Category Archives: Vienna Living

Hide your Kids. Krampus is coming to town!

Ok so I’ve lived in Austria now for almost two years and yet there is one tradition that I feel is still rather disturbing to me or perhaps more to my kids.  You see I grew up in a country where Santa always knew if you were behaving… “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake”…  My parents would remind of Santa’s watching every once in a while if my behaviour ever got out of line and that’s all I needed to stand up straight and say my “please” & “thank you’s”.

Here however, I guess the kids are hard core.  Santa or Saint Nicholas as they refer to him is way too soft, too forgiving and just well, a push over for any child really.  Nah here in Austria they need some scary ass monster to get their kids to straighten up their shit and behave properly.

Krampus is this frightful beast who visits those children who have not behaved during the year.  He marks his presence using the sounds of chains rattling outside your front door on the eve of December 5th. Children who hear these chains know that Krampus is close and normally this is their que to run & hide in complete terror. Now I am a mother who is always first in line to watch any child’s reaction to surprises but not at this event!  My husband experienced this as a child and remembers how frightened he was. Although he never saw Krampus, the rattled chains noise (which was done as a favour from a neighbour) was enough to scare him into good behaviour.  And all that was needed as a reminder was the name “Krampus” spoken out load. Trying to imagine this scary night through the eyes of a child…

I’ll leave you with some lasting impressions that most Austrian children tend to remember come each Christmas season.

“Dieter!  Sit up straight I said or shall I call my friend Krampus again?” <child shits himself>

Parenting in Austria is definitely more entertaining 🙂

Krampus blog

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The Cafe Experience

Many of you who have traveled around Europe may understand the importance of “the cafe experience”. Whether it is to taste Europe’s best coffee, catch up with a dear friend or simply indulge in people watching, sitting at a cafe here IS an experience.  As you may guess Vienna is FULL of cafes and depending on your mood the right cafe is probably a few steps away.

My husband and I decided to have a quiet Sunday morning breakfast at Edison in the 8th district of Vienna since we were child free (thanks Omi & Opa).  On the recommendations from another Viennese food blogger, sushiandstrudel, I wanted to give it a try.  As always, it was another refreshing change from the last cafe experience.  This one in particular had a clean & fresh atmosphere, decorated just to my liking with shabby chic decor and rustic charm.  As you would expect in Vienna, the coffee didn’t disappoint.  The breakfast menu offered an assortment of traditional pastries, health conscious dishes and richer (dare I say it) fattier alternatives.  Since I’m too lazy to make any sort of eggs at my house, I indulged in some ham & eggs.  Delish.

For a different cafe experience altogether you could walk downtown and soak up history in one of Vienna’s oldest coffee houses, Central Cafe.  Here you can experience Vienna’s traditional morning routines, perhaps the same of that Sigmund Freud had enjoyed.  Cafe Central has a rich & mysterious atmosphere which made me feel like I had stepped out of a time machine.  Newspapers were placed in the traditional wooden frames for all to enjoy, assorted pastries were displayed in glass casing and what appeared as cafe regulars chatted warmly with the staff.

In this type of coffee house the wait staff will always be formally dressed, which includes a bow tie.  Coffee is always served with a glass of water and one could spend an entire day occupying a table with a single order of coffee.  There is never the expectation or pressure to drink your coffee and go.   No way.  The Viennese enjoy their coffee ritual and may spend hours chatting with friends, conducting business or  simply enjoy a good morning read.  This tradition goes ways back to the turn of the 19th century.

Whether you fancy something fresh & trendy or formal & traditional every cafe will offer a unique experience.  With over 1000 coffee houses in Vienna to choose from I know that I’ve got my work cut out for me!  Thank GAWD I love coffee!


Happy Birthday Gustav Klimt

For those of you who are art lovers you may know that this years marks the 150th birthday of Austrian’s most famous painter, Gustav Klimt.

To be honest I’m not the “artsy” type who has a great knowledge about Art History.  I do however, appreciate art no matter the artist or the price tag; could be a stunning masterpiece by Klimt or could just as fantastic creative finger painting by my 6 year old son.

The largest collection of Klimt’s work is located in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace, which in my opinion is a attraction in itself.   Two Baroque Palaces, the Upper Palace and Lower Palace are situated on beautiful grounds complete with fountains and immaculately maintained gardens.

The Belvedere Museum shows work from different eras too like Impressionism, Contemporary Art and Medieval are to name a few.   “The Kiss” (below), which is Klimt’s most famous piece used golf leafing combined with oil paint to create a stylish modern look in that time (1907-1908).

If you do visit Vienna I encourage you to designate a half day to visit the Belvedere Palace.  Simply beautiful.

Credits: 1 2


“Mommy.. Where did Grandma go?”

There comes a time in every child’s life where he/she will question death.  “Mommy, where did Grandma go?”  How would you respond?

  1. “Ah sweetie, <kneeling beside the child> Grandma’s in a beautiful place called heaven.”
  2. <With a hug>“She’s no longer with us but will always be in our hearts.”
  3. “Your father forgot to renew the plot tax so they dug her up to make room for Frau Schmitt.”

