Sunday, March 30, 2008

Imperial Weekend

Last year for her 60th birthday, I surprised my Mum with a voucher for a weekend at Grand Hotel Panhans at the UNESCO-listed Semmering region, popular summer resort back in the days when the Emperor and his entourage escaped the city heat on the newly built railway. This weekend was the latest date we (the catch of the present was that I accompanied her...) could use the voucher and so we arrived at this Titanic of a hotel on Friday afternoon:

Having recently been renovated and (partly) redecorated, it was pretty impressive but to me, it radiated post-communist chic rather than imperial charme. The 80s decor of our room, the corporate design (see the shower gel and soup-case below) and the Hungarian and Czech waiters did little to disperse that impression:

We took the car so we could easily have packed the skis as well, but not expecting so much snow we just packed our hiking boots, much to Mum's regret. The flood-lit night slopes we could see from our window did look pretty inviting, I have to say.

In the absence of skis, we spent the weekend eating, walking a slushy and extremely slippery slope up to Pinkenkogel opposite Hirschenkogel, where the ski lifts are, and testing the hotel's "wellness area" (where you could see Barbapapa-shaped hotel guests wobbling around naked on the way to the sauna - not exactly my kettle of fish) and swimming pool. The latter was in an older part of the hotel which reminded Mum of her boarding school. I also finished Petite Anglaise, the book (more about that later) and had a relaxing massage called exactly that - "relaxing massage".

The snowy path leading to Pinkenkogel

On the way back to Vienna we stopped at Reichenau an der Rax, drove through the aptly named Höllental (devil's valley) and took a short walk in the old part of Wiener Neustadt, from where Mum took the train to KLU. If you ever happen to come to Wiener Neustadt by car and need to find the railway station, don't be as naive as I was and think "railway stations are always easy to find" in a sense of all roads lead to Rome the railway station. Not so in WN, where you drive around in circles after having spied a solitary "Bahnhof" sign and then no more. Directions? So overrated!
After decades of treating me to fancy holidays abroad, Mum found it hard to adapt to this reversal of traditional roles with me picking up the tab for a change. I felt almost grown-up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mellow Yellow

Yesterday was my first day back in the office after the Easter weekend. Since, I've had 4 Amazon parcels and one by Mandarina Duck delivered to me. The guys at reception must think my salary equals that of Bill Gates or some such. Not really, I'm afraid.

Apart from books, an external hard drive and vacuum cleaner bags (yawn), said parcels contained the watch and (reversible) bag pictured below. See, 2 weeks ago, I bought a bright yellow belt. As I have always been a compulsive "accessoriser" who wants everything to match, I just HAD to have a yellow watch. And bag. Obviously.

I don't usually go for digital watches at all, but this one I found radiated a sexy charme in an ugly-chic way:
the brighter, the better (onemorehandbag)What's next? Shoes?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Snowy Easter

snowy Easter (onemorehandbag) The snow we didn't have last Christmas seems to have waited for Easter. Global Warming eat your heart out.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Under Water and by Night

I came back late last night, somewhat regretting that I hadn't seen more of Zurich. The Firm's Swiss HQ was pretty impressive and o.t.t. Here's one of the gilled guys on the payroll there:little yellow friend (onemorehandbag) Although the famous Bahnhofstraße was a bit of a letdown (at least shortly before shops closed at 8 p.m.), I really liked the little I saw of the city. Locals were very friendly, with cab-drivers in particular. If you ever need a nice hotel there, not only for business (though not exactly cheap so better on company expenses...), I can heartily recommend Hotel Ambassador. After several less than perfect experiences in England or Ireland, showers that work and lampshades that provide you with actual light are almost more than I dare to wish for.
Zurich by night (onemorehandbag)Back in Vienna, a (female) taxi driver who used her left hand for holding her mobile phone and her right to punch in street names into her onboard GPS gadget, whilst speeding on the motorway with 100 km/h had us wish for the restrained Swiss temper. I'm glad I made it home in one piece...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Zombified in Zurich

Having been picked up by my taxi at 05:20 for my 7 a.m. flight to Zurich, I am less than "animate" at this hour, in spite of the numerous attractions the Firm's shiny new office here has to offer. Being on the road on 3 consecutive weekends (New York-Dublin-Bad Gastein) was obviously too much for my system and I succumbed to a killer cold last week. I'm fit as ever now and was actually looking forward to this 2-day business trip to a city I've never been to (and probably won't see that much of anyway), but I wonder how real jet-setters who spend the greater part of their weeks in airport lounges and on planes, manage. Is it the thought of all those frequent-flier-miles accumulating that keeps them sane? Mine recently bought me a suitcase. I suppose it's a vicious circle- flying to earn miles, cashing them in for a suitcase, flying more with it...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

vantage point

Schatzi and I were humming along to the music, typing away as usual, before we realised that the beats came from outside. We got up and opened the window behind my desk, trying to find out the source of the soundtrack. A party of protesters was just marching past our part of the Ring:demonstration (onemorehandbag) We were about to return to work, when another colleague came in for a coffee and, on the way to the fridge, happened to look out another window. "There's girls dancing", he remarked. Right enough, 3 "dancers" (euphemism?) of the Nightclub down the road were dancing along to the protesters' music on the roof of their establishment:

dancing queens (onemorehandbag)
The things you see on a Tuesday afternoon...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Countdown to Easter

blossoming (onemorehandbag)
eiei (onemorehandbag)

Monday, March 03, 2008

tempora mutantur...

Last weekend, I was in Dublin. I had last been there in May 2007, receiving training at the Firm's European HQ. Even then, I had hardly recognised the city I thought I loved.
In retrospect, I suspect it was a bit like those kind of relationships where you think it's love, when in fact your relationship is borderline obsessive and more a case of being in love with the idea of something/someone being perfect for you.
Such was the case with my relationship with Dublin, where I spent my Erasmus year in 1993/94. Don't get me wrong - I did thoroughly enjoy my time there, but my determination to live the dream of immersing onesself in a foreign culture got the better of me and made me turn into Ireland-Bore #1 upon my return. I'm not sure I actually believed that myself, but the way I presented it to my friends and family, everything was better there than in Austria. The people friendlier. The bookstores better (that one for sure). The courses more interesting (not that difficult to achieve, given the lecturers we had at our alma mater in Vienna). The landscape more beautiful. Etc. Etc.
When my Mum picked me up at the airport in June 1994, eagerly awaiting her only child, she was greeted by a grumpy dumpling (I'd gained at least 5 kilos in those 9 months abroad), tear-streaked, whose first sentece was "I didn't want to leave!". Such was my passion for Dublin or arguably, obsession.
I deliberately picked a topic for my thesis ("Thematic Patterns in the Novels of Dermot Bolger" in case you're interested) that would require me to do research in Ireland and apply for another grant and went back to visit friends several times, still very much enamoured with the city.
The Celtic Tiger had put its claws into the city already in the 1990s, but back then it was hardly noticeable. Gradually, Dublin became more affluent, people stopped saying "thank you" to bus drivers as they got off, the airport slowly started bursting at its seams, "Polski sklep" stores started popping up and the old-fashioned and insular charme gave way to continental urban chic. Obviously the Dubliners who benefitted from the new affluence are all in favour of it, but from a purely selfish touristy perspective I have to say I much preferred the Dirty Old Town in its pre-Celic Tiger incarnation.
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