Saturday, February 25, 2012

A fellow journalim trainer wrote from Azerbaijan: "All over Baku, there is construction in the streets ... bulldozers, big holes in the streets, dust, mud, etc. The other night on the way home, I stepped into a foot-deep trench that I guess had just been filled with fresh cement. These are my shoes (only a month old, cost $130)."

Only the best for Vienna

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Local Customs

Only creepy, middle-aged men and little girls allowed down this lane.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Donauinsel in Sepia

While my Webster University students were doing "Man on the Street" interviews at the Donauinsel, I was snapping pics on the bridge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Not unusual to spot a Roman ruin popping up out of the fields of Burgenland and Lower Austria

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Two Austrians, Two Jacks, and One American

While Remi and I were walking this morning, we met up with Rupert the Farmer and his Jack Russell, Keeley. We walked along the path, while the dogs ran along beside us in the fields. After a few minutes, a bicycle came up the dirt path toward us, carrying Rupert's brother. The three of us made our way back toward Rupert's house, the two men debating everything from business to banks to politics to girls. I told them they were typical brothers. Rupert agreed. "We think the same way," he said. "But since he's my little brother, I'm always obliged to be the one who is right."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yoohoo? Where is Moo? (Pfarma, Austria)

This is a fickle bovine. Some days I see him in the front yard, like this, but some days I don't see her at all. Wonder where she goes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Isn't it: "see badly?"

From Minefields to Wheat Fields

Sometimes I walk Remi on a path just outside of Kittsee, on the Austria/Slovakia border. A few of these signs are posted, which in Slovak read: "WARNING state border." I'm assuming they're left over from the Soviets, since they warn rather than welcome. I'm told the fields here were riddled with mines about 30 years ago, but now hold apricot orchards; and farmers tend crops of corn and wheat.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My journalism students at Webster University have to keep blogs as part of the class, so I guess it's only fair that I start keeping up mine again, too.

This class is made up of a small but scrappy group of journalists who will be starting and running Vienna Voice--what I believe to be Vienna's first English-language online journal--news and features for the ex-pat community.

Stories are busily being reported now--a feature on a new type of co-op work space, one on a controversial new gambling law, a quirky piece on the village of Tamsweg, and one on "Balkanstrasse;' another is about Lower Austria's expansive Roman exhibit, and finally, a look at what it takes to make it as a musician in Vienna.

Vienna Voice will also offer video, photo essays, audio clips, twitter feeds, free trips to Mars....

We'll be up and running shortly and I can't wait to post a link.

A few of those blogs, however, can be found now:
Abylay AkbayevGretchen GatzkeJosipa PalacMelinda Perez and Mina Nacheva

Storks and Spinsters in Smalltown, Austria

Five things I learned yesterday about Rust:

1) Of the 250 storks that summer there each year, a lazy group of four or five hang back each winter, knowing they'll be fed and cared for by the doting locals.

2) Fistfuls of Austrian gulden and cases of wine offered to a greedy emperor bought the town its autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian empire back in the day.

3) The townsfolk used to hide away all the spinsters and alcoholics, housing them in an alleyway off the main square.

4) There is always at least one misfit in every guided group,


5) The storks are so cute they should get their feather-faced cheeks pinched:

Friday, August 05, 2011

Plastic Naked People in Kittsee

Someone left the naked, blindfolded mannequin out on the porch again.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Say, Say, Oh Playmate

It's true, most wine cellars are lacking a children's slide. Not so, this one in Prellenkirchen, Austria

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dublin Snacks

Hungry for chips? Snickers? International outlet adaptor?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

One needs a place to bathe worms.

Perks on Irish Ferries

Cool. A place to store the kids.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

my secret life

Sometimes I like to be the Garden Human for this gnome family.

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A couple of weeks ago I spent several days running around Salzburg for an assignment. Everyone had pretty much shut the lights off and gone home, as nothing was open, not even major hotels. So I did a lot of peering into windows, including this one:

Gross, Yucky, Disgusting, Pukey Beer, Aisle 2

Wanna "Blech"?

Monday, February 07, 2011

A Dead Fuehrer, An Irishman and a Thai Restaurant

En route back from Munich, a friend of mine just called me from Branau, a pretty Austrian town near the border with Germany. He reported that he was standing outside of Hitler's birthplace, which is located right  next door to a Thai Take-out.

Poetic justice.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kittsee's Parking Polizei

I get it. No parking. At all.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ice Skating With Shovels in Wolfsthal

The frozen pond outside a restaurant near Hainburg. The youngest kid appears to be about three, the oldest in his fifties. (FB viewers click "View Original Post" to see video)

Friday, December 31, 2010

"Same Procedure as Last Year"

A little known but delightful New Year's Eve tradition in Austria (as well as Germany) is to watch "Dinner For One," a brilliant but barely known British comedy sketch. As I recall, ORF (Austrian broadcasting company) plays it just before midnight. It has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the most frequently repeated tv show of all time. Here it is, in English, with a brief introduction in German. Please enjoy. And Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

No Juicy Fruit for Me. I've Got Delete.

I've washed my clothes in "Barf" detergent in Tbilisi, eaten at the "Puke" restaurant in Czech Republic, and now freshened my breath with "Delete" gum in Turkey.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reeling from tragic news. Two friends, two violent deaths of their children.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Confessions of a Vietnamese Taxi Driver

The first time I went to Vietnam, it was to Hanoi, the north of the country and the Communist stronghold during the war. I was there during the 30th anniversary of the end of the "American War." CNN and BBC had extensive coverage, which was 100 percent blocked inside the country. Long periods of dead air.

On this most recent trip I was in Saigon. I was downtown one night and hopped on a "moto" (motorbike) taxi to take me back to my hotel. The driver asked where I was from, and I told him. He reached back and patted his hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry here," he said. "Americans are our friends."
He talked a lot during the ten minute ride. He said there was corruption everywhere in his government, and that the people were too afraid to do anything about it. He talked about China, and how he is worried about its power, and had hope that the US would remain a strong superpower.

We arrived in front of my hotel, and as I paid him, I asked how he learned to speak such good English.

"I was a good friend to the American GIs during the war. We helped each other," he said, and sped off.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Weirdest Thing I Saw In Vietnam?

A guy on a motorbike with a dead deer splayed across his lap.

What Should I Do With This Gum Wrapper?

I'm home again, having been hurtled at 36,000 feet for 14 hours, from Ho Chi Minh City to Vienna.


One of the first things I did was go for a hike with Remi in the village of Hundsheim (Dog's Home).
Lots of hiking paths, pretty vistas and large meadows, where parachuters and gliders like to land.

And ... just in case you need to toss out an old pizza box or other paper goods while out awanderin' in the woods and fields, the Austrians strive to take care of all your recycling needs, wherever you are.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Vietnam and Its Love of Numbers

My handy interpreter/fixer/assistant, Nhan, who also is my "left arm" (she corrected me when I called her my right arm, noting that I'm left-handed, and therefore to refer to her as my right arm would be calling her useless), informed me of the following:

The Vietnamese believe in numbers. Each number is assigned a positive property--1 might be Love. 2 is Prosperity,  3 might be wisdom, etc. (Note that I'm assigning random properties--I don't know what each number represents).

So Nhan told me that when she got her cell phone number, she held out for a good one (apparently, 9s are very good).

The downside of this is that strangers randomly call her, checking to see if the cell phone number is assigned. And when they find out it is, they ask if she's willing to sell it to them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trying to Reconcile the Rex (Hotel)

The Rex Hotel is in the center of Ho Chi Minh City. It sits on the same block as the Park Hyatt, the Intercontinental and the Caravelle.

During the war, its rooftop garden was the gathering place each afternoon at five o'clock, when the military media men would give updates to reporters. The reporters would hear how most everything was going according to plan and the war was being won. The reporters came to call this spin show the Five O'Clock Follies.
 Fast forward 30+years. The Rex is getting a much-needed facelift and apparently has hired a PR campaign to promote itself in any possible way. When I'm in Saigon--which is, on average, once a year for a few weeks at a time--I go to the Rex rooftop to relax poolside (the pool is open to the public). But this time, I walked into a gorgeously redone lobby. It looks beautiful--no longer the shabby Rex I had come to know. But in the elevator? An ad campaign that tells me Five O'Clock Folly has been reduced to a footnote:

Saigon Street View

In the Ben Thanh District, otherwise known as the 1st district. Generally, a street will be filled with predominantly one type of shop: one street will be the place for hat/helmet shops, another for shoes, another for printer needs, etc. This street is filled with vendors selling sign services, both general and customized: street names, shop names, Ladies Room, No Smoking, and the like.

Because It's Stinky

On a menu in Ho Chi Minh City.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Margarita to the Rescue

Noise. Get so tired of it. Noise Fatigue.
Escaped into an indoor restaurant (where this photo was taken) and enjoyed a margarita. On the way home, relaxed into the chaos, sitting there on the back of the motorbike, watching all. There will never be enough layers of words to convey the layers of goings-on in Saigon.


On a menu at the Ganh restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City:
Oyster Porridge
Jellyfish Salad
Fish Head Soup

Not a Salon, a Saloon.

I'll stop in and say Hi to Miss Kitty for ya.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ozone Layer Restored

I found the On/Off Switch for the ozone. It's located on Cong Quynh Street, Saigon... third floor, near the elevators. I switched it back to "On." So everything should be ok now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Foot and Fish What?

