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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hotel Haiku

Cate outside the entrance to the elevator up to the Eagle's Nest. Treading the path travelled by Hitler, Goering, Himmler and all the other nutters of that era.

Annie has asked an interesting question. Why don’t I ask fellow travelers for advice about hotels? Well…..I do.

There are many travel sites which I trawl relentlessly. The main one is TripAdvisor.com.

While it is quite easy to find nice hotels anywhere I have a Set of Rules which I must apply to any accommodation.

These are determined by Cate who has a number of very specific requirements.

The full Set of Rules comprises a number of bound volumes (A DVD will be available early in 2010) and is too extensive to canvass here – but some of the rules are:

It must be in the old part of the city right next to everything and it should be so close to the Cathedral/Castle/Ruins that you can lean out the window and touch them.

It should be very quiet with heavy curtains so that it can be made as dark as the inside of a cow’s stomach in a graveyard at midnight on a moonless night. (This makes for interesting bathroom excursions in unfamiliar surroundings).

It probably won’t be modern but if it is it will not look modern and will have the essential features of an old hotel (but with no rats in the walls).

It must be elegant and no Chintz is allowed. (Chintz is not clearly defined in the Rules but when Cate spots it you can hear her shrieks in Ouagadougou).

The furniture should be elegant and substantial but not Prissy (No precise definition is provided for Prissy but even I know it when I see it).

The bed must be at least Queen size so that our toes don’t hang over the end. It should not be two single beds pushed together. (This is a toughie in Europe).

Breakfast should be Cate’s favourite Muesli and have fresh Orange juice and wholemeal toast.

The coffee should be espresso and not boiled kitty litter that has been left to stand overnight in a vat of Bison urine. (Another toughie).

Overall – it must be nice and she must like it. This is the Catch.

Whatever else it will be it is unlikely to fulfill those last two criteria. Which leads me to write some appropriate (and very bad) Haiku.

Fine hotels are legion
Sadly for me
My choices suck

However, I am nothing if not tenacious and victories like The Grand in Krakow keep me driving forward relentlessly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh - this is nice!


The first time we stayed in the Hotel Kasererbraeu in Salzburg it was quite delightful – apart of course from the Indians from the Italian restaurant next door emptying the contents of their apartment into a large bin outside our window at 6:00 AM. This was covered exhaustively in an earlier blog (3 November 2008 in fact).

This time it was somewhat less than average and it was possibly under new management. It was hard to tell – there were few signs of life and that which was apparent lacked motivation.

The receptionist had been trained by the SAS and was not about to put up with any nonsense from guests whose only role was to ruin her otherwise perfect people-free day.

We had reserved parking but were told on checking in that we could not park there on Saturday night as they were full.

“But we have reserved a parking spot” we said. “You can’t reserve parking” we were told (except that obviously a bunch of people had for Saturday night - and we had an email confirming our parking reservation).

So we did the only thing possible under the circumstances and parked there on Saturday night hoping that someone would come along at some stage and thump the receptionist because they could not get in.

Later I asked her for additional pillows but fled when she started reaching for the club she kept behind the counter.

The apartment idea turned out to be not one of my best (what a surprise) as it comprised two “rooms” separated by only 8 steps – and very creaky steps they were indeed. It was very hot so we had to leave the windows open and the bells damn near drove us mad.

What with the bells and us creeping up and down the creaking stairs all night to get to the bathroom Liz and Darryl were quite frazzled for most of the time.

However, on Saturday we all went to the Salzburger Schlosskonzerte. The concerts are held in the Marble Concert Hall of Mirabell Palace, (where the young Mozart himself was a frequent performer).

The concert was delicious. The performers – Luz Leskowitz and Konstantin Maslyuk - were sensational and the music was perfect – Mozart, Schubert and Franck. We clapped so hard they gave us three encores.

Schladming was delightful again and this time we had rooms overlooking the town. We were in adjoining double rooms and had a balcony on which to store the wine and drink it. There were – as usual – no fridges or air conditioning and it must get really hot in Summer.

We had great trouble finding a Vinothek in Schladming but eventually stumbled on a shop that sold local wines – some of which turned out to be very nice indeed - so we drank as much as we could and took some with us.

In Prague I had booked an apartment based on the photos and description on the Internet.

(Yes you can groan all you like but I am nothing if not a slow learner – and apparently I am also incredibly gullible).

The apartment proved to be a Soviet era monstrosity that had probably once been occupied by a very low level apparatchik with a personality disorder, a seriously dysfunctional family life and poor hygiene.

The ‘bathrooms” were in a row and consisted of a single toilet, a bathroom with toilet and shower and another room with a bath and what may have been a washing machine but could also have been a Soviet era motor vehicle with its wheels missing.

The toilet was so small that when I sat down I could press my nose against the door whilst remaining seated. I think it may have been designed by British Airways.

The second bathroom was uninhabitable because an entire family of ferrets had died recently and had been dropped into the adjacent light well to fester.

The walls were very thin and we were kept awake at night by a family of rats in the wall having a knees up – and also by the bloody bells from the church next door.

Late at night hordes of shrieking people exited bars and started throwing rubbish bins and each other through shop windows but – apart from the bells – which went all night – things quieted down about 5:00 AM.

