KathyBou’s Blog

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Archive for September 2008

Sisi, cake, and Schönbrunn

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in Vienna.

Ok, so it’s been a while now (over 3 months) since the trip I took in May with Contiki Tours.  I still haven’t finished posting about it, ouch,  so I’m going to keep plugging away til it’s finished.  Don’t be too severe with me, tortoise and the hare, Mmm?

We did not get so much face time with Vienna; I could definitely have stayed longer.  The weather was beautiful – sunny and no humidity, but the city would have been beautiful regardless.

Vienna in May 2008

Vienna in May 2008

Austria, like many of the countries on this tour, was ruled by the Hapsburg’s family throughout history, but Vienna was one of the Hapsburg’s headquarters, ending with the Hapsburg Empire collapse in 1918 at the end of WWI.  Here is Wikitravel’s summary of the Viennese:

Vienna hosted the Hapsburg court for several centuries; first as the imperial seat of the Holy Roman Empire, then the capital of the Austrian Empire, and later of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This tremendously influenced the culture that exists there today. Like Munich, its residents are formal, but with small doses of courtliness, polite forms of address, and formal dress attire. The residents of Vienna tend to be equally modern and old-fashioned. Tourists are treated as if they were a long-lost member of the royal family returning home. This luxurious treatment is one of the reasons that many people enjoy visiting Vienna.

So, while I can’t say we were tripping over courtly, polite people while we walked about Vienna, we did get great service at Sacher Hotel’s cafe where we shared a piece of sacher torte.  I guess I’m not quite a cake connoisseur because while I had heard of Viennese coffee and Vienna sausages, I had never heard of this cake.

So we all sat down at the bar and did not even bother to look at a menu since we were there specifically to try this cake. It was busy but we didn’t have so much time to spare anyway. Just a guess but I think they are always busy there.  The cake was nice, especially when paired the cream on the side.  The latte was great too.  D doesn’t like hot drinks so he took milk (on the left).

Sacher torte, a Viennese specialty

Sacher torte, a Viennese specialty

So we also saw the Hofburg Imperial Palace:

The Michaelertor Gate, Hofburg Imperial Palace, May 15 2008

Michaelertor Gate at Hofburg Palace, May 15 2008

A park and monument honoring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:

Mozart Memorial

Mozart Memorial

Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of royal families:

Outside Schonbrunn


Schonbrunn Gardens May 2008

Schonbrunn Gardens May 2008

One thing D and I have noticed, throughout our city touring in Europe, is that every big city has at least one beautiful cathedral.  In Vienna, it’s St. Stephen’s.  Tiled roof is nice, no?

On the second and last morning in Vienna, we decided first thing we would do is see the Sisi Museum. This was mostly at D’s sister’s request – she loved watching a television series called Princess Sissi that was loosely based on the real princess.  Entry also included the royal apartments (cool) and the silver collection (okay).

Kat at Sisi Museum

Kat at Sisi Museum

We should have read more at the entrance because the first of the three museums was the silver collection.  It is basically a crapload of silverware and dishes from the Hapsburg’s.  While this isn’t completely boring, after about 5 rooms full of the stuff, it all starts to look similar.  Once we realized this was going to go on and on we skipped to the end. Even so we didn’t have much time to completely enjoy the royal apartments and the Sisi museum (part 2 and 3 of the admission). D was a great sport about it though:

Listening to the silver collection play-by-plays

Listening to the silver collection play-by-plays

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the Sisi portion of the museum but it was interesting. Elisabeth of Bavaria, or Sisi, was the Empress of Austria in the 1800s.



The history goes that originally the trip her family made to Austria was in the hopes that Franz Joseph would be interested in Sisi’s older sister. She was very young when she was forced into marriage with the Emperor Franz Joseph, and accordingly, grew into a sometimes very eccentric woman. At age 60 she was assissinated on accident (kind of a long story there).  The museum did a good job of showing her life in a fair yet interesting way.  She seemed to be very concerned about her appearance at different points in her life and in the royal apartments section of the museum, there was a sort of wooden monkey bars set installed for her to do daily exercises.  This doesn’t seem weird now but I guess at the time it was very peculiar.

After the museum we had to hurry back to the tour bus; the next stop would be Budapest, Hungary.

Written by Kat

September 28, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Fun, Travel

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Short story

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Confirming what I already know: discussing US elections outside of the USA is generally painful.

The story begins about 2 weeks ago: I am reading aloud to my boyfriend in the train from Paris to Aachen (on the way home from our trip).

I had bought a UK Telegragh newspaper at Gare du Nord to help pass the time. I picked it because it was English and because it had two sections so we could swap.

In it, of course, was a couple articles blasting Palin. Specifically it was blasting her ABC interview. I’ve no desire to go into politics on this blog, nor do I like discussing broad sweeping political notions in general but sometimes you are squeezed a bit.

So anyway, this newspaper and this article, not unlike the majority of Europe, was pro-Obama.  I didn’t watch the interview but I’m fairly sure the article only covered her “weak” areas.

Towards the end of the article Palin was quoted as giving the statement “God has a plan for Iraq”, which I then read and then read aloud to D, who was sitting beside me.  From the seats across from us, an older British woman pipes in:

“And who may I ask said this?” with an indignant tone.

I realized then that I’m in  a position I hate to be in.  You know, the one where you are clearly an American and as such, you are suddenly Miss or Mr. United States of America. Endowed at this moment with all the good and bad traits this entails, it really is true that each opinion or feeling you have is exactly how EVERY American feels.


