Posts Tagged ‘Austria’

Christmas, Did You Know???? (Part 2)

Recently, I shared a blog of Christmas tidbits.  Since I learned from it and I enjoyed putting it together, here’s the sequel.

During the Christmas/Hanukkah season, more than 1.76 billion candy canes will be made.

christmascocktails

I wonder how many of those billions end up as garnishes in festive holiday drinks?

The poinsettia, traditionally an American Christmas flower, originally grew in Mexico; where it was known as the “Flower of the Holy Night”.

It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett in 1829.

Poinsettia 1

My poinsettias are starting to turn red and they are so huge.

The Christmas turkey first appeared on English tables in the 16th century.  However, in rich households, it didn’t immediately replace the traditional goose, beef or boar’s head.

 

Our Turkey 2012

“Silent Night” was written in 1818, by Austrian priest Joseph Mohr.

On Christmas Eve, he was told that the church organ was broken and it would not be repaired for service that evening.

Saddened, he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music and he sat down and wrote three stanzas.  Later that night,  “Stille Nacht” was performed for the first time in that little Austrian church.

Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable.

Back then, animals were kept in caves because they were much warmer and the carpenters of Jesus’ day were really stone cutters.

Thus, wood was not widely used.  So, whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable, that’s the “American” version, not the Biblical one.

And, this is the late, great Miss ABBA wanting to be a part of the “Americanized” Christmas nativity scene.

ABBA in the Manger Christmas 2006

Again, I hope that Bible story and information is correct since I didn’t verify it.  The big man upstairs didn’t get back with me on that one.

And, finally, the Christmas classic, “Jingle Bells”, was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont.  It was originally called “One-Horse Open Sleigh.”

Check out this German grocery store’s holiday rendition of the popular carol.

That’s it for today.  Have a very Merry, Happy holiday season.

Anthony

 

Our Day In Passau, Germany

We traveled from Aschach, Austria, to Passau, Germany today.

While I’ve seen some beautiful sights in my travels in the United States, like Lake Tahoe, California, the boat cruise today out of Austria to Germany has to be one of the most breath-taking views I’ve had the pleasure to witness.

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The afternoon, we docked in Passau, “the city on three rivers” in Germany.

We walked along the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz rivers, visited the shopping district, and St. Steven’s Cathedral, which houses the world’s largest cathedral organ.

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While very interesting, Passau has been my least favorite city we’ve visited so far.  We still have two more nights in Germany after tonight.

Anthony

Our Day in Vienna, Austria

The “MS Sound of Music” finally set sail late Monday night and we awoke to a foggy morning on the Danube River docked in Vienna, Austria.

Vienna is well-known for classical composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss.

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It was here also that psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud made his name.

There is currently an exhibit on display in Vienna honoring his artist grandson, Lucian Freud, who died two years ago.

His works are known for their “psychological penetration and for their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model.”  Needless to say, unflattering photos of naked men and women grace the city.  Sexuality isn’t taboo here like in the United States.

Along with this advertisement for the show highlighting Lucian Freud, boobs and penis art and mannequins grace the windows in many stores,

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Just to let you know that I do have a filter, the blue star is not on the billboards in the city!  And, for those inquiring minds, the star is proportional! 🙂

Now, let’s get our minds out of the gutter and check out the beautiful architecture that dates back hundreds of years!

And, one clarification that you’ll find on mugs, t-shirt, and other souvenirs, there are no kangaroos in Austria.  However, I found a cute little Joey-mama!

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Here’s something very cool.  We noticed the Austrian Military and the Police outside the Chancellor’s office.  The U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Alexa Wesner from Texas was in Vienna today presenting her credentials to the country’s Federal President Heinz Fischer.

They even played “The Star-Spangled Banner”!

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I’ll leave you with a couple of interesting notes about Austria.

Vienna is the capital and the largest city in Austria.  Of the five million that live in the country, 1.8 million live in Vienna.  (The second largest city in the country is populated by only 265,000 people.)

 

And, of those almost two million, 82% live in apartments that they rent, 11% live in townhouses/condos, and only 7% of people in Vienna own homes.  Of course, those number change outside of the city.

I close by honoring another of Vienna’s stars, the late Falco, with one of his hits, “Der Kommissar”, even though he’s better known for “Rock Me Amadeus”.

Anthony

Plans For A Milestone Birthday

When it comes to birthdays, turning 13, 16, 21, 25, and 30 are the birthdays that seem to get the most glory.  Once you reach a certain age, many people stop making a big deal out of them.