Everyone was very nice and made encouraging noises to me ‘really – it’s not so bad – we can get rabies shots and be disinfected when we get home – and isn’t it good that the rats are having such a nice time!.’

The Grand Hotel in Cracow was a 5 Star hotel which I found at an incredible discount while searching the Internet for my customary disgusting hovel.

I hasten to add that I do not start out looking for disgusting hovels but always manage to gravitate towards these by making compromises about price and location – and of course being sucked in by the photo-shopped images on the websites.

The Grand partially redeemed me for my earlier efforts but the memories will linger with all of us for some time.

The worst part is not the hotel – it’s the look of disappointment on Cate’s face when she sees it for the first time.

“Oh – this is nice" she says and I know I have failed again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hitler would hate what they have done to Kehlstein


As expected, my laptop refused to work anywhere – with either wireless or cable. Hence the Blog silence.

I suspect it is a simple problem but as the operating system is in German it will still be some time before I know enough to get it working properly – by which time I am sure we will have parted company – and indeed it very nearly ended up going out the fourth floor window of the Templova Apartments in Prague.

Prague incidentally is quite wonderful but needs a good wash. The buildings are very dirty and next time I go there I am going to take a scrubbing brush and a bucket of soapy water.

The city is one of those to which the communists gave the benefit of their planning and organisational skills so large parts of it are pretty well stuffed – but are slowly on the mend.

But the roads! ‘Pedestrian Overpass’ is not something that was ever mentioned in the Roads Department (It would be wrong to call it a ‘Planning Department’ because clearly no planning ever took place).

Consequently you drive for 50 kilometers in and out of Prague along something that purports to be a main road and have to stop every 500 meters for a pedestrian to cross (to where? Are half his goats on the other side of the road?).

Hitler would hate what they have done to the Kehlstein (Eagle’s Nest). The original building is intact but is crawling with people selling tacky tourist stuff – to more tacky tourists than I have ever seen in the one spot before.

There is actually nothing to see apart from the view that Adolf had – and we were disappointed that it does not have the large outdoor area that you often see in documentaries with Adolf and Eva and their hangers on lolling about with Blondie.

This was clearly somewhere else – but where?

Anyway I bought an excellent book ‘History of the Eagle’s Nest’ and now know a lot about how it was built. I can even tell you the number of knives, spoons and forks that were supplied when it was first built. Send me an email if you need to know.

If you do go to Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgarten – don’t in fact go to the town of Berchtesgarten because it is not there. It is bloody miles away in a different place altogether – and is more difficult to find than you could possibly imagine.

We visited the Bone House at Hallstatt. It is in a ‘cave’ which is much smaller than my study. Entry cost €1.50. That is all you need to know.

We visited the Ice Caves outside Salzburg and these were ‘interesting’. You have to walk uphill for miles to get there and then inside the caves climb 900 steps. If you can stop gasping long enough there are some tremendous piles of ice to be seen and admired.

We visited the Salt Mines at Hallstatt. The best part was the wooden slides between levels that you sit astride and whiz down. There is a plastic dummy called ‘Sepp’ who tells you a story about the ‘Salt Man’ who may or may not (probably not) be thousands of years old – no one will ever know because they have lost him.

I am not sure why they need ‘Sepp’ given that the guide tells you everything else. It doesn’t add anything to the experience. There is also a part where they play music and project pictures of ancient animals and men onto the salt walls. There was no explanation of this incomprehensible interlude.

Hallstatt

Coming home we were diverted off the motorway just before Brno by police and ended up on a side road – from which we never recovered. It was the most excruciating trip we have ever had and we ended up coming into Wien on a one lane road – it took ages.

I discovered to day that this was because the Pope was in Brno trying to drum up some business from the Czechs – who are not much interested in that sort of palaver.

The Pope said that – according to the International Herald Tribune – “history had demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions”.

Excuse me? Clearly they did not teach history at Trainee Pope school.

There are obviously more fatuous statements than this made by Popes present and past – but this has to be up there with the best.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Supplementary Thursday Blog (Cricket)


OK all is forgiven.

I love you Ricky and I am in heaven watching you and your magnificent team flog the Poms senseless in the One Day Series.
As reported in the Times:

“In tennis parlance, the score line in this series has become a doughnut, six to Australia and a big fat love to England, with every chance of the home side succumbing to an unprecedented 7-0 series defeat at the Riverside on Sunday.

Some will say that the outcome of these games has become tediously predictable, but England, to their credit, are ensuring variety by finding new ways to lose. Two days earlier their fielding had been blamed; last night it was their erratic running between the wickets that added a darkly comic element to an otherwise depressing tale”

For those of you who are not Australians there is nothing – NOTHING – worse than being beaten by England at cricket.

Conversely

There is nothing – NOTHING – better than beating England at cricket.

It is wonderful, visceral, exhilarating, inspiring. It makes my toes curl.

And tonight the crowd Booed the English team for their pitiful display.

Booed! Delicious!

Nothing can beat that. Not even Tony Abbott spontaneously combusting in Parliament could beat that.

So Ricky – next time you are in Vienna – feel free to pop in. I will supply the Bubbly!