I reply then, “It seems that Sarah Palin did, during an interview.” I said this carefully, but tried to sound neutral.

To which she smirked and asked “And what do you think of Sarah Palin?”

Ay Carumba.

I told her that I didn’t know her [true], but that this article was pointing out her flaws [true].  And I replied that she didn’t have a passport until this year [snarky].  I had just read that in a previous article, and I must admit I did find that disconcerting. Not necessarily terrible, but that certainly doesn’t make her very worldly.  I mean, let’s face it, it doesn’t.

So then the lady replied “so you probably know more about us than she does.” [triple-snarky]

I let [assured that] the conversation die there [by refraining any further forward glances]. It was obvious she would have loved to pick my brain about the atrocity of  American elections. And the bigger atrocity that would be the US with Palin as VP. [eye-rolling appropriate]

During the last election I was in living in Montreal, and I believe I was asked every other day if I was voting Democrat or Republican.  Bush or Gore. Hilly billy or Environmentalist.

If I was on a train this week would I be interogated about the US economy?

Written by Kat

September 24, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Saturday night

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Back from vacation a week now.  I have written a couple of posts that never made it to be published.  I’m not sure why except that we’ve been working weird hours this week.  And I seem to have low motivation to be on the PC after work.

Today was a sleep-in (yes!) and shopping day.  D and I went to Aachen, which feels like a big trip but is only 15 away by train.   We bought sneakers, because mine are old and his had a hole in the toe.  We ended up getting matching his and her sneakers (wow I know).  But they are pretty comfy and good for running, which is to be our new focus at our upcoming gym sessions.  We ordered this book, Chi Running, by way of D’s friend’s recommendation. It’s supposed to be good for learning how to run without injuries.  I never read anything on the proper techniques in running so it should be enlightening.

We just walked back from dinner at the Greek restaurant that is close to home.  They have lamb filet there that is delicious, and it didn’t disappoint tonight.  There is also a festival going on in town so we got to see merry-go-rounds, beer stands, and Germans singing how “I wonder if you know? How it really feels, to be left outside alone, to be left outside alone.”  Entertaining stuff.

I have pictures to sort and laundry to do… but as it’s late I’ll probably just try to talk my boyfriend into watching some tv and then going to bed.

Bonne nuit.

Written by Kat

September 20, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The shoe dilemma

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So as I said in my last post, we are going on vacation tomorrow.  I haven’t officially packed yet, but I have done some mental packing and once again I’m faced with the shoe dilemma.

The shoe dilemma comes up on every trip, and though I’m not a girly girl, I have this same conversation with myself every time:

  • How many pair do I have room for?
  • Are these shoes matching the forecast weather/season?
  • Do I need dress-up shoes or semi-dress up shoes or casual shoes or all of the above?
  • What shoes do I need for those pants, this skirt, that pair of jeans?
  • Etc, etc, etc…

Is it just me or is this ridiculous waste of anyone’s time? I do understand that we need to change our clothes depending on the weather.  This fits in the whole food/water/shelter category, and I think that’s fair.  If not fair, at least manageable.  The rest is just mindless though right?  I think we need to put some R&D into one pair of black shoes that have an adustable heel.  If they can make those converterible roller skate sneakers, surely the technology is available.  Other possible side effects include:

Less shoes = less luggage = lighter airplane baggage = less fuel consumption = good for the environment?!

Wow.  Someone should definitely get on this pronto.

Written by Kat

September 2, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

So far our vacation

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has involved doing errands. In the general domain of:

  • laundry
  • shopping
  • napping

Napping taking a bigger portion than the others. We have also hit the gym a couple of times and got the repair guy to look at our kitchen sink.  We haven’t had hot water downstairs (in the kitchen) and it’s pretty freaking annoying.   The water heater here is one of those heat-on-demand systems using electricity and as my first experience with living with one, I would not give it rave reviews.  Anyway, the repair guy told us we need to use high concentration vinegar on parts of the kitchen faucet; it goes by the name Essig Essenz in German stores. Fun.

The real vacation starts tomorrow when we meet D’s parents in Brussels.  Then we drive to Amsterdam and most likely start with a low key day since they will probably have jet lag. The long weekend has been nice.  Usually we have no spare time and are doing last minute laundry and packing the night before.   Yeah, we’re still doing last minute packing today but it’s planned.  I need to go upstairs and work on this very soon.

The itinerary is 3 days Amsterdam, 3 days Brussels (maybe we go outside Brussels since everyone has told me one day is enough), and 4 days in Paris.  D and I haven’t been to Amsterdam yet or to Brussels, so lots of new ground to cover!

D’s birthday is Friday(!!) so hopefully we find a cool place to have dinner. 😀  I’m honestly not sure what we will end up doing in each city as I wasn’t really in on the planning, but I don’t think we’ll be going at break-neck speed and we probably won’t go to every museum as D’s father isn’t a Museum fan.  I’m fine with this but there are some awesome museums in Amsterdam I want to check out eventually.  The Rijksmuseum museum is doing renovations currently but it’s partially open.  Coming Nov. 1st, the museum is going to have the Hirst diamond skull, which looks pretty amazing.

Maybe I’ll have time for another post but if not, I hope everyone has a good 1+ week.  See you all when I get back (and I should be armed with more photos and all that).

Written by Kat

September 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized