Sunday, August 31, 2014

Everybody do the limbo!!!

I'm back in beautiful Burgenland and so I want to tell you some more about it. I've told you a few things least year, like about how THIS IS HELL, and I've shown you my lake (yes, really, it's mine, I own it), but I want to give you some more fun facts that not many people know. You know, so you'll learn something and grow up to be a smartass - and tons of fun at cocktail parties and work functions!

Ne'rmind, let's get down to it (pun!).

Of all of the nine Bundesländer, or states, that make up Austria, Burgenland is the lowest in terms of metres above sea level. We're the national limbo champions - by default. And, who knew, yours truly is from the deepest of the deep, the lowest of the low, the literal rock bottom (minus the rocks).

Illmitz is situated in the cradle of the central European Pannonia flats, named thus by the Romans back when they lived here; the region, which also stretches far into Hungary, is known as the Puszta. My dear little village lies at an astonishing, breathtaking, absolutely dizzying 117 metres above sea level. You read that correctly: one hundred and seventeen metres. 

Not that low, you say? Because you live by or have been to a seaside place that lies at, what, 1-2 metres above sea level? Well, friend, but we are in a landlocked country, in the heart of Europe, far from the (real) sea and surrounded by mountain chains more or less all around. Impressed yet?

Good, cos we can push down further. While Illmitz is the lowest lying municipality of the country there's one more spot below even this. Our neighbor village of Apetlon, aka France, is home to the single lowest point measured in all of Austria: at 114 metres above sea level. If the apocalyptic flood comes, you know who drowns first...

All jokes aside, back when the lake was bigger and used to overflow, flooding the whole region, the houses in the area all used to be built on stilts, so they wouldn't regularly be destroyed by the wet forces of nature. 

Miniature traditional houses with thatched roofs in Apetlon. No stilts, though. 

That's part of why everything here is so special. Small salt lakes form and dry up with the climate's schedule, redecorating the local landscape and enamoring all kinds of migratory birds, who come to nest here every year: the official ornithologist's heaven. Seriously, they come regularly and spend months around the big lake and the small ones. They in this case meaning both the birds and the watchers. The soil is brilliant and makes for all kinds of different unique flavours that characterize our wine as among the best and most delicious ever. The absence of hills and mountains means that clouds don't tend to stay and we have the prettiest climate in all the land, with an average of 280 days of sunshine per year. That's a lot, in case you weren't sure. And, again, let's not forget the limbo thing. 

And the best thing about how low and flat our region is, in my own most humble of opinions: 

Riding your bike has never been this easy!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to the ISLAND!

Not that island.
Nope, not that island either.
This island: Donauinsel.

Lovely people who I am lucky enough to call my friends organized a barbecue on Danube Island. They've been organizing them regularly for a while now, all summer, actually, and they're continuing until the grilling season ends. But this one BBQ was special for me, because I managed to go to it. 

I feel the strong need to name the people who are the reason I went and the ones who I didn't know were going to be there but made me ever so happy by showing up and the ones I only just met. I need you guys to know that you are absolutely awesome. You know, just 'cos. 

* Josef * Michi * Darko * Hug * Peter * Prosti * Juana *

Okay, that's enough sentimental crêpe for the day. Now to the food. Because, yes, I ate! And, man, did I eat a lot. Seriously. Look here: 

This is what I bought, because it was an eat and share with everyone kind of deal.

Bauernbrot, Finnenbrot, Ursonne, Ciabatta, Ziegenfrischkäse, Bonbel, Knoblauchsalami. Mmmyes...

Josef gave me a piece of his steak: organic, guaranteed Austrian beef, rare. And half a Berner Würstel.*

For dessert I had a rough night with a stomach that is still upset now, at almost 10.30AM the next day. But you know what? WORTH IT!

More pictures of the nice evening we had: 

Swimmers braving the cold (not really) waters of the Danube. You guys are my heroes (really).

<3 flower meadow <3

Michi and I, highly amused by our plan to petition for more snow ploughs on the Danube, for the wakeboarders. Don't ask...