PS: David – when are you coming to see your father? We can play cricket in the garden like we used to.

Sometimes they just got hammered



Barry and Kevin, Maria Island, Tasmania.

Cate says yesterday’s Blog was the most boring she has ever read. Crikey – there is some stiff competition for that title.

It is not always possible to be creative on demand you know. Hemingway and Steinbeck didn’t write every day. Some days they just went fishing – or got hammered – or both.

My apologies to retired Labor Party members who have assured me that most of the thugs are still in Parliament.

Next Monday we were planning on going to Großglockner – Austria’s highest mountain. It appears our hopes and dreams have been shattered by the news on Monday.

“Mountain roads were closed and drivers told to use chains as Austria saw the first snow of the season last night.

Austrian car club ÖAMTC reported today the Großglockner high-Alpine highway had a 10 centimetre covering of snow this morning and the highway linking Heiligenblut, Carinthia and Fusch, Salzburg was passable only by vehicles with chains”

As Billy has not had his winter tires fitted (and I have no desire to actually drive on heavy snow unless I am in a Panzer) we will have to give the mountain a miss – but will wave at the white bits as we pass by.

We might stop and watch the first skiers of the season committing Hara Kiri by crashing into trees, poles, snow ploughs, deer, Marmeltiere, each other etc.
There are lots of other things to see including the Bone House at Hallstatt.

Hallstatt

Also the Salt Mines and scenery the likes of which (being from a wide brown land) we have not seen before in detail.

Sure I have been to many places, including the French and Swiss Alps - and Dapto - but have never seen anything as beautiful as some of the parts of Austria we have visited.

I am really sorry to keep banging on about this but have I missed something? Is there perhaps a new game show on Austrian TV that encourages people to find inventive ways to maim or kill themselves – or each other?

There is simply no stopping them here. Deaths and injuries this week include a number so bizarre that they boggle the mind. I will not give details (to avoid causing offence or trauma) – merely key words:

Speeding Locomotive
Cleaning Fluid
Paragliding
Hiking
Driving
Strangling
Gravestone (200 kg)
Toilet Candle (scented)
Tree Chain
Liquid Manure

From the Austrian Times

“A 20-year-old Styrian was slapped with a 50 Euros fine when he farted as he talked to cops.

Red-faced officers booked Hansi Sporer for breaching safety and security laws when people started laughing when they heard him break wind as he chatted to officers at a rock music festival in his hometown.”

Safety and security laws? This must have been a sensational effort! I wouldn’t be surprised if Al Qaeda enquire about a transfer fee.

For the record, Hansi received a letter advising him of the fine of €50 – which he paid.

Clearly there is not much crime in Styria and the Polizei need to do something. To get to Hansi they would of course had to wade through mountains, and I mean mountains, of cigarette butts and dog poo.

Annie has sent me some Haiku written by cats. Here is a sample:

Toy mice, dancing yarn
Meowing sounds. I'm convinced:
You're an idiot.

And for some light relief next week if I am not Blogging

Failblog

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not all small widgets are necessary



I went for a ride along Euro Velo 6 yesterday. Not for very far mind you. Euro Velo 6 runs from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and on its way passes through Vienna – following the Danube.

Euro Velo 6

The Euro Velos are an astonishing network of cycle paths throughout Europe. Part of their charter is to “ensure that bicycle use achieves its fullest potential so as to bring about sustainable mobility and public well-being and economic development via sustainable tourism”

The NSW government would hate them and would have thugs (probably retired Labor Party members) placed along the route and armed with clubs so that they could beat cyclists senseless and throw their bikes in the Danube.

Then they would sell the land to developers.

Anyway – I rode about 40 kilometers yesterday and would have gone further except that I knew I would be coming back into the teeth of a howling gale.

My speedometer works a treat and I know now know exactly how far I travel and what my average speed is. Neither of these figures is impressive.

I would also know my cadence except that I lost the widget when I was assembling the parts to connect it all to the bike. It was a small magnet so it will be attached to something and one day I will find it.

I lose an amazing number of small things like this but I have found that mostly things work reasonably well without them.

Ricky Ponting is trying to make amends with me by flogging the English in the One Day Internationals. It doesn’t wash with me Rickster!.

The One Day Internationals don’t amount to a hill o’ beans – you lost the Ashes and that’s all that counts – EVER!

PS: For a couple of reasons I have removed as much of my Facebook page as I can. Don't feel offended if you were a Friend - I still love you - just not publicly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Take a break - have some fun!


A reminder that we are off on Friday to Salzburg, Schladming, Prague and Cracow.

My laptop wireless connection will work as well as it usually does when it is taken out of the apartment (it suffers from separation anxiety whenever it is moved more than 1 meter from a wireless modem) so you may not get any Blogs at all next week.

So take a break – have some fun – cruise around and stop worrying about the cats and I (Or, if you prefer, me and the cats – your call).

Speaking of which.

When Monika arrive here she was a skinny, nervous wreck. Clearly unwell and close to being unhinged. (She was abandoned when she was pregnant with five little tackers inside her and had clearly been badly treated).

She is still nervous and it has taken a long time for her to get accustomed to being picked up and cuddled.

Importantly, she is physically well and now quite plump. (Although she has been a bit wobbly for the last couple of days but appears to be on the mend).