I remember, as a teenager, thinking people who were 30-years-old were over-the-hill.  Once I hit 30, and then 40, I began to think much differently about those ages being ancient.  While I’m one of those people who don’t make a big deal out of each successive birthday, this year, it’ll be different for Ray.  Later this month, he turns 50 and we’re planning on celebrating it in style this fall.

Turning 50 is a big deal to me.  Think of all of the great people who never made it to 50:  my mother and her mother (47 and 48, respectively), Whitney Houston (48), Judy Garland (47), President John F. Kennedy (46), Elvis Presley (42), John Lennon (40), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (39), Princess Diana (36), Marilyn Monroe (36), Jim Morrison (of the Doors) (27), Janis Joplin (27), Jimi Hendrix (27), James Dean (24), and Ryan White (18).

Ray was born at Mercy Hospital in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on August 25, 1963.

While I always wanted dirty blonde hair when I was younger, these days I wish I was a ginger.  But, then again, I’m just thankful that I’m in my 40s and I still have hair!

So, when thinking of his upcoming 50th birthday, I thought about a surprise trip to Cancun, Mexico.  I was there in 1993 and I loved it.   I’ve been wanting to go back and I know that Ray’s never been there.  It’s a good thing I asked him before buying the package.  While he said it would be fun, he had other ideas and he’s the one turning 50!!!

However, I didn’t give up on Cancun.  Since I had some vacation time left over, we got a great deal and we’re going to Cancun for five days this weekend.  This is a picture I took of Cancun 20 years ago.

Cancun 1993 001

So, Ray thought about it, did his research, and he made a decision.  While both of us have been to Mexico and Canada (before passports were required), this trip was international and it required a passport.  This map is from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and luckily, the trip he planned is “green”, which stands for “take normal safety precautions”!  Red is danger!

Safe Travel

So, obviously since the green locations on this map are in Europe, that must be the destination for his golden birthday celebration.  If you guessed that, you’d be correct.  Ray decided he wanted to take a cruise on the Danube River!  However, the timing for the trip didn’t work out for his birthday.  So, we’ll be taking it in October.

The cruise on the Danube River is on the “MS Sound of Music”.  Could the name be any gayer? 🙂

In October, we’ll drive from the Quad Cities and take an overnight flight from Chicago to Europe.  The original trip itinerary had us on an overnight flight from Chicago to Budapest, Hungary, and boarding the cruise.  However, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the U.S. and arriving in Budapest to board the cruise on the same day.

While this is Ray’s trip, I’ve always been fascinated by Switzerland and it didn’t cost us anything extra for the flight changes to make it part of our vacation.  For the same price, we now fly from Chicago to Zurich, Switzerland, a global city and one of the world’s largest financial centers, and arrive Saturday morning!

Zürich

We get to spend almost 24 hours there!   We then fly from Zurich to Budapest and board the “Sound of Music Cruise Tour” on Sunday, where we’ll travel the Danube River from Hungary to Germany with several stops in between in Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.

Sound of Music Cruise

The cruise departs Budapest Sunday night and after sailing all night and in the morning, we’ll arrive in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, for an afternoon tour.  It’s one of the youngest capital cities of Europe, yet its history dates back more than 2,000 years.

From there, another night of sailing will be followed by an all day visit to Vienna, Austria, known for musicians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Falco (“Rock Me Amadeus”).

After another night of cruising the Danube, we arrive in Durnstein (wine country in lower Austria) and another short cruise will take us to Melk (in lower Austria), where the historic Benedictine Abbey is located.

The next day, we arrive in Passau, Germany, which is also known as Dreiflüssestadt, the “City of Three Rivers”.  And, being a city of so many rivers posed a major problem earlier this summer when central Europe experienced some of the worst flooding in decades.  These pictures are from Passau in early June.

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Since our cruise is more than four months after the flooding, it’ll be interesting to see how fast Germany responds to a natural disaster and how much of the city is flood ravaged and damaged.

The next two days will feature stops in Regensburg and Nuremberg, Germany.

When we awake after the last night of  the cruise, we’re driven two hours to the Munich (Germany) airport for our flight back to Chicago.  Once we get through customs, we’ll drive the three hours back to Moline just in time for me to go back to work — jet lag and all.  Crazy!!!!!!!

While Ray’s milestone birthday trip of a lifetime is still two months away, I’m already planning the trip for my 50th birthday in the fall of 2014!!!!

Happy Birthday early Ray!

Anthony