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Vienna, Saturday 25th June

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Any old shop in Vienna

Oh dear, whatever we were going to do in Vienna, the chance has now passed. Last day. Tomorrow we leave around 9.00am for the airport.

I forgot to mention… the day I got the tv working, the very second news item was about Arnold Schwarzenegger visiting Austria. They love him. Saturation coverage on every channel and newspaper, with Arnold saying he loved Mozart, schnitzel, kaiserschmarm, (a pancake/omelette dish) and so on. And that he loved Austria so much, “I’ll be back”. The next day the big news story was Arnold riding a bike. The next day, a bit further in, was the news story that Arnold’s upcoming divorce would clean him out.

I suspect the Austrians would be disappointed if they realised he was probably just playing his lawyer’s game regarding his divorce.

Today we visited the Natural History Museum. Not really my cup of tea, I found, but Sylvia enjoyed it. She was excited that we found a fish-spotter’s book for Mediterranean species. The best thing we’ve seen so far was a minimalist guide, in Croatian. This is extensive and in German, so she can cope with that. Flicking through it over coffee, it has most of the critters we photographed.

Natural History Museum, Vienna

The Natural History Museum is an old-school one, lots of stuffed things posed in glass cases and jars. That’s under-rating it…because they started collecting so long ago they have quite a few specimens of extinct critters, and one of the most extensive collections in the world, so it is not to be sniffed at. (The building was completed in the 1880’s, but some of the collections were acquired 100+ years before that.)

Not much on Australia though. That I saw…we didn’t try and see everything, and skipped the large animals, but no Australian snakes, for example, or a Blue Ringed Octopus in the extensive octopus/cuttlefish display.

But a fantastic pre-history collection. I read the clunky “Cave of the Bear Clan”just recently, so the flints, clothes and tools were interesting to me.

The two stand-out exhibits were the Venus of Willendorf, and a family crypt.

Venus of Willendorf

The Venus is a tiny (11cm) figurine. When it was discovered it was then the earliest humanistic figurine. The dating varies from 25,000 BC to 20,000 BC. There’s now older figures since discovered, (some also at this museum) but the Venus has its own fan club from being the leader of the pack.

Nowadays it’s a bit controversial, as the fact it was even called “Venus” implies it is a model for a beauty standard. Lots of use of the word “patrimonial” in the discussion.

Like a piece of jewelry, it is displayed in a glass cabinet in a darkened room. Hypnotic.

Co-incidentally, Sylvia has a hat just like the one Venus is wearing.

The other knockout was an excavated grave of an entire family group of three adults and four children that had been buried together. No sign of injury, the theory was they had been poisoned and that some of them were still alive when buried by the positions of the skeletal remains. Intriguing, tragic….

They had a small presentation area set aside for scientists of the day to deliver their expositions. No Powerpoint then, but they were set up for slideshows, with a small stage and wooden pews. The windows were darkened, mostly black, with images of microscopic creatures etched. Interestingly, the Museum’s designers had borrowed from the church look-and-feel, and the windows were just like stained glass windows…only scientific.

Worship of science

As mentioned, the museum is the mirror twin of the old art gallery I visited yesterday. This one isn’t quite as lushly decorated, but there’s no cause for complaint. It’s still impressive.

The art gallery features in the foyer staircase and dome the 8 key sponsors who built the initial collection. Mostly Habsburgs, of course. The natural History Museum features in its foyer the 8 key scientists of the day. Oddly Darwin isn’t there. It occurred to me that he came AFTER the museum was built, but I checked and he published 30 years before. I guess it was still too early for the significance of his work to be understood.

We met up beforehand with Clara at Café Hawelka for coffee. Clara who is a Brazilian from Portugal, but lived in Spain prior to Austria was in my German classes three years ago and is still living in Vienna, now studying.

The last thing on the food list which we hadn’t done was a familiar item. Its near enough to what we call a souvlaki, the Turks in Austria call kebap. There’s a kebap stall on every second corner, alternating with the sausage stall. We had a kebap sitting on a park bench. The Austrian ones are nicer, but I can’t say why…the bread is softer, but that’s just part of it.

A last stroll through Vienna, and a beer or two and dinner at Café Pruckel. A very Viennese day.


Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm

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Vienna, Friday 24th June

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Mechanical clock

There’s a lot of work going on in Vienna at the moment. Most of the key buildings that every tourist would snap are partially covered in canvas and scaffolding….Stefansdom, the Town Hall, the Hofburg.

They try and do the right thing, and printed on the awnings covering the building is an image of the building, lifesize, so it sort of looks like it should in Hank’s holiday snaps. “Honey, I’m trying to take a picture of the cathedral! Move over soI can see it!”

With so many people taking photos, it is impossible to get a clean shot without random extras meandering across the viewfinder. I’ve taken a positive approach to this, adopting a bung-eyed village idiot face when I see a camera pointed in my direction which I am hoping to later find in other people’s publicly posted holiday photos. I’m sure there’s a funded arts-grant project in there somewhere.

