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Glad to be back in Graz


1476 kilometers in 4 days and 5 nights. We took a whirlwind trip through Salzburg to Munich and then up to Regensburg and over to Prague and then back through Vienna to Graz.

It made me appreciate was an extrodinarily beautiful old town we have here in Graz. Certainly one of the best-preserved and historic city centers in all of Europe.

Prague is amazing too. It is the #1 tourist destination in Europe now, surpassing Paris and Rome. And for good reason. It is just perfect. You really feel like you are experiencing a part of Europe that is 150-200 years old or older. There are no new buildings and all of the streets are cobbled. Kind of like Disneyland.

My wife says she prefers her hometown, Graz, with its interesting juxtaposition of old and new. After all, people live here–it ain’t just for the tourists. It is alive.

But, I suggest not missing Prague. But, if you can, don’t go in February–it is too damn cold.

Ein Kleines Salzburg

The view from Mozart’s house in Salzburg.

I have discovered that most Austrians I know are not particularly eager to discuss their country’s favorite son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. They are bored to death. Sort of how I imagine the elves feel when visitors to the North Pole squeal, “Oh, I just love Santa! What is he really like?”

But Mozart is cooler than Santa; he didn’t need any elves to help him make the gifts he gave us. And no matter how many times you’ve heard it, his music rocks. Remember the first time you heard Eine Kleine… or the overture to Don Giovanni or Die Zauberfloete? Now, shut up and smile when visitors go nuts over the little man and his music.

Went on a road trip that included Salzburg, a good 3 hours from Graz, right through the Alps. Beautiful drive through the awesome mountains, even with the spitting sleet and obnoxious German drivers in their oversized cars.

Wilde Mann for lunch with great zwiebel rost braten, goulash and spaetzle with cheese; cheap, too. Narrow, curvy streets, lots of Japanese tourists, an Austrian parking garage carved in –where else?– a mountain, fantastical Dom–old stuff everywhere. And Mozart’s ghost shivering in the cold, overcast February afternoon.

Speed – Friending

Something I’m organizing…

Date: Saturday, March 24th, 2007
Time: 19:00
Location: the office pub
Cost: €5 (proceeds go to the Styrian Children’s Cancer Society)
Speed-Friending is a fun variation on the “speed dating” model with the intentions of simply meeting new friends in Graz!

We’re just looking to support the International community of Graz – Austrians and others alike. Find a pal to play tennis with, a mate to go for movies with, or just widen your network of friends!

With support from the Anglo-Austrian Circle

21 & over

What’s the deal with bars in Graz? Do they require an age limit for admittance? Recently, some young folks I know were prohibited from entering clubs because they were under 21 (but over 18). The BBC by the University and Cuba at St. Peter, to be exact.

Seems the rule is arbitrary, since many of the regulars are under 21.

Anybody knows what gives?

An American Cook

The following is, more or less, the latest article I’ve written for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, which runs today on the food page.

An American Cook in Europe
for the Santa Fe New Mexican
by Christopher J. Kolon

Years ago I had the opportunity to take a position as Chef Entremetier at a resort in Switzerland. What an eye-opener that was for this young, dreamy American chef.

I was forced to put aside my fantasies…

Grazer Quiz: Light Sword

Next to what buliding can you find the statue called “Light Sword”?
a) Grazer Oper (Opera House)
b) Landeszeughaus (Armory)
c) Palais Saurau

See if you can guess, than click “continue” for the answer!

Morning light

Elle suggested we post a pic from our windows and this one is mine.
What you can’t see is Franz, the neighbor’s cat, meowing pitiously below the window sill. I know it was -4 this morning, but Franz is big and fat with plenty of fur and he cries all the time, regardless of the weaather. So I left him out there.
Like 80% of the people in Austria, we live in a Siedlung; our apartment, or wohnung, is on the end and we have a nice garden–what Americans call a backyard.
Big houses across the street; St. Peter is super bougeouise, mini suburbia–nice quiet streets, good for spazierengehen, the Sunday pasttime.

Think there’s enough snow yet for comfortable falling?

The room was dim yet again this morning. It was cloudy, yes, but it was also blanketed with snow. Real snow, that sort of sticks. The fluffy stuff. Think there’s enough there to try snowboarding lessons again?

Bunny slope is melting

Two weekends ago, I left Hebalm exhausted from lugging all my equipment up the bunny slope because the lifts were turned off, and covered with bruises with my hard falls. Not to mention sweaty & muddy as well.

Upside Down Lebkuchen Hearts

My wife loves to cook grandmothers’ recipes. Which is funny, because she herself is really quite young. You see, she’s not as old as she cooks.

These are old-fashioned Lebkuchen hearts she recently baked, turned upside down to dry. Lebkuchen hearts are…

Busted #2

The other day I was driving home from Einkaufzentrum Seiersberg, when I got pulled over at a speed trap on Petrifelderstrasse. I wasn’t speeding, but I didn’t have my lights on. Didn’t have my lights on! I know that you have to have your lights on any time you drive in Austria, night or day. My wife reminds me all the time. But, hey, I forgot.

Not only that, I didn’t have my driver’s license with me. Yeah, I know. Dumm.

So, the nice lady policeperson started jabbering with my wife, who was riding shotgun, because my German is still on the level of a 1-year-old, and not a smart 1-year-old at that. I am thinking, that’s it, I’m done for. They are going to deport me for stupid driving.

But no, they let me stay. The police lady wrote all my information down on a tiny, dog-eared spiral notebook and then asked me for 15 Euros. I gave it to her. Then she told me to bring my driver’s license by the police station the next day. And she smiled and waved goodbye.

Is this a great country, or what?

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