Sunday, December 28, 2008

They gave us wings

As a premiere this year we were pampered on Saturday by Heidi’s neighbour Barbara with a huge plate full of delicious crispy Styrian deep-fried-chicken and endive/potatoe salad with pumpkinseed-oil. 4 large chickens were sacrificed for a total of 44 pieces of Backhendl and we did relatively well given that it was the 4th day running with lots of dishes. Hence after 1 hour 12 people had to capitulate and 7 pieces were left. We are still in negotiations with Barbara whether this early dinner (we started at 1500) will become a tradition (a prerequisite was actually that all 44 pieces will be eaten).

Not exactly what a nutritionist would recommend .

For Sandra, Flo and Markus this was not the perfect pre-race dinner, but they did not care much and were rather happy about some additional insulation for the Altacher Silvesterlauf on Sunday. As warm-up and relaxation after the dinner Sandra, Kerstin and Markus walked to Bregenz alongside the lake to take a look at Sandra & Flo’s Christmas tree – a truly beautiful and nicely decorated example!

Sunday morning Vorarlberg presented itself from its nicest but also coldest side since we came here. Blue-sky, no wind but -6 degrees in the morning when we got on our way to Altach, 27km away from Hoerbranz. Sandra started her race at 1100 and targeted a time of 40 minutes for the 6,3km which she beat clearly with a finishing time of 34min 28 seconds. As every athlete she would have wanted to be faster in the end, but was happy with the result.

At 1200 the boys got on their way for the 12,6km (four rounds - 3,15km each) through the streets of Altach. The atmosphere on course was great as many inhabitants have turned the race into an event with loudspeakers and music out on the streets, mulled wine and tea for the spectators and lots of noise and cheering for the racers. Flo unfortunately had to capitulate on the third round as he had problems with his knee and so he finished the race after ¾ with a time of 53 minutes 53 seconds. Markus not only surprised the cheerleaders Kerstin, Heidi and Sandra but also himself with a finishing time of 59 minutes 5 seconds and beating the magic 1 hour mark. Given the lack of training runs during November & December and the loads of food during December, he was quite happy with that result and a reconciliatory rounding off for his sports year 2008.

The next few days we are going to make our mind up what exactly we will do on December 31st in the evening. It will for sure be with family – Heidi, the Meierei (Renate & Werner) and Heidi’s brother Manfred with his wife Lissi and their two girls Barbara & Monika).

Enjoy the last days of this year and have a good start into 2009 in which
Carla Bruni will continue to be present, even though France hands over the EU-presidency to the Czech Republic!

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, December 27, 2008

La grande bouffe - the day after

As expected and as every year the christmas days in Hoerbranz were full of laughter, joy, happiness and delicious & traditional food. Within three days we have had 5 large lunches/dinners (wienerle with potatoes & horseradish, beef-roulade with rice, boiled beef with vegetables and horderadish, crispy duck & chicken with bread- & potatoe dumplings & red cabbage and last but not least ham rolls with mayonnaise salad) split only by coffee and cake and cookies. On top of the great food we all got loads of presents and the best thing is that we got presents that we definitely wanted, thanks to the way we did our secret santa this year. All participants, based in Gran Canaria, Barcelona, Bregenz, Hoerbranz and Vienna have posted and updated their wishes in the weeks ahead of christmas.

Even though the snow is missing the temperatures are definitely wintry and thus Sandra, Flo and Markus are to a certain extent happy that they have added a few centimetres to their grease film over the past days as tomorrow they are participating in the
Altacher Silvesterlauf where Sandra will tackle the 6,3km race while Flo and Markus will do the 12,6km. The insulation provided by the additional weight is helpful, but at the same time over the whole distance we will have to carry the grease. As a consequence we will not care so much about the time, but rather the fun towards the year end.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, December 22, 2008

Driving home for Christmas

Up until the visit of Sandra and Flo we were well on track for a pretty much stress-less time ahead of Christmas. It all got a bit messy when Kerstin showed the first signs of flu on Sunday after their departure and latest on Monday morning we knew that the flu has stricken: fever, headache and many other signs forced her into bed all week and knocked her out. As a consequence she missed the Christmas get-together of Bella Familia on Wednesday evening and as Markus had to go to Frankfurt that day we were only present with some chilli, which was liked by all family members.

