Sunday, September 23, 2007

So now you all wanna know the outcome, right?

Before you read this, read this – if you haven’t, yet.

There. All informed now? Good.

Around noon yesterday, both Orange and I were scheduled for a haircut and wanted to get rid of some glass before our monthly appointment. On the way to the recycling containers, we saw the white Volvo coming our way. AHA!

When we came home from our haircut and groceries, O-X saw that the car was still there, so he decided to pay them a visit (they live a few houses away). O-X introduced himself and explained that there was a “little problem” with his car. The gentleman – I’ll call him Mr. AP - immediately followed Orange to the garage because he though WE had damaged HIS car. Once OX showed him the white scratches on my car, Mr. AP immediately went into defence, saying: “But, anyone could have done this!” and got a bit louder.

OX kept his calm and said: “Uhm. I don't think so. That car (meaning mine) has not moved in 3 weeks. My girfriend takes the tram to work. Could you open your rear door please? See, same height as the marks. And your door has been opened on many occasions, so it wasn’t a one time thing. Plus, I don’t see any other white cars here."

Mr. AP tried to get out of it again by saying that he never uses that rear door.

OX: “No, but your kids do. And tell me, why is there red paint on your door? ” (my car’s red, remember?)

Mr. AP: “But, I always let the kids out before I park the car.”

OX: “Funny. I just saw you today coming home and you let your wife and daughter out, but you still had your son in the back seat … right behind you.”

That was pretty much the end of the discussion and AP apologized. He was like a small kid that got caught doing something naughty. Anyway, OX told him that he had just wanted to inform him about this occurrence before taking any "drastic measures" and if we could get the marks out with polishing, it would be OK. If not, we would contact him again to discuss a suitable solution. Guess what? AP even offered to help polish my car, but OX told him that it wasn’t necessary.

I’m just happy that it didn’t end in a bad dispute. These things can become pretty nasty. You don’t have to be best friends with your neighbours – in this case, a direct parking neighbour -, but one should be decent towards each other and respectful, right? Obviously, he had noticed the marks before, but I'm still puzzled. What's so bad about coming over and apologizing before a situation like this breaks out?!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Tuesday was another beautiful, sunny and HOT day. We decided to visit the Hohensalzburg Festung, so “the bitch” – no, it’s not me. That’s what we call OX’s navigation system. – took us up a winding road up the Mönchsberg overlooking Salzburg. The road got smaller and smaller, and we ecountered quite a few hikers, some giving us dirty looks. Hmmm. We did see a few parking spots along that road, but how far could we go until we got into trouble. We had gotten used to walking the day before, so we turned around and parked the car in front of a big, classy hotel.

We followed the signs through the woods until we reached the Museum der Moderne, where we made a short halt. However, seeing the fortress just about 1 kilometre away, we decided to continue. We were both enjoying the walk through the cool woods.

It’s amazing how many residences and old, but restored houses you’ll see on the way.
It was also interesting to see the different walls surrounding the fortress and we weren’t even there, yet!

Finally, we reached the bottom of the fortress. Woah! That’s still very high up!

If you thought we had a steep climb up the Kapuzinerberg, let me tell you that the walk from the gate (where you pay the entrance fee) to the (Fortress Hohensalzburg) itself is much more work! We couldn’t believe that some people were going up there (and coming down) in their flip-flops. Now, THAT my friends, was a funny sight! Seeing them slipping and sliding out of their shoes and trying to reach the chicken ladder on the other side, or then holding on to the railing along the fortress wall. The road leading up there is not only very steep – OX suspected over 20% climb - , but it’s like a sandy, crushed stone. And let me remind you that it was again about 32° C (90°F)!

Once we made it to the top (the actual fortress), we looked at different buildings: the small chapel, the salt storage (salt was worth more than gold at that time), the blacksmith’s and stalls, the grain storage, etc. We walked across the main market place and then decided we needed some food. What a blessing! We found a lovely spot in one of the outdoor restaurants and ordered a light lunch, and an ice cold beer to wash it down.

Once we were done, we decided to take the guided tour where one is handed a phone and can listen to the explanations in different languages. In front of the entrance, there was a bull made out of steel, I think, and it caught O-X’s attention. After this photo, I had to remind him that the expression was to “take the bull by the horns” and not “by the ears”. Oh well, that looks pretty easy. Anyway, the tour was very interesting and we learned a lot about the many developments the fortress had undergone since it’s been built in 1077. Quite an achievement, I tell you.

Our favourite part of the tour was the walk all the way up to a big platform which offered a breathtaking view of Salzburg and the surrounding area in all of its glory. Absolutely stunning!

The Kapuzinerberg (where we were the day before)

The Mirabell Palace

The cathedral

The salt storage

After the tour, we decided to walk back to the car and drive back to our hotel in Mondsee. Later, we were to meet with Peter and Sonja for a relaxing dinner by the lake, followed by a visit to very nice local bar.

Many laughs and a lot of fun. Can you tell?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I am soooo pissed off!

I came home today after work, and because I was home early, I decided to take my car - which has been in the garage UNUSED since 3 weeks!!! – to get a few heavier things at the grocery store, since Orange-X was on his way back from the south of Switzerland and didn’t know if he’s make it before closing time.

So, I dropped a few things off at home and walked straight to the garage and hopped in the car, drove to the store, picked up what we needed, and walked by the passenger side of the car to get to the trunk to unload the heavy burden. As I passed the rear passenger door, I noticed small dents, scratches and white paint marks ranging from just before the door handle to the mid rear wheel. And not just 1, but about 7-8 of these scratches/dents!!! It is obvious that it was the rear door of a car that was opened and banged against my door. Damn! And it didn’t happen in the grocery store parking because I was parked beside the carts so there was no car beside me.

I immediately understood where it came from. For the past few months, O-X and I have noticed a white Volvo parking randomly in free spaces (I'm sure many others have, too), sometimes in the visitors’ parking, sometimes on free, but rented parking spots (like ours). Remember that I said “white paint marks”? That Volvo is the only white car in the lot and it’s often parked on the right of my car. What is it with people nowadays?!! Don’t they have any respect for other’s property or any sense of decency?? No note, no sorry, no nothin’! I’m fuming!!! I mean, you have insurance coverage for these type of things. I don’t know who the owner of that white Volvo is, but I’ll sure find out.

Look. My car is 13 years old (turning 14 next year) and I lived in the center of Basel for 3 years with nothing but public parkings on the street (we’re talking parallel parking here), close to bars and the red light district, so my car did suffer from a few scratches on front and rear bumpers from unknown, probably a bit drunk drivers, but come on! This is - I thought - a civilized neighbourhood and it’s a housing scheme where you'd expect people to be honest! It’s obvious that he’s/she’s from here, otherwise you don’t even get a key to the parking garage. So a) he’s damaged my (okay, old) car and b) he’s eventually not paying rent for his parking. I'll check on that.

OX and I will go back to the garage later this evening to see if the car is there again. Then, we’ll just leave a note asking to either call us or then come by. Tomorrow, we’ll call the agents to find out whether the license plate owners have a contract for a specific parking space or not. I’ll let Orange do the talking, because it’s safer that way. I just hope that the owner of that Volvo isn't a rude type of person. I don't want this to turn into a messy situation.

I’ll keep you in the loop. Next entry: the Salzburg Fortress (this weekend).

Update: OX found the Volvo parked next to my car again this morning. He checked his rear door and found red paint. We also found out who the owner of the Volvo is and will go by either this evening or tomorrow morning. BTW, the guy is paying rent for the parking, so that's one problem less.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Climbing Salzburg - Part 1

What? You thought Salzburg was flat?? Well, part of it is, but to see some of the sights, you can go the easy way, or not. And with all the calories we had eaten up since we got there, we though it wise to, well, you know, burn a few of those extra calories.

Here's a picture of a beautifully manicured alley leading to a restaurant (I think it's the Kongresshaus, but I'm not sure) in Bad Ischl, a small town where we made a stop before continuing our route towards Salzburg on the Monday morning. I just love this picture. Well done, OX!

On our firstvisit to Salzburg, we decided to just walk through the old town. The fun thing was that we were there during the Salzburger Festspiele (Salzburger Festival). No, we are NOT the kind to run after prominent people, but prefer to leave them their peace and quiet. Let me tell you, though, there were plenty of camera teams and paparazzi everywhere, so they had their share of attention.