Today Sylvia and I did separate expeditions. She went with her parents to a specialist Kleiderhaus in Turnitz. That is, clothes shopping, 100 km from Vienna. Austrian clothes shopping. For a dirndl. It does look nice, but I’m not sorry I missed the trip. They left at the same time as me and got back after 5.00. All day shopping….for dirndls.

coffee area in Kunsthistorisches MuseumI went into town to revisit the Kusthistorische Museum.  That is, the old art gallery. Think of any old Old Master…go on! Name one. They have one of them there. Or more. Caravaggio, 4 Rembrandt self-portraits, the Brueghel boys….

It’s too much.

The entry fee is worth it just for the lush, minutely detailed building. It is exquisite to sit in the first floor foyer where the kaffeehaus now operates and just stare.

There’s a room full of Roman marble portraits, all mounted on identical stands, and head height. It’s like staring back at a crowd. The current special exhibition focuses on 15th century painters.

Every surface decorated

Up top is a strangely unpopular exhibit, which is coins and medals in cabinets. 

Just me and the security guard in this end of town.

The coin cabinets take the the floorspace, but filling in the wallspace is a collection of 1000 plus playing-card size portraits of the important and famous people of Europe from the time of Elizabeth I. It’s not very well documented, in English, but you can find a surprising number that you can recognize. It took me awhile to find my favourite, the wolfman and his daughter.

The museum is part of a pair. Tomorrow we are going to the mirror-image building across the platz which houses a natural history museum.  It will be interesting to see if it is equally lushly decorated, or the mirroring is just the external architecture.

Cholestoral? Don't make me laugh....!

The rest of the afternoon I went for a wander in Vienna, losing then finding myself. I had no real objective, just a meander, although I did want to get something to eat. In the end I bought a sausage from the famous Hohe Wurzelstand. I was a bit disappointed. Their currywurst turns out to be a bratwurst with dry curry powder dumped on it as it is handed over.

I consoled myself with a pastry (or two) from a nearby bread shop. I haven’t really gone on about it, but the bread and pastries in Vienna make you realize what a joke our chains like Brumby’s are. In Vienna there are 10 or so different chains with dozens of stores each selling really good bread, rolls, pastries and cakes.

I ended up getting home before the others and sat in the shade of the cherry tree, drank a wheat beer and read.

Sylvia came home with another pork hock. $15, fed four.

Concrete architecture, circa 1950

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm

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Vienna, Thursday 23rd June

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Nowhere to sit

Sylvia denies this, but I believe in German that you can make up a sport name by adding “laufen” onto the end of it. Schilaufen is skiing, FKKlaufen is doing stuff outside in the nude (I’ve seen the sign on a chairlift going into the mountains), Mannlaufen is riding your husband (more than one interpretation there) and so on.

So the verb to describe tubby fat guys dressed like an extra from an Olivia Newton-John film-clip, loaded to the gunwales with a bat-utility belt of miniature water bottles, headband, expensive running gear and electronic equipment taking their bellies for a bounce is “lardlaufen”. You see a bit of that here.

We weren’t pretending to jog today, we were walking and walking. (Rubbernecklaufen?) It was a particularly seredipitious approach. The only real objective was to get to Karlsplatz, a central station where Sylvia believes she saw a particular shop somewhere in the vicinity. And find that shop. Now if that isn’t the sort of challenge you can set for St Serendipitious, you haven’t been reading this blog.

There is a tram that runs around the circle of Vienna. Like Melbourne’s tourist tram, this circumnavigates the city on the Gurtel. The Gurtel is a wide thoroughfare built on the space previously taken up by the city walls.

Sisi memorial near Hofburg

Except, we got off halfway round…the top end has some lovely buildings, and we decided to get off and walk. Or meander, getting offtrack and wandering through the gardens around the Hofburg.

When I talked about Schonbrun being the royal home in Vienna, I should have said “summer home”. The Hofburg in the city is where they lived the rest of the time.

Nowadays it contains a few museums as well as fair bit of the government offices. But we have never seen the Sisi Museum, so in we went.

Sisi was the unhappy, wayward and clinically depressed wife of the last “proper” emperor, Franz Josef. A country girl, she hated the Viennese court and extracted herself from court life, travelling relentlessly. Franz Josef did his best but was a chap with not much imagination and a bit boring.

She was beautiful, obsessed with her looks, health and fitness, fancied herself as a poet. She was assassinated pointlessly before she had time to grow old and fade, and then got marked up into a marketing showpiece.

While all the tourism guff about Sisi glamourizes her, the museum was quite matter-of-fact about her odd behavior. It didn’t shirk from making it clear it was a lot to do with her own mental health rather than support the peculiar view she formed of her circumstances. It also documented how the legend grew. There have been a few maudlin life-story movies made, and people think they are the true story.