The weekend we spent in Oberwart where we were invited for a delicious “Tafelspitz” at family Kojnek – Michaela, Klaus and Nikolaus – and while Kerstin rested in the evening in front of the log-fire with Markus’ mom, Markus went to watch the last home-game of his team, the Oberwart Gunners ahead of Christmas – a clear and undisputed victory against WBC Kraftwerk Wels.

Due to the flu last week both of us “lost” precious time for the search and acquisition of presents and thus the last days before Christmas are pretty stressful. Luckily it’s rather quiet at work, but as we are not the only ones who have to rush to the shops. Tuesday night we will pack our car, put on Chris Rea’s “Driving Home for Christmas” and then head for Hoerbranz for our Christmas break. On the 24th we will decorate the Christmas tree, the boys will get together in Bregenz at the “Esel” for one or the other mulled wine and in the evening we will hopefully get some of our wishes fulfilled.

We can’t wait for the holidays to come and wish all of you merry and peaceful Christmas!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Warm-up for the big eating

This Wednesday night Sandra and Flo arrived in Vienna for a long weekend hitting the high street for Christmas shopping, visits to Christmas markets and the blast round of intense practise for one of the most demanding events of the year: the big eating on Christmas starting on the evening of the 24th and ending on the evening of the 26th with a series of big breakfasts, long lunches followed by coffee and cakes or cookies and concluded with dinner. As 27 and 28 are Saturday and Sunday we do have the suspicion to prolong the festive season by two days. While turkeys and gooses are fed prior to the holidays we suffer that fate on the holidays.

As Markus only arrived back from London on Friday night he missed out the Spittelberger Christmas market and Italian dinner on Thursday and also could not enjoy the delicious Indian dinner on Friday night at Rani, in our opinion the best Indian restaurant in Vienna. Unfortunately Indian cuisine is so fulfilling that the Sandra, Flo and Kerstin were completely destroyed afterwards and so Markus found the three lying in bed together on their backs not able to move. Just like three bugs.

Saturday we all slept really long, went for a walk in the prate early afternoon before Markus cooked, on demand by Sandra, his speciality Thai curry which none of us can get enough. Dinner that early was necessary as we me met up with Flo's brother and a couple of other of his relatives at the Christmas market in Schoenbrunn for some mulled wine and punch. We definitely had less of those sweet and dangerous drinks than the three guys we shared a bar table with. After a while we witnessed what impact the drinks can have. First one of the three guys started to wrestle with the table (it was a close match, but after all he won and managed to overturn it) but clearly the fight took too much energy as the fell over a few times and suddenly has disappeared. After a while the second one had to give in to the (knock-out) punch and was taken to hospital as he tripped (we are not sure over what exactly he tripped) and pulled the brake. Unfortunately for him gravel and his cheek did not cooperate so ideally. On our way home we met the first guy again - he was sitting on a bench on the way to the tube station and is seemed he was "thinking" about where he should go.

The setting for a christmas can't be better than here in the imperial garden
Today morning we more kept breakfast rather short as we have planned Mexican food for lunch before Sandra, Flo and his brother Philip got on their way back to Bregenz. The tortillas were excellent, but are clearly not the ideal food for lunch as we now feel really tired! Overall the training session for Christmas was success- and eventful and we can’t wait to have the Christmas holidays starting.

