Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Where the Heart Is

Ex-pat living comes with a series of topics routinely covered in polite conversation. Have you learned the language? How do you like it? Where do you feel most at home?

There are two other questions, most often asked when meeting new people in your ex-pat location. How long have you been here? How long will you be here? Unfortunately, depending on the answers to these questions some people will instantly decide whether it is worth it to invest the emotional energy and time into developing a connected relationship. Or even worse, they judge that you are not living your ex-pat life they way they do (or the way they "think" you should), so maintaining a connection is of no value or interest. It is a fascinating dynamic. 

So, back to the question of home.  We have the good fortune to travel between our home in Vienna and our home in Arizona.  What I've discovered, is that my "home" is when and where I am with my people. Regardless of the location on a map.  No photo of a castle ruin, historic old town center, art-filled museum or delicious meal can replace a single moment spent connecting or reconnecting with friends and family.  If we are surrounded by the beautiful places and spaces of the world, great, but it is absolutely not necessary.

I look forward to dedicating time this Summer to nurturing those many connections in Vienna, in Arizona and around the world.  If food or wine or Dairy Queen is involved, all the better. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Welcome to Hipsterplatz

May is a month filled with family Birthdays and school holidays in our neck of the City.   I decided that a Mother-Tween Son road trip to Graz would be a fun getaway, since it was a regular work week for UN employees.

On departure morning and in fine tween form, I was reminded that the coming years will be tricky:

"Do I really have to go?  Why don't you just go by yourself and I'll stay here."

Really? Uh, NO.

After some age appropriate bribes and threats (I'm Italian, for crying out loud!) we were on our way to Graz, 120 miles southwest of Vienna.  Graz is the capital of Styria and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage and City of Design.  In the spirit of mixing old world and modernity, we stayed at the Schlossberg Hotel.  Maybe it was the Oscar Wilde quote on their webpage that hooked me, "I have a simple taste.  I am always satisfied with the best."  Bwahahahahaha!  Of course I booked it!  In addition to its excellent location, the hotel is really spectacular; filled with antique furniture and modern art in the rooms and public spaces.  I highly recommend.  So does the tween.

And then we wandered.  There is a great visitor center with a booklet of mapped walks and recommended stops.  And the City Tourism website here.  Graz is gorgeous and walkable, with plenty of options for architecture, art, culture, shopping and eating.  The Rathaus square was filled with music and artisans.  The cafes and restaurants were loaded with smiling people, relaxing and enjoying some much needed sunshine.  Best of all, the tween started to loosen up.  Graz is a place to stroll and just be happy.

And then.......this conversation:

Me:  So, what do you think about Graz?
Tween:  It's great, but......well......have you noticed that we don't fit in?
Me:  What do you mean?
Tween:  We're not Hipsters.

I looked around.  Man buns, dreadlocks and beanies.  Peace signs, pedal (petal) power, plaid and patchouli.  No wonder we felt so relaxed.

Yep.  Graz is the "Portlandia" of Austria.  Put a Bird on It!  See you at Hipsterplatz.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Barca, Barca, Barca!

Well, this is what happens when you walk away from blogging, post purgatory!

Then, something happens that gets you percolating once again.  Here is some unfinished business from our Barcelona visit in October 2015.  Please stay tuned family and friends.....the school semester is almost over and my writing will turn from the academic (that which you do not want to read), to some thoughts on what's been going on around here over the past few months.  Until then.

Winter.  Blah.  I'm sick of it already and we are only just beginning January.

Netflix binges have been part of this Holiday Break and why not!?!  The 11 year old discovered an oldie, but goodie.....The Brady Bunch.  We've spent time together laughing at iconic sayings and characters.  Peter and his "pork chops and applesauce" Jan and her "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" and of course, Beebe Gallini, who has always cracked me up.......dahling.

True confession time, my Grandma named her pet parakeet Beebe Gallini.  And she taught that bird to talk.  I can't help but laugh when I think of, and still hear, her squeaking, "Say goodnight to the Poppy!" (meaning my Grandpa) And I'll be damned, that bird would say it right back......

Bright, sunny, funny on a cold winter's day.

To use a very Brady simile, Barcelona is like Beebe Gallini.  We visited in October and I still smile whenever I think about it.  It's a flamboyant, colorful, talk real loud with your mouth full and your hands flapping, kind of city.  Bustling, boisterous, bonita.

Of course, if you ask the 11 year old boy, all he will remember is the Barcelona Football experience.  We caught the sights and a Luis Suarez hat trick at Camp Nou.  Apparently, it doesn't get better than that.  Well.....maybe if Messi hadn't been injured and was able to play.  Or if we there for a Barca-Real Madrid match.

But, really, who is complaining, dahling!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Postcards from Mary Lou

Dear Readers,

"A Vienna Waltz" took a break to focus on charitable and educational commitments that required (and very often drained) my creative efforts and time.  Unfortunately, I put aside the blog, but did not forget about the enjoyment found in writing, sharing and photographing our adventures.  While the commitment to charity and education continues in 2016, I hope to strike the right balance and get back to the blog.

That being said, Summer in Innsbruck is a great time to visit.  Especially when you are on a hunt for the perfect picture-postcard.

When we moved, some boxes destined for long term storage made their way into our shipment.  These small boxes contain envelopes and paper bags filled with postcards from around the world.  This collection of postcards was how Mary Lou, my Mother-in-Law, documented many of her world travels during the 1960s when she was a "corporate spouse".  Although, I really should say, when she was a busy Mom of 4, responsible for moving the family household around the World.

As you can see, the postcards have little written on them, usually a date and sometimes a line or two about the location.

It was coincidental that I came across the boxes again, well hidden in the back of a closet, before our  trip to Innsbruck.  Inside I found a stack of cards, collected during a family Easter trip from April 21-23, 1962.

While we were doing the tourist scene, I decided to recreate the postcards to the best of my ability.  It was fun for our kiddo to try to match the card to the scene and then guide Mom on how best to capture the photo.  Not surprisingly, we were able to match up many of the cards with the present day vistas.

Old Town

Golden Roof


Grauer Bar Hotel-Easter 1962

Father and Son 

Innsbruck with a view to Nordkette

Wilten Basilica

Looking forward to more postcards from Mary Lou.  It's a small connection across time for a Grandson to have with a Grandma he never met.  It is also our way of reconnecting with Mary Lou; through the eyes of a wonderfully kind woman on the adventures of her lifetime.