Included in the entry fee was a crockery tour. It is called the Silver Museum, but it is really rooms and rooms full of the royal household’s crockery, silver and gold plates. It’s a bit overwhelming, but you couldn’t complain they didn’t show you enough stuff.

I won’t go on about it. One example: There were a couple of hundred desert bowls, each one individually hand-painted. Very beautiful, each one unique. The quality of the art was the sort of thing you’d see as a 3 x 6 metre oil painting, but instead done in ceramics in the flat of a bowl.

Hercules interviews the welfare recipient

We also got a tour of the Hofburg palace. Sisi’s rooms, with her personal gym and a Vienna innovation, a bath. Franz Josef’s rooms and his legendary workdesk. He was a dunderhead workaholic, getting up at 3.30am and working all day, on paperwork, reading and signing everything. Good-hearted chap, but perhaps a ceo of an organization with 56 million members could have used his time more effectively.

So by the time we staggered out of that it was way past lunchtime.

Pig’s haunch, check. Schnitzel, check. No better place for goulasch than the Goulasch Museum.

Last time I was there I had a dish which consisted of horse-flesh goulash served with a fried egg. Not as nice as it sounds. This time I went for a Hungarian (ie extra paprika) pork goulash…served with a pickle, a pickled chili, and a type of gnocchi called nudeln. Sylvia had beef goulasch with spinach nudeln.

From there we wandered around again, revisiting a café called Hawelka. The feature of this place is that it hasn’t changed for the last 50 years, and the waiters are “characters”…that is, not always well behaved. Scruffy, dirty floorboards, shabby. But a Viennese essential. From there we wandered again, getting befuddled by the curving streets. On the way we discovered two separate churches that we had not previously visited. One is not even listed in the tourist guide….there are a lot of churches, after all, but even this neglected church was better than anything we have architecturally in Australia. Churchwise, of course.

Hundertwasser madness...or genius. One or the other.

Time to get serious, the afternoon was getting on. We got back on the Gurtel tourist tram, determined to make it to Karlsplatz. Except it wasn’t the tourist tram…it travelled off in a straight line rather than following the Gurtel curve. The penny was dropping that we had run off the rails when I also realized we were near Hundertwasser Haus.

If you ever do a tiling job at home and it isn’t very good, don’t apologise for the wonky angles of the tiles, the raised edges and broken bits. Just say you were attempting a homage to Hundertwasser.

Hunderstwasser is still claimed by Austria, although he did run away in the end and lived and died in New Zealand. He was perhaps mad, but combined his artistic style and personal beliefs into some stunning architecturally frenzied buildings. If you like Gaudi you would be interested in Hundertwasser. Last time I was here I saw his model for a village that integrated country living with city-volume populations. So beautiful I almost cried. It never got off the ground, sadly, but he did get some of the ideas out and about into finished buildings.

In Vienna, apart from the power station, there is an apartment block he designed, attracting hundreds of devotees, and nearby the museum of his art.

From there we walked a bit, jumped a few trains and finally found Karlsplatz. I know…it’s like saying you spent all day in Melbourne looking for, say, the city square.

Karlsplatz is actually named after the church Karlskirke, but the station joins at least three train lines via a massive underground train station.  So when I say we wandered around Karlsplatz looking for this (possibly non-existent) shop, we were covering a very big area.

We didn’t find it. By 6.00 it was getting oddly dark, then the long-predicted rain started. On the way home it hammered down, and we got drenched walking home from the bus station. Sylvia nearly stepped on a fist-sized frog hopping along the footpath.

It’s been hot for days, the change is a welcome relief. I’m sure the frogs agreed.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm

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Vienna, Wednesday 22nd June

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There’s something funny going on. Vienna is half-closed.

Today we crossed town to go to the Kirk am Steinhof. This is a magnificent Jugenstil (art deco to everyone else except the Austrians) church. Three years ago it had its 100-year birthday, and we visited when it had just been refreshed. It was fantastic then, every gold button and gryphon’s beak gleaming.

Today we went there and it was all closed up. There’s stuff going on, over the next few days, but not for us…Oh well. On to something else…

Across the Danube, above the house we live in is a high hill with a church. The backstory is the church was built as a thank-you/honor to the Polish king who led his surprise cavalry charge down the hill and routed the Turkish army besieging Vienna. All old news, this happened in the 1600’s.

Anyway, the view from up there gives you all of Vienna, and of course the house we are staying in, which is fun.

There’s a café at the top and you can walk down the very steep paths and visit a few heurigans (vinyard restaurants) along the way. It’s a lovely way to spend the day, get a view of the place, drink some wine.

But it didn’t go well, either. We caught the right bus, but it turned back halfway up the hill. Ah, yes, there are two versions of this bus, you need to read the timetable carefully. It was hot today, 31, and grinding up and down the hill in the un-airconditioned bus was hard work.