Answer #3 can be a true if you live in Vienna.  You see, when a loved one passes away, your options for a final resting place can be limited.  Since 78% of Austrians are Roman Catholic they still believe in a burial rather than a cremation and living in a highly populated European city = a lot of bodies to bury.  The question remains, when real estate is at such a premium, can cemeteries accommodate everyone?  Not exactly.  Here families do not buy plots to lay their loved ones to rest, rather, they rent them out for 10-20 years instead.  If they wish not or forget to renew the plot agreement and do not pay the tax the likelihood that the plot will be rented to a new family will be inevitable.

Where do they put the remains of an exhumed grave?  Dunno?

Zentralfriedhof (German for Central Cemetery), which is located on the outskirts of Vienna has a total of 2.5 square kilometres and contains about 330 000 graves today.  Over 3 million people have been buried here, which is almost double the population of the city of Vienna.  Popular on the tourist attraction list, people from around the world visit  Zentralfriedhof which is packed full of famous people.

Just check out just some of the famous people who are buried here:

One thing I can vouch for is that Austrians do take pride in their cemeteries.  It is the family’s responsibility for the upkeep and most plots are immaculately maintained, however you will see the odd overgrown “forgotten” plot.

Strolling through most cemeteries usually eases my spirit.  I don’t know what it is but I always feel a sense of peace and love and  I enjoy looking at the tomb stones and wonder what the lives of these people were like.

Whether you are a religious person or not I highly recommend a visit to Zentralfriedhof.

 


Himmelblau

Next on my list. This is located right next to the apartment I used to rent. Any excuse to return to Kutschkermarkt. I love at market 🙂

sushiandstrudel

Zuckersüß. That is the word that comes to mind to describe this new cafe/shop that’s opened on the Kutschkermarkt in the 18th district. Not familiar with the Kutschkermarkt? Well let’s start there. It’s an adorable market, petite if you will, no more than a handful of stands nestled together along either side of a cobblestone row. What makes this market so special in my opinion, are the specialty stands mixed in with normal market staples. There’s a great cheese stand, a place to get organic soup and sandwiches, a cozy and local atmosphere, and now, the most charming cafe/shop duo this side of the GürtelHimmelblau.

I found myself at Himmelblau the other week after work one night with some female colleagues. (What? Cute shabby-chic cafes are totally allowed for Happy Hour. We in fact, spent two happy hours there!) I’d first read about it via the Frühstückerinnen (which…

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10 Things that makes Austria AWESOME!

You know that book written by Neil Pasricha, “The Book of AWESOME”?  Well I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it reminded me to appreciate the simple things in life that are… well … awesome.

I created my own list of AWESOME – the Austrian version:

1.  Lets start with the most important.  Paid Holidays.  Austria ranks one of the highest in Europe when it comes to vacation time.  Employees are entitled to take 25 annual paid days off plus 13 statutory holidays.  Mothers can choose to take up to two years maternity leave.  AWESOME!

 

 

 

2.  The suction on vacuum cleaners.  Ever look at your carpets after spending a hour vacuuming and wonder “was it worth it?”  Well moving to Europe meant replacing all of our 110v appliances with 220v.  Shopping for EVERYTHING (coffee machine, toaster, curling iron, hairdryer, vacuum, etc) in one go was an overwhelming task.  That is until we looked at the selection, starting with vacuums.  The power of suction… “hold on to your toupee and hair extensions folks”.  AWESOME!

3.  Mountains.  I know that there are beautiful mountains worldwide.  But…com’on….

AWESOME!

4.  Ice cream… ice cream.. who doesn’t like ice cream?  The European version does differ in my opinion to that artificial tasting ice cream back at home (sorry DQ).   Europeans live for pleasure and ice cream is way up there on their priority list.  My personal favourite “Eissalon” (everyone has their favourites in Vienna) is “Eissalon am Schwadenplatz” (Franz Josefs-Kai 17, A-1010 Wien).  It’s a family run business since 1886 so you can imagine with that many years of experience making ice cream it’s gotta taste damn good.  Sadly, there are only open from March until late September.  Not only is ice cream made fresh daily, seasonal fruit they get each morning determines the flavour of the day”.  Always creamy, smooth and refreshing.  AWESOME!

5.  Advertising.  The approach in European advertising is way more relaxed than North America.  As everyone knows “sex sales” and it is certainly demonstrated everywhere here in Vienna.  Whether they are selling clothing, bathroom fixtures or tea cups the theme seems to be sexual orientated… or?  You be the judge.  AWESOME!

Advertisement for a clothing store.

Even playful naked shower ads

6. Public Transportation. You ask every resident in Vienna about driving a car and all will agree, “There is no need”.  You’re likely to walk no more than 100 meters without running into a Bus, Train, Strassenbahn or Ubahn station.  So sit back and enjoy the beautiful sights while you ride with the people of Vienna.  AWESOME!

