Happy cow at a national park in Styria. Or was it lower Austria? In any case, it was singing and prancing about joyously. It's good to be a cow in Austria.

We just got back from Austria.

Are you sick of hearing about it? Of course you are! I'm sick of hearing about it. But here I am, four days after the trip has ended, and I'm completely stuck. I haven't unpacked, I haven't started working at my new job (another story for another day), I have yet to make plans to see my friends. I'm not sure that the reason I'm so inert is my not blogging about the trip, but it makes for a convenient excuse to procrastinate the whole getting-on-with-real-life part of returning from vacation.

So here it goes, the 2008 version of a vacation slide show:


We stumbled upon a real-live-for-serious-not-at-all-ironic dirndl and lederhosen fashion show. Awesome.

My husband will absolutely kill me for saying this, but a lot of Austria is exactly like The Sound of Music - green and lush and filled with people proudly wearing their lederhosen and dirndl - usually at village festivals (we went to a couple of them, one in Schoenberg and the apricot festival - marillenfest - in Krems.) I think this is beyond awesome and proudly dressed my oldest in the lederhosen his grandparents sent to him whenever the weather was warm enough - he fit right in. (Note to my fellow Americans: Traditional dress is cool, but not in Vienna. FYI.)

Prancing in the wildflowers
Why are Austrian weeds so damn pretty? All we get is crabgrass. (Grazing horses, Bad Tatzmannsdorf)

It's a country full of contrasts: You find religious imagery everywhere - in the country, where farmers erect crucifixes and statues of saints so that their crops will be abundant, in tunnels to protect travelers, in forests:


We stumbled upon this beautiful crucifix while visiting the Graselhohle, but then you're just as likely to stumble into a sex shop at the most odd (at least to a Bostonian) places, like oh, let's say right next to the duty-free shop at the airport:

Sex shop. At Vienna Intl Airport.

Mmmmkay. Moving on...

I loved so many things about this trip. I loved that we stayed at a guesthouse run by nuns, who were kind and gave us homemade bread and warm milk to help the kids sleep, but whose guestrooms had tiny little tvs with access to porn channels (are you noticing a trend?), I loved that my kids got to play in a castle with the kids that actually live there. (We also got a private tour, but the kids were much more interested in jumping on the trampoline in the courtyard than in the amazing history of the place.)

Bust most of all? I loved Vienna.

Vienna's first district.

No surprise there. Everybody does. In my opinion it's the most romantic and manageable of the world capitals, and absolutely everything is done on a grand scale here; from coffeehouses:

Cafe Central, 1st district - It certainly put Dunkin' Donuts to shame.

to changing tables:

The fanciest changing table EVER
Hotel Sacher. Leather, velvet, wood and gold tassels. All so you can wipe baby butt in imperial style.

It's my kind of town - even if the Viennese are natural-born complainers. I'm not badmouthing anyone here - they're proud of their curmudgery and will tell you themselves. For instance, try telling them that their city is amazingly beautiful, and they'll tell you that it's old and you're not allowed to build anything new. Tell them you like the food, "Bof!" they'll say, "it's always the same!" My advice to future travelers is to not take this negativity personally. It's truly part of their charm. One you have dinner with a group of Viennese you will understand why Sigmund Freud couldn't have existed in a different city.

(By the way, the Freud Museum in the 9th district is a must see. The sight of the waiting room and Freud's own personal stuff was pretty amazing. To think of all the neurosis that brewed there! Did I ever mention that I'm a dork?)

In any case, we go to Vienna pretty often because we want to visit family, so I make it a point to do something new and embarrasingly touristy (at least to my husband) every visit. This time I said that "the boys" (ahem) really, really wanted to ride in those pretty horse-drawn carriages.

"You mean a fiacre? Like the gullible tourists do?"


"You know, sometimes the horses go crazy. Once a Japanese tourist was injured, almost mortally."

"So? We drive in Boston. I can take it."

So off we went and found the most adorable black and white carriage pulled by a pair of horses I called "the Kennedys" (Jack and John) and driven by the sweetest girl named Isabela.

Here they are:


And here are some of the many wonderful sights we saw -

My imaginary Viennese apartment:

My imaginary viennese apartment

Grand balconies:


And then just repeat this scene 167 times. You get the idea.


The one truly cultural thing we did was catch an exhibit called "Bad Painting, Good Art." With a name like that, how could we not? It was hilarious:

Bad painting, good art exhibit.

And just awful:


And sometimes? It was actually pretty good:

Bad painting, good art exhibit.

"You see that?" I said to my three-year old. "If you don't work hard at all on your

art, someday your paintings could be displayed in a grand museum, just like these!"

Bad painting, good art exhibit.

Now, I made sure I didn't put too much pressure on him. I wouldn't want him to end up with some "Freudian" issues. He is half-Viennese after all.


Goodbye Austria! Thanks for all the Gruner Veltliner!