Left picture or right picture? Vote below where we're more beautiful!! (LOL?)

[insert Kinks lyrics]

Metro ride home with my Darko, so we got to spend a little more time before he leaves to where I wish I were also going. 
Love you, my annoying old friend!

That's something else I love about being in Vienna. There's this awesome community of awesome people who do awesome things together. We've all known each other for quite a while and, because we're all CouchSurfers, we've some of us traveled together to cities or on road trips and we've shared so many fun experiences and there's just so many things you do and know as a CSer that you don't understand if you're not, you know... it can't be compared to many other things. Not saying that it's better or deeper than other kinds of friendship, not at all, because it's definitely not. It's just different. I guess maybe it can be compared - a little bit - to when you went to school with someone, or rather an irregularly-held-outside-school activity, yes, that's it. And then you keep going to that activity even after school is over and you're this tight-knit group of people who have all kinds of inside jokes and stories, but more people join your group and they're all welcome and even though there's that core, there's also tons of stuff around it and everyone can come along, because we're all that same type of person. At least in that one aspect, which is the one that matters in this instance, the one that unites us all. Being CouchSurfers, in the sense of what the word used to mean, before everything changed. 

Wait, hadn't I said no more sentimental shirt today? Sorry. One more thing: 

CS'07, no matter if we see each other regularly or less than once a year, you will always be dear to me. 

* Thank you, dad, for spending almost five minutes on the phone with me trying together to remember what these sausages wrapped in bacon are called, I've almost got it, it's on the tip of my tongue (NPI), argh why can't I remember it,... Google knew!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Isabella Urkel

I've been having a pants problem for a while. The problem being, that they're almost all too big and I lose them but I don't have a belt. Because I don't like belts. Belts are stupid. 

So, this was my solution: 

Top: thingie from my external hard drive pouch. Below: key chain. 

Way less stupid than a belt, mhmm. 

Unfortunately, that didn't work as well as I wanted it to and I was still losing my pants. 

Today, inspired by my first crush who broke my heart by being a TV personality on what was indubitably one of the best shows ever made and not somebody I could actually meet in real life, I spoke to my dad about the problem and he helped me. In the best way possible. Like, seriously, I mean it, this could in no way be any better than it is now. 

Hells to the fricking yeah!!!

Dear Steve Urkel, 
you broke my heart in 1995. 
Today, I finally and fully got over it. 
By becoming even cooler than you ever were. 

Face of pure joy.

I will be wearing these all. the. time.
Deal with it. 
*drops mic*

From the dome to the opera ... to the sea?

Let's begin our exploration of Vienna in a central place that almost anybody who visits the city will see. If you don't, that's weird. And a little impressive. How did you do that? I am, of course, talking about the inner city shopping street Kärntner Straße. 

Street signs, a new one and an older one. 

The street, which today is frequented by shoppers and tourists in the thousands every single day no matter the weather, dates back to the middle ages. It was first mentioned in an official document in the year 1257 and back then it was called Strata Carinthianorum - Latin name! That's because it goes all the way back to Vienna's Roman times. It only runs from the central Stephansplatz to the state opera, but it was planned as a long distance road, connecting Vienna to Carinthia (Kärnten in German, hence the name) and ultimately to the sea ports in Triest and Venice through a bunch of extension roads. If you walked long enough, then, you could take a nice stroll from the cathedral in the centre of Vienna all the way to the Mediterranean. I wonder how long that would have taken and if anybody tried..? 

The spelling of the street name itself changed a lot over the centuries because the language was not yet formalized in the way it is today - and some of the spellings are quite funny (in 1567 it was Khärnnerstrassen). It's been the way we know it today - a pedestrian street full of shops, cafés and too many people - since the 1970s, with the newly designed pedestrian area officially inaugurated in 1974. 

It forms part of the so-called Golden U which is made up of Kärntner Straße, Graben and Kohlmarkt. Have a peek at a map and you'll see why. Back in the day, the shops on all of these streets were equally exclusive (read: expensive), but by today Kärntner Straße is the shopping mile with the most affordable and let's-call-them-mainstream places. Graben already gets a bit pricier and if you go to Kohlmarkt, it's usually just to look at the stuff in the windows and make plans for when you win the lottery. 

