Tag Archives: Austria

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

Photo Credit: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

The Quest to Bake a Chocolate Chip Cookie in Austria

As soon as the winter chill sets in my thoughts go straight to baking chocolate chip cookies.  Combine that with drinking a tall glass of cold milk in the aroma filled kitchen as soon as they come out of the oven and I’m in cookie land heaven!  To me, this is always a quick fix to overcome any homesickness that might be lingering too.

Achieving North American bliss in Austria however, is a different story.  What I considered “baking 101” has turned into a science of “WTF is going on?” – it’s ONLY chocolate chip cookies!  Why I ask… why?

So lets start with the ingredients.  Typical ingredients that you would find in a North American pantry like vanilla extract, brown sugar (the molasses kind) and chocolate chips do not exist in Austria. You won’t even find fondant or corn syrup either, unless you visit a specially store that imports & charges triple for everything.  Instead, you will have to settle for brown sugar cane, vanilla sugar and cut up chocolate chunks & hope for the best.  Trust me it doesn’t work.  I now allocate 5kg of luggage weight just to bring back these precious ingredients from my annual trips home to Canada.  I even bring back baking soda as the “Backpulver” here seems to loose its potency a couple of days after opening.   Now that I am fully stocked you’d think that it’s just a matter of whipping, mixing and baking right?  Nope.

Photos from “Freesytle Farm’s” blog was enough to entice me to give it one more go.

Freestylefarm.ca swears that their recipe will produce a perfect balance of crispy & chewy, which is exactly what I have been looking for. However, after seeing and tasting my results I think the more appropriate name for the recipe would be  “The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies unless you live outside North America”.

The difference must be the dairy & flour.  The happy chickens here produce a much richer coloured yellow yolk.  Could that affect the recipe?  I use “Universal” flour, which is considered an all-purpose flour here in Austria.  Are the gluten levels different?  Could the lower protein component influence the outcome?  And the butter, well the butter is my biggest suspect for deflating my cookies (ego too).  Butter whipped at room temperature separates when mixed with egg (at room temperature).  It even separates when whipped with sugar (I gave up on butter icing LONG ago).  It’s gotta be the butter.   Damn you Austrian cows!

….. 1 week later…. & after some research on European flour

Ta-Dah!

So without completely boring you with the details it turns out that the selection of European flour is HUGE. I had been using the wrong flour all along.  Here is a great blog that explains it all “A Vegetarian in Germany

Now I always like to add a twist to anything that I bake and I’ve tweaked the William Sonoma recipe to make it my own.  Since chocolate chips are almost non-existant here I used Milka as a substitute, and not just any plain ‘ol chocolate.  This is a chocolate with Daim pieces & conflakes treat!  Cut this into smaller chunks and add it in addition to your chocolate chunks and your cookie will turn out wicked good!

If you want to try something different I invite you to give my recipe a go.  I suggest to all my European readers to keep the measurements in grams, forget the “cups”.  Ingredients weigh different here than to North America.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Type 700 Glatt for Austria. Type 550 Glatt for Germany. 220g)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (125g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (125g)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (105g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of chopped hazelnuts (125g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped up milk or dark chocolate (70g)
  • 1 bag of chopped up Milka Diam Snax (145g)

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180C).
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the butter and the granulated and brown sugars until the mixture is light in texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until smooth and stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. With a spoon, stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, distributing them evenly throughout the dough. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Position racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the chilled dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies on the middle rack until the cookies are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool slightly before serving. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

photo credit:  First two photos are from http://www.freestylefarms.ca

Bauernhof… the Austrian way

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

Ferienhof Gressenbauer – Karin & Florian Gressenbauer
Edlbach 15
A-4580 Windischgarsten

Tel./Fax +43 (0)7562/5172
ferienhof@gressenbauer.net


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


Luxury in the Countryside

When you think of the Austrian country side you may picture small hilltop churches, log style cabins and historical castles.  In addition to the traditional settings you will also find hidden gems like the aenea designhotel.   On our way to a weekend trip in Italy my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to the ultimate luxurious experience and spent one night at this Boutique Hotel, which is located in Maria Wörth on Wörthersee (one of Austria’s largest mountain lakes).

The fifteen suites all have lake view with private terraces and the Italian design look is fresh, crisp and clean.  No detail has been spared.  From silk curtains, Minotti furnishings and Etro Bathroom amenities you know that the hotel owners take their hospitality very seriously.

If you wish to escape every day life you will find it easy to de-stress here as they have a full-service spa with an assortment of massages and beauty treatments. Housed in the panoramic view spa is a fully equipped fitness centre, a sauna and steam room, a solarium and an outdoor pool. Guests can relax and soak up the lakeshore atmosphere by taking the hotel’s elevator to their private beach area.

I’ve saved the best part for last as it involves… what else?  Food.  The restaurant offers two locations.  You can dine the next to the cozy fireplace indoors or in a more casual but still sophisticated setting on the terrace.  We noticed that the entire hotel staff seemed young… almost too young to serve alcohol, however, they all oozed high energy and a professional attitude.  The chef, which had amazing creative talent was no exception. Working with local seasonal ingredients we are told that the menu is constantly changing.  My husband and I stuck with our verbal agreement (practically written in our wedding vows) that we each got a different dish so that we “switched” half way through our meals.

My taste of heaven started from the get go.  The bread.  I’m a simple Canadian girl who would happily make a whole meal out of freshly baked bread so it wasn’t a surprise that I “mmmm’d” the whole way through my dining experience.  Served along the bread rolls were a fresh lemon & thyme topfen spread, assorted sea salts, sliced radishes and fresh watercress (so fresh that scissors accompanied the platter). Course by course we both remained silent and simply enjoyed and savoured every bite. From the Fois Gras with peach, rosemary and sheep milk yogurt, White Asparagus with pan choi, grapes & poppy seed foam, to the delicate Sea Bass & robust Ox Cheek all were presented beautifully and were cooked to perfection.  Finally, the dessert.  We normally split one because by that time we are almost uncomfortably full.  The sweet sampler was the perfect choice, which included tarty rhubarb, creamy topfen cake (sort of a mixture of marscapone & sweetened cream cheese), refreshing lemongrass ice cream and a coconut encrusted fluffy meringue .  They do their own version of “petit four” here too which I thought was brilliant.  Lemon sorbet with Green Apple mash, strawberry and mango mini ice cream cones topped with chocolate dipped popping candy, homemade cassis & lemon marshmallow, celery jelly with chocolate moose and nougat bread.  All flavours worked really well together.

After an espresso (for him) and an English Breakfast tea (for me) we concluded that it was necessary to write a blog about this fabulous hotel.  Tired and satisfied we slept well.

Another memorable hotel experience to add to my list of lifetime favourites and I hope that if you ever make your way to Austria you would consider treating yourself to this exceptional experience at the aenea hotel.

Florian Schaible, Hotel Director, (above)  stood proudly when I took this snap shot before we left.  He personally come outside to wish us well on our journey home.

Now that is service!

aenea designhotel
Worthersee SuduferstraBe 86
A – 9081 Reifnitz / Maria Worth
Austria
T. : +43.4273.26220
F. : +43.4273.26220.20
aenea@aenea.at


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!

credits: 1 2 3 4 5


%d bloggers like this: