It’s for the birds!

When we came to Graz, our plan was to rent a car at some point and tour the Austria we had not previously seen, or at least get to some of the places around the Styria we could not easily visit otherwise.  It turns out that so much the area IS accessible by regional train, or bus!  Plus, we’ve had wonderful friends who have taken us with them on their excursions out of town, so there has been no need for car rental.


Two trips I took in early May and June were ‘for the birds’.  Literally.   Our bird-watching friend, Sebastian, called and asked if we wanted to go see the European Rollers (May 10) and then to “the best birding spot in all of Austria”, the Neusiedlrsee (June 7).  Unfortunately, Bill was teaching both of those days, but happily, I was available!


Austria is the summer/breeding home to many bird species migrating from as close as Italy and as far away as South Africa.  The European Roller (Coracias garrulus) is one of the latter, and I feel very fortunate to have seen it while it still exists!  Sebastian explained that this area of Austria (right on the border with Slovenia) used to support many breeding pairs. Now it’s down to about 8 breeding pairs, and the day we visited, we could only find one breeding pair.


The man who was driving also was interested in looking at one of the more scenic villages, up on a large hill.


looking toward Slovenia; Straden. Austria


Naturally, we didn’t just drive all that way just to see European Rollers.  Any time birders are out, anywhere is a good place to bird.  Part of the trip allowed Sebastian to release a duck family that had been rehabilitating at Wildtier im Not, the small animal shelter/short-term rehab. facility near our flat.   It was funny to watch Sebastian trying to catch all 7 members of this family, racing around after them in the closure with his net.  If I had not been trying to help, there would be photos.  As it is, we saw many other birds – storks, crested grebes on their floating reed nests, and one slightly angry swan defending his nest.



European Roller, angry swan, releasing the ducks, a stork on the roof


The trip to the Neusiedlrsee (see = lake) was more than amazing.  Of course, almost every bird we see in Austria is a ‘new’ bird for us, even if many of the species are closely related to the ones we see in North America.   At the ‘see’ my Austrian bird list ‘doubled.’   Again, we stopped on the way down to the ‘see’, a large steppe lake (36 km long, and  between 6 km and 12 km wide from east to west) but shallow (no more than 1.8 m deep), surrounded by brackish wet-lands, and lying on the border between Hungary and Austria.  In Austria it’s in the Austrian state of Burgenland.    And we birded all the way back.  In fact this was a marathon of bird trips! We left at 5:30  in the morning (which meant I had to be up by 4:30) and, due to running into a huge thunderstorm and torrential downpour, we didn’t get home until midnight!   I think it was worth it!


The Neuseidlrsee area is a National Park in Austria, but only since the 1990’s, so instead of the purely wild landscape of a national park you might see in Montana or California, there are mostly farms, fields, hunting areas, and so on.  This was fascinating to me.   As well, this is an important wine production area, growing the best red wine grapes in Austria.  The ‘see’ straddles the border between Austria and Hungary, thus there are remnants of the communist era – guard towers, barbed wire, and signs. These have been left up, perhaps as a reminder.  Because Hungary is part of the Schengen Area ,  one does not need to check in at the border when passing through from Austria.



a Hungarian regional train, the lay of the land in the national park (lots of farms and fields!)



the border between Austria and Hungary - the canal is the actual border here



on an old farm - storks, horses (Lipizzaners?), and a kestrel nest under the peak of the roof



guard tower from 'former' times, rooks on haystack, an Hungarian village


We saw many birds (waders, geese, raptors, warblers), and both a cuckoo and a nightingale.  Since the latter two are quite elusive, this was a thrill!  In fact, it is due to the skills with hearing and imitating bird song that Sebastian has developed that we found these birds at all. And it was due to Franz’s knowledge and persistence that we found no less than 3 kestrel nests and several hidden owls!  We also found Hungarian Longhorn Cattle, brought back from near extinction after the two world wars and the communist era.  Christian, the driver of this expedition, told me that after WWII, the US sent some Texas longhorn cattle over, and they promptly died!  The environment (grasses/water)  there was too salty!  We also passed through a hamlet where Franz Liszt lived for a period. (It’s his anniversary year this year -a big deal in Hungary!)



vineyards, wetlands, Grey Lag Goose, wildflowers!



drama in the wetlands - stork attacked by lapwing for infringing on territory; stork flies off; lapwing wins (for now)



Hungarian long-horned cattle, kestrel nest, long-eared owl, birdwatching stand


One curious structure was a little hut which my friends said was a ‘shepherd’s’ hut, adjacent to a well.  These were not for sheep herders but for the herders who took care of the cattle and the horses.  Today they are not used, except perhaps by migrants or hikers. I don’t think most of the wells were ‘active’, although there was water in them!



ancient house with stork nest, Lange Lacke, 'shepherd's' hut and well (with tree growing in it)


Perhaps the most beautiful bird of all that we saw was the European Bee Eater, a bird described in an October 2008 National Geographic article as a bird with a life  “like an epic novel, sprawling across continents, teeming with familial intrigue, theft, danger, chicanery, and flamboyant beauty”.  We had hoped to see these in Spain when we were there over our Spring break holiday, but the weather was awful.  Here, they nest in sandy cliffs, along with Jackdaws, Little Owls, and Kestrels who all live in holes previously excavated by the Bee Eaters.  Before the rain came down, it was an amazing sight and a perfect end to the day.



approaching storm, avocet on nest, Franz gets the last look



more vineyards, European Bee Eaters, Little Owls, cliffs for nesting



Jackdaws nesting, Kestrel feeding, the common grape type, heading home



Springtime in Graz

Spring comes early to this part of Austria.  By early April this year, the snow had melted and the vegetation, with its unmistakable chartreuse hue and resplendent flowering, appeared as if by magic.

the sweet fresh green and white of spring

By mid-April, children were picking and vendors hawking  the budding catkins for Palm Sunday festivities, another plus for the European ethic of using what it plentifully at hand.  In the US, it’s typical for churches simply to order palms in for this festival; if you exclude the southern tier of states where palms might grow anyway, where is the ethos in that?

By May, lilies of the valley sprang up in gardens. It is the ‘mutters tag’ flower.   



Aside from Mother’s day, May in Austria brings two other celebrations:  The raising of the May Pole (Maibaum) and May or Labor Day.

