Saturday, September 05, 2009

Greg & Holly's Summer Vacation

{Another update from Holly & Greg in Austria.}

It's been a while since we sent out a general update like this. Mostly because we rarely do anything interesting these days. Frankly, living in Austria no longer feels much like living in a foreign country. Our acute awareness of how different things can be here has definitely waned, and our command of German is sufficient that we no longer doubt our understanding of every last thing.

However, we finally did something interesting: We had a vacation. Left the house and everything. Our first group trip in 2 years, if you can believe that.

First, we took a day trip out to a nearby town, Bärnbach. They have a church which was renovated according to the plans of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who added a certain brightly colored cartoony awesomeness to it:

Bärnbach also has a traditional glass manufactury with a museum, Stölze Glaswerk. Some of our favorite pieces were the giant glass jellyfish lamp, the world's largest Weissbier glass, and what is probably the world's smallest Weissbier glass, although unlike the big one, the little one is not certified by Guinness as a world record.

Bärnbach is also horse country; the stud farm and primary training center for the Lippizanner stallions is out there.

We didn't actually go see the horses, but the farm is somewhere among these rolling hills:

... which we'd just been biking all over. It made us tired. Fortunately, it was 100% downhill from this spot to the train station, where we loaded up our bikes and went back to Graz.

A few days later, we were back at the train station again, this time with cats instead of bicycles, to spend a week in Munich. We lucked out and got a compartment all to ourselves in what used to be 1st class, but had been downgraded to allow 2nd class travelers. Turns out no one wants to share a train compartment with anyone traveling with 2 cats. (Everyone we talked to seemed surprised that they weren't howling. In fact, they were very, very well behaved!) Along the way, we got to see some countryside we'd never seen before, and spotted a lot of castles perched on hilltops. (There is one in the picture below, in fact.)

In Munich, we visited the beer gardens, which are vast outdoor seating areas where you can drink beer (or coffee, or soda, or whatever you want, really, as long as you buy it there), and you can get food there, or bring your own. Most locals bring their own food; most tourists buy food there. Beer is typically sold by the liter; going to the beer garden is not a casual undertaking! The picture below is of the Chinesicher Turm (Chinese Tower) Biergarten at dusk in the enormous Englischer Garten park (English Garden) in the center of Munich.

We also visited some art museums, admired the architecture, went to many bookstores, fed the over-fed fish at the zoo, visited the Sea Life aquarium center, tried hot mead (honey wine) from a stand at the farmer's market on a cold, rainy day, and did a LOT of walking. Possibly too much walking; there was whining. And blisters. We're probably going to rent bicycles next time, instead of getting public transit passes.

We did a lot of window shopping, and a lot of eating.

(Rufus: Hooray for Proust!)

Although most of what we ate in Munich was typical German fare, or types of food we can't get in Graz (like Korean, or superfantastic Indian food, if you're in Munich, you should probably eat at Sarovar), we were very amused by the American Breakfast at the Rischart Cafe where we breakfasted most days. Apparently Americans like to eat bacon, eggs, orange juice, (with you so far...) 4 slices of wheat toast, half a baguette, and a stick of chewing gum for breakfast. The Rischart Cafe is pleasingly close to a 6 story bookstore, which we spent plenty of time rummaging. We have read many books this summer, it's been good reading weather.

Now that we're home again, and vacation is over, we're back to the same-old. Greg's getting ready for a math conference in Belgium a couple of weeks from now, Holly's back to painting and drawing. It is getting to be fall here, the pumpkins are laying around waiting to be squished for their precious pumpkin seed oil.

Captain Darling is still growing pretty fast, here's a picture from the first day we got him home, to compare with a picture taken this morning:

And, Carmelita is stoically waiting for him to grow up and quit being a dork. Probably the advent of cooler weather will do a lot to improve cattitudes around here.

As always, there are plenty more pictures in the Flickr stream (and bigger versions of these), clicking on any of these pics should take you there. (No password required). That's about all we've got. We'd love to hear from you, any time. Vacation pictures are not required.

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