More importantly, though, Kärntner Straße is the street that connects a million (figuratively speaking) interesting places that you'll want to see if you visit Vienna - or if you live here, it really doesn't matter. The Viennese state opera marks the beginning of the street just off the centre-encircling Ringstraße; the Albertina museum is just off the left side, behind the famous hotel and café Sacher; there are churches and crypts on the street as well as in side streets; it leads up to Stock-im-Eisen-Platz, the Haas Haus building and the impressive St. Stephen's cathedral. So, yeah, worth a visit. And fun if you think about how old it all is, even though it's by no means the oldest place you can find here! 

Idea: Unnützes WienWissen


Not much to tell about this, just sharing the incredible beauty. To understand why I missed fresh berries so much while I was in Trinidad and couldn't be satisfied with the frozen or imported stuff, you need to see what it is I grew up with. 

Whenever I'm home in the summertime, this is what I get: 


Not a smartphone. 

Walk out the back door of my grandparents' house, through the yard and the garage to the garden, enter the garden and immediately be surrounded by AAALL THE BERRIES!!! And it's not just raspberries and blackberries, that's just what I had this weekend because it's what I'd been looking forward to the most. In our garden, there are also strawberries, red currants, goose berries, kiwis (!), different kinds of apples and pears and plums, apricots and peaches and nectarines, chestnuts and rhubarb and a ton of vegetables. It's all fresh, it's all healthy, it all tastes just perfect. No market stall or supermarket, however well stocked, could ever keep up with this: just picking whatever you want right off the tree or bush and enjoying the most naturally delicious tastes - no early picking to ship without mould, no artificial ripening, no pesticides or other chemicals,... Only goodness! 

Wish these grew in T'dad... 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Almost the sea.

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this entry yesterday but due to internet-related difficulties I wasn't able to publish it until now. So any time I refer to "yesterday," what I mean is the 22nd of August, 2014. 

I've written about this magical place before and how it's not only called Neusiedler See but also the Viennese people's sea. You know, because we're landlocked and this is all we get in terms of beach access.

Yesterday was my grandma's birthday, so we all went down to congratulate her and to bring her the flowers and cake I'd made for her. Yes, both of those are made and not bought. No, I am not a kindergartener.

It was wonderful seeing everybody again. My Omi and my aunt and my uncle and my grandma's sister and her aunt and members of the extended family and my godparents and some guests of our little hotel who have been coming ever since it opened howevermany years ago... Great. There was laughter and smiling and an abundance of hugs. All of them first for my grandma - obviously! - and then for me. Enjoyments. 

As soon as there was a chance to "escape" I went out to the lake. Not that my family is something you would need our want to run away from, but I'd been waiting to go out to my lake for so long, I just had to get there as soon as possible without offending anyone. That opportunity presented itself after the cake was cut, the majority of visitors had congratulated and sung and eaten and left again, and the general excitement had... not exactly died down, because it never will... but... subsided a little. Ebbed off. Gone down a wee bit. 

The reason I'd wanted to go out to my lake so badly was because of how much I love the place. It's peaceful, tranquil, quiet. Especially when you're there at a time where the weather doesn't permit hoards of tourists with small children or when it's too early or late for them. Then you can just sit by the water and dangle your feet over or even into it and enjoy how calm everything is. Sailboats out on the lake, birds overhead, concentric circles popping up randomly on the water every now and again, when a fish touches the surface. Other than that, wind and sun and nothing else. 

This liquid flat is so expansive, you really can imagine it to be the sea (yeah, I know, with a lot of imagination, blablabla...), just without the crashing waves and with an opposite shore. You still get the feeling of vastness, though. If you need that and you're in Austria, this is the place to go.

And the reed belt, oh, the reed belt... 

Yes, definitely one of my favourite places in the world... 

Already can't wait to go back again. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Hello and welcome to this blog-lorious celebration of two freaking hundred posts on! Weeee!! And on top of reaching that blog-tastic amount of entries, we passed 30,000 page views as well! Weee-heee!!!