Back at the bus stop again we had another go, and this time caught the bus all the way to the top. Amazingly, the whole place is boarded up, the café has metre-high weeds growing through the terrace. Its obviously been been closed for ages. The view is still there, of course, but I was really looking forward to a cold drink on the terrace.

Looking down over the vinyards, there was no sign of life. No bustle of pedestrians ambling in for a few wines and a meal. The path down is all worn and neglected, and very un-Vienna-like, cluttered with piles of accumulated organic junk, piles of stones from last year’s winter snowdrifts….no one is cleaning the place, which again is just not what you see in Vienna. No cars parked in the heurigan carparks.

Whatever was going on, we could take a hint. We weren’t going to hike over there and find it all shut up. We changed the walk, and aimed for a bus stop on the other side of the hill, then trained it home.

It wasn’t all bad news. While crossing the city from one failed project to the next we detoured to the Prater. If you’ve seen The Third Man you’ve seen the Prater, a massive public park next to the city which includes the caboose-ferriswheel that is a pivotal scene in the movie. The fairground itself is the shabby sort of thing you expect, but it was empty. Sylvia said it has always been like that.

Anyway, in the middle of this creepy, deserted fairground area is a notorious restaurant called Schweizerhaus. One of the specialties of the restaurant is ham hocks. I bought a ham hock only two days ago so I didn’t order that but I wished I had when they were carried past. An American couple visiting their son let him order, and he secretly amused himself at their horror when this gigantic, glistening, roasted and crunchy hock was plonked in front of them.

In Vienna, apart from the hocks, there is goulasch and schnitzel. So we had schnitzel, which I have avoided so far, but Schweizerhaus was the right place to have it. And heavy black beer, at last! They don’t have that in Croatia.

Inspired, by the beer at lunch and the long hot failed heurigan-walk, we stopped off at the supermarket and I bought a few different beers and some odds and ends. When we got home I slipped them into the empty freezer to chill quickly while getting dinner ready. As I was serving I asked Sylvia to get them out.

“Oh, the freezer doesn’t work”, Sylvia’s mother informed me. In my haste I hadn’t noticed, and no one thought to mention it earlier. The beer was warmer than when it went in.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

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Vienna, Tuesday 21st June

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The Gloriette

We have a short list of “must-do” things to see and do while we are in Vienna. Some are catch-up things, some are trying to fill the gaps from the last time we were here. Even living here for six months we still walked away with things unfinished. In a week we will hardly scratch the surface. On top of that, after tomorrow the weather is supposed to be closing in for three days of thunder and storms. Good for museums and so on, not much good for gardens and outside walks.

 So today we tackled Schonbrun. This was the Vienna palace of the Habsburg rulers. Its rather nice.  We took a look at the queues to tour the inside of the palace and gave it a miss. Too many people, bumper to bumper through 45 palatial rooms isn’t much fun, we figured.

 Outside there are acres of gardens to wander through.

For a long time after the empire collapsed the palace grounds were neglected. No emperors to pay for upkeep, the State didn’t really know what to do with it. Fortunately they didn’t take the Australian standard solution and sell it off to private developers to bulldoze and build apartments.

The gardens have been reworked, and are now a major tourist attraction, a must-see for most visitors to Vienna.

Glamorous walkway at Schonbrun

Last time my favourite was a massive, espaliered hedge that was some 25 metres high and about 30 cm wide, and it ran for about 400 metres in a straight line. I saw it in winter, bare. This time, three years later, it has grown a bit, in width, and is now a different, thicker hedge.

Also, elsewhere the high hedges have been allowed to grow into each other from above, but they are now being pruned to form a “natural” (as in, no frames forcing the shape) arch. The gardeners use a three story wooden frame with a curved edge as the cutting frame.

The grounds have a natural hill, at the top sits a “gloriette”. Its now a café but it used to be a small house lavishly decorated with oversized sculptures celebrating the success and power of the empire. Off to the side is an unstructured forest, and we sat there and watched the squirrels run mad. A bird that must be called a tree-creeper came down and inspected us then climbed back up again.

There’s a fake Roman ruin, and a few more large fountains, all tarted up with make-believe significance. (For example, the pretend Egyptian obelisk has hieroglyphics that “tell the story of the Habsburgs”. But it was built in 1770 and hieroglyphics were decrypted in the 1820’s. And how would the Eqyptians know about what came after them?….etc.

Squirrel and accomplice

Getting there is via the amazing public transport system. Everything connects. If you miss a train it doesn’t matter…there’s another one in 3 minutes. On the way back we got off and walked halfway round the outer ringroad. Café Pruckel is one of the Viennese cafes we tried out a few times previously, and we gave it another visit. This time it was beer rather than coffee, and outside rather than the art deco/Jugenstil interior.

But I did go inside, to visit the gents and it made me laugh…I forgot the stairs to the toilets goes through the kitchen. Imagine trying to get that off the ground in Australia!

Two quick trains and a tram home, then chaos. The dinner plans had all been scrapped and I had to walk back to the supermarket for supplies, then make dinner. Sylvia and I were knackered by the time we sat down.