Anyhow, once there, we bought a city map and made our way to the most famous and probably oldest streets in Salzburg, namely the Getreidegasse. It’s great for all you (and us) shoppers out there. Every shop has its own emblem made of cast iron and, as you walk along, you’ll find that the side streets, or what often looks like an arcade, will lead you to lovely courtyards with cafés and restaurants.

We picked a side street that led us straight to a cute restaurant where we enjoyed a nice, light lunch while sitting outdoors. At some point, I was telling Orange-X that this was the street where we could find Mozart’s birth house. He looked at me, smiled and said: “Uhm. Yes, I know, sweetheart. We’re sitting right opposite it.” Huh?? Since I had my back to the house, I had missed it completely! Duh! There it is! How could I have mised that?

As we were almost done with lunch and contemplating on visiting this small museum, about 3-4 tourist busses arrived hauling not only your day to day tourist, such as French, British, American, etc., but also a bus full of apprentice Chinese monks. At least, I think they were Chinese. Tibetan, maybe?? Anyway, they all had shaven heads and were wearing orange robes, and everyone – including the other nationalities - was headed straight for Mozart’s birth house. The line was stacking back far into the courtyard where we were sitting, so we decided to skip the museum. We fought our way to get through the “Mozart” fans and finally made it to a bit less crowded areas of the city.

At some point, we got to the Linzergasse and saw a sign directing to a Franciscan monastery up on the Kapuzinerberg, which apparently offered a magnificent view of Salzburg AND, most importantly, had a restaurant where we could enjoy a nice, cold beer! The weather was gorgeous (and very HOT! - about 32°C, or low 90°F), so we started our steep climb up the road and many stairs, then into the woods. There were two routes to choose from. One was 2.2km (road) and the other 1.6km (walking path). We opted for the shorter version, because we were getting thirsty and... Did I mention it was HOT?? We soon discovered that the so called walking path was mostly stairs… Very old stairs that are not fit for legs of a 6’2” O-X! I was fine, but poor Orange really suffered during the first 500 meters climb. How steep was it, you ask? Just have a look... And this was the easy part!

After 45 minutes of zigzagging the steep hills and stairs through the woods (I swear that had to be much more than 1.6km!!), we finally made it to our goal and were totally dehydrated! My first thought was: “It looks so… uhm...empty up here”. I turned around to find an O-X looking at a sign in total disbelief. It read: “Wirtschaft Montag und Dienstag geschlossen” (Restaurant closed Mondays and Tuesdays). You have two guesses… Right! That day was a Monday - those who though Tuesday, were wrong. LOL! So, we were the only idiots (Austrians hardly ever do a climb like that without a liquid rewrd awaiting them!) up there? Almost. The only other humans in sight were a) an art student sitting on a foldable seat - and obviously laughing at us stupid tourists -, drawing the small monastery and b) what we think was the caretaker of the monastery coming back from a walk with his dogs, opening the door to the monastery and closing it right behind him. Frustrated (and still very thirsty), we walked back down again, taking the longer, but much easier road back to the Linzengasse. By that time, our throats felt like sawdust and we went straight for a street café where we first gulped down half a litre of water, then an ice cold “radler” beer (also known as a shandy).

We were getting hungry, so we walked back through small streets and alleys to the old town and started to look out for a nice restaurant. We sat down at the Café Mozart, at the Residenzenplatz, with a direct vew of the fountain. Now this reminds me of one of Ginnie’s posts (sorry, I couldn't find it). Why? Well, she mentioned something about having desert before dinner, and during our stay in Austria, Orange-X totally fell for the classic Eis Kaffee (Ice coffee). No, it’s not a coffee flavoured ice cream, but a strong, hot coffee with 2-3 good scoops of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream to top it off. Well, she mentioned something about having desert before dinner and O-X had not one, but two of these delicious ice coffees before dinner. So what’s wrong with that?! Want a spoonfull??

We had a very nice dinner there, and made our way back through the beautiful old town to our car, then to the hotel.