This is me celebrating.

Let's not make this into a big thing, though, because it's not - at least not for anyone but me. Instead, let me commemorate the occasion with two things:

1- an announcement. 

I'm going to post random facts, some useless and some weird and some helpful but all fascinating (I totally promise), on this blog in a new segment-thingie that I'm going to label DiscoverVienna so you can find the related posts easily. Because I'm here now and let's take advantage of that. Remember I started DiscoverTrinidad a while back and then immediately stopped again? Well, this is going to be different. I swear. 

B- a guilt trip. 

You comment on Facebook when I publish links to new entries and I love and appreciate you for that but [commence whining] you hardly ever comment on the blog itself and it breaks my poor little heart I mean seriously it hurts my fragile world of feelings because I put myself out there and tell you all my stories even the embarrassing ones and you don't even deem it worth the effort of writing a measly little one-liner underneath and that's really all it takes to make me happy I mean of course if you want to write a long comment and share thoughts and feelings and opinions or tell me where I'm right or where I'm wrong and why or whatever you know that's absolutely fantastic but really come on just comment please [end whining]. (I figure now you have to comment, right? Or should I whine some more? Your call.)


Special Dinner!!!

It took over a week to get to this point, but, yesterday, my mom cooked. Not that there's usually no food; it's just not usually she who makes it. I'm the baker, Peter is the chef, mom is the barkeeper (for real, she makes ridiculously delicious cocktails) (yes, I can definitely vouch for that even though I don't drink any) (shut up now, just believe me already). Point is, she only cooks when specific things are on the menu. 

This time, the specific thing was Topfenpalatschinken. Don't ask me, just google it. Now, I'm not exactly a fan of curd or quark or whatever it really translates to, so I got my so-called Extrawürschtl. An Austrian word that directly translates to "thing somebody went out of their way to get for you when the original option is perfectly good but you're too much of a fussy brat to be happy with that" - the kind of thing only grandparents give you, usually, unless you've been out of the country for a year... I can have anything I want right now [insert evil grin here]. 

My Extrawürschtl was a Palatschinke with home made jam - half apricot and half strawberry, made by my Omi, because deciding on one is for rational people, when you're in Extrawürschtl mode, you get it all [evil grin turns into evil laugh].

Picture of my special dinner:

A typical one would have powdered sugar on top as well, because it's a sweet dish. But guess who doesn't like sugar on her food. That's right, this spoilt brat! Let the evil laughter sound again. 

Before I go I'm quickly going to convince you - once and for all - of what an awesome mixologist my mom is. No, I'm not going to invite you over for a drink, but I am going to show you a picture I took of the cocktail she made yesterday evening. 

When was the last time your mom made a Basil Daiquiri? 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Crafternoon I

Today was awesome.

No, wait.

Dear diary,
today was awesome. In the afternoon, I went to see my friend Jutta and we chatted and did some crafts. I like crafts. Jutta likes crafts too. We had a lot of fun.

Oh gods, I can't keep this up...

So I went by her house in the afternoon because she's even more of a crafts nerd than I am. In fact, I want to be like her "when I grow up" or something like that. Wherever crafts or art or anything like that are concerned, she's my number one role model. I know I'm making it sound as if she were like twenty years my senior, but no, she's certainly not. But man, if you saw her materials shelves and her tool boxes... Oh my. ::drool::

First, we exchanged star techniques. I showed her how I make my three-piece straw stars and she showed me how to make them with two and how to make so-called lucky stars. 

As soon as I was sufficiently frustrated with my slow progress, we looked up how to make something I've been interested in trying for a while now: exploding boxes. 

The concept is easy enough. You make a cardboard box and a lid, but when making the box you don't glue the sides together so that when you take off the lid they fall open and reveal a sithload of surprises inside. Fun!

We didn't get very far, because these things take time, but we both finished our basic boxes and we'll meet again to decorate and fill them. 

