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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas! wow it starts early here. We got back from our vacation in Italy this summer (well, early September) and lo! and behold! Shops were already putting out their Christmas things. It is Just Too Early! and people I meet here have the temerity to tell me that they disapprove of the American-style commercialization of Christmas. Oh, whatever! At least in N. America people at least wait for Hallowe'en, or American Thanksgiving to be over.
In blatant disregard of my own disdain of shops which begin with their Christmas displays when it is 25° out and people are still in flipflops, I have been swayed. Yes, I made a wreath. Yes, I pored over some Christmas CDs to put on my iPod. And bought candles. More candles.
And I think the tree will go....there...a little to the left...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

History in the (un)making

Yesterday I went to the Ring to watch the kilometre-long funeral procession of Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4th. Why, you ask? why, because of the hats of course.
DH, being uninterested in hats unless they're on his or my head, was not enthralled by the idea of attending a funeral of some guy who predates local democracy. Some newspapers agreed. Is there any excuse in a republic for what looks suspiciously like a state funeral?

Despite DH's naysaying, I didn't want to miss a moment in history, or, rather, laying history to rest: the Habsburgs ruled from 1282 to 1918, although the family dates from the 10th century. So the death of the son of the last Emperor of Austria marks the end of a period of more than 600 years of rule.

I found it fascinating, a glimpse into a historical world of pomp and power. The funeral cortege wended through the inner city from the Requiem in Stephansdom, down Graben, Kohlmarkt, through the beautiful Hofburg arches, Heldenplatz, turning onto Burgring to the Opera, from where I watched it turn back into the First District to end up at the Kapuzinergruft, where Otto von Habsburg plus his wife but minus his heart, will be laid to rest. The heart goes to Hungary, to be interred there as family tradition would have it.

Some extra fascinating tidbits:

ooohhh, ahhhh!
plenty of Europe's royal families were in attendance, although I could only place Karl Gustav, king of Sweden, and only because someone behind me said hey! there's the King of Sweden! I'm following true to myself here: I have met/seen rather a lot of famous people and I seldom recognized them. When it comes down to my little socialist heart, people just, kind of, look like people. Perky little fuzzy puppies? Them, I notice!

follow your heart
already mentioned the heart: body goes with wife (she had to be brought along I guess, since she was buried elsewhere when she passed away last year and was reburied with him Saturday. Follow your heart ain't a philosophy for him, I guess, since his is in Pannonhalma, Hungary, in a Benedictine monastery.

they don't know him (either!)
when brought to the Kapuziner-Kirche (yes, where we get the name cappuccino, if not the brew)there is a wonderful tradition, where the church is asked three times by the master of ceremonies, "Wer begehrt Einlass?" (who desires entry?). The first reply begins with all the titles--in this case, "Otto von Österreich, einst Kronprinz von Österreich-Ungarn, königlicher Prinz von Ungarn und Böhmen, von Dalmatien, Kroatien, Slawonian",yada yada yada for several paragraphs; the priest replies coolly, "Wir kennen ihn nicht" (we don't know him).

The priest asks again, "Wer begehrt Einlass?" and this time, the answer is all of his accomplishments: "Dr. Otto von Habsburg, Präsident und Ehrenpräsident der Paneuropa-Union", blah blah blah for a few long sentences. The priest remains unimpressed, and says again, "Wir kennen ihn nicht!".

For the third and last time, the priest asks, "Wer begehrt Einlass?". This time, however, the answer "Otto--ein sterblicher, sündicher Mensch" (Otto, a mortal, sinful human) and finally the answer comes: "So komme er herein" (so let him enter).
Equal in death.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

time for a flick

Tuesdays, ah, Tuesdays. My long and busy day. Got home late-ish and decided the perfect post-prandial would be a movie. Fortunately, there is a theatre just around the corner. It has a smoky little entry with 4 tables and a bar with dusty plastic flowers in vases next to the ashtrays.

This is the coolest, grimiest little place. a) you can bring your own drinks, and b)the first German-to-German subtitled movie I ever saw was here, Swiss German apparently requiring explanation for the rest of the German-speaking world, and c) you probably won't see mice running across the theatre floor in the warmer months. Sadly, today does not find itself in a warmer month.

Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed "Die Unabsichtliche Entführung der Frau Elfriede Ott", which is an Austrian comedy set in Graz. The title loosely translates as "The unintentional kidnapping of Mrs. Elfriede Ott" Ms. Ott happens to be a real actress who plays herself. Oh, such wacky good fun. Can't imagine enjoying it more even if I DID understand that Graz dialect. So what is this all about then? Well, an accidental kidnapping. Of Ms. Ott. High art it ain't. But go see it if you want a midweek chuckle & mouse sightings.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

bottom's up! for health, of course...

Achtung! looonnnggg post ahead!
Am disappointed to be missing a party I really wanted to be at, due to some weird flu-like things that render me useless in public, like fever and incredibly itchy and dry, bloodshot eyes. However, I AM celebrating the season by reading "apartment therapy" online and drinking beer grog.

