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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Einstein lived here. Well, not actually on this spot but can you imagine him walking where Jean rides the wooden whale next to the Schwielowsee. In German, a See is a lake, although this whale plays alongside such a very narrow part that this part of the lake feels more like a canal. 

Caputh, near Potsdam, is about 20 minutes' drive from William and Rafi's house where we're staying.

Don't you just love the baleen?
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Charles Bridge on the Vlatava River in Prague — so many tourists we could hardly find room to walk. From our waterfront cafe, this view reminded us of our last visit in 1995.
After two days of hard walking, we're off to Berlin!
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This one speaks for itself - I guess you could say that Prague, one of our favorite old-world cities, has gone international.
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From giraffes in unexpected medieval cities, Jean got us back on track in Prague. This city's meridian pointed us to the correct time almost as effectively as the St. Ludmilla Church close to our hotel that sounded bells on every quarter hour. After one night of counting bells instead of sheep and one day of walking on countless cobblestones, we slept right through those bells!
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No folks, we haven't detoured to central Africa. Believe it or not, this giraffe called to us from the castle tower in Cesky Krumlov.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Bidding Bratislava Bye-Bye!!

You can see from the wake that this is a high-speed catamaran.
It makes the 60 km trip between  
Wien (Vienna) and Bratislava in 75 minutes.

Barb basks in spring sunshine at Bratislava castle. In the background is the arched Apollo Bridge, one of many that spans the Donau (that's "the Danube" for you dolts who don't do Deutsch).  Can you tell how much fun we're having with this blog?

Like mythical fishy men with hairy thighs?
Have a penchant for sea-horses with flippered hoofs?
Then the Neptune Fountain at Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna is for you!

From a distance, the entire fountain resembles many Hapsburg structures: grand, monumental, elegant, ornate. But from up close, charming individual details reveal themselves to the careful observer. A smiling lizard suns himself beneath a chambered nautilus. The forceful curves of a finned hoof suggest the strength and power of the mythical hippocampus. The graceful curve of the sea nymph, Thetis, contrasts with Neptune's dominant presence. Their story is told in stone: a supplicant nymph-mother entreats the sea god to protect her son, Achilles, on his voyage to Troy. What do you think he will tell her?
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Traditional melodies and rhythms mix with a "handy's"  digital bleeps & blips
on stone steps of Bratislava historic city doors.
How else can an enterprising Slovakian flute performer
manage his professional life
unless the "handy" remains as close to his ear as his flute may be to his heart?
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I went to Bratislava and it was not closed! In fact, I met a great guy crawling out of the sewer! He shared all kinds of tips for finding the tastiest tortes in town: Cafe Schoort lived up to his recommendations. Barb and I guzzled ginger lemonade sweetened with maple syrup and taste-tested cheesecake that supposedly rivaled New York's Best. Results will be revealed in a later post. Till then - much pleasanter to ride the back of the sewer rat than to be in his shoes.
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Lunch at Durnstein's Schloss Hotel in the Wachau Valley of the Danube River just west of Vienna. Perfect spring weather, perfect views, simply perfect in every way.

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The Glorietta at Schloss Schönbrunn was just one of the Hapsburgs' many monuments to themselves and their glory. For us, it was just lovely to share Vienna's spring sunshine with so many local families. As we watched young people lounging on fountain walls and making out on the lawn, we both laughed as we wondered what Maria Theresia would be thinking if she could have known that 200 years after her death, her private gardens would be sullied by so many common folk.
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What do you think we were looking at from the ferris wheel at the Prater?
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Vienna's famous Zeile where you'll find the NaschMarkt. Think NOSH and you're understanding German. Nasch is good eating for anyone brave enough to venture into this carnival of food stalls. We bumped shoulders with Vienna's hungry sun-seekers. After a couple of rainy-grey days it was tough to find any empty outdoor seating this Saturday morning.
But we were on a mission beyond food — the weekend flea market in the open parking lot at the upper end of this photo. Great fun - good junk and  an occasional treasure.  We didn't find the perfect china butter dish, but neither of us left empty-handed.
This aerial view clearly how Zeil came to mean  "row" in German (imagine row houses in any American city).
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After Palm Sunday mass: YUM! Each meal offers its own surprises - who knew that William Potatoes appeared in the shape of a pear. Austrians mimic a renowned eau de vie with a pear growing inside the bottle.
No brandy in these croquettes, but who needs a digestif when the waitress brings twice as many glasses of Zweigelt than we ordered! We're troopers, though. Yes, we polished off every drop of this delicious red wine.
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Who is that man behind the pussy willows and boxwood ?!? HINT: check out the pointed gold headgear. Barb and I went early on Palm Sunday morning to the center of old town Vienna for the strewing of palms before mass. No palms in Vienna — blessings and holy water anoint pussy willow branches instead. Seemed like everyone in the crowd had purchased a bundle of branches, some decorated with purple ribbons or even pretzels. More pictures in another post - but an FYI about the draw of religious ceremony. The Vienna Marathon took place this morning, too. Twenty-three thousand runners wound their way around the Stefansdom while no more than 200 faithful or curious onlookers followed the cardinal into this beautiful church for Palm Sunday mass.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Views of the HofReitSchule at the Hapsburg Palace, Vienna.
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At the Freyung OsterMarkt (Easter Market) next to the Austria fountain in old Vienna, this vintage truck suggests clues to Oscar Meyer's inspiration. Could this be the Viennese forerunner of the wiener wagon? From the truck's passenger-side sales counter, customers select wurst, salami, and ham that are displayed inside the vehicle. If only I were a Reschinsky, I'd be winding my way through Vienna's narrow lanes from behind the steering wheel instead of balancing on the front bumper!
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Those Hapsburgs make it really hard for an American to enter their palace grounds! Palace Gate on the Burgring, Vienna.
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So, Pinocchio, what I'm trying to figure out -- and my friend Jean won't help me with this -- what I want to know is, how is it that 72 stallions who are busy performing and training in Vienna have the time to breed with mares who live in Piber. It's a long drive from Vienna to Piber. When do the stallions have time to go to Piber? They've got too much to do in Vienna, and breeding with mares doesn't always happen on command -- in a jiffy...I just don't get it!
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Spanish Riding School morning exercises--check out those chandeliers! This is also the arena where they stage their perfomances--it's incredibly elegant for a horse stable, no? But then the Lipizzaners were the royal horses of the Habsburg family and the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries. They house 72 stallions at the Hofburg Palace right in the heart of old- town Vienna and they all come from the Austrian Lipizzaner stud farm at Piber. It was very interesting to learn about their history and how it operates today as well as to see these beautiful animals (and their riders) in action. A good day!
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Doni, citizen of Kosovo on a business practicum in Vienna, put the happiest hard sell on us I've experienced in a long time. How could we not be dying to attend a famous Wien-Konzert with music of Mozart in the same hall where he played his first concert at age 6!?! An orchestra in period costumes, full ballet, music by Johann Strauss, and a special ticket discount only for us -- surely those temptations would part us from 39 euros!!!

Could his playful humor have been influenced by StephansPlatz, dedicated to one of christianity's bazillion martyrs -- too many to recall: was this one flayed, burnt at the stake, heart ripped out - who knows?!?

Smiling to the end, even as we left him on the square on our entry to St. Stephens Cathedral, Doni assured us he'd wait for our return — unless it started to rain — or we could find alternate exit from the dom - thanks to our cathedral tourguide :-)
"not an official exit, but you may follow me out the side door."

Konditorei Demel's in Vienna

Hip-hopping bunnies dance among sugar-frosting eggs. Stop to enjoy the show in Demel's shau-fenster and you'll be smiling, too.


Austria's most famous horses strut their stuff in the automated walking circle adjacent to the HofReitSchuleCafé.

Vienna Restaurant View

First city-walk — stroll through winding gasses near Donau-canal where we bought tickets for Tuesday boat ride to/from Bratislava. Who couldn't love the way this restaurant recycles its empty olive cans!

Imperial Vienna

So here we are, Barb and I, carrying umbrellas above damp cobblestone streets in the massively ornate capital-ol — it's both an -al and -ol!! — city of the former Austro-Hungarian-Hapsburg Empire. Gotta figure out who were those Hapsburgs and why do we care? And when did Marie Theresia live, and why does it matter?!? Too jet-lagged to really care right now. Posting photos as soon as I figure out how.