She clearly has some mental scars and has some personal habits that would startle a drunken and disoriented Orang-utan – but we won’t canvas those on this Blog.

Even though we have been together for 17 years Muffin never stops looking for ways to surprise me. A few nights ago she vomited on my head when I was a sleep. This was a first – and I hope a last.

All cats have now been banished from the bedroom – mainly because of Monika’s abysmal habits – but Muffin’s behaviour didn’t help much.

Steph reminded me of what happens when you get a computer problem that you cannot resolve. In Dell’s case - when the war ended there were many Gestapo left unemployed. Dell recruited these and used them to train the people on their help desk in Mumbai.

Yesterday I made the mistake of indicating to the man in the Blumen in the Landstrasser-Hauptstrasse markets – where I was buying Katzengrass – that I liked his new shop front. He spoke non stop for 5 minutes, gesticulating wildly – and I understood about 3 words during the entire conversation.

I tried on a couple of occasions to interrupt him to tell him that I did not have a clue what he was talking about ‘Es tut mir leid aber….’ but he was in full flow and could have been stopped only with a club which unfortunately I was not carrying at the time.

I can manage if someone talks really slowly – but no one does. They are like the French and talk at high speed. I always get hung up on a word early in the sentence and then it’s all over. He used ‘geschaft’ very early and I spent the next two minutes racking my brain for the translation – thinking – I do know this word…hmmm…let me think…

However, I have a new German teacher who starts in a couple of weeks so will supplement the minimal amount of work I am doing now. Her name is Brunhilde (well of course it’s not - but you know I never use real names – except for relatives and close friends) and I am looking forward to our first encounter.

Let’s hope she doesn’t start the conversation with ‘geschaft’.

It is coming up for the Anniversary of Cate’s first lesson and she says that she is almost ready for the second (I am not joking!).

A special mention for Possum who is crook and needs another operation (Gallstones! What is the matter with this woman). Lots of love. Get on with it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Juliet has something VERY important to tell me


On Friday we drove to Schloss Grafenegg for the wedding of one of Cate’s colleagues. This is a truly delightful fairy tale setting in the middle of one of Austria’s main wine producing districts.

Schloss Grafenegg

The wedding was in the Chapel – complete with two opera singers – and dinner was in the library.

It was a magical evening that had us out in the garden at about 11:00 PM wondering what we did to deserve to be in a place like that. It was one of those ‘pinch yourself to see if you are awake moments’ (apart of course form the usual hordes of smokers).

Mercifully there was no smoking (or reading) in the library where we had dinner.

Everything was in German of course but we got the hang of what was happening and just went with the flow.

The grim realities of life became apparent once more when we returned to Hotel Sparta in a nearby town where the only additional item – apart from the bare wooden furniture and a steam-driven TV – was a sliver of soap - roughly the same size and thickness as a communion wafer.

It was (of course) not air conditioned so we evicted the Finns who were using it as a Sauna and slept with the window open. I woke at about 4:00 AM with the most astonishing allergic attack that I have ever experienced. I sneezed approximately 163 times (I lost count) and must have woken up the entire hotel.

These were not normal sneezes – they were more like detonations and my ears flapped my and teeth rattled as they occurred. Had I used contact lenses these would now be somewhere near Linz.

My eyes started streaming and the cacophony of explosions scrambled my brains leaving me incapable of rational action. I wandered around sightlessly crashing into walls until Cate wrapped me in a Tuchent, tied me to the bed and held a pillow over my face until I lost consciousness.

I woke with an astonishingly bad Migraine and collapsed into bed as soon as we got home. I emerged briefly to go to Spar to buy fruit for Cate’s breakfasts (She says I can have a day off when I die – or when she dies – whichever comes first) and then collapsed for the rest of the day.

I have joined a site called Livemocha which is a language learning site. It’s free for the basic course and is one of the best I have seen.

Since joining I have received a number of messages - like the following – which I received on Friday (I have taken the liberty of correcting the spelling, grammar and punctuation)

“Hello, I am Juliet! how are you! hope you are fine and in perfect condition of health. I went through your profile on Livemocha I took interest in it, if you don't mind I will like you to write me on this ID:(julietshbn40@yahoo.com) hope to hear from you soon, I will be waiting for your mail because I have something VERY important to tell you”.

What do you think Juliet has to tell me that is VERY important? I can’t be that she fancies me because my picture (in silly Turkish hat) is on my home page. Could it be….gasp….Juliet wants my credit card details? (Shriek!) Oh the scheming trollop!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We need more Austrian taxpayers!


Jura is back. It sounds terrible but makes nice coffee. I hoped that they would fix the grinder which sounds like it is mincing owls and marbles simultaneously but I will just have to carry on until it clags out again. See how hopeful I am.

(“Clagged out” is an Australian expression meaning Kaputt! It probably derives from an Australian brand of glue that was used in schools.

This came in a glass pot with a brush and was designed to spread glue over the entire classroom and all students therein.

It could be removed only with a cold chisel and sulphuric acid and if you put it inside a school book the book was then useful only as a door stop as the pages could never be opened again.

The RAAF used it to seal the fuel tanks of the F III when they problems with leaks during the Vietnam War).