Austria changed over to digital tv while we were here three years ago, and I bought a receiver. I was a bit surprised it was sitting in the shed with the tv gathering dust. It turns out Sylvia’s parents, (who are here as well) couldn’t get it going.

I hauled it out and set it up, rebuilt the channel list but also couldn’t get it working. It needed an aerial. While we were out Sylvia’s father connected an aerial, and after dinner I had another go at configuring it. All working now, but I forgot how deaf they are, and even sitting outside writing this the volume is so loud I want to go inside and turn it down.

Not that there is anything on. I was hoping for the show “Wir Sind Kaiser”, a talk show with a fake emperor of Austria as the host. He’s bored with his guests and not interested in what they have to say. The rich and celebrated fall over themselves to be on the show and he ridicules them. I loved it. No sign of it. One channel has 6 episodes of Two and Half Men, another four of Lie to Me. Just dubbed American crap, with one or two news/current affairs shows padding out the Austrian content.

Tomorrow depends on the weather. Nice day, we might go up to the church that overlooks Vienna (and we look at from our bedroom window) and the surrounding vineyard/heurigan restaurants. Bad day, museums.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 21, 2011 at 6:50 pm

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Dubrovnik-Vienna, Monday 20th June

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I can’t think of many times Sylvia has been scared of anything, but I found something today.

What to do on our last morning in Dubrovnik?

No need for a coffee…Dodo’s mother boiled us up a massive cup of stewed coffee for breakfast. They made an effort to do that at sometime every day. Very nice people. Lucia works in a kitchen, Dodo said, and he is “very lucky to have such a good cook for a wife.” He’s a pretty happy guy.

The wind had died, let’s have a last swim. We hiked round to the outside-the-walls bar where you can go swimming.

Well, it looked a bit challenging. The choppy roughness had died down, but there was a big swell rolling through, a metre. We walked down the poured concrete stairs to the get-in/get-out spot. There are two buza bars, about 100 metres from each other. (We swam from one to the other last time. They are not in line of sight, but just round the corner from each other.)  Today we were at the second buza, and the access point had a different layout. Rather than stairs down into and past the water level, this one had a  big flat platform at the bottom, with a sort of encrusted ledge. At regular intervals the water dropped away, then roared back in flooding it.

We’re both good swimmers, we could manage.

Once in though, and looking back at the landing point, I was not so sure. Sylvia waited while I came back in and did a test landing, and it was easy, so on that basis she jumped in too. The water was glorious, clear and a good swimming temperature, but there was a bit of a current, dragging you away and out which bothered me a little. Without noticing

Sylvia drifted out and I asked her to come in closer.

We were only in for a few minutes and it was disconcerting enough that we decided to come back in.

The first time I had landed easily. This time I was a little too confident, and I wasn’t quite up on the platform when the water started receding. I tried to maintain my hold on slippery, eroded weed-green concrete, but suddenly the water dropped a metre and I bounced off the rocks. Not the best! I came back again and took it a bit more carefully and got in ok.

But it psyched Sylvia out. She was treading water, waiting for a right moment with her nerve ebbing. It took her a couple of minutes to make her approach, and she got up fine, but she was shaky.

We’ve both picked up a few urchin spikes, mussel cuts, wounds and bumps along the way, and today we added a few more to the collection.

Perhaps the fact that no one else was swimming should have been the warning flag we should have noticed.

I forgot to mention the Rector’s residence in Dubrovnik. The Rector was the elected leader (for a period of one month!). The residence is now a museum of artifacts…artwork, furniture, weaponry and so on. It also contains the pharmacy museum and an exhibition on a local genius, Boskovic, who didn’t just dabble but produced significant results in most fields of science…astronomy, mathematics, engineering, optics and so on.

The building itself is a bit run down but the stonework is still in good nick. I can gape at carved arches and balustrades all day, so I enjoyed it.

Dubrovnik from planeEasy flight from Dubrovnik, the pilot kindly taking us above the town for a last look.

So, here we are in Vienna, waiting for the train from the airport. In Vienna there is a fast train from the airport to town, or for half the price you catch the local train, which goes right to Floridsdorf, which is the suburb we need.

We stayed here for 6 months three years ago, and being a poured concrete house it hasn’t changed much. Its got some new paint, an old sink replaced, new plumbing, and it looks like the hydraulic heating has a new pump. When we stayed here the cold nearly killed us, so it is pleasing this has been upgraded!

The toilet is still the Austrian chamber-of-horrors that freaked me out last time…a flat deck receives your goods so you can inspect the quality of the merchandise at close range before you flush. Delightful.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 20, 2011 at 6:11 pm

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Dubrovnik, Sunday 19th June

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Dubrovnik placa on a sunny dayThe colour lavender is invisible to men.

“Oh, look, a lavender farm…let’s stop?”
“What, where? I can’t see it.”