The Maibaum dates back to at least the 16th century in Germany and Austria, and perhaps is older than that, if one considers Celtic festivals or Freudian theory.  We were lucky enough to see the former, being freshly installed, as we ate in a traditional rural restaurant with our friends Gernot and Christina following their performance of a Haydn Mass at Mariatrost Basilica the Sunday after Easter.  In Austria, each baum’s ribbons or other decoration reflects the region where it is installed:  green and blue for Styria, red and yellow for Burgenland.   As we travel the countryside now, we see maibaum erected in nearly every village and often by local bars and restaurants, such as the one in Kainbach bei Graz, below.

the maibaum, located near a rural restaurant

it's decorated with carvings and the date













better view of the baum

Restaurant in Kainbach bei Graz-best backhanderl (fried chicken) ever!










traditional colors of Burgenland - red and yellow.

Here is another, a little more than a month old, near the border of Austria and Hungary.

The other May Day celebration is a nod to the political process, and the ‘workers parties’.   It featured, in both Graz and Vienna, large parades.  We knew about them because they disrupted our normal route to the train station as we headed to Vienna! No trams were running.  Fortunately, we did get to the train station and on to Vienna for the week, a trip which will be featured in the next installment.

"red" flag still flies in Vienna, 1 day after May Day (Labor Day)

In early May, we also finally made it to the Schloss Eggenberg.  Besides being the terminus of our tram line in Graz, it’s one of the most impressive remnants of the baroque era in Austria.  It dates back to the late medieval period (1460) and was the property of advisors/financiers to Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor.

Because the weather was warm and sunny, we chose not to tour the palace itself but to remain outdoors in the lovely gardens.  Both the palace and the gardens reflect elements of cosmological theory:  for example, the palace has 365 windows, one for every day in the year; the bushes and shrubs are arranged as a planetary garden, with groupings of plants given names like “Mars”, “Jupiter”, the “Sun”, “Earth” and “Venus”.  We were intrigued and so glad we went!   Where we found the gardens of the big palaces in Vienna devoid of spring flowers (presumably because they are annuals and must be planted each year), the gardens at Eggenberg, with mostly perennials, were bursting with color and scent and sound!  Ahhh, spring!

a perfect spot for wedding photos

Peacocks are everywhere!















we grow these back in Montana

tree with magnificent burl










amazing peonies

close up of burl - I know some woodworkers who'd like to get their hands on this!










azaleas leading into the 'sun' part of the garden

arbors of yellow wisteria represented the rays of the sun











this hedge is part of the Venus grouping. Can you see it is a heart?



purple wisteria, too!

and here is the goddess, herself










Everyone was enjoying the day!

a reader

children checking out the fish






the peacocks
Especially the peacocks!  (click on the link, above, to open video)  There was some kind of sporting event going on in the stadium adjacent to the schloss.  Every time the crowd would roar, the peacocks would answer!

We thought perhaps it was a soccer match, so we stopped by on our way to the bus stop, to see what was happening.  Here’s what it was!


American football!!!












Castles and football in the spring…who knew?  Just another day in Graz!

Thanks for reading!


Gibraltar: The Rock!

The traffic getting into La Linea (Spain) was as bad as predicted: Long lines of cars and gridlock before we could split off to find underground parking in La Linea near the McDonalds.  Once we parked, it was a long walk to one customs station and then a short hike across the airport runway (it must be the only runway in the world with a traffic light!) and past another customs station, and then into downtown Gibraltar.


our first look at Gibraltar

the airport runway of Gibraltar

crossing the runway

What a transformation from Spanish to British culture!


the familiar British phone box! I know - completely dorky pose!

Gibraltar, as all of Europe, has a long history of occupation by different groups (Neanderthals, Visgoths, Moors, the Hapsburgs, Spanish, British).  Its strategic location at the mouth of the Mediterranean has been very important for the Brisith since the early 18th century.


early fortification on Gibraltar

modern day police action in Gibraltar

The Brits have managed to hang on to it, but not without some protest from Spain.  We grabbed lunch, in pounds, at a fish and chips restaurant, which seemed only appropriate, and headed toward the cable car which could take us to the top.

The weather continued to hold but looked threatening.  We were getting close still had a ways to go, when we bumped into a tour van selling seats for the ride up, stops at 4 destinations, and the ride down – 20 euros.  As we glanced at the gathering clouds it seemed like a good idea.  So we abandoned our idea of the cable car up and the 4 hour hike down and jumped in!  We had great views, (Morocco somewhere over there through the fog!)…..

we saw nearly everything we could (including the aggressive monkeys and Barbary apes),


the caves on Gibraltar

(Can you believe people actually let the monkeys climb on their children’s heads! )

why is this child smiling????

(On the other hand, maybe this an idea for a new ‘hat’ style!)


(Others preferred giving the monkey/ape “the High 5”!)


High-5's all around. Monkeys are paid in farfelli pasta!

and most important, we stayed out of the absolute deluge that began soon after the first stop.


Other highlights of the tour included:


tunnels left over from the Great Siege in the 18th century


The early miners were suffocating so made windows to be able to breathe.


Which they soon realized were perfect for cannons!

There is still a large military presence on Gibraltar.   But maybe they are not so busy anymore, or they stay in good shape by playing football (soccer).  We counted no less than 4 soccer fields!

The commercial airplanes take off between stoppage of traffic between La Linea and Gibraltar and also after the birds nearby have been scattered with explosives.


plane taking off, birds getting scattered

Meanwhile the weather continued to worsen, provided rain isn’t your favorite.

And up there in the sky, those black specks are some kind of eagle (the birdwatchers we saw at the previous stop told us so!)

With a last view of the Union Jack, we descended by van (van being the operative word here).  Sometimes you just have good ideas and need to act on them!  This was one of those times!  We were still congratulating ourselves as we slogged through the constant downpour back to La Linea and drove in the rain toward Sevilla.


lots of wind farms in this part of Spain!

Thank you, as always, for reading!  Cheerio!


Spain: Los pueblos blancos de Andalucía

Our first view of Sevilla during Holy Week came during our trip out of town to Guacin.  I will say more about Semana Santa and this apparel in a later update.

Semana Santa begins in Sevilla

Renting a car from Auriga Crown rental was quick and relatively painless, if you don’t count the insurance and fill-up fee.  We are used to us and the car getting the once over on our way out the gate, but there was no one to report to that our car had a major dent in the passenger side door.

With our limited Spanish vocabulary, we were worried about navigating Spanish roads, but we needn’t have fretted.  The roads were well marked and except for an unanticipated detour into Ronda en route to our destination, we found our way easily. (And, I am so glad to be partnered with a man who does not mind stopping to ask directions at the local petrol station!)

