Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Louvre at Dusk

It was closing time at The Louvre and I.M. Pei's great pyramid made me want to build a house underground with just such a glass pyramid roof. What a way to commune with the sky!

And what a sleek, elegant staircase:

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Sights in a Paris Flea Market

Some of the sights in the Place de la Bastille Antique and Brocante Market:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Treasures in a Paris Flea Market

During a visit to Paris last month, we visited an antiquites and brocante market at Place de la Bastille. I was intrigued by the unusual works of this artist/designer who decorates "old stuff" and creates fabulous new items. I especially liked this driftwood fish:

The woman in this photo is the artist/designer and I am mortified that I can't find her contact information. She was so friendly I promised her I would do a blog post on her work. [To the artist: My sincere apologies, and if you see this, please leave a comment with your contact information; perhaps there is someone who would like to find you about your work...and I would like to see more.] If you are going to Paris, you might find her through the markets organized by www.joel-garcia-organisation.fr.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Strawberry is Open

Near Salzburg, in the charming town of Bad Reichenhall, Germany, by my favorite get-away spot of Thumsee, is a giant strawberry. I always notice it but apparently my husband does not. It seems it is usually closed when we are there but a few weeks ago I told him, "Hey! The strawberry is open!"

Evidently his peripheral vision was, at that moment, asleep at the wheel. "What does that mean," he asked, "'the strawberry is open?' Are you speaking in code? That sounds like some kind of Cold War movie spy password."

The next thing I knew, we were making a U-turn and buying strawberries....

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vienna's Salzgrotte

Austrians don't seem to be afraid to try unconventional therapies in order to stay or get well. Not far from Wien Mitte, the primary downtown transportation center, the Salzgrotte (Salt Grotto) is a haven for persons with respiratory problems.

A friend had contracted a bad cough on her travels to Vienna and was desperate for some relief. We thought it would be interesting to see if the Salzgrotte had any beneficial effect on her cough. A 45-minute session costs just under 8 EUR. In the waiting room stood a pitcher with a green substance, looking not dissimilar to green pond algae. I inquired about it and was told it was chlorophyll. I drank a glass and, after convincing my friend that it tasted like water, she drank one too.

You are instructed to take off your shoes and put on clean socks. As you enter the grotto, you are walking on a couple of inches of soft, coarsely-ground salt, not dissimilar in size or texture to the sea salts available in grocery stores. The only other requirement is to sit in one of the lounge chairs and breathe. Children don't even have to sit. Toys are available to them if they wish to play in the salt. The lights are dimmed and a color therapy light show begins. The sounds of birds singing is followed by sounds of ocean waves. Overhead, lasers measure the salt content of the air.

Just outside the doorway, my friend smiled broadly and said, "I hate to say anything to jinx this, but I'm feeling better." She still had to cough occasionally but kept commenting on what an enjoyable experience the salt grotto was.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Summery Desserts

Here's a few more beautiful, summery desserts offered at Cafe Central.

Dessert at Cafe Central

Unfortunately, I'm not in Vienna at the moment and am working on a huge project in a place without Internet service. I am thinking of you, though, and will try to get time and access every few days to keep updating Martha's Vienna, even if only with one or two photos at a time. Here's a beautiful orange dessert I devoured in Vienna's lovely Cafe Central a week or so ago. Scrumptious art!

The ceiling of Cafe Central:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Architectural Order and Chaos at VIE

The architecture of Vienna's International Airport (VIE) provides some interesting, sometimes chaotic geometric patterns and shapes in a skylight and in mirrored windows.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Honor in Austria

Many of my friends and I agree that one aspect of living in Vienna—and Austria—that is truly powerful, uplifting and inspiring is the underlying expectation of honor and honesty here.

Unlike most subway systems in the world, there are no gates in Vienna's U-Bahn. It is assumed you are honest and have paid for your ticket. Sometimes, ticket inspectors show up on a train and escort those without tickets off. They receive a citation, fairly expensive, we have heard. As you can see, there is no person or gate to check your ticket or stop you from entering the subway system.

In their spare time some rural firefighters plant flowers which you can cut and take home. You are expected to pay for them by dropping the appropriate money is a metal tube. It's your sense of honor that is at stake.

Newspapers on the street are not locked; there is a coin receptacle for your money. (This particular paper is often found at U-Bahn stations for free, though.)

Another paper that depends on your honesty and sense of honor:

In still another exercise in honor, some places request you pay to use their facilities. This was one of the more humorous, found on the Grossglockner highway. Need change?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Road in the Clouds

I have vivid memories of driving on the cliff side of narrow mountain roads, without the visual benefit of guardrails, trying to maneuver skinny hairpin turns, hoping to squeeze between trucks or buses (that took way more than their half of the road) and the edge of the cliff. I never thought that was a good idea.

Those memories interfered with any desire to drive the Grossglockner High Alpine Highway in Hohe Tauren National Park. But, after three and a half years of living in Austria, last weekend we finally drove it— twice—and although it was raining and we spent much of the time driving in the clouds, never even seeing the peaks of most of the mountains, it was a fabulous experience. Completed in 1935, the road was modern, paved, wide enough and not scary. I now feel a trip to Austria is incomplete without driving the Grossglocknerstrasse—even in the clouds and rain and being unable to see the mountaintops!

The designers of the road have done a great job by providing lots of pullouts so you can stop to enjoy the views. (It seemed we stopped every 50 feet!) Park staff have placed many log tables near these pullouts so bring a picnic lunch!

I like the patchy patterns of the remaining snow. It looks like art (or a gigantic cow).

I didn't notice the face in the mountain until I downloaded this photo:

The road is only open from May through September due to heavy snowfalls.

The Pasterze Glacier extended much farther only 10 years ago:

Grossglockner, Austria's highest peak, is somewhere on the left. This could be a great place to enjoy a coffee with your views.

Heidi, are you there?

Overlooking the pristine village of Heiligenblut:

I used to do some volunteer work for Vienna's Natural History Museum. The former director there thought that the concept of national parks was America's best idea.