Here's mine:

As you can see, there's a lot left to do. But that's not a problem, not at all. Not only is it great to get together and create, we also had a good time chatting about all kinds of stuff. 

Random snippets of our conversation include:
-"I bet a rib would make a great letter opener."
-"They're going to have an interesting time scanning my luggage when I enter the country."
-"Oh yeah, that's great, we'll be each other's private suppliers!"

You go ahead and interpret that whichever way you want. [Of course, the least offensive or dangerous and instead most boringly legal scenario you can imagine is the one that actually played out.] 

Can't wait for part two of this!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cupcakes of Love!!!

A little while ago, one of the biggest honours in the world was bestowed upon me. My dear Iris told me that she and Wolfgang were (finally, eh) getting married. Happiness! Then she asked if I would bake their wedding cake for them. Happiness³!!! I mean, seriously, how wonderful is that? Not only did I get to attend my beautiful friends' wedding, I even got to make a contribution - and in the one way I know how: baking. Incredible. Especially because I am by no means a professional, far from it. 

I've been planning and preparing this for months now, pre-ordering modeling tools and calculating ingredients and making a bake schedule for the three days I'd have in Austria before the wedding - I arrived on the 12th so I could be ready for the 16th. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning were spent in the kitchen and I had the BEST time. My mom, not so much, because she played kitchen elf for me. That meant she weighed my ingredients, she got additional ingredients when I was short (see, we calculated together, but we're just both not very good at it) and she did the dishes for me so I could concentrate on mixing and stirring and pouring and shaping and arranging and all of that. I'm making it sound way more complicated than it really is, by the way. Baking is not that hard. 

Now, there were 118 confirmed guests for the wedding and because I don't like tier cakes and also don't know how to make them but I know how to make cupcakes and Iris and Wolfgang both love the cupcakes I make (I believe that's why they asked me in the first place, but not sure) and I wanted to be sure nobody was left without a piece,... I decided on the following: A cake for the couple and their immediate family plus witnesses. A cupcake each in the same scheme of flavour and colour for the rest of the guests. 

Summery, light, fresh. 
Curd and cream, raspberries, poppy seeds and very little sugar. 
White with yellow, orange and red (the wedding flower was the gerbera). 

Here's my Wednesday through Saturday kitchen adventure: 

First, on Wednesday, I made 127 marzipan flowers for the 120 planned cupcakes. Opening the modeling kit I'd bought online was like opening gifts for Christmas, hence the huge grin on my face. We got the marzipan from the supermarket, my mom got the food colouring at a specialty cake store for me before I arrived, the white writing I got online. Why make 127 if there were going to be 120 cupcakes? Because errare humanum est. 

Thursday and Friday were days of pure baking and cake-making. Sometimes I even ended up sitting in front of the oven with my crochet project just because I was so excited for the wedding and all of that, I couldn't be away from the oven for even 30 minutes (the baking time). I'm not really good at drawing or calligraphy, so the centre piece for the cake didn't come out as neatly as I would have liked it, but here's me kneeling on the floor in front of the counter so I could correct the icing with a toothpick. Perfection is not easily achieved. Here, it wasn't achieved at all, but it looked nice anyway. 

Layout of the flowers on sandwich paper, flowers on the cake, finished cake just before driving to Perchtoldsdorf for the wedding. Unfortunately, the marzipan soaked up some of the raspberries' colour, but it wasn't terrible. 

The cupcakes: process and finished product. The 120 nicest ones were taken to the wedding, about seven or eight or so were left home, because I didn't deem them good enough. I'd made more of the cupcakes as well, not just the flowers. Because, as before, errare bla bla. I'm told they were really good. I did take a bite of one of them just to see what they were like and I enjoyed it as well, but you can't really trust your own opinion with these things, can you? So I'm going by what I saw around me at the reception and what people told me. And that was even better than what I'd thought! 

How to get a fully decorated cupcake into a fancy liner if you can't put them in plain and then decorate, because that way they wouldn't fit in the fridge anymore: put liner around bottleneck, put cupcake on top of bottle, lift liner around cupcake, voilà. 

