahnhof to even have a cup of coffee at, of all places, McDonalds!  Locals here told us that the coffee at McDonalds is delicious and they weren’t wrong.  Here everything is served in a very classy way…even at McD’s, your coffee or cappuccino comes in a ceramic cup, served on tray with a glass of water.  Just the ticket early in the morning.  Afterward, we loaded onto the train and waited.

Bill waiting on the train to Vienna


It is not necessary to ride first class on trains, at least in Austra.  Second class seating is almost as comfortable, and that is how we went.

After 30 minutes of waiting, the announcement came that we must get off the train and make our way out of the station to buses which would take us to the first stop, Bruck an der Mur, (about 57 km north) where we would, presumably, catch the train.  Of course, we understood only a small portion of this almost none of this and were rescued by a nice young woman heading to her finance job in Vienna.  What was to have taken 2 1/2 hours now turned into more like 3 1/2.  Very unusual, we hear, for Austrian trains to break down.  By the time we met up with the train in Bruck an der Mur, the second class seating was completely overwhelmed and we ended up sitting in first class, the only available seating.  The conductor didn’t bat an eye and neither did we.

The trip was great…through the mountains (not the biggest ones), past small villages, into and out of tunnels, to Vienna.  Then, onto the U-bahn (underground train) system of Vienna, catching the U-6, then changing to the U-3 and finally jumping onto the U-2 to reach our hotel.  I was fond of that last train…good name!  What you must realize is that Vienna is like any other big city in this respect, with crowded trains, and almost never anywhere to sit down.  But poles and straps for hanging on are readily available.

Our first night there, we enjoyed dessert of course, with amazing Viennese specialties.

afpel strudel (with vanilla cream sauce and whipped cream) No calories, promise!

mohr in hemd (Moor in skirt)--chocolate overload, if that is possible!










Our reason for going to Vienna was for the Fulbright Commission’s Orientation, attended by most of the Fulbright Scholars in Austria, as we all began our Summer Semester terms.

Fulbright Office in the 'hip' Museumsquartier

The MuseumsQuartier is home to many businesses and nonprofits.  Neighbors to the Fulbright Office are the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, both home to numerous modern and contemporary pieces of art, which we will visit on future trips to Vienna.

The Leopold Museum

The Museum of Modern Art


Everyone but Bill was in history, law, languages, political science, psychology, philosophy, anthropology and art.  Not another natural scientist in the otherwise very distinguished bunch! A few other spouses attended, and some children did as well.  We spent the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday in meetings, learning about Senator Fulbright, the history of Austria, current politics in Austria, US-Austrian-EU relationships, and receiving some teaching and university tips from previous Fulbrighters.  All good stuff. I realized, however, I am not used to sitting all day in meetings! Good thing we had a brisk walk to our hotel each day. The orientation finished with a tour around the Hofburg area–the Ringstrasse— by our host and the head of the Fulbright Commission in Austria, Dr. Lonnie Johnson. He has lived in Austria a long time and is so knowledgeable.  Here are some scenes of what we saw.

looking down on the Hofburg. Main gate to the right

we approach the main gate

From Wikipedia:  “The Hofburg in Vienna is the former imperial residence. From 1438 to 1583 and from 1612 to 1806, it was the seat of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, thereafter the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918. Today it is the official seat of the Austrian Federal President.”  The biggest and most imposing buildings were created at the direction of the Emperor Franz Joseph, who took down the city walls to create both open areas and the buildings there today.  Walking further in, you come to the older sections of the Imperial City.

coaches and drivers wait for business

the Michaelertrakt (Michael wing) of the Hofburg Complex

excavation of roman ruins (stone is Romanesque; bricks are not!)

crown of the holy roman emperor (you can see the real one in the museum)

Schweizertor (Swiss) Gateway-hofburg

Ferdinand Holy Roman Emperor of Germany, Hungary and Bohemia, King of Spain, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy in the year 1552

No I did not remember all my Latin.  Thank goodness for historians on the tour and also google translate!

Michaelerkirche - Hofburg Quarter

balcony from where Hitler made his "anchluss" speech to Austria in 1938

statue of Maria Theresia surrounded by her many advisors

close up of statuary on building--lots of 'power' implied here!

LONE polizei standing guard outside the Chancellor's office. We are not in the USA!

Loos Haus opposite Michaelerplatz

Coming out on the other side, you enter into the business and chic district of Vienna.  Tiffany, Chanel, and all the big names are along these streets.  We window shopped only.  (sorry Kristina)  The Loos building (above) apparently so enraged the emperor that he never went inside. It was too ‘plain’ for him.

Vienna was and still is a city known for its coffee houses.  Many of them were specialized…for politicians, literary types, artists, etc.  Most still exist in some form or another.  Here is the Literary Coffee House.

Cafe Griensteidl, the 'literary' coffee house

looking down Kohl Markt

Volksgarten on the Hofburg grounds

One of the nice things the Emperor did was to create lots of open spaces for the people, these on the grounds that were formerly used to absorb cannon fire in battles for the city.  The Volksgarten looks like it will be beautiful in the Spring.  We plan to make a return trip to see for ourselves.  The Roses await!

covered roses in Volksgarten

Rathaus (City Hall) at dusk

back of Athena, in front of Parliament Building - the word is 'she has turned her back on the parliament'

Vienna’s imperial architecture is filled with nods to Greek Democracy.  Too bad women weren’t part of the official scene back then (unless you  count Maria Theresia).  But not in the official government in the 1800’s.  Maybe that’s why Athena is looking the other way!

Dome as we pass through one of the many gates, covered in netting, for, you know,the pigeons!

Very near this dome is the headquarters of the Spanish Riding School.    It was one of the few places we actually had time to visit, on the Wednesday after the meetings and before we came home to Graz.  We were only able to see the morning exercise and training session, but I was thrilled to see this, having grown up riding and doing a little dressage myself.  Technically, it is absolutely forbidden to take photos, but seeing as how some official photographer was snapping away WITH FLASH, here are some that I magically happened onto. 🙂  The Lipizzaner horses are bred on a farm very near Graz. 

inside the Spanish Riding school arena

The riders remove their bicorn hats as they enter the ring.


this horse and rider are almost trotting in place-the piaffe


We saw the pirouettepassage and even one horse doing the levade (asking the horse to hold a position approximately 30-35 degrees from the ground. ) At the end, the riders line up, dismount, couch their stirrups, and give their horse a treat hidden in their back pockets!


riders dismount and hoist stirrups, Spanish Riding School, Vienna

outside the Natural History Museum in Vienna

Two of the most beautiful buildings are now Museums…the Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum.   We could see many school groups waiting to go in.     Maybe they were from a school like this:


city school in Vienna

These will have to wait until our next trip to Vienna, when we have at least a week to browse.  We can’t wait!


close up of statues Natural History Museum, Vienna