Day 2 in Saigon.
About two blocks from my hotel is this "Foot and Fish Massage" palace. On the way there, nearly tripped over a ginormous rat who rivals Remi in size--the thing was huge. He was on a Harley.

Anyhow, would like to know if fish prefer Swedish-style massage, hot stones, or what? Poll your goldfish and get back to me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remains of the Iron Curtain in Rural Austria

Out for a drive with Remi, we came upon this marker in Berg, which is at the border with Slovakia. This marks the spot where the Iron Curtain was. 

The stone was placed here by the Russians in 1945, who occupied this part of Austria in the 10 years following WWII as part of the Allied agreement. But the Slovaks had it much worse--forced into Communism for 50 years. 
The sign says, essentially: Through way closed. But a couple of the words are spelled wrong (at least in German). The white buildings in the distance are in Petrzalka, chocker-blocks of Communist housing called the "people's place."

By the way, the road is no longer closed. We encountered no soldiers, just a cyclist.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Simple Signs

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This sign along a footpath points the way to the "Hungarian Gate" wine tavern, owned by the Hubicek  family. The pine twig with the ribbon hung beneath indicates the tavern is open (not all wine taverns are allowed to be open at the same time, so they follow a rotation schedule agreed upon by all the vintners each year.)

I like that I live in a part of the world where a hand-painted sign and a twig get the word out just fine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Do Tourists Fart? And If They Do....

... should they be required to ride in a special bus?

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't Step on the Stripper (and other rules of the Esterhazy Palace)

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As I pondered the Wide-Pelvised Floating Baby at a so-called Haydn exhibit in Eisenstadt (see previous post), I heard a lady shouting for help. In three languages. I followed the sound of her voice. Please help this naked French lady who is trapped in the floor of the Esterhazy Palace:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Europe is Weird

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On display at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria, Haydn Exhibit: Wide-pelvised baby-in-a-cast floating above instrument.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tellin' It Like It is

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If you want good camping, don't go to Donnerskirchen

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Faces in Lower Austria

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Voted "Most Popular"

Nice Personality, Likes to Dance

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Spend a Stormy Night

A few nights a week we've been having spectacular thunderstorms. Fat raindrops slamming down on the roof, wind banging on the windows, angry thunder. Soul-cleansing thunderstorms for me, major trauma for Remi.

Last night we had another one and Remi couldn't find any corner dark enough to hide in. She sat at the door of the garage and shook. I opened the door and she hustled to the car and shook. I opened the car door and she jumped in the back seat and buried herself under a coat I keep in there.

I left the car door and garage house door open (just in case) and went back upstairs to putz around.

But then, I mean, what the hell.

Why not.

I fetched my macbook, some breadsticks, and a half-full bottle of wine and went back down to the garage. I put the macbook on the dash, tuned it to Hulu, and climbed in the back next to covered up Remi, who trembled herself to sleep while I helped myself to wine and old Mary Tyler Moore shows.

So, to confirm, yes. I did spend Saturday night in the back seat of a car.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Welcome to Mafia Pizza Palace. Can I Take Your Order?

Kaisersteinbruch, Austria

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For sale in Zurich:

Sunday, August 01, 2010

It has a watermark with my name, but this photo was taken by my sister, Jude, in Norfolk, Va. She's an artist, but she's also an accomplished photog. And clearly has a way with animals, too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Schlossberg and Sunflowers

After two weeks of 100+ temps, the weather turned blustery and cool today, with overcast skies. Out with Remi the dog, I got this photo with a view of the Schlossberg ruins in the back. Sorry for the watermark, but there is a particular "fan" of this blog who likes to steal Hainburg photos. Whatever floats your boat, dude, but these come with a stamp.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Drachenboot Cup (Dragon Boat Race)

The race, such as it was, took place today. Teams of around 20 in each boat competed in 250 meter sprints throughout the day and some participants decked themselves out in full costumes. My plan was to go and take pics, maybe drink some beer and sit in the sun. But I got roped into paddling in the Danube.

Most people were pretty toned down, but some went all out...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vienna Night Riders

Last Friday I went to meet friends at a wine tavern in Vienna. You have to park your car at the bottom of a pretty steep hill and then walk up. So I did this--was running late so I scurried up the hill, puffing and panting and sweating. When I got there, I didn't see any sign of my friends.

I called one of them, whose name is Uta. After some discussion as to where I was -- the Weingut Reisenberg-- and where she was--on a bicycle getting ready for a ride, it became clear that I had the wrong night for the soiree.

I ended up hanging out with two other friends, and together we ran into a mass of cyclists, including Uta. Every Friday night in the summer, Vienna hosts a night ride, which starts at 9:30 and ends at midnight.

Here's a quick video I took:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Adventures of Dining in Europe

On a menu in Paris. Note red arrow directing patrons to that which sucks.

Vienna. "The Spit."