Do you think that’s it? No way! We had much more climbing to do. Wait until you hear about the climb up the Salzburger fortress, Hohensalzburg!
BTW, if you look at OX's photo as "captain of the ship" closely (click to enlarge) you'll see part of me in his sunglasses. Next weekend, we're in Holland! :D
PS: I'll be adding a link with all the picts of this trip (except the X-rated ones, of course;)) in my last entry.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The moment you've been waiting for... Mondsee, Austria

A promise is a promise – And I thought it would be a simple task to keep up with the blogging after our return from Austria… Well, at least keeping up with my blogroll, and not even that went as I had expected. Anyway, I’ll catch up, but you know how it is. Not even 24 hours after coming home from Austria, Orange –X picked up his parents from the Basel airport and spent a great deal of time talking the evenings away, enjoyed watching DVDs together, and a whole lot of delicious cooking… More about that in a later post.

So now, I have the pleasure of going back 4 weeks in time to tell you about our holiday in Austria. Let me rewind the clock and let's go back to August 8th, shall we?

We drove off around 9:30 on the Saturday morning when the skies were covered with grey clouds and a soft rain was coming down, and made our way towards Mondsee (Moon Lake), a small idyllic town about 25 km outside Salzburg.

We finally arrived at our lovely Gasthof short before 5pm and found out that there was the “Seefest” (festival of the Lake) that weekend. The weather was so beautiful that we decided to have a drink on the “main strip” of the village (200 feet long), relax from the drive and do some people watching before going down to the lake where the festivities would take place that evening and the next day. The village buildings are so colourful and well kept that you’d think you’re in a movie. By the way, the church from Mondsee was the setting for the wedding scene in "The Sound of Music". Who'd have thunk?!

Anyway, on our way through the parking arranged for the festivities at the lake, we walked by this car. Was that the band that was to play that evening? I have no clue. So we went our way, watching the small stands with all sorts of goodies being prepared, people testing the lights and making sound-checks for the live bands that would appear on stage that evening, etc. They had also put up a 120 meter (almost 400 feet) crane for bungee jumping and were testing the ropes with different weights. We were both quite impressed by the all organisation efforts of such a small community (approx. 3’000 inhabitants), but we were told later on that in July and August, there was some kind of event almost every weekend and most were very well frequented both by tourists and locals. After our first quick sightseeing tour, we met with Peter and Sonja (business partners of OX) for a quick drink before dinner and they gave us a fantastic restaurant tip for the next evening where we could watch the fireworks from a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake.

We walked back to the village to have dinner and decided to go back to the party afterwards. We got to the lake just in time for the band to start playing. I must say they were quite good and played a good range of styles. There were stands with food and drinks everywhere, the weather was getting a bit cool, but totally acceptable and the atmosphere was fantastic. The age group ranged from small kids, to teens to 85 plus, which we found was an excellent sign. You know what? So many of them were wearing the traditional clothing and not only the older generations, but also the younger were proud to show off their “Lederhosen” and “Dirndls”. At some point, the humidity of the cold grass was getting to my back and we walked back to our little Gasthof for a good night of rest.

The next day at breakfast, we discussed whether we should go for a boat tour on the lake, or then maybe just lazily lie on the beach and suck up some sun, or have a look at the range of events offered at the lake fair. Decisions, decisions! Once at the lake, we saw that the beach was already pretty crowded, but they also had a choice of boat tours – along with gazillions of other passengers - and small electric boats to rent. We opted for the latter. A perfect combination of romantic, peace and being on the water! Helga - that was the name of our boat – took us for a one and a half hour tour of the lake. Captains were Orange-X and yours truly. The surroundings are really beautiful and are worth seeing from another perspective (the lake), even more so considering the gorgeous, hot weather we had. But, hot sun makes one thirsty, so as soon as we docked back on shore, we headed straight to the festivities for a nice, cold beer. Aaah! Burp.... Ooops…. S’cuse us! :-)

Of course, nothing would be really Austrian without an Austrian band, right? Well, we had us some of that, too.

Later that evening, we had a taxi pick us up from the hotel to take us here. The food was excellent, the service very friendly and the view over the lake was breathtaking. Believe it or not, after entrees and main course, OX decided to have the cheese plate as desert. Does he look happy, or what? After the fireworks, we had a digestif and went to our hotel to get some rest.

Have you had enough? Just asking, because we still have 2 days of Salzburg, 2 days at Pinky's (incl. Chris alias "Kevin" live at Backstage) and another day in Bavaria with Andreas and Suze.

We'll be back... Maybe I can get OX to do the next post. We'll see.