But not the smell. In Dubrovnik there are lavender sellers on every corner, with the usual mishmash of bags, oils, and other clutter. But also, there is the tidal blast of fried fish, belting out from a doorway, dropping on you from above, knocking you out of your chair while you eat breakfast.

If I had to choose I’d pick the fried fish anytime. We had a couple of seafood meals in Dubrovnik. One I already mentioned. The second one was at a Lonely Planet-recommended place, Revlin. It’s a restaurant/nightclub/ artspace/museum right near the Ploce entrance to Dubrovnik, on a terrace overlooking the harbor, shaded by a massive pine tree. It was ok, we got good food, exactly what we ordered, but so plain….! It was expensive, and I didn’t really enjoy it that much. I had basic spaghetti in a fish stock sauce, a few onions in there and some clams.

One thing we didn’t do by not staying at Mljet was have an “under the bell” roast. This is a regional specialty, which involves a long slow roast under a metal dome. The restaurant that I was interested in was at the far end of the island, and it would have taken a day to sort out transport there and back, or we could have stayed there or something. Anyway, it wasn’t on our day-tripper’s agenda.

In Dubrovnik there are too many restaurants. But in a quiet laneway was an empty place with an “under the bell” sign out the front. The waiter was shattered when he realised we had come for that. He needed to know ahead, at least 2 hours notice to get the slow roast started, and if we left he’d have zero customers, but left we did promising to come back tomorrow at 7.15. Clearly he didn’t believe us. He made a half-hearted attempt to get us to have something different, but that night I took us to the dis-satisfying seafood restaurant instead.

When we came back the next night the rosemary-flavoured bell-roasted meat (lamb and veal) was fantastic, and the food the other table ordered looked good too. We should have stayed there the night before.

Dubrovnik from the fortress above

Today we caught the chairlift up to the shattered fortress overlooking Dubrovnik. Here in the 1990’s a small group defended the city against the Yugolsav/ Serb/ Montenegran army. The fortress took a hiding in the process, and it is only starting to get some love and care now. I don’t remember the chairlift being an offering three years ago, and it seems to be new. There’s a lot of work going on, landscaping and strategic viewpoints.

Inside the fortress is a bit of a narrative about the siege of Dubrovnik and the mixed bag of soldiers and citizens who were the defenders. It’s all a bit depressing.


Ill-omened wedding. Fat guys to the left, in the background of the video

We went back down and sat around in the shade in the afternoon. The water was rough, and we didn’t tackle a swim. Not so much the water itself, just the getting in and out on the rocks…..

I forgot to mention, the swimming spot near where we are staying has a ridiculously photogenic outlook…straight across the harbor to the main fortress tower guarding the port. So much so that on Saturday night two separate weddings parties dropped in for their snaps.

Sylvia and I stood back a bit, not wanting to get our blobby speedos in the background, but the locals took great delight in participating in the event. Ironically, painted above the bridal parties’ heads on the rocks was the upended anchor symbol, which means “No anchoring”. Not a good symbol for your wedding photo .

Swimming spot with a view

I did get to visit the Virtual Museum. It was ok…it was a pumped-up powerpoint presentation in content, but with lush photos, a few 360 degree images and some actors dressed up and giving the segments some flavor. What I enjoyed most out of that was a presentation of the “holiday home”. When there was wealth in the area local upper-class families built exotic holiday homes nearby.

Dream homes really, with the sort of features you fantasize about….a seawater fish pond, curvaceous, carved veranda areas, lush gardens. Thrown in was an exhibition on decorative stonework.

I also went to the Serbian Orthadox church. It isn’t on the map, doesn’t get much visitors…there’s not a lot of Serbs left in Croatia. But the basic layout of the Orthadox churches is a refreshing break from the garish lushness of the Catholic churches.

Sylvia did go shopping, and bought some stitchwork tablecloths. And a bag to carry extra stuff in. We came over light and the packs are starting to feel the pinch.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

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Dubrovnik, Saturday 18th June

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View from the parapet, Dubrovnik

Where we are is maybe 200 metres from one of the entrances to the old town. And next to it is an entrance to the castle wall walk. For $13 you get to walk the 2 km high route that circumnavigates the town. The wall is complete, so you can go right round.

To handle the crowds you are all asked to go in a single direction. It is a lovely walk, best tackled early as it gets so hot up there during the day. And the crowds get thicker and thicker.

Thicker in many senses. The Americans are there, shouting to each other from a distance of 2 metres, “I am just taking a picture of the ocean. I’m trying to get the boat in.”

Every so often, in the shade, sits someone with a twisted ankle. Surprisingly, high heels have not proved the correct footwear for the hike.

Outside the walls


Bizarrely, there are tourist shops up here, selling large objects that would need to be carried, as well as the small stuff. Some cafes. People live up along the wall, and their clothes hang out to dry to provide an alternative image for the snappers to capture.