The Funkenschutz has arrived and is – as I had planned – nondescript. Cate has seen it and has not reacted badly – but then it’s not winter and she is not sitting in front of the fire. We shall see. Still, I did offer her a glass one from Sweden and she turned he nose up at it.

It has warmed up again and – as I changed the Doona on the bed – we are of course sweltering. However, it is not wise to throw the Doona off at night and expose bare flesh as this is likely to be seized upon by a small but perfectly formed cat with needle-sharp claws.

It is about time we changed to the European style Doonas (or whatever they are called). I don’t think you have sheets with these. What do you put on the mattress I wonder? What are the Doona thingies called?

We are almost ready to go back to Indochine 21. Our pictures are no longer in the window below the ‘Vorsicht!’ signs and I am sure the staff will have forgotten about us – unless they are still in therapy – and I would not like to be responsible for a relapse. Hmm…..perhaps we should wait a while longer. We may give it another nudge when Gwenyth come back for our St Petersburg sojourn.

Liz and Darryl have landed in Europe and are beetling about in Italy. We are meeting them on Friday week in Salzburg then driving to Schladming, Prague and Cracow. This will be a sort of rolling knees up.

Billy suffered another minor scrape (yes it was me!). This was inevitable as the car hoist is so narrow that sooner or later I had to scrape the mirror. As it turns out it was later and is not too bad. Cate is feeling very superior.

There is a tribute concert to Michael Jackson in Wien on 26 September. It will feature some world renowned stars (?) such as Akon, Mary J Blige, Natalie Cole, Chris Brown and US 5.

There seems to be a lack of star power and commitment here. Where – for example – are Leo Sayer and Cliff Richard. And what about Austria’s official Falco impersonator!

At €518 for a Gold Ticket I think I will pass. For that sort of money you can stand on a milk carton behind the back row in the Staatsoper and see a Trumpet player and the top half of a Violinist.

So many people have been killed or badly injured in Austria this week I am surprised that the streets are not deserted. This is a serious problem. Government action is required.Some samples:

A 62-year-old cyclist was killed when he rode into a hole in the road and was sent hurtling over his handlebars. (What no helmet?)

A 54-year-old Upper Austrian DIY fan is in hospital with severe burns after he forgot to close the fuel cap on a petrol-powered chainsaw he was using at his home in Bad Ischl in Gmunden. (Forgot to close the fuel cap?)

A shopper was hospitalised after he was hit on the head by a falling piece of roofing at an IKEA store yesterday. (They revived him with an Allen Key).

A 58-year-old man drowned as he fell while walking his dog next to a reservoir in Styria’s Voitsberg district. (The dog usually saves its owner – this dog needs training).

A 46-year-old DIY fan was left with serious burns when he blew up a workshop as he ground a rod. (Apparently anyone using a power tool is a DIY fan).

There were numerous other deaths – some too bizarre to mention. This is a very small country. What is going on here? Why can’t these people just smoke themselves do death like their fellow countrymen. This way they will live until they retire and pay taxes all their lives.

I need to maintain my quality of life and I cannot do this without Austrian taxpayers.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Funkenschutz is disgusting!






Getting cold here. There is a chill in the air. Love it!

I am starting to wash my winter woollies in preparation for the big freeze.

I needed to see the Dermatologist. Surgery starts today at 9:30. Thought I would get there early to try to cut the wait down to less than 2 hours. Got there at 9:10. Doors not open but there were 6 people waiting in the stairwell outside her door. Came home. Sulked.

I bought the first load of wood. 210 kilos of high quality Sushi Rolls. They are supposed to be environmentally friendly (it says so on the pack) – and they probably are if you don’t burn them.

Who cares – the world is going to hell in a hand basket so we may as well get on the bandwagon.

It is indeed much easier with Dolly to move Sushi Rolls up the stairs into the apartment – but it is still very hard work and shagged me out totally.

Only someone who has lived in a foreign land with a strange language would realise how difficult it is to buy things if you don’t know what they are called.

We need a Fire Guard (pictured) so that sparks don’t pop out and incinerate the cats and us (in that order) during those long winter nights when we are tucked up in front of the fire with a good book and a glass of Gruner Veltliner. Gemütlich!

They don’t sell them in the Feuerhaus – where they sell fires and accoutrements – and in fact had they no idea at all what we were talking about when we spoke to them last winter. All their fires seem to be enclosed so maybe they don’t have open fires here?

It took me hours to find one online. I finally discovered that they are called Funkenschutz. After that it was a doddle. I showed the pictures to Cate and she said –

‘They are all disgusting – I am not having any of those in the apartment’.

So I bought what I think is the least offensive one (and my opinion – as you know – is worthless – as I have no sense of style or colour and sometimes lack basic common sense).

However – working from the perspective of the Cat Preservation Society – action was required and has been taken.

It is coming from Germany and will be here in a few days. It does not have a stand so Sissi will be able to knock it over and squash/singe her mother and Muffin – can’t wait for that!. It also does not have any handles so when we need to move it to put logs on the fire we will get third degree burns. Perfect!

Because it is so hot in the upstairs studies we had to buy portable air conditioners. These expel hot air so it is necessary to run the hose out the window.