Just the yogurt isle

7. Dairy.   Now healthy eating is important to my family so we try to stick to a balanced eating plan (diet isn’t in my vocabulary).  If you have ever shopped in the dairy section in a European grocery store you may be overwhelmed with the amazing selection.  Everything is fresh and has a shelf life that lasts no longer than from a few days to a week maybe 2 thanks to no added additives and preservatives.  You can choose your fat content in all the dairy here too, just like in Canada.  Yogurts for example; fat percentage range can start low at 1% and go up to the luxurious silky oh so tasty 11% fat.  I don’t think I’ve seen “fat-free” anything here.  Can that exist without the chemicals?

One product that sells in some European countries is called Topfen.  It’s sort of like a full flavoured soft cream cheese without the fat!  It can be used in sweet & savoury dishes, baked or eaten as a dip.  Very versatile.  AWESOME!

8.  PEZ was invented in Vienna in 1927 by Austrian inventor and anti-smoke advocate Eduard Haas II.  He built a tin container shaped like a cigarette lighter to house rectangle mints that were marketed as an alternative to smoking.  It wasn’t until PEZ reached USA that the mints were replaced with candy and a character was added on top to make the packaging more attractive to the younger generation.  Sales have been strong ever since.  AWESOME!

9.  Environmentally Friendly.  60% of Austria electricity currently comes from renewable sources and hopes to increase the rate to 71% by 2020 according to the EWEA (European Wind Energy Association). Austria also ranks among the top 10 Eco Friendly Countries in the world according to the Environment Protection Index.  Finally, according to Aneki.com Austria scores the #2 position as the country who recycles the most.  I truly believe that after sorting and separating garbage for the last year.  There is a bin in every household for the following:

  1. Waste
  2. Plastic
  3. Paper
  4. Tin
  5. Clear glass
  6. Dark glass
  7. Batteries
  8. Light Bulbs
I love to live in a cleaner, “greener” world.  Wouldn’t you?  AWESOME!

10.  Yodeling.  When people think of Austria they generally think of people standing on a mountaintop dressed in traditional costume yodeling.  Well yes, you will find that occasionally and Austrians take pride in their ability to yodel.  It isn’t as easy as it looks.

According to Wikipedia

Yodeling (or yodellingjodeling) is a form of singing that involves singing an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch from the vocal or chest register (or “chest voice”) to the falsetto/head register; making a high-low-high-low sound.

What I love about traveling through Austria is watching generations hold on to their culture and traditions.  I have even adapted some of these traditions with my family… the dress part that is.  Yodeling… well that may come in time, with a lot of practice & perhaps drinking large quantities of homemade schnapps.

AWESOME!

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This Cinderella is all dressed up and ready for the Ball

There are more than 300 if you include ones not listed in the published calendar. These are not predominantly Viennese Waltz balls, but most have a fair amount of Viennese Waltz. Some are hosted by the city, others by occupations and trades, churches, organizations etc. but are still open to the public. Their balls are nearly all black tie events with ladies dresses required to be ankle length. Ladies wear mostly modern ball gowns, and only debutantes wear white ball gowns. Why is Vienna so special in this regard?  Emperor Joseph II, 1741-1790, had more respect for the common man and less respect for nobility than the average royal. He decided that the ballrooms in the Hofburg palace should not be reserved just for nobility. In 1773 he made the ballrooms available for public balls for the common man. 

Each ball begins with an opening ceremony that includes a dance show. The show starts with the officers of the organization hosting the ball marching in and taking their places on the stage, with maybe a speech or two. The rest of the show is a dance performance that usually does not last more than 30 minutes. The show is usually, but not always, performed by young people, with the young ladies in white ball gowns and the young men in tux or tails.  The debutantes and men dance the first waltz of the evening.  Once completed the ball officially opens and all guests are invited to join them on the dance floor.

Jagerball

Officer’s Ball

My husband and I have attended many balls since arriving here and each one comes with its own unique experience.  I loved the Officer’s Ball as  I got to see various uniforms from around the world.  And you know what they say about men dressed in uniform right?  It’s nice on the eyes.

The Regenbogen Ball (Rainbow Ball) is a colourful experience.  It’s like the Toronto Pride Parade ended at the Hofburg Palace!  So much fun.   The Jägerball is another Austrian favourite where you dress in traditional costume.

My favourite I think is the Fete Imperiale Ball from the Spanish Riding School.  Being a horse nut might have something to do with it.  While the Lipizzaner horses are on summer vacation their stables are transformed into an elegant ballroom.

The most famous ball of all is the Opera Ball.  People from around the world, including celebrities flock to the city to take part.  Austrian millionaire Richard Lugner has a nearly 20-year-old tradition of flying in a date for the Vienna Opera Ball. Each year he chooses a celebrity date to accompany him to the event.

Now after a night of waltzing you’d think that there was some sort of elegant food available to nibble on.  Available.  Yes.  Elegant.  No.  The traditional food to eat at a ball is “Sacher Würstel” or Goulash Soup. Doesn’t look pretty but it’s damn tasty.

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