Saturday, April 24, 2010

More of Vienna's Flak Towers

As you may recall, I posted an earlier entry (March 8) on Vienna's flak towers in Augarten Park. Here is the pair standing in Arenburg Park, constructed by Hitler to defend the city. Considering that Vienna was heavily bombed, it seems the six flak towers strategically located around the city were somewhat less than effective. The tower in the first and second photos houses a contemporary art museum which is open only for a few hours on Sundays but is well worth a visit not only for the art but to see the massive walls of the towers and the views from the observation platform. Snuggled up to the base of this colossal tower is a playground and a basketball court. A parking garage lies beneath them.

It's an interesting place, particularly on a warm spring day, to contemplate the sense of peacefulness of the park in the shadow of this enormous symbol of war.

The second tower is not open to the public and its current use is a mystery to me. Perhaps someone is growing mushrooms inside or storing wine....

One, Two, Three: Spring Skiing in the Fog

Earlier this month, when we went to the Italian Alps, we hoped to see magnificent vistas at one of the ski areas but were greeted instead with thick fog. I did manage to get photos of a solitary young skier as well as a duo and a trio of hopeful skiers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tulln at Dusk

Not far from Vienna is beautiful Tulln, the garden city, which has a fabulous summer flea market that stretches through a beautiful flower-filled market square, along the Danube, and winds through streets and parks. The city planners have redesigned the old downtown square, which I thought a couple of summers ago—before the renovation—was one of the prettiest ever. We stopped in for dinner a week or so ago and, although the new square looks nice and includes a much-needed parking garage, I already miss the beautiful old square.

The design of Tulln's industrial-looking square bridge over the Danube became especially nice against the dusky blue sky.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Margaretenhof's Elegant Entry

It seems a bit unfair that an entry gate can be so inviting yet exists primarily to keep us out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Misty Morning in Stadtpark

Vienna's Stadpark is always a favorite place to take a walk. These are some of the sights from a misty morning walk last week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Bärlauch Season!

Springtime brings a special treat from the woodlands throughout Europe. Bärlauch, or Bear's Garlic, tastes like a very mild, very flavorful garlic and this time of year you find soups, dumplings, salads, pestos and lots of other foods either made of or garnished with bärlauch. My green grocer said it can be used like spinach. Internet sources indicate that Bear's Garlic has medicinal effects similar to but better than cultivated garlic and the chemicals found in it are believed to be useful in preventing heart attacks.

I sauteed onions and mushrooms in olive oil, added a handful of sliced bärlauch leaves at the last minute, poured the mixture over some buttered noodles and added a few more raw bärlauch strips for garnish. Wonderbar! In fact, it tasted so good that this woman, who photographs just about everything, ate so intensely that she didn't remember to take a photo until it was all gone! But never fear; here are other photos of other dishes.

Spätzle made of and garnished with bärlauch:

Knödels or dumplings:

Pretty Bärlauch soup:

IMPORTANT: Bärlauch leaves look a bit like Lily-of-the-Valley leaves which are highly poisonous so be sure to do your research and know what you are doing before harvesting similar leaves in the woods.

By the way, I'm in Texas now, just beating Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull's (say that three times!) dangerous ash and the airport closures throughout Europe by a few hours. I've brought a few photos from Vienna to show you but then it looks like I may be doing posts on Texas wildflowers, cowboys and/or other Texas icons for awhile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don’t Die in My Shop!

We stopped at the Strandcafe Restaurant in Spitz an der Donau and were greeted at the door by Herr Thorsten Busch (no relation to the Georges, he said) who showed us around his ground-floor shop, Der Busch, and its offerings of wines, jams, chutneys and other foods. He poured some nut-like substance into his hand and invited us to taste. Delicious! Just as I swallowed, he said that they are apricot kernels, the inside of the pits. I told him I thought I read when I was a kid that apricot kernels were poisonous. “Yeah, they are,” he said. My eyes widened. "They have a kind of cyanide in them." I think I stopped breathing as I wished there was a way I could un-swallow. “But,” he continued, “if you roast them above 80° C (that’s 176° F) for 15 minutes, the cyanide dissipates and the kernels are harmless. Then he politely added, “If you feel like you might die, please try not to do so in my shop.” He was joking, of course. We think.

"Here, try them in chocolate," he added.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Apricot Trees Blooming in the Wachau Valley

The Wachau Valley, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is about an hour’s drive northwest of Vienna. Winding through this beautiful valley, especially on bicycle, is always delightful with vineyard-covered mountains on both sides, the Danube quietly but swiftly snaking through the center, medieval castles on the hilltops, charming old villages, and great heurigers—wineries—throughout. Oh yes, and the apricot trees! The entire valley is transformed every spring by the glorious white and light pink blossoms of the apricot—or marillen—trees. We went to the Wachau Valley last weekend to see the blossoms, a week early, perhaps, for the full blooms, but it was a breathtaking sight nevertheless with blooming apricot, cherry, plum and apple trees. chartreuse willows and bright forsythia.

Colorful Weissenkirchen overlooks vineyards and apricot orchards that slope towards the Danube.

Near here the famous Venus of Willendorf was found. You remember her from your art history classes, don't you? She now resides in the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

That's the Danube, actually looking a bit blue, in the background. Marillen blossoms have a lovely light scent.

White apricot blossoms against a chartreuse willow, a mauve flowering plum, yellow forsythia along the fence row and bright green grass drew our attention from hundreds of meters away.

Dürnstein Abbey peeks over the medieval stone walls of Dürnstein. While there are no apricot trees in the next few photos, the bright spring colors of other plants certainly add to the awesome beauty of the region.

It was in Dürnstein castle that English King Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned. The ransom paid was a tremendous boost to the region's economy in those days.

A majestic willow stands on the bank of the Danube.

This cherry tree was full of bees about their morning business.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back to Austria

Thirty years ago when I first went through the Brenner Pass, this flatlander thought to herself, 'I will never, never, never do this again.' The narrow road twisted around the mountainside with steep drop-offs at tires' edge. Large trucks and buses took more than their half of the road, and meeting them meant we had to move even closer to the edge. It was beyond scary for me. Now there is a lovely four-lane elevated road through the pass that makes the trip stress-free. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the engineers, governments, construction companies and everyone else who had a part in creating that great, smooth road.

So this trip to and through the Brenner Pass was almost a non-event, even in a snow blizzard. This time I could relax and enjoy the scenery. Here are a few of my favorite sights (that I could capture in a moving car).

In Italy:

The piece-of-cake Brenner Pass today that was no-sweat, even in the snow. But we heard from the man who sold us snow chains that the original twisty road still exists and is still very dangerous.

In Austria now:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bella Bolzano/Bozen

Bolzano, also known as Bozen, is another of the towns in the South Tyrol region of Italy where it’s Austrian and Italian cultures harmonize side by side. Ötzi, the ice mummy, is in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology here.

Castle Mareccio:

Homes in the center of town stand proudly in their decorated facades.

Details from doors in town:

An unusual chandelier brings an element of design drama to a shop: