Sunday, March 20, 2016

Austria - Feb. 17-29 Part 1

This was my 5th visit to Austria. The first time was my year abroad as a junior in a high school. Click here for that.

Over night flight to Vienna

This trip was bittersweet because my beloved host mother ("Mutti") passed away from cancer in 2007. She is sorely missed and the home wasn't the same without her. "Life must go on," said my host brother, Wolfgang, during my visit.

And so, life went on.

Wolfgang greeted me with a handshake at Klagenfurt airport. I had just traveled 7+ hours from Newark to Vienna and then had this quick 30 min flight to Klagenfurt (the capital of Carinthia province in southern Austria). "Handshake???" I thought. I hugged him.

I had given Wolfgang my draft itinerary a few months prior and he knew that I wanted to see city center Klagenfurt upon pickup.

"Maybe we should do this tomorrow. Or day after tomorrow. We got snow yesterday, I'm not sure about the parking... I always take the train when I visit Klagenfurt."

"OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO," I thought. "I have an itinerary!"

I must have made a sad face and Wolfgang said, "Let's try."

We parked a couple miles away from city at the tourist trap, Minimundus, a miniature cityscape comprised of models of some of the most recognizable buildings from around the globe.

Selfie as we waited for the bus. (I only got 2 or 3 hours of sleep during the flight)

 First thing on my itinerary - The Lindwurm Fountain.
Legend says that that a dragon beast was here killed by residents. The story became more fascinating when a fossilized cranium of a prehistoric rhinoceros was found nearby. 
Lost in Translation:
I dropped my backpack and took a few pics with my iPhone. "You can go to the bank if you want," said Wolfgang, or so I thought.  Then I realized that the the German word, "bank" translates to both "bank" and "bench."  He was telling me I could put my bag on the bench.  Ooops.  I guess I forgot more German than I realized.

Heiligengeistkirche - Catholic church of the Holy Spirit, built in 1355 and altered in 1660.

 Wörthersee Manndl
The story goes that there was once a village in a valley renowned for the bad behavior of its residents. One day, the dwarf, Worthersee-Mandl, appeared and told them to clean up their act, but they continually ignored him until appeared with a small barrel. He released water from it until it completely flooded the village, forming Lake Worthersee. It is said that if you grasp his finger for 20 seconds and make a wish it will come true.
(Next trip, I'll make my wish! Had no idea at the time!)

 Zalaegerszeg, Hungary is a partner city to Klagenfurt.

Neuer Platz

The 16th century Landhaus has always played a prominent role in governing Carinthia, the state we were in.  Today, it is the seat of the State of Carinthia.  A plaque on this spot tells us that, in May 1945, the prominent people of Carinthia restored democracy here after the Nazis were expelled. 

Farmer's Market:


Pussy Willows (I can't help but think of Aunt Nancy every time I see these. They grew wild behind her brook and she would give me a bunch.)

We entered this gasthaus (family owned tavern) I had on my itinerary and was quickly reminded that you say, "Grüß Gott" or "Mahlzeit!" to strangers. 

Grüß Gott - literal translation is Greet God; formal way to say, "Hello."
Mahlzeit - literal translation is meal time; equivalent to "Bon Appetit."

My girlfriend, Margit, had asked me what I thought was the biggest difference between the U.S. and Austria. I don't know what the biggest difference, is but I had to mention that we simply do not regularly great strangers like this in the states. I enjoy this gastronomic ritual.

I had the Käsnudel (cheese ravioli) & salad. Delicious.
(We had a view of the farmers' market through the window at our table)

Cat Cafe:

  I only learned of Cat 'N' Coffee from looking up the hashtag Klagenfurt on Instagram a couple of days before my trip. I quickly added it to the list and was pleasantly surprised to see it was only one block from lunch.

I first petted this kitty and he or she bit me! LOL. (playful bite, nothing serious.)

 One of my favorite pics I took :)

Wolfgang had never seen something like this and LOVED it! 

After Klagenfurt, we drove an hour northwest to Trebesing, my host family's town of about 1200 people.

I had a warm welcome with boxes of chocolates on my bed.

 I had a spacious room downstairs for the next 11 nights. 

Friday, Feb. 19th:
I started my first full day with a coffee with schlag (whipped cream) along with bread and butter. I did one with honey and the other with an apricot jam. (Don't be fooled, the local maker of the jam simply reused the store bought jar.)

I came bearing gifts. A flannel shirt for Vati (he wore it that day for his doctor's appointment) and a watch for Wolfgang.

 View from balcony

View of down the street.

View of my host family's home from the other side of the mountain.
(It's 3/4 painted orange and 1/4 white)

 Gmünd (Artsy village next to Trebesing):

In the background: Gmünd fortress dating back to the mid 13th century.

Side view of Cafe Rudiferia

Wow. And not wow to that cookie. THE TEA! Wow. Not just an ordinary tea at Cafe Rudiferia. I ordered a "Jagartee" -- Hunter's tea in English. It's black tea with schnapps and rum. Mine had coffee beans floating on top which brought it to another level. ♥

Selfie at the cafe

Exchange rate was nearly the same. $2.70 for a slice. 

Gmünd kitties

Even the view from the grocery store rocked!

Chicken Cordon Bleu with potato croquettes
Wolfgang made Vati, Anton, and me a delicious lunch -- the main meal of the day. 

Anton (Gustav and Suvi's younger son)

Dessert was doughnuts from Cafe Rudiferia.
 (Not as good as Mutti's.)

After lunch:
Wolfgang and I walked 3/4 of a mile down to the cemetery. 

Church of St. Margaret (on left) --  is documented in 1307. In 1676, a ruin, and in 1829, completely destroyed by fire. Partial reconstruction in 1960. Only visible from the outside! On request, one can obtain the key from the Burgstallers, the family that lives next to the church.
 I may request the key on my next visit!

Protestant church, where Mutti is buried. 

 Anton is a volunteer firefighter here.

Pretty home.

I saw Mutti's grave for the first time.  As Wolfgang tossed the old candle, I placed an Isabel Bloom angel on her stone. Wolfgang returned and lit new candle.  

Playground above the autobahn tunnel. Sounds like it was pretty pricey to build and Wolfgang rarely sees kids playing on it. 

At the moment, there is only one bar open in Trebesing. There used to be at least three. 

Farm kitty that belongs to the house above.

Friday night in Spittal:
Wolfgang and I drove 20 minutes south to Spittal. (Population of about 75k.) I was taken aback by how sleepy the small city was. This was the start of me seeing how different the region had become since my first visit. The economy worsened; people were not out spending money.

Dinner at Gasthof Edlingerwirt
Oops moment -- I thought that white stuff was cheese -- it was horseradish!
After dinner, we checked out Zellot, which I recommend over Edlingerwirt for a hipper atmosphere. 

Saturday, Feb. 20th:

Suvi joined Wolfgang and me for sledding in Gmünd. Suvi was cool and brought her own sled. We drove up the mountain and then parked the car. We walked up about 30 minutes and then caught a shuttle to Frido-Kordon-Hütte
Hütte = cabin or lodge

Somebody's car stuck in the snow. 


5400 feet


 My favorite soup: Frittatensuppe - home made beef broth topped thinly sliced strips of pancake, called frittatas.

Schweinsbraten mit Sauerkraut und Knödel
(Roast pork with sauerkraut and dumpling)

Here's where I forgot "Kärntner Nudel" was the same thing as "Käsnudel," which I ate two days prior. I would have chosen something else, but whatever, it was delicious. And that isn't a boring salad to the side. All the salads I ate in Austria were delish.

Suvi's dessert - Bauernkrapfen mit Preiselbeeren
(Farmer's doughnut with cranberries)

We took a walk after lunch:

 Bunny tracks.♥

 NPGbau is the construction company that Wolfgang works for.

Old bath house.

Summer cabin for sale €189,000 ($213,000)
 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.

Three pics above from Remax's website
I love real estate! 


I needed an Almdudler (Austrian Ginger Ale) before we sledded!

Time to choose a sled!

 Me and Wolfgang

Suvi was a pro. 


We had about 2½ miles of sledding. It would have been longer, but they didn't get much snow this year.

 We dropped off our sleds where we parked. 
Wolfgang's kitty, Barun, greeted us when got home.

 Sign that was built last year stating who lives on the street and which house address.

Mutti's brother's Erwin's house

 Gustav and Suvi's lovely home behind Erwin's.

 Wow. Suvi made the BEST glühwein

Dinner in Gmünd:
 Wolfgang and I ate here: Gasthof Prunner.

It was Saturday night and the town (about 2500 people live here) was sleepy. People were not out spending money on dinner or drinks. 

 Crosses adorn many walls in gasthauses. 

I was trying to avoid Trump during my vacation but the owner of the gasthof thought I'd be interested in the newspaper. :/

 Wolfgang ordered a Slovak dish.

I ordered the goulash. Not as good as Mutti's! But I still recommend this place to anyone who ever travels to Gmünd! The owner was a lot of fun and mentioned that I could have as many "semmels" (Austrian roll) as I wanted. I love the German language and especially when it has to do with food because I'm more likely to understand most or all of the conversation.

(sliced apples with cinnamon and sugar. In this version, finely chopped pistachio was on top.)
After our meal, I asked the owner if he had a dessert with "schlag" -- whipped cream. He lit up and said he had something very special! Reader, this one of my favorite desserts during the trip. 

Click here for Part 2!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful adventure!!

  2. Fantastic! I love that you had a whole itinerary. Just brilliant. I need to take a page from your idea book!

  3. That soup with the pancake strips looked SOOO good. Thanks for sharing!