The view is too much, you can take a few photos but in the end its overwhelming. I suspect you’d need to do this walk three or four times to soak it in properly. Not Dodo. He’s done it once, when he was young, never again. Too hot.

He’s working today in a concrete manufacturing plant. Now that sounds hot to me!

From the walls you can see the outside-the-walls cafes that are perched on the rocks facing the ocean.

Yesterday we made the mistake of going walking without our bathers….(that is, no bathers in my pack, not FKK walking….just in case that’s what you were thinking…). We were prepared this time. Today we flushed the heat away from the walk along the wall by a swim in the ocean from the café swimming spot. No shade though, so you swim and go.

swim outside the walls

Best way in is to jump, but it’s a good 4 metre leap of faith. Sylvia was on the edge, about to go and hesitating, which only encouraged the tour boat going past and the crowds on the wall 50 metres above.

With a toot from the tour boat and a cheer from the crowds she launched.

Back to Dodo and Lucia’s shady garden for lunch. There was a Saturday market in town. It’s less wholesale food, more gimcrackery for tourists…lavender stuff, gift bottles of “brandy” and so on. But one stall sold fresh mulberries and raspberries, really nice peaches. Another had weirdo crystallized fruit and bags of caramelized almonds. We bought all of those things.

Sylvia wants to do some shopping. I want to try out the exhibition “Virtual Dubrovnik”. Mutually exclusive interests.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm

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Dubrovnik, Friday 17th June

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The house in the middle, with the green double door, is ours.....

Sylvia’s family have an insulting expression which doesn’t directly translate – “extra wurst” – which means an annoying, fussy person who wants extra.

The trip to Dubrovnik was a ferry to Orebic then a mini-bus to Dubrovnik. Two toey guys were part of our group, and they jostled past everyone to get onto the boat first, picking the spot that would get them off first as well. They were my favourite, the extra-wursters, who try and squeeze their advantage ahead of everyone else. The pushy, the queue-jumpers, the negotiators….

When the bus stopped for a 15 minute break at a café in the middle of nowhere Mr ExtraWurstUno took up 10 minutes of the barrista’s time with his finicky and minutely detailed coffee requirements. The mournful Croatian personality doesn’t like the extrawursters anymore than I do, and our eyes met and he grimaced.

An empty seat was in front of me, vacated by the Croatian woman who moved forward so she could flirt with the bus driver. Mr ExtraWurstDuo jumped into it, then proceeded to take a photo every 15 seconds as we raced along. Of course, the roadside scenery rushed past in a blur, and the photos were useless, but that didn’t stop him taking maybe 800 shots over the next hour.

I was hoping he would biff himself with the camera against the window, but in vain. Even when the bus swerved to avoid a tortoise crossing the road….

When the bus got to Dubrovnik, the ExtraWursts were out the bus and ahead of the pack, hustling for their luggage. Unfortunately for them, when we were handing in the luggage to be stacked in the boot of the bus, they had, in a moment of inattention, accidentally allowed me to get behind them, so my stuff was on top…and consequently our packs came out about the same time as their’s.

Seizing the opportunity I leaned in and hoiked it out, and shooed Sylvia along into the office of the booking agency.  We were already halfway through the transaction by the time they clattered in, furious that they weren’t first in line.

The simple things…that’s what pleases me.

I hope I see them. It would be good to mention in conversation that the accommodation we got is great, and right on the doorstep of the old town. No view to speak of…there’s a bloody great forty-metre stone wall across the road…but the landlords are lovely. Dodo (his abbreviation, not mine) has lived in this house all his life, and was born in the room he is currently sleeping! Enthusiastically he showed me our room and the tv. His English is fine, but he thought he was missing something when I said  we probably wouldn’t even turn the tv on. Later he came back and told me Australian football was on, just in case….

Yes, we are tourists! Standard tourist shot of DubrovnikWhen bragging ( in a nice way, proudly) about his house he also mentioned it’s also close to a swimming spot. Which isn’t marked on a map or mentioned anywhere, but I figure if he’s lived here all his life he knows what he’s talking about. Sure enough, if you take a staircase down towards a seaside restaurant and keep walking, you finish up on a rock platform, complete with a ladder for getting in and out.

That was later in the day, after someone grumpy and tired had a snooze while another grumpy person read for a bit.

The priority today, after accommodation was sorted, was to finalise the travel back to Vienna. The very beautiful accommodation/tour agency clerk gave us directions to an airline booking agency. Initially they were complex directions, requiring a bus and walking, but when she realized we were using Croatian Airlines she had a better plan…there was one 200 metres from where we were.

Dubrovnik public fountain

Dubrovnik is pumping. There are hordes of people here. The location of the airline agency was somewhere near the main entrance to the old town, which is also where all the buses stop. It’s a madhouse. We had to wade through the crowds, but couldn’t find the Airlines shop. It was swelteringly hot, the crowds were stifling, it was past lunch time, and we were fraying at the edges. “Let’s try the information centre…”

At the tourist information centre the depressed information chap point blank said there was no Croatian Airlines agency here, we needed to go to the airport.