One tends to think of Spain as somewhat arid, but this section of Andalucía – and actually into Malaga Province – quickly becomes mountainous, moving from scrubby vegetation to lush, and adorned with pueblos blancos (white villages) that cling to the mountainsides like shimmering jewels in a crown.  The road between them is reminiscent of the Going to the Sun Highway minus the guardrails and frequent turnouts, hence few pictures along our route!  You will have to imagine the “ooos” and “ahhhs”!  This part of Spain is also a central flyway for birds migrating up from Africa and we planned to do some birdwatching here.


on the way to Guacin

wildflowers blooming on the way to Guacin

pueblo blanco

Guacin is one of the southernmost pueblo blancos, sitting at about 630 km above sea level.    On a clear day, you can view all the way to Morocco from the village. Derived from the Arab word, “guazan” (strong rock), the village is perched on the crest of the Sierra del Hacho, and due to its key strategic position was once a major Roman settlement.  Many ex-pats and artists live here, as well as traditional Spanish families.  The main business is tourism.  The streets are as narrow if not narrower than in Cordoba.  We saw why our car had a dent and realized every car we looked at had similar scrapes and dings.  If you want to know how narrow, think of any movie filmed (or stage filmed) in a European city that has car chases and pedestrians jumping back into doorways as the cars scream by!  That was us in Cordoba and Guacin!


narrow streets in Guacin

Once we managed to rouse the innkeeper at La Fructosa  and figured out where in town to park the car (not on the street!), we headed out to the only restaurant open that evening:   a patio setting for tapas once again, with the freshest possible olives and mediocre red wine.  It started to get chilly so we moved indoors.  I engaged our server about the FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid soccer match we had seen on TV the night before and the second glass of wine was the ‘good stuff’.  Maybe he subscribes to the Cana method.  (The Spanish are near to fanatic about their soccer and posters of the World Cup winning team are posted in most of the train stations!)

courtyard where we ate dinner - Casa Antonia's


We kept our binoculars handy to see the passing Griffon Vulture, but were not rewarded.  So it was off to sleep, dreaming about seeing Africa from our bed, and hoping for good luck in birding the next day.

view looking west from our balcony the first evening

looking toward Africa. If you squint, you can see it, maybe!

La Fructosa, formerly the 3 story Pensión La Española (early 20th century) has been restored by the current owners.  The very lowest floor, where there is an ancient wine press that served for consumption by the original owner’s family and other locals, has been transformed into a restaurant open on the weekends but also where we had breakfast each morning.


the old wine press at La Fructosa

This was the view the next morning.

We headed out on a hike, anyway, guided by a typewritten, two-page extremely detailed description we found in our room. For example: “Continue along the path, pass a rusting black and white sign “Ojo al tren” and you reach a sign “Via Pecuaria”. Here loop sharply to the right, cross the railway track then bear left and follow a narrow path between a fence on the left and brambles on the right.”

We guess it must have been a description written some time ago, with ensuing property and gate changes, as eventually where we were walking and what the paper said no longer matched!  No matter, we enjoyed the cork trees,  the views of El Hacho,  the flowers, Red-legged Partridge, the fields of olives and oranges, and the walk.

olives! (even fresher!)

blue flower in Spain - like shooting star










orange trees

cork trees









el Hacho


If we had continued, we would have been caught in the drenching rain storm that continued for most of the rest of the day!



Based on a recommendation from a birding acquaintance, we drove the 15 km down to El Colmenar on the Rio Guadiaro, to see if we could find the vulture feeding station behind the railway station there.  This road was even narrower and more winding than the one the day before—on the map it looks like a slinky ready to expand and is the sort that could bring on queasy stomachs! When I dared to look, the scenery was breathtakingly gorgeous!

coming into El Colmenar


many goats


organic farming (olives!)

We finally did see Griffon Vultures and a few other choice birds as well, not at the feeding station, but soaring up in the sky where they belong!  That night, Monday, we found another restaurant open and had to go in, not only because it was the only one open but because of its name!


La Taberna del Zorro

Which was, ironically,  located right across from the police station!

Returning to our rural hotel, we found the local church and some signs going up for Semana Santa.


Iglesia de San Sebastian-early 16th century

Maria Dolorosa


which apparently includes a run with a bull!

The next day it was on to Gibraltar. But not before we got up very early for a hike up to the old castle in Guacin.  The Castillo del Aguila (Eagle’s Castle) dates from the Roman era and was later expanded by the Arabs into a fortress.  It wasn’t open on Tuesday, but we thought the hike would make good exercise before breakfast.  What a treat that was!



view from the path up to the castle

castle looking up

We even saw a black kite riding the thermals and a surprise when we reached the summit.


this guy was waiting for us when we reached the top!


view of the descent from the castle

One last view of the village fountain, and we were on our way to Gibraltar.


Gaucin fountain of the 6 pipes

We were holding our breath for good weather and bird-watching en route.  And if birds weren’t in the market, then at least we would see the Rock, with the Mediterranean on the left and views to the Atlantic on the right!

Pummerins, Prancers and Palaces. (Palaces)

So now we come to the third in the trilogy of Vienna:  Palaces.  Vienna is chock full of them.  There are the Imperial Palaces where one can see the jewels and crowns of the Holy Roman Emperors, plus the apartments where the royals lived; and there is Schönbrunn, the ‘country’ palace and grounds which, like so many monuments in Vienna, has morphed from early medieval use to depredation by invaders to lavish restoration by the Hapsburgs.

In truth, Schönbrunn was little more than a hunting lodge and grounds for the earlier Hapsburgs until the time of Emperor Charles VI who gave it to his daughter, Maria Theresia, after which it really took off!

Because of the beautiful gardens, the beautiful day as well as the beautiful rooms, we chose to tour Schönbrunn and were not disappointed!  Because photos inside are prohibited you will have to visit HERE if you would like to see what we saw. There are some very good virtual tours at this site.

Schönbrunn Palace, in the high baroque style, is so immense, it is hard to fit it all in the camera’s view!


the palace from the back or garden side

As you walk out the ‘back door’ so to speak, you are greeted by gardens on either side, an immense statue called Neptune’s statue, and a huge edifice on a hill, the Gloriette, which was used as a sort of secondary dining room for the royals and their guests.  Some kind of almost al fresco dining!


The Gloriette beckons!

Unfortunately, it was just a little too early for the amazing plantings that happen in the gardens at Schönbrunn but we could get a sense of how lovely they might be at the height of summer.



the gardens await!

Everyone was very busy preparing for the summer season.  Even the statues were getting a cleaning from the winter grime (and moss, no doubt)!  This would be a lot of fun on a summer’s day but this day it was really windy, probably not too much ‘fun’ for the hose man!


washing off Neptune and 'friends'


You can get a sense of the layout of the gardens better from (almost) the top of the hill.


looking back at the palace and gardens at Schoenbrunn

There was a reflecting pool with mergansers landing amid other ducks.  Next time we’ll carry our compact binoculars so we can make the definitive identification!



reflecting pool with ducks, joggers, sitters

Also a really great view of Vienna!

We were more than fascinated by the Gloriette, with it’s massive columns and faceless statues.


It echoes perfectly the main palace that sits opposite.  Not a mistake!



'faceless' statue signaling the strength of the Austrian Empire

Austrian water is VERY good and safe to drink….something the Austrians are rightly proud of!


water fountain at the Gloriette

We were delighted to discover that the al fresco dining room of the Hapsburgs has been replaced by a working cafe.  The prices were a little steep but nice to get in out of the wind and enjoy some schokolade!  As with any caffeinated beverage, it is always served with a glass of water and a small spoon for eating up that yummy schlogoobers or whipped cream.




Vienna is famous for the elegance and hospitality of its coffee houses, which I hope to visit more on an upcoming trip.   Evidently Starbucks has tried to open a place or two there without much success.  The Viennese just don’t get drinking coffee from a paper cup and while on the go.  I think the Viennese know a thing or two. 🙂

Behind and beside the Gloriette, there are miles of more gardens and paths, and the Schönbrunn Zoo, one of the first in Europe.  We took a wooded path down and soon found ourselves being stalked by a two footed ‘friend’.



It's a Mandarin Duck, an introduced species, with some breeding pairs on the grounds!

The literature mentioned a Roman ruins, and we thought that would be interesting.   We could see what looked like a ruins from the top.



what looks like 'ruins'....

Alas, with their fondness for antiquity, the architects of the palace had created a Roman Ruins for the entertainment of the royals and their guests.  It did look a bit staged!!!!


Roman "ruins"

Some not so fake beauty lay in the grounds themselves.  Spring just arriving and all that!


spring arrives in the woods around Schoenbrunn

The squirrels were active, and much different looking than the ones we have in Montana!


hello. I am not the Easter Bunny!


We got some great views of a very common bird around Austria.  This one is MY photo! (unlike the previous photo which I had to borrow!)


Great tit in spring plumage

And some interesting flowers which I can’t find the name for in our Blumen book.  Oh well.  Not everything must be named to be enjoyed!


cool wild flowers


Until next time, thanks for reading!  Auf wiedersehen!

Nature walk

We were enjoying a quiet evening in the flat last Friday, April 1.  The long work week, replete with talks and classes, was giving way to expectation of wandering the Styrian hills and maybe a trip to Eggenberg Scholss, a large palace complex at the end of Tram Line 1.  Saturday was supposed to be in the high 70’s and we were looking forward to walking around, even without seeing all the flowers that would undoubtedly be planted there if we went later in the season.  But first, time to sleep.

Then the phone rang! (10:00 PM)   It was Sebastian, our birding friend, and ‘did we want to go out birding on Sunday?  He would be leading a BirdLife Austria group and we were invited.  (to be fair to Sebastian, he didn’t think we would have our handys turned on that late at night!)   Then he called back a few minutes later asking if we wanted to go on Saturday as well, if he could reach his birding friend with the car to order to check his schedule.  Then, another call, saying he could not reach him and so Sunday it was.  And so we went to bed, thinking we’d do a few errands on Saturday (remember stores are not open at all on Sunday), and maybe visit the Schloss.

The next morning, awakened by the melodies of birds and the sun already calling ‘get up’ we were actually birding from the bed!  Our apartment windows are at about the same height as the trees surrounding it, so it makes for easy and compelling observation.  It was 7 AM and the phone rang.

Sebastian again, saying he had reached his friend with the car and did we want to go out TODAY?  Could we be ready in ½ hour?  Bill was saying ‘of course’ as I was without coffee mumbling incoherently throwing on clothes.  We inhaled quite possibly the best morning breads we’ve had in Austria, gulped yesterday’s coffee, assembled some sandwiches, and got ourselves downstairs on time.   Whew.

Waiting for us were Sebastian and Wilfried.  Wilfried is the Chair of BirdLife Styria (partnered with Audubon in the US) and also a botany professor at KFU.  How do we keep meeting just the folks who can answer so many of our questions?



Wilfried, Sebastian and Jean 'on the road'

The day’s birding was simply terrific, from the Lapwings nesting in the fields at the Graz Flughafen (seems like a precarious existence to me!) and pheasants, to crested Grebes, Green and Wood Sandpipers, and a variety of ducks on small ponds in the area.


lapwing on nest at the airport


Lapwings are very cool birds.  Both genders are striking in appearance, but the males especially, with their mohawk hair-style feather-style, and funny, floppy wings.  We saw many doing a display flight.   Here is a female sitting on the nest (digiscoped, must improve technique!)



closeup lapwing on nest

The day was simply gorgeous.  We’ve come to almost expect that in Styria.  It seems to rain a bit, just enough to perk up more flowers and nudge more tree leaves into showing up, and then it’s sunny and warm.  The typical haze was gone and we could see snowcapped mountains in the not too far distance.  What you can’t ‘see’ however is the lovely aroma from the farm fields.  Hey, it’s spring and time to fertilize, naturlich, for growing all those pumpkins and corn!  Naturlich means cow, pig and worst-smelling of all, chicken manure!


ein schöner Tag

We crisscrossed the valleys surrounding Graz, going west, then south, then east, looking in fields, by streams and in woods, with us collecting new birds the way children collect stones at the edge of a lake. Our list ‘pockets’ were filling up!

The highlight, though, had to be watching the swans.  These were mute swans. We have them also in the US but they are introduced birds, often seen in city parks.  These swans are in their native habitat, which maybe makes them feistier.   So you’re probably thinking of some stately and peaceful creature, gliding along on the water’s surface as if on ice.


mute swan on pond, deceptively 'serene'

Resplendent in their breeding plumage their behavior is anything but serene.  I have never heard such a racket nor seen such a fight!  At one pond we witnessed a territorial dispute between two cobs.


'just visiting' swan hopes to stay on pond


not if this one has anything to say about it!


