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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE VIENNESE CAPER - Part II

Part I followed our adventures in Vienna through  September 19 (See earlier Post, October 8.)

September 20, Thursday: After a late breakfast at home including  lots of outstanding coffee from David’s complicated coffee robot along with cheeses, wurst, und brot, the four of us set out by Strassenbahn for the Kunsthistoriches Museum to see its amazing collection of paintings by Bruegel, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velasquez and many, many more.

   After the art we had cappuccino in the restaurant at the Kunsthistoriches Museum.

   Then, guided by David’s I-Phone, we found our way to the U-Bahn for a trip across the Donau (Danube) and an in-depth tour of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations. The agency is an amazing collection of exciting modern architecture, and we had the added excitement of IAEA's General Conference of all member nations, which was happening during the same week. David toured us through his office and the labs of some of his associates, then we schlepped through the exhibits of some of the attending nations at the General Conference. Along the way David revealed that he’s the “Neutron Expert” on IAEA’s staff who advises the teams of international inspectors what to look for and how best to do it. Fascinating stuff.
 
     Home from the U.N. by U-Bahn plus a long, long walk. I opted out of the rest of the afternoon in favor some horizontal rest time. Roxie, David, and Lori set out again via S-Bahn to The Belvedere, a palace and art museum with a world class collection of Gustav Klimt paintings. I did walk around Lori and David’s neighborhood for a few photos while the others were out.
 
     Dinner was spectacular. A short S-Bahn ride and a quick walk to a Russian restaurant, Feuervogel, where the outgoing and very friendly proprietor easily convinced us to allow him to plan our dinner for four. Well, he did a great job: three huge courses and way too much vodka later we struggled out of there for the S-Bahn ride home. Stuffed and totally satisfied, we slept soundly.

September 21, Friday: I didn’t tell the others, but I had a little bit of vodka hangover this morning. Roxie and I went shopping  with Lori who needed flowers and a few other things for the evening’s  guests. She walked us nearly to death in the area of Judenplatz.  

Afterward we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at a nearby place called Brezl-Gwölb,described in its web site as Alt Wiener Küche, three hundred years old—and we’d attest to the truth of both claims.


Roxie and I really liked the cream of pumpkin soup infused with pumpkin oil, which I learned was squeezed from the seeds, then I had the penultimate Wiener Schnitzel. All excellent. After lunch we wandered back to Stephensplatz for the U-Bahn back to the 9th District and home.

In the evening Lori and David entertained a group of their friends in honor of our visit , mostly folks from IAEA. After drinks, snacks, and good conversation, game night began. We were all assigned to teams of two to guess, then bet on the right answers to some very difficult questions—something like Trivia on steroids. I had several opportunities to talk about my books and distribute my cards. The whole evening was lots of fun, and everybody left in a happy mood, all of us vowing to do it again next year.

 September 22, Saturday:  A quiet day for all of us: Lori working on German homework, David catching up on computer things and sharing some good conversation with me, Roxie and me packing for the next day’s travels. David and Lori gave me a set of miniature pots from New Mexico’s Jemez Pueblo—pots made by the granddaughter of their late friend Becky, a Jemez native, under the careful eye of her grandmother.

   In the evening the three of us walked and walked in dripping rain to search for an open neighborhood restaurant. Apparently many restaurants in Wien are closed on Saturday. After a lot of wet walking, we finally found a typical Austrian neighborhood place, dimly lit, smoky with a very friendly and outgoing wait staff. I had that interesting cream of pumpkin soup with added pumpkin oil, then yet another huge Vienna Schnitzel with the Viennese version of Kartoffelsalat,  altogether delicious but a lot more food than I could manage.
   
   Before an early bedtime, we ordered a taxi for airport transport early the next morning.

September 23, Sunday:  The taxi driver rang the bell right on the money at 8:15 AM. Traffic was thin on Sunday morning, so the trip was quick. Flughafen Wien was packed with a maddening crowd, but we managed to locate the correct check-in counter after some confusion and a little difficulty. Then, free of most of our luggage, we followed a very long course to our departure gate. Up and down several escalators, a quick pass through immigration, then a long, long walk and there we were. As we expected, David and Lori’s friend Jim, whom we’d met at Friday’s game night, was at the gate when we arrived—he was taking the same flight as us, heading to a meeting in Savannah. We had time for good conversation and a cup of coffee before heading down yet another escalator and boarding the B-767 for our flight to Washington Dulles. Roxie and I were flying in economy class, but we got lucky and had the center section of three seats all to ourselves. Unfortunately, the video consoles in our row were on the fritz, so we were left with airline music, Kindles, and smart phone backgammon. Sleep was elusive.

    We expected a four hour delay at Dulles, but things went from bad to worse because our outbound flight was very late arriving, and the delay was more like six hours before our direct flight took off. We finally got to San Antonio shortly after 11 PM—a tiring epilogue to a long intercontinental flight.
***
 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Festival This Weekend!

CONDITIONAL will be at Church of Reconciliation's Fall Festival this weekend for show and sign. The Festival promises to be an exciting event. Be sure to come by and pick up an author-signed copy of the book. If you want UNANNOUNCED as well, both books will be available at the Festival.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Signing at Lackland Air Force Base

Last weekend's book discussion and signing at Lackland AFB's main exchange was exciting and very successful. Military members and retirees stopped by the book table to talk about CONDITIONAL, and many purchased a signed copy.