Too hard. We sat down and ate lunch, digesting food and the problem.

In the end we decided we had asked the wrong guy the wrong question. We should have asked “Can I buy an airline ticket anywhere nearby?”.

We must be close…looking around, down a laneway was a sign pointing to a different booking agency.

And yes, they DID book flights, for a minor fee of 450kn….$90.

Doesn’t matter. The flight is booked, we can get back to Vienna in a couple of hours rather than a 2-day sleepless slog. We can have the two days here and still be back at the same time.

So, we walked through Dubrovnik, but the heat got to us. We did take a break at the bar perched on the rocks outside the fortress walls, but despite the beach umbrellas and the chatty waitress we were done, and went back and flaked until the late afternoon swim at Dodo’s spot.

I was hesitant to go back into the old town for dinner. So many people, the restaurants all hustle for business, almost dragging you by the arm.  But it’ll be worse tomorrow, so using that as a catalyst we ploughed back into the old town, to a wharf seafood restaurant. They did a cauldron of various fishy things for about $50 for two. It was great, and unlike our standard Australian fisherman’s basket, nothing deep-fried….grilled or steamed only.

At the next table some American extrawursters were querying the busy waiter with details on the food. They couldn’t find anything on the menu. Mrs Extrawurst opted, in a seafood restaurant where the raw materials are indisputably fresh, for a roll with egg and cheese in it. But first they needed to know, “How is the egg cooked?”

the Dubrovnik placa at nightA stroll down the main street to settle the big meal, and to burn off the local “brandy”. It wasn’t really brandy, but a variation on the tequila madness that Boznor showed us….hard spirit flavoured by sitting in a sealed bottle in the sun for 3 months with a highlight herb. Sylvia had myrtle, I had Wormwood. Definitely an acquired taste….

I haven’t said much about Dubrovnik itself. It is an impressive fortress city, with massive stone walls protecting both land and sea approaches. (It was strong enough to resist the Yugoslav and Serbian armies during the civil war….)

The main street is glorious, wide, marbled, and the side streets suitable labyrinthean.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the castle walk, which goes right round the ramparts.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

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Korkula – Badija, Thursday 16th June

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Badija water

A sleep in day.

The trip back to Vienna can take a few forms, and we’ve narrowed down the options.

No one in Korkula seems to be able to book a flight. I did try doing it myself, but the Commonwealth Bank wants me to confirm the transaction via an SMS’d code…we don’t have a phone here. Good fraud security, but it stopped me buying the tickets.

The flights are filling fast, so we might have to resort to a 5-hour bus, 14-hour train slog over two nights. We’ll try again in Dubrovnik. They have an airport there, so I expect they know how to sell tickets.

Today we caught a water taxi to Badija. Although we think it’s getting busy, it is all relative. Badija is a small island 10 minutes from Korkula town, and its geared up to be a major beach playground. There’s tennis, handball and basketball courts, lots of swimming spots. A café or two. Its all closed at the moment, but there’s workmen around getting ready.

Badija shadeWe got off the boat and walked around the corner…maybe 100 metres…and the coast was deserted. Its has shade on that side, with some huge pine trees providing complete sun blockout. Everyone else stayed on the concrete slabs, roasting.

Oh, except two FKKers, nuding up the place, but they kept away from us in the sun. (Why do nudists stand up all the time…they never seem to sit down. Is it rule they are not allowed to sit on anything soft?)

We scoffed our best-so-far meat, cheese and spinach bureks. I read how nice Dalmatian cakes are, but we are yet to get anything that is more than average. They tend to use ingredients like a gluey cherry jam that been artificially thickened. I’m sure the same cake with fresh ingredients would be nice.

Badija nudibranchs

Then swam, and read. Keeping to the nudie theme, there were lots of nudibranchs at this spot, the best so far. Maybe we’re getting our eye in finally, but it seemed to me they were more prolific out in the colder water, whereas we’ve mostly been in shallow, almost warm water. Three or four clumps of rcok had an underside of rich weed, and it was packed with different nudiebranchs.

On the taxi boat home, the Fkkers were with us. Sylvia was wondering, “If his face is so burnt, how bad must the other bits be?” My theory is his face is in the sun all day, his knob only gets a few hours. But secretly I hoped he was toasted. More a mixed grill, I guess.

None of the nudists we saw today…there were others, standing of course, at the public beach on the mainland…are a Brigit Bardot or Hugh Jackman on parade. Think more a wet, hairy Bronwyn Bishop or greased up Kim Beazley.

Or halfway between the two…..

This time we tried a dull looking restaurant with no view that Lonely Planet commends. It was really nice food, basic Dalmation bits and pieces, char-grilled scampi and meats, and a big plate of vegetables.

And that was the day. Early start tomorrow, mini-bus to the ferry then on to Dubrovnik.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm

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