It’s a small pond and, sorry, there is only room for one pair.  The male whose mate was nesting at one end repeatedly attacked another pair until they finally got the message and left.


fight between two swan cobs


Unfortunately that piece of grass decided to move right in front of the camera at the wrong moment!  But there were feathers everywhere!

It was pretty exciting!

Click on the photo below to see the swan action and hear the amazing sound of the wings!


Along the way, we saw frogs, toads, and eggs of the same.  Also some very strong beetles moving a squashed toad!  And you thought ants were the musclemen/women of the insect world!


frog or toad eggs in pond



beetles on/under dead toad

More flowers, and yes, even some snipes!


lily (rare) in woods near Kirchberg ponds


yellow wildflower


this one is nick-named 'hansel und gretl' - it changes from blue to pink


white bell shaped flower. need to find the name!

To scare up snipes, Sebastian donned big rubber boots and mucked along through the swamp!


Sebastian mucking about, flushing snipes. It worked! We saw 7!

It was a lovely day for a stroll through the woods.


the guys strolling; me, checking out those wildflowers!

We never DID get to Eggengberg Castle but maybe in May, we can arrange it!

We’ll be traveling now for the next few weeks – Vienna, Spain, Salzburg, Altenpostmarkt, Vienna, and Budapest.  I am almost worn out just thinking about it!

Vielen Dank, as always, for reading and for your comments!

Into the woods…

in search of the White-backed Woodpecker.  Lest this sound like a snipe hunt, let me assure you that such a bird does indeed exist and we found it! We never would have seen it had it not been for our new friends Sebastian, Christian and Franz.

Whitebacked Woodpecker

Let me start at the beginning!  Shortly after we moved into our flat, we noticed an odd set of buildings just behind the Villa.  We could see a building that looked something like an office but behind it was a covered fence.  People seemed to be at this building most of the day, on weekends, sometimes at night.  Occasionally, we could hear hammering!  We discovered a sign outside “Wildtiere in Not” or wildlife in danger/great distress.  (You see the word Not also on trams, buses, and airplanes, by the emergency exits and emergency stopping devices.)

Eventually, internet sleuthing led me to a webpage and from there to a contact email, which I utilized to inquire what was going on behind us!  I mentioned that we would be interested in seeing the rehabilitation facility, and if they were building an aviary, that we were very interested in birds!

Weeks went by.  Then,  I received an email from Sebastian, who had been forwarded the email.  Turns out he is a lifelong birder, bands birds for the rehabilitation center, and would be willing to take us birding.   The email arrived at an especially busy time for us, so I set it aside for later reply.  We eventually were walking again on the Roseggerweg, the path behind the villa named (we presume) for the famous Styrian author Peter Rosesegger, and ran into two people trying to capture a crow that was hopping around on top of cars parked at Wildtiere in Not.   They were the coordinators of the project and invited us in!  While we were there, Sebastian called and we had a nice conversation.

A week later, he called to invite us to go birdwatching with him and his friend Christian.  We accepted right away!  So, last Friday, we got up before the crack of dawn — you know birdwatchers like to start at a time everyone else thinks is crazy early — so we could walk down to Karl Franz U. to meet Sebastian and Christian at 7 a.m.

When Sebastian said he was a life-long birder, I was prepared for someone in his 40’s at least.  I think Sebastian might be 30, if that.  He’s studying biology, with specialization in avian biology, at KFU, part-time and has to be one of the most knowledgeable birders I’ve ever met!  The others being Franz and Christian, who were retired, and also life-long birders.  Sebastian speaks almost perfect English, knows all the English names for the Austrian birds, (was using the same bird guide we had) and knows all about New World birds as well!

Sebastian and his scope


We climbed into Christian’s car along with Sebastian and Franz and off we went to the Hochschwab area, north of Graz.

Map of the area of the Hochschwab (A) - click to enlarge

We drove up through Bruck an der Mur, the steel town of Kapfenberg, and through sleepy little villages and farm towns.  The day was warm, clear, and the scenery was incredibly beautiful! This was our first up close and personal view of the Styrian countryside, other than from a train window!

This is the Hochschwab

We spent quite a while seeing lots of other birds — most of which were new to us — before we headed to the woods.  That’s typical birding.  It takes an hour to walk half a kilometer!  We were lovin’ it!

Franz, Bill and Christian


Here's one! Might have been the Green Finch!


The compact Leicas we brought with us are not too bad, but I was really wishing for our good ol’ Zeiss 10 x 40’s, left behind to conserve weight.  Fortunately, we had two scopes with us courtesy of Sebastian and Christian!

the woods

The woods where we were looking for the White-backed Woodpecker was an old stand of mixed beech and spruce.  The w.b.woodpecker is one of the rarer woodpeckers for Styria.  It prefers the older growth forests and eats wood-boring beetles. (Hey, we need it in W. Montana!). It requires areas that are undisturbed by forestry operations, so is greatly threatened.   Woods here are mostly private woods, but are open for anyone to go into.  (Hunters of course must ask permission, but bird watchers are welcome!)  We walked quietly, listened and looked for quite a while.  We saw and heard a lot of other woodpeckers – the more common Great Spotted – but no White-backed!

Fortunately, there is always a lot to see when you are out in the woods.  The wildflowers were just emerging.  The woods were full of these!

Schneerose - first of wildflowers after the snow melts







Bill was particularly interested in the deposits of gravel all over the woods.  You can see the gravel in the photo above, as white patches.   These were deposits from avalanche chutes!  There were whole sections of the area ploughed up by avalanches!  We heard several smaller ones while we were in the area, and saw numerous rock and snow slides!


remains of an avalance – white stuff is gravel

There were many wildflowers to look at while we were waiting for the woodpecker to appear!


carpet of Schneerose


Franz called this a horse hoof

this was a very small blue flower he picked









Finally, we decided the woodpecker was too shy for visitors today and turned to go.  As we picked our way through the debris and flowers, we heard the ping-pong ball-like drumming that is typical for the White-backed.  Sebastian imitated the call, and pretty soon, into view it came!  Mission accomplished.  Only we weren’t done yet!

Our new friends decided that we should look next for the Golden Eagle nests, located on the other side of the Hochschwab.  There ensued a discussion of whether we should take the road OVER the mountain or if it would be better to drive around to the other side.  Early spring = probable snow and road impassability.   Around (and not over) it was!

The area where we were birding is one of the primary sources for drinking water not only for Graz but also for Vienna.  Water is collected here and piped, to supplement (at least in Graz) the municipal wells in the city.  The water in Graz is delicious and safe to drink!