For this to be even marginally effective one can only open the window a small amount and squeeze the hose through the gap. The gap then lets hot air in – and small cats out.

To overcome this problem we asked the owner to provide new glass for the windows with each pane having a opening exactly the same size as the air conditioner exhaust pipe. The glass people and others came immediately and the problem was fixed in a couple of days.

I have told you about this before but thought I should let you know that the solution has been effective – as I know you would have been worrying about it.

The picture tells the story.

You should check out this site sent to me by David.

People of Walmart

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is Hawaii part of America? Duh!

Shoes - Paris 2009.



Sissi was chipped today and is now wearing a collar with to which is attached a little capsule with details inside of her name and address and our contact details. This was kindly sourced by Rozalin who knows where to buy everything.

It was harrowing experience for us all at the vet. The vets – just like the Doctors –do not make appointments - on the basis that the time of anyone who comes to see them is of no value whatsoever.

Moni had to go to have a check up so I took them both in the one (small) cage. After an hour Moni became very restless and after two hours was totally loopy.

I had to take Sissi out of the cage and hold her so that Moni would not kill and eat her.

The main problem was a giant dog (the biggest I have ever seen) who went in and did not emerge for an hour. I thought at one stage that it had probably eaten the vets and the owner and would soon break through the door and devour us all.

However it emerged finally and bounded out into Salesianergasse dragging its owner behind it. He should ride it – it is certainly big enough.

Sissi did not enjoy having the chip inserted and yowled loudly.

Moni is well and is recovering from the infection she had on her back legs.

I helped the vets hold Sissi while she was being chipped and the vet says that I don’t need a blood transfusion and that my wounds should heal in a week or so.

If your are really desperate you can watch a video of my vet getting married in Vienna

He is apparently quite a celebrity and is the vet to the stars. This could explain his prices. One of his clients was Elizabeth Taylor – no I don’t know why she would be going to a vet in Vienna and it may be best not to ask. At this point I am not going to make any Michael Jackson jokes even though the paragraph is screaming out for one.

I am not important enough to see him and get to see the other vets – although I must say that Doctor Kellerbecker is pretty good (she was the one who attended to Bill when was knocking on heaven’s door).

In researching the good Doctor I discovered a study on Elephant Knees and the acknowledgments list him as providing an Elephant Knee for the study.

You may – as I did – wonder where a vet in Landstrasse would get an Elephant Knee – but it may be best not to ask. (Another opportunity for a Michael Jackson joke flies by untouched).

The study reached the stunning conclusion that "It is likely that in elephants and mammoths the distinct structure of the knee joint is closely related to the enormous weight of the animal."

Annie and Michael are on their way on the rest of their holiday (10 Weeks!) and are currently in Salzburg. They then go to Italy where they are going walking and climbing in the Dolomites. They are apparently going to climb ladders left behind when the Italians we farnarkling around during WWII. Not my idea of a good time – but everyone is different.

On Friday we went to

Ein Wiener Salon

where we had one of the best meals we have ever had.

As the restaurant was fully booked – and we added Annie’s friend Penny at the last moment – we got to sit in the kitchen so we could see Sven doing his stuff.

I mean IN the kitchen. Right there amongst the pots and pans and stoves. We were close enough to Sven that he could flick cigarette ash onto us.

We also had the benefit of Laura the very large dog who lives in the kitchen and spent some time under our table. Laura has quite the biggest bottom I have ever seen and is clearly not a jogger.

She occasionally stands up to shake off some of the cigarette ash but this exhausts her and she collapses again quite quickly.Top night.

I read an article in the International Herald Tribune that looked at a recent study about why so many Americans don’t think that President Obama is a legitimate President.

There are of course many who think he was not born in the USA at all and that it was a Muslim conspiracy to make him President.

Many however believe that he was born in Hawaii – they just don’t believe that (wait for it) Hawaii is a US State.

I wish they wouldn’t keep doing these scary surveys.

Incidentally Newt Gingrich, one of the most divisive, deceitful, spiteful, dishonest and corrupt politicians in the history of the USA, has converted to Catholicism. That should drive a few more away. Would the Pope really want to belong to a Church that would accept Newt Gingrich?

Oh Dear – Really?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sissi did a runner



Sissi just cannot believe that we would be cruel enough to put the net back.


Early on Friday morning Sissi disappeared over the balcony and didn’t come home.

I went up onto the roof on three separate occasions and walked all around the walkways. There was no sign of her at all – but I did see that it is possible for her to get onto the roof of the apartments next door.

At about 7:00 O’clock Cate suggested that we try to go into the apartments next door and ask the people on the top floor if they had seen Sissi.

The door was locked so we went to go into Pizzeria Grado – which is in the same building – and saw a sign outside saying ‘Schwartze Katze Gefunden’.

Sissi had been found and had been sent to the Tierschutzhaus – from whence she was rescued on Friday morning after a long and tense trip.

This caused us immense consternation and Sissi has been grounded.

The net is back in place and Sissi will be chipped forthwith – and will also have a collar and tag.
Clearly she cannot be trusted to wander around on her own and henceforth will not be permitted to leave the balcony.