One Saturday ritual I love is waking up to the sounds of CK making coffee, after which I hear the door squeaking and him returning with the paper, from which he tosses the Saturday magazine insert on the bed beside me. I get up to snag a big gorgeous mug made by Natalie, fill it with life-giving joe, and crawl back into bed with the Freizeit magazine. The photography is stunning, week by week I understand a bit more of the German too. I love the cooking section. Really. It is the part of magazines I HATE normally. But this one is SO GOOD. a) they have a half-page about what is in season right this second and what to do with it, its different names and types, and big pictures b) they have a "cooking for one" recipe that is fresh, using the produce they mentioned, and super simple, c) they have across the top of the page, cartoon-style, a children's item with clear pictures and simple directions--today it was making popcorn, which was weak, but normally it is something like baking an apple, or whisking up pudding from scratch, or making a simple salad. Then there is an article from a famous German chef whose equally famous restaurant got shut down cuz he was a cokehead, and, since Austria is very loosey-goosey about morality (just not the appearance of morality) and eminently practical, they immediately scooped him up to write a weekly column on food. So he will pick something apparently random, like horseradish, or celery root, or, again, whatever is in season, and write well, humourously, and knowledgeably about this thing. Then, there is the top 5 list. It is different weekly: where is the best Tafelspitz (boiled beef, served with Rösti and horseradish applesauce), Biergarten (summer, obviously) to where is the best Martini Gans'l (today's). November 11 is St. Martin's day (every day of the year has a saint assigned to it, and if you have a saint's name, you celebrate a mini-birthday on that day. It is your "saint's-day." On most calendars here the daily saint is mentioned. At several uBahn stations there are large-screen tvs where you watch the news clips while waiting for trains and they scroll through headlines, weather, and today's saint and the saint's basic info.

Naturally, some Saints are more famous than others. St. Martin, for some reason, requires a goose to be eaten on his name day, which is Nov. 11th. So for the days around that day, Gans (diminunitive form in Austria: Gans'l is goose) is offered on all menus from every low-brow beer pub to high-end restaurants. And it is served with Blaukraut (red cabbage) and roasted chestnuts and dumplings and a lot of beer, or, wine if served in a wine tavern. It is delicious. We have reservations at a Buschenschank on the 14th, about 10 in the party. (Buschenschank is a Heuriger--wine tavern at a vineyard--where the bush is hung outside above the door to indicate open for business) We are going to Klüger's in Stammersdorf again this year, fabulous meal, fabulous wine, fabulous schnapps to ensure fabulous digestion of all that fabulousness.

The next big saint is St. Barbara.
We buy a Barbarabund at the market for her on Dec 4th or the Saturday before. This is a bunch of twigs for about 4 Euro. Bund is something that is bound, hence, bundle of sticks, bundle of flowers etc. You stick the twigs in a vase of water, and the twigs flower by Christmas Eve. St. B was being taken in a carriage by her father to meet her executioner when a twig from a tree got caught in her cloak and flowered before she reached the beheader. Her crime (about 306 a.d.) was converting to Christianity. St. B's life sucked, really, as she had already been locked in the tower by her merchant father who took off on a sales trip and kept her there for safekeeping for months while he was away. She had the servants cut 3 windows in her bathhouse to indicate the Trinity. Bad move for ensuring a long life, Babs.

all of which to say I am drinking Biergrog. Now I have had grog, and I have had beer, but this brings both out of the nosebleeds into the boxes. So this is what the Freizeit had on offer today in a sidebox:
125 g sugar ('bout 1/3 cup, can substitue stevia or whatever), 1 litre light beer (e.g.Pilsner or Budweiser) I used one non-alc and one regular, 1/2 cinnamon stick. Then heat the beer and sugar and cinnamon stick just to a boil and stir the whole time. When the sugar is dissolved turn off the heat and let it sit while you beat 4 eggs and add 1 cup (250 mL) rum to them. Then whisk the eggs/rum with the beer/sugar/cinnamon and pour into glasses et voila! Biergrog! fun to say, fun to drink.

CK says that it is very good for colds and flu, and it is true, I am sweating profusely when moments ago I was shivering. Let the healing begin.

just watch out that you don't return it to heat, the eggs will get custardy in there. Not bad, just marginally chunky. Best to avoid. Serves 4 people who like grog, 6 who are being polite. Two of us.

When things drive me nutso about life here (difficulty galore with this impenetrable language, pushy, shovy, whiny, complaining people, obsession with what the neighbour is doing, courtesy-is-a-shameful-weakness and waiting for one's turn is for wimps) I then have moments where the richness of the traditions, the history, the fact that at our lokal the Napolese chef brought out his Russian coin from the 1700s to show us, then his Roman ones, (imagine! the hands that have touched these coins! the pockets they have jingled in!), and I go to the market-behind-the-market and pick up gorgeous firm pale green heads of cabbage, and tight heads of cauliflower, and the last of the season's farm tomatoes and red peppers. And I look for the first bunches of Barbarabund, and love life here again.

Biergrog, not just for flu anymore! bring your maudlin here!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I'm starting to rely overly on my gps to get around this curly-
streeted city. Nonetheless, I may have overstepped the possibility of even google maps with my request to find an Indian restaurant.

directions to Nirvana, starting at Current Location, struck me as somehow odd.
would that it were so easy

Sunday, March 14, 2010

There's no accounting for taste

Periodically I look through holiday photos and am astounded at what other people find attractive. I love these stairs, and according to Picasa, this photo of mine received a few visits, whereas a picture of my flipflops received 227 hits, a bee buzzing around Provence this summer got 483 hits, and what I consider a ho-hum, yes another photo of the Eiffel tower which I didn't bother straightening got a whopping 922 hits from strangers who happened on my Picasa page.