(notice the sign below!)








The broad meadow between the car and the woods


So.  Back through the picturesque villages to Kapfenberg and around to the other side of the mountain we went. But not before we viewed a Gämser on the rocky cliffs of the Hochschwab.  Pretty soon we could see a whole herd of them, spooked by some hikers up on one of the snowfields.

if you look closely you can see the paths of a small snow slides

Gämsers are like a cross between what we call pronghorns or antelope and sheep.  They are incredibly agile on the mountainous slopes!  We were excited to see our first large mammals in Austria.  There are also deer, red deer (more like our elk), and others.  No bears, no wolves.

At the next area, there was a small stream, and a beautiful lake that appeared to be fed by springs in the area.  This is where we ate lunch.


lake at the second stop


eating lunch by the small lake



water trough next to spring fed lake - Franz drank from it. Bill was more cautious!



small stream near second stop


We managed to get a good look at the Gold Crest which is the smallest of European birds.  It is a cousin to our Ruby Crowned Kinglet.


Gold Crest

if you squint you can see the gold crest on its forehead


The wildflowers in this area were equally stunning!  Erika was the new one….used here frequently to decorate graves.





lake with Erika blooming on other side


Bill was more intersted in the FISH!



This whole area reminded us of northern Florida, with its extensive limestone-formed springs.  In fact, the geology of this Styrian area is replete with limestone!

We walked further in toward the cliffs of the Hochschwab, passing another stream along the way.


one of the few unchannelized streams we've seen

And finally to the Grünersee (Green Sea) which is another spring-and-snow-melt-fed body of water.  It was at its low point, but if you look here, you can see why it is of special interest especially at maximum snowmelt.  This is definitely worth a trip back in May or June!


Grunersee at its low point

Franz and Christian were disappointed that we couldn’t see the ‘see’ at its maximum, and kept apologizing but there was nothing to apologize for.  Every bit of what we were seeing was simply eye candy!

In the summer, the high meadows, called alms will be filled with sweet grass, and farmers will lead their dairy cows upward to feed.  You can take a gondola up to the top or near the top, and hike along to these alms, where there is invariably a small hut offering at least cheese, and sometimes fresh yoghurt, cake, or…!  We encountered these delightful oases of hospitality in Switzerland when we were there in 2005, and we look forward to trying the Austrian version!


Alms - see the sign?


Oh, and what about the Golden Eagles?  We looked for at least a half an hour at the cliffs, not seeing any nests, but observing plenty of other avian species – peregrine, common buzzards (which are like our red-tail hawk), ravens, all enjoying riding the updrafts of the high mountain.

Once again we started toward the car, defeated in our specific quest, but not dismayed.  However, Franz, who has the – ahem – eagle eye, called us back.  He had spotted two golden eagles soaring high above the towering peaks.  They were specks in the sky, but with the scopes we could see the unmistakable size and configuration of their feather tips.

Christian said of Franz and Sebastian that these are the best birders in all of Styria, maybe in Austria – the old(er) and the young!  We felt so honored to be with them!

Our day was not yet over.  Sebastian needed to visit the place which first brought us into contact: the Wildtiere in Not in order to band (in Austria, it is called ‘ringing’) several rehabilitating birds.


first up was a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

This bird had had an unfortunate run in with an auto, and probably injured in the head, as the rest of the body and wings seemed intact.  The balance was a little off.  I was thinking here of my friend, Kate Davis, who has taken in so many birds at her Raptor Ranch.  Most of the birds (and animals – rabbits, and bats, mostly) at Wildtiere in Not will be released, if they are sufficiently rehabilitated.  The center has numerous folks and some students from the biology department of KFU who volunteer their time.


Sebastian with Hawfinch at Wildtier im Not

releasing the Hawfinch into the aviary for further rehabilitation



additional aviary at Wildtiere in Not


It was absolutely refreshing to be in the company of people who not only pursue birds for their lifelist but also who bring their passion for birds into caring for them in ways that are life-giving.  I am pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

Again, gratitude abounds!



Nach das Schloß : of castles and crystals

The Schlossberg or city castle/fortress is the predominant visual point in Graz skyline.  Actually, there are two castles…the inner city castle and the Schloss Eggenberg, at the western edge of the city.  It was the Schlossberg we were heading toward on Saturday and is the feature you see on the banner photo of this blog.

To get there, though, you need to wind your way around the streets of old Graz.  The city dates back to 1128 or 1129 (first mention), achieving walled town status in 1230.  Graz was the imperial residence under Friedrich III in the mid-1400’s, so not only are there examples of Gothic architecture but numerous Renaissance and Baroque structures also.

one of the intersting buildings we passed - note the emblem of Styria above the door

The streets were filled with shoppers, families and street musicians.  Stores were having ‘sidewalk’ sales, winter clothes 1/2 -off!  (unfortunately that didn’t extend to the shoes and shoes are the coolest clothing item I’ve seen in Austria, so far!)

Hammered dulcimer player - I've never seen one busking before!



We found the ‘Good Food Store’ of Graz!  I will probably never be able to find it again!

near as we could tell these are gluten free corn puffs!

Just before we headed up to road to the Schloß, we found another church.  This one was immediately captivating, being an Oases of Quiet!

an oases of quiet

The Stiegenkirche is actually one of the oldest churches in Graz, dating back to 1343.  It’s known chiefly as a church for students.  How very different its interior was from the Stadtpfarrkirche!  And interesting access, up two whole flight of steps!

totally modernistic inside!

with some beautiful old elements preserved

Graz has more courtyards than almost any city in Austria.  Not all of them are accessible.  This one dates back to 1630.


So, finally we find the way up to the Schloß.


it's uphill all the way!

It’s a steep incline all the way up!  And this is the easy route!

layout of the schloß area--it is actually quite forested all the way up and also on top!

It is a beautiful day for a walk!

old gutter system, castle fortifications on right

There are actually apartments on the road up to the Castle!

How would you like to have this address?

Once you get to the top, the views just get better and better.  The castle itself is pretty much gone…only a few elements remain, but now it is a wonderful venue for walking, sunning, eating (2 restaurants) and enjoying the view (through the haze).

view from the castle, looking east. Just left of the middle of the photo, you can see the faraway spires of the Mariatrost church sticking up. That's the general direction of our place!


great place to catch some rays and some zzzz's


"fearless and faithful" (not sure exactly what this refers to....more research needed!)

the clock tower--28 meters high, it strikes the hour with precision, and since 1712. Originally it was a medieval defense tower, slightly remodeled in 1560.

