Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Napoleon did not have this much trouble!

We have managed to get the temperature in the apartment up to 20 degrees. We have achieved this by running our two little electric heaters non-stop and lighting the fire early. We ran out of wood last night so are tearing up the parquetry floor.

(News Flash - this morning it it back down to 18.5 - we are rubbing the cats together to keep warm).

We are actually getting used to it now and tonight we plan to sleep with the Inuit in their Igloo.

Rozalin is hot on the trail and has harangued the building managers. We expect a repairman today (which does not of course mean that he will arrive). It won’t be the same one we had for the water heater as he suffered from frostbite and lost a couple of fingers.

Rozalin tells me that the water heater and the air conditioning are related – and perhaps this was what frostbite man was trying to tell me - but his teeth were chattering too much and he couldn’t get them around the German separable verbs. It doesn’t make any sense to me – but very little does these days.

I am in month 6 of planning our trip to St Petersburg and it is taking us longer to get into Russian than it did Napoleon.

These people have some serious problems and really don’t want tourists – at least not those who are not prepared to scale great obstacles to get there. I guess it means that only the really serious ones actually make the trip.

Without Rozalin it would simply have been impossible to get a visa (and I still don’t actually have one as it is due to arrive on 22 December - which will probably coincide with something like the anniversary of Peter the Great’s Bar Mitzvah and the Russian Embassy will close for a week to celebrate with Horseradish Vodka – which Cate tells me is fantastic).

Apparently after the 1oth slug of Horseradish Vodka you take your clothes off and roll naked in the snow (at least this is what her work colleagues did in Red Square but I am not sure if is the same for everyone).

When we get there we have to register immediately with the authorities or we could be executed. We have to give them our passports and relevant documents which they keep for three days.

In the interim we may be stopped in the street and if we don’t have our passports and documents we will be executed.

We may also be stopped by good police or bad police (described by the travel agent as ‘Rotten Police Officers’ in the three pages of instructions she sent us which include ‘must’ a number of time) who may also execute us if we don’t have our registration papers which we won’t have because we will have given everything to someone somewhere else.

It seems to me that the first three days will be fraught with danger and we should probably stay huddled in our rat infested apartment waiting for the knock on the door which will herald our doom.

I hasten to add that I have not deliberately chosen a rat infested apartment – and on the website it looks fantastic and modern – and is in the best part of town. But you know what my track record is on these things so I have no confidence that we will throw open the door and say ‘Wow – this is great!’

But Gwenyth will be with us and she is a very practical person and a sailor so takes these things in her stride and is used to watery catastrophes – like the Mizzen mast walloping or some such thing while she is tacking.

(And now a sailor will write and tell me that there is no such thing as a Mizzen mast and if there was it wouldn’t wallop when you tack).

So Gwen will go in first – brush the stray rats from her loose clothing – and say – ‘Oh this is OK– we can get by here – I’ll sleep on the straw and you two can have the horse blanket – now let’s get into that bottle of Horseradish Vodka - is it snowing?'

She is also good at dealing with the authorities so we will leave her in charge of preventing us from being executed in the certain knowledge that she is such a treasure that – if all else fails – she will sacrifice herself to save us. (Sailors do this type of stuff - the salt rots their brains).

I am not sure if Gwenyth is reading my Blog - but we need Bees Wax. I will explain later.

I have received one of my Turkish Cookbooks and have made a Spicy Lentil Soup – not bad at all. But I need to find where to buy Turkish spices – probably Naschmarkt - or wherever the Turkish Quarter is in Wien - and there will be a large one.


  1. Have you been to Napoleon's former headquarters on the Lobau (Donau Auen)? Take the 91a from VIC and get off at Roter Hiasl. There is a nice little cafe in the woods that sells a wonderful melange in a plastic cup with a ham sandwich. Not exactly Demel, but just right after a 4 hour tramp through the auen. I'm sure cats would love it there.

  2. You could also ask the Vienna Park Authorities where to get the burlap they use to wrap the roses in the Rose Garden. They look as if they were pretty cozy underneath.

    In my part of town it is snowing.

    Sure, Naschmarkt for spices! There are also little huts where you can huddle with a hot mug of spiced wine (a shot of Schnapps may be added, if you want to stay even warmer). Please don't discard the mug. Return it to the Glühwein-People and earn a quick 2 Euros! ;-)

  3. Merisi:
    Glühwein and Schnapps sounds wonderful!

    I'm delighted to see how highly you view Jim's and my skills but am surprised you made no mention of a sailor's navigational expertise!

    I was in Leningrad in 1979 on a coach camping tour. It was very much more restrictive then than now but I was glad to have visited. I look forward to your photos and comments. The Russian sense of humour is hard to fathom, though, so may give you lots of fodder.

    Must go and boil the kettle and saucepans so I can wash up ... we're on day four of no hot water ... I mean day four of bathroom renovations. As builder's labourer (our mate Bob is the builder, while Jim's the supervisor, of course), I was fortunate that the very wonderful Nea allowed me over for a shower last night. Such luxury! So pleased were we of the results that she's invited me back for another one, whenever necessary... Going to be 33C today so looks like it will be a good hosing down in the backyard or another visit to number 61.

  4. Annie,
    on the ski slopes, Austrians like to warm up with what they call Jagatee (that would be "Jägertee" in high German, Hunter's Tea). It is an inch or so of hot water in which a tea bag is dunked, perfunctorily, I suspect: The real reason for the tea bag and tea mug is to mask the rather large dose of Schnapps that's in there! Austrian ski slops are dotted by so-called Skihütten (another charade, "ski huts" really being Schnapps Huts, for everybody but the hapless foreigner) and the only reason for going skiing is to have a means to travel the 200m or so from one Skihütte to the next without having to walk, after two mugs of that "tea"). It's all an elaborate scheme, ski lifts going up the mountain, ski huts placed strategically on the downslope, in a zig-zag-course, and the further down the mountain you get, the higher the number of beds offered to overnight accidental guests (gives a whole new meaning to overnight ski tours).

    Please don't ask how I know about all this!