I must admit I do love a luxurious travel experience (who wouldn’t?) however, there is something about getting back to nature that is a part of who I am. Always a Canadian at heart I enjoy open spaces, fresh air and polite people and I can pretty much guarantee that you will find that in the Austrian countryside. Here at Ferienhof Gressenbauer not only can you experience country living but you can actually participate in it too! “Ferienhof” means “vacation place” and “bauer” in English is “farmer” so by putting two and two together and I’m sure you have figured out this country retreat belongs to the Gressenbauer Family.
We discovered this Bauernhof in 2010 ago when my husband and I escaped Vienna for a quick mountain weekend get-a-way. Karen & Florian run this “B&B”, as us North American’s call it, along with his parents (we refer to them as “Omi & Opa”) and their three children. This farm has 60 beef cattle, 2 ponies, 2 bunnies, many cats, a goat and a pig. When they are not taking care of their guests they are hard at work in the barn feeding, cleaning and so much more. Guests are welcome to join in with the daily chores too if they wish – hey, it’s always nice to have a helping hand right? My husband likes to feed the cows in the afternoons and Florian appreciates the help.
Accommodations are simple & clean and your overnight stays includes breakfast, which is what you expect in a typical Ferienhof. Fresh milk & eggs come from the farm down the road, homemade jams and marmelades change according to the season and freshly baked bread is delivered every morning. “Omi” normally bakes a “pick of the day” treat for all to enjoy every afternoon and there is nothing like coming home from a 5-hour mountain hike to the smell of fresh apricot cake or apple strudel.
Also included in the rate is a “Pyhrn-Priel Aktivcard”, which is a “free pass” to use for chair lifts up the mountains, admission to the local public swimming pool and discounts on other entry fees to local nature parks and activity centers. This card in itself will save you a bundle, especially when you are traveling as a family of 4 like us. My kids favorite is the “Sommerrodelbahn“, which is like a toboggan run ride on a giant slide that’s 1532 meters long down the mountain. You can also zoom down on the Alpine coaster ride (on a track) too.
Typically, Austrians choose their Ferienhof carefully and once they have found “the one” they become loyal customers. Thankfully we found “our favourite” right away and we are grateful for the wonderful hospitality the Gressenbauer family provides. We look forward to our bi-annual holidays and to our children who will grow up with fond memories of their farm experience.
Ferienhof Gressenbauer – Karin & Florian Gressenbauer
Tel./Fax +43 (0)7562/5172
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!
Canada turns 145 years old today!
As a proud Canadian I have been told by many that we are as a nation polite, funny and hospitable. And when I was asked “How can you tell who’s a Canadian” by my Austrian friend I thought of this list below.
So in honour (not honor) of this special day I’d like to share all those great quirks & qualities that makes us Canucks so darn cool and well loved by all!
Read ’em and enjoy eh?
- You know how to pronounce and spell Saskatchewan without blinking
- You put on shorts as soon as it hits plus 10, even if there is still snow around
- You know what a tuque (toque?) is
- You are excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada
- You make a mental note to talk about it at work the next day
- You use a red pen on your non-Canadian textbooks and fill in the missing ‘u’s from labor, honor, and color
- You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers
- Pike is a type of fish, not some part of a highway
- You drive on a highway, not a freeway
- You know what a Robertson screwdriver is
- You understand the sentence, “Could you please pass me a serviette, I just spilled my poutine.”
- You drink pop, not soda
- You love your fries with poutine
- You go to the washroom, not the restroom or bathroom
- Someone accidently stepped on your foot. You apologize.
- You stepped on someone’s foot. You apologize, then apologize for making them apologize
- You have worn shorts and a parka at the same time
- “Eh” is a very important part of your vocabulary and you understand all the 1,000 different meanings of “eh”… eh?
- You only know three spices: salt, pepper and ketchup.
- You design your Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
- Canadian Tire on any Saturday is busier than the toy stores at Christmas.
- You’ve taken your kids trick-or-treating in a blizzard.
- Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled in with snow.
- You think sexy lingerie is tube-socks and a flannel nightie with only 8 buttons.
- The local paper covers national and international headlines on 2 pages, but requires 6 pages for hockey.
- You know which leaves make good toilet paper.
- You find -40C a little chilly.
- The trunk of your car doubles as a deep freeze.
- You attend a formal event in your best clothes, your finest jewelery and your Sorels.
- You understand the Labatts Blue commercials.
- You perk up when you hear the theme from “Hockey Night in Canada”.
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Interested in living in a historic European city during the winter then retreating to the outdoor green pastures of the countryside every summer? Sounds like a perfect balance of exciting city life and tranquil sounds of nature to me and given the choice I’d say YES please! However, this offer is valid only for the Spanish Riding School Lipizzaner horses.
If you are a “horsey person” like me you will appreciate the importance and beauty of this breed of horse however for those who aren’t familiar with the Lipizzaner let me try to explain in a nutshell:
- Lipizzaner is one of Europe’s oldest breeds – it dates back to the 16th century. That’s going back 400+ years folks!
- The breed name was named after one of the earliest stud farms, Lipica, which is now located in modern Slovenia.
- During “Habsburg rule” lightweight horses that could serve as military horses as well as look pretty were desired and the Spanish Andalusian horse was brought in from Spain to cross-breed with many other breads = the Lipizzaner was born.
- The Habsburg family preferred grey coloured horses so breeding practices were adjusted according to the horses’ colourings.
- Several events have threatened the extinction of this breed such as wars, the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and viral disease.
- All Lipizzaner are born dark and most will gradually turns grey between the ages of 6 -10 years.
- Only Stallions are shown at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
- It is tradition to always have one Bay (dark brown) coloured Stallion at the Riding School (some say for good luck).
- Stallions arrive at the Spanish Riding School at age 4 for training, which could take 6 years to complete.
- Each horse is trained to do various jumps and gaits in the performances.
- Every horse gets to take a break from performing and spend July & August at the summer quarters and training centre in Heldenberg, Lower Austria. After a well deserved rest they come back to Vienna to resume the fall/winter schedule.
- Piber Stud, located in Styria, Austria is now the primary breeding ground for the Lipizzaner.
- A Stallion will never breed with the same Mare more than once.
- Once a Stallion has fulfilled his show career he enjoys his retirement and the rest of his life back at Piber Stud.
Living in Vienna has its perks and being this close in proximity to these beautiful creatures is one of my greats joys of living in Europe. I never grow tired of visiting the stables in the heart of the city. I even time my visits so that I can see them leave the stables to head for their morning exercises across the street in the Winter Riding School.
Every so often I treat myself by going to a gala performances to watch the horses execute perfect dressage in sync with classical music. Sadly, no photography or videography are allowed during all performances, morning exercises or stable tours so you will have take my word and come to Vienna to see it for yourself.
On a recent trip to Italy my husband and I took a quick detour to visit the Piber Stud. I wanted to see the foals since I knew that typically they are born in early spring. In total there were 39 foals this year, all of which are healthy and precious.
It’s definitely a nice life for these horses and thankfully there are enough horse lovers out there who appreciate the breed. I’m sure that the Lipizzaner will live on for many more years.
I shall leave you with my photo journal from my day at the Piber Stud.
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.
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There comes a time in every child’s life where he/she will question death. “Mommy, where did Grandma go?” How would you respond?
- “Ah sweetie, <kneeling beside the child> Grandma’s in a beautiful place called heaven.”
- <With a hug>“She’s no longer with us but will always be in our hearts.”
- “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.