The castle area is multi-level. We're up high looking down on park!

interesting tree in front of remaining bits of the original castle walls

more of the castle walls (brick part added later)

Of course, since we have a hydrogeologist here, we must have this next photo!  The Turkish Well was constructed from 1554-1558.  It’s a 94 meter hand dug well down to the groundwater of the Mur River, in order to be able to provide enough water during prolonged sieges.  The name, given in the 19th century, is said to be because there were Turkish prisoners digging it.

the Turkish Well

Up until 1787, there were four alarm cannons to warn the populace of approaching enemies and fires and housed in the armory of the castle.  They were called the “Four Evangelists”.  Oh dear.  What would Jesus say?

Cannons fell into French hands anyway, in 1809. So much for early warning. These are smaller cannons and ceremonial only. (I hope)

From the very highest point of the castle, the view is truly spectacular.  We’re looking down on the Murinsel, a floating ‘shell’ created by Vito Acconci (N.Y.), which links two sides of the Mur by footbridges.  Inside are a cafe and an amphitheater.


The Murinsel

The Bell Tower is the other really tall structure left of the castle and fort.  It dates back to the 11th century but has undergone some renovations and weathering!


The Bell Tower with St. Thomas Chapel

Graz has a lot of churches and it seems most of them have bells!  They ring at 7 AM, at Noon and at 6 PM—it is a gorgeous sound!



Area once for prisoners, now a concert venue!


Gardens are abundant in the several park areas on the Castle grounds.  Looks like spring is just beginning to arrive!



everywhere, the same!

Water feature alert! The Great Well, actually a Cistern, was built between 1544 and 1547, contains 5 well shafts arranged in a circle and holding 900,000 litres of water.  Rainwater was ducted, filtered and collected by communicating well-shafts.  Today this serves as a stand-by water reservoir for fire-fighters.

The Great Well (Cistern)

The way down is infinitely easier and still beautiful.


Some surprises in the trees.  You know us, you have to know we have our binoculars with us AT ALL TIMES!


a blackbird


Hooded Crow


This is one of the best strollers we’ve seen!  We decided that if this were sold in the US, it’d never fly because the little step for standing on would be deemed too dangerous!


Before we reached the bottom, we came to a tunnel:  enter at your own risk.  We took the risk.  This is a passageway – a shortcut – underneath the castle/fort complex.  Now it houses the little railway one can take up to the top.  (What?? That’s ok, we needed the exercise after the huge Greek lunch we had had!)  It was constructed during World War II and could house up to 50,000 people during air-raids.  15% of the buildings in Graz were damaged or destroyed by bombing…not such a high percentage compared with some cities.  This has to be one of the most unique tunnels ever.  Mozart’s music playing all the way through!!!!


one of the side tunnels for waiting out the bombs

light at the end of the tunnel!

street musician, a harpist

As we emerged from the tunnel, we were greeted by yet another unique street musician, this time a harpist!  The little girl is giving her some money.  As I am snapping away, Bill says, “you are missing the real picture, turn around.”

And here is where we were…and yet another way to get up!

the stairs up to the schloss

And so, we made our way home but not before running into the iconographic Austrian store, Swavorski, maker of fine crystal. This has to be the only store I have ever seen with crystals embedded into the entrance doors!


Crystals absolutely everywhere!  Next time I will go inside!

That’s our day at the Schloss.  More adventures to come, I am sure.  Thanks, as always, for reading!



Hopeless Causes and surprises along the way

Today was laundry day.  After almost a week of wearing the same trousers and only a few shirts, we just plunged in (so to speak) and tried the machinethatbothwashesanddries.  We didn’t put in too much soap, and we managed to make the thing start and do what it was supposed to do.  Hooray…the laundry was not a hopeless cause, after all!   We felt a little  like country bumpkins, going in periodically to watch the drum roll around. (We do have a front loader at home but, well, this is the Austrian version, so it’s different.)  Next time, we’ll select a longer drying cycle because apparently 60 minutes is inadequate,  judging from the amount of apparel we have draped over every radiator in the apartment.  The good news is that stuff so arranged dries VERY quickly.

good thing this badezimmer ist gross

The day was beautiful so after we put in the last load, we headed outside for a walk through the woods:  up the hill towards a small grouping of buildings that lie just behind the apartment villa.  (We still don’t know what they are for. Someone obviously lives there, as there is most always a vehicle.  A mystery for another day.)

It is Sunday and that’s when you really see European families out for a Sunday stroll.  There were plenty on the path–runners in duos and alone, children with grandparents, mothers with high tech baby buggies.  The hill we live on is part of the bigger complex of the Leechwald (yes, LEECH Woods), with extensive trails on both wide, maintained paths and through the trees.

well maintained path along the woods

beginning of the running trail – km 1










 The running/walking trail goes for miles kilometers, up on the ridge behind where we live, past the edge of the city, and all the way to the beautiful Mariatrost Church.  We could see it from one of the higher, less obstructed views on our walk today.

Mariatrost Kirche

The day was pretty hazy…not atypical for Graz.  We have the same problem in Missoula, with mountain valley inversions.  How odd, then, that on our walk we should find a rehab center for those with lung diseases.  According to some lovely people we met on the path, that is it’s function and it’s part of the huge state hospital complex for Styria.  (good to be located near a hospital, I think!)  Perhaps the elevation on the Hilmteich is just enough to rise one up out of the smog.

Adalbert Graf Kottulinsky Foundation (the center for those with lung diseases)

So this started out to be a walk to look for and try to identify the birds we had been hearing for the past five days.  As we were peering up at some kind of woodpecker through our binoculars, a couple asked us (auf Deutsch) what we were seeing.  I actually understood that much.  After that, it was pretty much downhill as far as the German speaking went.  I didn’t know the name for woodpecker in German, but was able to stammer out the colors, at least.  They were interested and we shared the binoculars with them and thus began a delightful conversation with Christina and Gernot.  Christina, who has been to Montana and to many places in the Western U.S.  ( even been to Heart Butte on the Blackfeet Reservation!) is a teacher of children ages 6-10.  We’re not sure what Gernot does…it doesn’t matter…but they were charming and were so interested in what we were doing in Graz.  They immediately invited us to their home.  If they call, I think we shall accept.  Warum nicht? (why not?)

the fence where we spoke with Christina and Gernot

Continuing on our way, we passed many feeding stations for birds, identified a few others (blackbirds, nuthatches, magpies,  some very weird looking crows…)  and areas where the forest was being logged.  We aren’t sure if this is someone’s private logging operation, a municipal job or part of maybe a research forest, as in the Lubrecht Forest in Montana.  I wonder if our German will ever be good enough to translate all the signs? Naturally, we forgot the dictionary, again!

one of the many bird houses and feeding stations along the path

logging operation

description of logging operation (we think)

Down the path we continued, eventually coming to a more residential area.  The numbers of people increased and they all seemed to be headed either to or from a particular point.  We decided to continue on to find out what it was.  The ‘what is was’ turned out to be the Häuserl im Wald, a hotel/restaurant which was far bigger than the ‘hut’ that Häuserl implies.  Extensive terraces, gardens, and a children’s playground were all part of this establishment.  We decided to go in and have a coffee or maybe a beer.