A surprising number of the newly graduated class of basic military trainees shopped at the BX along with their visiting families from all over the U.S. A few of the graduates and many of their families bought copies of CONDITIONAL or UNANNOUNCED--some even bought both, and others promised to download the Kindle version from Amazon.com. Thanks, Lackland, for a good weekend.
 

Monday, October 8, 2012

THE VIENNESE CAPER – Part I


September 16, Sunday:  Roxie and I arrived Flughafen Wien in the late afternoon via Austrian Air from Moscow. Arrival was about ninety minutes later than planned because of a flight delay in Moscow.
 
 
My son, David, was patiently waiting outside customs as expected. Taxi to the 9th District, Pramergasse 1/11, where my daughter-in-law, Lori, was waiting at their fourth floor apartment. Beautiful apartment, nicely decorated by Lori—huge rooms with fifteen foot ceilings, comfortable furnishings: living room, dining room, a studio for Lori’s painting, a study for David which doubles as a guest bedroom with an adjoining bath. Large L-shaped hallway leads to the master bedroom and an adjoining full bath near the front entrance. Lori had prepared a big pot of goulash and spätsle for which Roxie and I had little appetite after our tough travel day.

 September 17, Monday: David needed a day of work at IAEA, so Lori took us into the 1st District via Strassenbahn #9, which stops a half block from their apartment and continues down the Ringstrasse past Parliament, Rathaus, and many other sights.

 

 
We exited the scenic ride at the Opera. A walk around that imposing building on the Ringstrasse allowed us to discover the house schedule for the days we’d be in Wien. Some negotiating at the box office produced the last four tickets for a mid-week performance of Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani. Walked on from there past the Albertina Museum to Michaelsplatz for a look at the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner stallions. The school was closed for some special occasion, but we did view a short video of a performance to get an idea of what might be in store at some future time.


            We walked back to Stephenskirche, continued past a colorful flower shop in Stephensplatz, then on to a charming restaurant Lori had chosen for lunch. We each had variations on pasta with mushroom sauce. Coincidentally, four of her friends were in the restaurant at the same time so we had a short chat with them after our great lunch. Back to Stephensplatz from where we took the Unterbahn to head home. Two U-Bahn trains and a long walk later we were back at Pramergasse.


The four of us took dinner at the next-door Restaurant Rembetika, a Greek place whose owner received us like longtime friends. I washed down the tasty Greek lamb kebabs with a glass of Retsina. Finally to bed. Dog tired, I fell asleep instantly and slept soundly.

September 18, Tuesday: Lori had a German class this morning, so David took us around by Strassenbahn and much walking to see some of his favorite sights, which included a way-off-the-beaten-path beer house where we had an huge lunch of beer and schnitzel. David ordered some kind of roasted pig’s foot which we all shared, but we still had a big chunk of pork to wrap in foil and carry home. After more S-Bahn and lots more walking we stopped at David’s  idea of “the best little coffee house in Wien,” a place called KIeines Café. Good coffee, but no better than his own coffee “robot” at home.
 

Our evening at the opera was fantastic. Verdi in modern setting and modern costume is a little startling at first, but everything falls in place quickly. I’d never seen I Vespri Siciliani before, so it was a special treat in a very special opera house. Because our seats were the last available in the house, Roxie and I sat separately from David and Lori, but we all had good seats. After the opera we walked across the street to the Hotel Sacher for Sachertorte and coffee. Yum! Home by a late night Strassenbahn.

September 19, Wednesday: David went exploring with Roxie and me while Lori did a pile of homework for her German class. Back to the 1st District via Strassenbahn #9 to the Albertina Museum. It was a rainy day, so we had to deal with umbrellas. The Albertina had the largest collection of works by Albrecht Durer that I’ve ever seen in one place—even in Munich which is practically his home town. The Albertina also includes a huge guest apartment provided by the Hapsburg monarchs for their visitors. The apartment was furnished in a grand style that challenged the palaces we'd recently toured in Saint Petersburg.


The rain stopped, and we met up with Lori in Stephensplatz. The four of us took an overview bus tour of the city with individual audio devices (in English) to guide us. The tour gave a fine overview of the city including the park which houses the giant Ferris wheel featured in the film, The Third Man. After that we briefly crossed the River Donau (Danube) and had a glimpse of David’s workplace, the IAEA of the UN. More about IAEA later.


Our tour bus stopped for a while at the amazing Hundertwasser Haus, a complex of apartments, bars, and shops designed by a weird architect named Hundertwasser. Judging from his extreme designs, he must have been a fan of Salvador Dali. After the tour, home again via U-Bahn from Stephensplatz.

           We enjoyed dinner at a small restaurant said to be typical and outstanding  Austrian style. Called Stomach, the place required reservations. Extremely slow service, but excellent food.  Lori ate a huge plate of steamed mussels, the other three of us had veal medallions in a complex brown sauce with lots of mushrooms and spiced up with red wine. Roxie had a minor fall over an unexpected step-up when leaving the dinner table. Fortunately he had no significant injury, and we walked home and fell exhausted into bed for another solid night of Viennese sleep.

 
 
TO BE CONTINUED...