We went to the Staatsoper on Saturday night to see Faust. This was in fact the first time we have been there – one of the problems being of course that the ticket prices would stun a very rich Mammoth.

However Annie pawned her mother’s jewellery and bought tickets for all of us so along we went.

We were up in the balcony which was quite good. I good see the right hand side of the stage when the man in front moved to his left – (which he did not do very often) – so most of the action seem to take place out of view.

This guy was of a certain age and needs to come to grips with the fact that he is almost bald - apart from some long tufts. Just because you can grow some hair long doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you use it to try to cover up the bald spots elsewhere. This is not a good look. He needs to face reality and get a Number 1.

I was going to mention this to him but I find that men sometimes take this kind of advice badly as they firmly believe that covering their bald patches with tufts of hair actually works and that they don't in fact look like entrants in the 'I'm bald and I won't admit it competition' - and as I was wedged tightly into my seat at the time I would not have been able to get out of the way if he had – for example – gone berserk.

The seats are those where people with long legs (all of us in fact) could not sit facing forwards (in fact there would have been no point as we were not facing the stage) but have to sit on an angle. This means that one buttock takes the brunt of the load and after the first four hours starts to create havoc.

I did however have an excellent view of the man who played the cymbals in the orchestra. (I could only see three members of the orchestra – but could hear them all quite well). He left at the beginning of Act 5 and did not return for 20 minutes – I hope they docked his pay for that.

Cymbalist would certainly be my choice of jobs in any orchestra – he only works during Crescendos and the rest of the time he stares into space or plays with his iPhone.

The Opera was in French but we had little screens in front of us so that we could watch the Libretto in English. The language was very flowery and I would have cut most of it out and retained the essential elements of the story (whatever that was - I never did come to grips with it but at some stage a guy called Méphistophélès stabbed someone or something to death at stage left - being at stage left I couldn’t see what he or she or it was).

Also – I don’t think you can really tell a story properly if you have to sing every line – who does that in real life? And there were no catchy tunes – not once was I tapping my feet during the entire performance. This guy would have be marched out of the Brill Building in two weeks.

I reckon he should have done a collaboration with, say, Cliff Richard. Cliff was around in 1859 (he was very young but was clearly a child prodigy and could have written the score).

The people in front of us were watching their screens in German so I focused on comparing the English and German translations and managed to convince myself by the end of the Opera (5 Acts – Spare me!) that I will never speak German properly and will forever speak it like a drunken half wit with a speech impediment.

At half time I bought half a bottle of champagne (€55) which kept me thinking about grim things for a while and I was starting to wriggle a bit by the end as the seats were not too comfortable and we were up so high I was suffering from oxygen deprivation. I was waiting for masks to drop down from the roof but this never happened.

We escaped after 76 curtain calls – it must have been a pretty good performance as there was lots of screaming and shouting for some of the singers (some of whom I saw for the first time when they stood in the middle of the stage at the end of the show).

And what about the conductor! He gets applause before he even starts! What sort of incentive is that for a good performance?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is a prop nightie?


Cate likes cows.

News Flash: John Della Bosca’s girl has been identified (that took longer than usual). She is a person who previously dated Paul Livingstone (Flacco) and then took up with JDB. The pictures of both these gentlemen tell a story. This is a girl with some issues.

Also pictured is a Murmeltier. Merisi says that they live in the woods in Austria. She would not lie about something as important as this. I shall keep my eyes peeled.

I took A and M to Kahlenberg to see the view of Wien. It took some time as I got hopelessly and comprehensively lost. This included driving on the wrong side of the road and nearly killing us all and some poor sod in a BMW (who took it very well all things considered).

The problem is that I could not program the map thingy in the car to take us where we needed to go so I guessed wrong with the destination – (and on more than one occasion).

What I should have done (as I know now) is just put in Grinzing and then beetle up the mountain. I will do this next time.

It took us more than an hour to travel 10 kilometers. I am accustomed to this. I am – without doubt – and I will back myself against anyone else on the planet – the world’s worst navigator.


Sissi spent the entire day jumping over the balcony and prowling about the roof. I worried for a while but every half hour or so she would come back to check on me and her mother and then scuttle off again.
We will just have to live with this as there is no way of stopping her without closing the terrace doors. I will get her chipped and tagged very quickly in case she does a runner.

Last night I made some Wiener Schnitzel. Not as good as it could have been. The head came off my meat mallet so I could not get them thin enough. Jumping up and down on them in my hiking boots did not work because of the ripple tread on the soles.
From the Daily Telegraph:

“TOP actress Cate Blanchett was injured during a fight scene in a play last night, forcing the cancellation of the Sydney performance mid-show. The mother of three was hit on the head by a 1950s-style prop radio as she scuffled with co-star Joel Edgerton in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Sydney Theatre Company. The 40-year-old was bleeding from the back of the neck and used a prop nightie to stem the flow as she continued her lines”.

I have but one question - “prop nightie?” What is a “prop nightie” and how does it differ from a “nightie”? Merisi?

A and M are going to see the marching horses today at the Spanish Riding School (shouldn’t this be in Madrid or Seville?).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's our Anniversary!



Today is the first Anniversary of our arrival in Vienna.

Cate will argue about this but I have checked the airline itinerary. We left Sydney on 1 September and arrived here on 2 September.

There is no need to send presents – we have everything we need.

Annie and Michael arrived safely. Michael has stopped shaving and looks like a Yeti so I expect that the Polizei will stop him in the street and ask to look at his cellar.

This morning Michael was standing talking to Cate in the kitchen when he said ‘Is that your cat out there on the roof?’

It was indeed – Sissi is now big enough to burrow her way through the net – but panics when she cannot get back in and gets tangled up like a turtle caught in a fishing net.

So the net has been removed and Sissi is leaping and bounding all over the roof. We are not pleased about this but there is not much we can do apart from keeping the terrace doors closed. This is not a practical solution.

We hope that the attraction will wear off quickly and that she will show little further interest (Ha!)

In the meantime – it is nice to see Stephansdom without a net in front of it.

We now know where all the cows are in Austria – Steiermark. From not seeing any cows at all on previous trips we saw thousands in Styria - plus horses, sheep and goats.

You can drive from Wien to Salzburg and not see a single animal – why is this?

A big difference between here and Australia is that down under you cannot take a long bush walk without seeing wildlife – usually Wallabies, Echidnas and Wombats. Here there is apparently nothing to see – there may be Igels but they sure keep well hidden.

Was it always thus – or are the native woodland animals very rare (or extinct).

I suspect there were never that many – and the ones that remained and were large enough to see would have been shot by hunters.

Speaking of animals – the Gray Wolves in the Rocky Mountains were near extinction not so long ago so they banned hunting. They have recovered so – naturally – they are allowing them to be hunted again.

Sometimes the world – and America in particular – makes me want to sob.

Why do they have to shoot everything? You can’t eat a wolf can you?

On a happy note – our visitors brought us a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald. I read this online of course but it’s not the same as having a hard copy. I have been devouring every morsel of it and sniffing the paper.

This is one of the things I really miss about Australia. I don’t miss The Australian of course – if I want my daily dose of hysterical slobbering right wing blather from Murdoch I can just watch his FOX channel.

(My sincere apologies if I have caused offence to any hysterical slobbering right wing blatherers – but I suspect I do not number many of these among my readers).

I have caught up with the travails of John Della Bosca – LOL time. What a Goose! Silly John

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jura is in Espresso Machine Krankenhaus



Schladming from the Hotel Schütterhof.

We had no idea that Schladming-Dachstein was so beautiful – or that the walks were so bloody hard.

Rozalin sent us there and we will be forever grateful. We are promoting her to the new position (as well as Kitten Acquisition Officer) of ‘Weekend Planner’. Clearly this girl can do anything.

There is a map here for those of you who have so little else going on in your lives that you would like to see the area in which we walked.

Schladming

We went on two ‘intermediate’ walks. These were not ‘intermediate’ by our standards but the Austrians are clearly a lot tougher than we are when it comes to mountains.

The first day it was raining – all day – but we set off from the Steirischer Bodensee to the Hans Wὄdl Hut. The book says that the track ‘winds steeply uphill’ – and it certainly does that.

So we scrambled up the mountain side like (geriatric) Mountain Goats and – after contemplating on more than one occasion to throw in the towel – arrived shattered at the hut.

We went inside to find 23 middle-aged Austrians drinking beer and playing cards in front of a roaring wood fire. We received a brief round of applause for our effort in making it to the top.
The Austrians were staying in the hut and had planned on walking that day but it was too wet. They were having a great time and it was quite surreal to walk into a hut at the top of a mountain in our debilitated condition and see people having so much fun – and being dry at the same time.

I had a truly delicious Apple Strudel before we set off and plummeted down the mountain.

Fortunately we both have two walking sticks each because it would be immensely dangerous without these – give the overall state of our knees. Some of the steps were more than half a meter high and everything was very slippery.

We arrived back soaking wet and covered in mud – but fortunately just in time for Jause – after which we required a restorative nap before dinner.

Day two we planned a flat walk and set out on what was supposed to be one. We walked from the Kniepp spa in Grὄbming to Viehbergalm. It was easily the hardest walk either of us has ever done and many, many times we sank to the ground gasping and saying that we could not go on. I have never seen a ‘path’ that went on so steeply for so long.

But we did go on – inspired by the ancient gnome-like men and women who bounded past us and disappeared into the distance. We also kept coming across cow pats. We thought – hmm…if cows can get up here we should be able to.

(The cows cheated – there is a road on the other side of the mountain).

Eventually we stumbled out into sunlit meadows where there were lots of cows, huts and people. It was real ‘Sound of Music’ stuff – we haven’t seen anything quite like it before.

We stayed for quite a while and had refreshments - and were humiliated by the sight of families with young children and ancient grandparents arriving at the top of the climb – one man apparently carried a child all the way to the top.

We expected any moment to see a mother wheeling a pram.

The hotel was delightful – so much so that we have booked it again for when Liz and Darryl are here in three weeks.

I have much more to report but I have to prepare for the imminent arrival of Annie and Michael.

Also Jura has packed it in again and has had to go to the Espresso Machine Krankenhaus. Gaggia has been dragged spitting and snarling from the basement and is sitting sullenly in the kitchen – trying very hard not to make drinkable coffee (100% success rate so far).