Again, and I cannot repeat this often enough, I loved doing that. I love that I got to bake my friends' wedding cake, I love that I made cupcakes for all of their family and friends, I love that I got to make a contribution to their big day and play a small part in their story, I can't even begin to describe how honoured that makes me feel and how touched I am by all of it. Really, guys, if you read this, I don't think you have yet grasped how much this meant and still means to me. 

Here's the moment that I'd been waiting for ever since the I DOs happened: 

I love you two. 

Thank you. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mainhattan Cruise

I went into town with the intention of just walking and exploring on foot for a few hours, but as I came down to the bank of the river Main, I saw a place that sold boat tours and I figured, I'm already playing the tourist for the day, might as well do this. So I whipped out my student ID from the University of the West Indies, got a reduced rate Double Tour Ticket and, twenty minutes later, boarded the Maria Sibylla Merian.

I quite liked the boat, because it wasn't a sit-in-rows-and-listen-in-silence kind of deal, it was a river café with information coming in German and English over a system of loudspeakers spread all over board. No school-ey feel to it at all, so that was nice. 

They have a website, so check them out if you go to Frankfurt.

Look at meeeee, I'm a tooouuuuurist!!!

They give a lot of interesting information, there are some stories and factoids strewn in, it's generally a fun tour if you're somewhat interested in finding out the basics about a place and the weather is nice and you don't have anything else to do. I hadn't done anything like this since the time my dad and I did river-sightseeing in Hamburg a few years ago, so I had a good time. 

This is also where I got the term Mainhattan. That's a nickname for the city of Frankfurt/Main (Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt by the river main). Supposedly, because there are so many skyscrapers in Frankfurt and more are built every year and the skyline around the central business district looks so modern and whatnot, it gets compared to Manhattan a lot (not sure by whom, but they said so) and because the river is called Main, well, you get it. 

A few pictures, although I took a lot more and there were even more things I didn't take pictures of. If you find this boring, don't let it fool you. The real thing is 100% more interesting than my writing about it. (Who woulda thunk?!) 

Main modern skyscrapers along the river bank. 

Main business, industries and ports.

Main skyline and the its many bridges.

Hey, umm, all those times you wrote "Main" in the photo captions underneath the picture, did you mean that the things shown are, like, the principal ones to be found in Frankfurt, or were you just, like, referring to the name of the river? 

Both at the same time! 

Yay, pun-fun! 

Walking Mainhattan

When I saw I had a bunch of time in Frankfurt, I decided to take a train into the city and explore a bit. The weather was great, so no reason to stay in the airport. And, being in Europe again, it was more than easy to reach the city centre from the terminal where I'd just checked in for my flight to Vienna that evening. It wasn't expensive either, you can either get a day pass for public transport and then have access to the train into town, the train back to the airport and any train, tram or bus in the city during that day you're there, or you can buy them one by one. Whichever you prefer. 
Five train stops later, I was downtown. And, being in Europe again, downtown meant parks and cafés and shops and historic buildings, not just offices and banks. 

I don't want to tell you all that much about Frankfurt and I'll explain the title of this entry in the next one, I just want to show you these pictures so that you'll know, next time you have a layover in FRA, make good use of it and go into town! 

Hauptwache, I was told, is the best place to get off the train. I can't tell you if it's the best - I only got off the train once, after all - but it does put you right in the middle of things. 

Random pretty things I stumbled across (sometimes quite literally) as I walked around the area towards the Main river.

Three views of the dome.

Details on walls. You find those everywhere. Make it into a treasure hunt!

Downtown - Romans, churches and sausages.

The iron footbridge, one of the maaaany ways to cross the Main. 

You can definitely spend a good time here and I would have, if I hadn't changed my plans spontaneously. Have a coffee, have some ice cream or lunch, go for more walks, stroll into a museum, criss-cross the river, explore a port, see if you can get to the top of any of the many skyscrapers,... the possibilities certainly are vast. I don't know that I'd go to Frankfurt, just like that, but there were tourists - and lots of them. And it's, without a doubt, a cool place to hang out, even if it's just for a few hours. 

Six hours very well spent.