Once again, the food looked and smelled so good that we decided to order.  Again, no dictionary, so we did the best we could with what we know already and were delighted at how it turned out!

 Schweinemedaillons in feiner paprikarahmsauce, mit spätzle (pork medallions in red pepper sauce with SPATZLE!

Bill had something equally delicious–roast beef medallions with an onion sauce and rosti (like little potato pancakes.)  Once again, I brought half of this home!  And here is the best part – we managed to do the whole transaction auf Deutsch!

On our way out, we again scouted the birds at the extensive feeding stations (grosbeaks!) and were surprised to see a horse coming down the road.

more surprises!

We had come maybe 3 km, so we clipped back along our same route at a good pace, stopping only to check out one or two birds and pay respects to the shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, Patroness of Impossible Causes, who must have been looking out for us all along!

the shrine of Rita of Cascia

Tomorrow, Vienna.

For now, thanks for reading and…..

Grüß Gott

Into the woods

So.  We have been here in Austria three and a half days and it feels like about two weeks, after all the details we’ve had to attend to:  basically in order, we’ve bought groceries, moved in, unpacked, rearranged the small amount of furniture at our flat, and made numerous trips into Graz to get registered at the city registration bureau, work with the Uni Graz IT wizard to get connected to the internet, open an Austrian bank account, and pick up a used printer for our apartment.  Everyone has been absolutely kind and helpful; most people speak English better than we speak German, although we are trying very hard “sprechen auf Deutsch.”

All of you have been clamoring for photos so here they are with ein bisschen (a little bit) of commentary, for clarity’s sake.

Graz is in the south of Austria, not terribly close to the mountains, although there are rolling hills around.  We live on one of those hills at the eastern end of the city, near a small teich or pond, hence the name Hilmteich.  I am still trying to figure out what ‘hilm’ means, and will have to ask someone local because it’s not in any of the 10 dictionary or phrase books we brought along.

On one side of the pond is an imposing edifice…maybe a former small schloss (castle) but nothing appears to be happening there at the moment.

On the other side is the wooded hillside.  The woods are a mixture of deciduous (beech, oaks, maples) and conifers (cedar, firs, spruce).  Along the way up to our apartment we pass a Dancing School and a Wood School.  We are not sure what the wood school is…I thought it might be an educational outreach, as in nature center, but on the other hand, after hearing chain saws nearly every morning (good grief we can’t get away from them, even in Austria!) we wonder if there is some wood sculpting school going on!

the dance school we pass on the way up our hill

wood school at the bottom on the hill, or maybe it’s really at the top!

We’re about a 7 minute walk from the city street, up through the woods.  The woods are absolutely alive with birds chirping.  So far we’ve only had time to identify one bird…it is the Great Tit.  I am not making this up.  It looks like a chickadee but bigger and has an amazing array of songs and calls.

We can’t wait to have a little more time to explore the woods before spring/summer arrive and presumably lots of people.

Here’s why!

part of the Kletterkurs (climbing/ropes course) located on our hill

Not only is this a major climbing/ropes course but also a major fitness center.  There is a 21 km running course (cross country) as well as signs appearing every few meters, urging people on to greater health and fitness.  We see joggers, runners and just people having a walk in beautiful surroundings every day.  Inspirational, but you won’t see me up there among the trees.

Bill on the road up our hill


Right now, the snow is melting a little bit, although it has been cold here—in the 20’s and 30’s F. but sunny. (Yes, I know it has been even colder in Montana!)  Locals say this is ‘unusually cold’ for the end of February.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?

At the end of the walk is our apartment, one of about six in this remodeled villa.

the 100-year-old villa where our apartment is

There are a few other residents here…one family with a baby, and another with a dog, but we haven’t really had an opportunity to meet them yet.  The apartment is spacious.  The description we read in the original literature about the Technical University Guesthouse mentioned two rooms, plus a kitchen and bathroom.  We had no idea it would look like this:  parquet floors, 18 foot ceilings and massive wooden shutters to close over the otherwise unadorned windows!  The furniture is, by contrast, extremely modern.  There is plenty of storage space.  Here are some smaller photos of our Häuschen.

the door must be 100 years old. It is very heavy to open!

the dining room – balcony and terrace to the right









the foyer
the kitchen – galley style but efficient

the bedroom is part of the subdivided big room. It’s partially walled off from a sitting area by the clothes cabinets.









my ‘office’ is the pass through between the bedroom and the dining room

the view from the terrace (large enough for a good size table and chairs)










the bathroom









The latter might be the one point of frustration for us.  It’s the most complicated machine I have ever seen, and our German is definitely not good enough to decipher the manual.  I have never seen a machine that supposedly washes and dries clothes.  We are looking for some rope and clothespins tomorrow when we venture west of town to a bigger shopping center.

this is a washer and a dryer!

One of the pleasures of living in the woods is the fellow inhabitants.  I was charmed to find these guys (girls?) spending their winter between the storm and inside windows.

we have some other guests in the guest house!

This ladybug is small and efficient.  And it’s  like much of what we see in Austria.  I am struck by the small size of refrigerators, kitchens, washing machines, showers, water tanks, spoons, cars and trash receptacles.  Everything that isn’t waste is recycled.  People here have developed an ethic that is somehow missing in the U.S., where bigger is surely better.   We could learn a lot from these folks.

Lastly, for tonight at least, this is for the Dinosaurs in my (old) classroom at UCCC.

The crystal heart is hanging right where the sun can catch it!

Tomorrow, it’s off for some household essentials (those clothespins I mentioned, laundry soap, and a small rug to catch the mud in the foyer) and maybe on Sunday, the historic center of the city.  Thanks for reading and tschüss!