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The eye of the tiger

The past weekend which was luckily a long one due to the bank holiday on December 8th was not only used for some Christmas shopping on both Saturday and Monday but we also visited after quite a while again the zoo in Schoenbrunn on Sunday. It was a pretty cold and humid day and therefore the zoo was not overrun too much, but we were well prepared with warm outfit and we weathered the drizzle. We really missed the sights and smell of the giraffes (amazing how intense they smell!!), watched little Fu Long, the baby-panda, sleeping and were witness to the feeding of the two cheetahs, who were hunting the dead rabbit that was swished through their cage on a lift in order to give them some exercise and the visitors some thrill.

Unfortunately we missed the feeding of the family of the
Siberian tigers which had offspring a few months ago and so we only could watch the one of the young-ones playing with some huge bone and nibbling it, the other small one and daddy sleeping very well in front of the crowd and mommy overlooking the peaceful family. The tigers pretty much resemble their small relatives, the house cats, and do look quite cuddly, but one does not want to cuddle with them as one might not survive that TLC.

Should you ever look into this cat's eyes, keep your mind crystal clear!

Given the humidity paired with the low temperatures were biting we skipped the feeding of the seals and only spent some time watching some other young members of the zoo-family – the ice-bear twins followed by a walk through the garden of the emperor’s summer-castle and warming up with some mulled wine at the Christmas market in front of the castle. This rounded up Sunday afternoon perfectly and the fact that we did not have to go to work on Monday was the icing on the cake. We could get used to that! By now the week is well advanced and we are looking forward to Sandra and Flo visinting us from Thursday onwards.

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, December 6, 2008

They are all coming down one way or the other

This week was a quite interesting and eventful one. Not only that Markus has been travelling a lot again, being in Frankfurt on Monday and in London from Tuesday night until Friday, we have also seen a big 100bps rate cut by the Bank of England, a surprising 175bps shoved off the interest rates in Sweden and (finally) 75 bps reduction by the ECB. Especially the latter move has been long awaited as Mr. Trichet has been focussing on inflation by far too long in Markus’ opinion. The move came late. Probably too late to have a real impact and therefore more cuts are likely. In the US they are even talking about interest rates of 0% (just like we have seen in Japan a few years ago). From an Austrian perspective the sale of Austrian Airlines to German Lufthansa, unless the EU commission steps in and prevents the transaction, has been another big event. This seems to be the best solution for both Austrian as well as Vienna International Airport. Markus is definitely happy that Lufthansa is going to be the new owner and not Air France/KLM.

During the trip to London one thing became quite obvious> the city is not expensive anymore for us Europeans! When Markus started working in London back in 2001 the EUR/GBP exchange rate was at 1,70 (1 GBP = 1,7 EUR) while now the FX rate is at 1,16! That means that for Europeans London suddenly feels much cheaper and certain goods are now less expensive on the island than in Vienna or any other European city. So for all of you who have not been to London or the United Kingdom: now is a really good time to fly over and do some Christmas shopping! And all the folks who haven’t been by River Thames for quite a while, pack your stuff, book a flight on and off you go. Shopping never has been so cheap and by now you can even get flats at bargain prices as the credit crunch has hit the UK economy and housing market severely as the headlines of daily newspapers proclaim almost daily.

Europe's financial centre is getting cheaper by the minute

We are yet again pretty much booked out for this year, but are planning a London weekend for Q1 next year in the hope that the prices are not taking off too fast. But first of all we enjoy the long weekend in Vienna and will use Monday for some Christmas shopping.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, December 1, 2008

That's the way, the cookie crumbles

The past few years the last weeks of November and the whole of December usually were a rally from city to city visiting clients and having extensive lunches and dinners with them plus having a few internal Christmas parties. That always resulted in additional kilos on the scale, him being tired and on quite often hung over and desperate for the Christmas holiday-break. Thanks to the financial crisis, the bear market and cost savings this fast feeding will not be as extensive this year - in a way luckily, but somehow unfortunately as it was always good fun with the clients and colleagues.

2008 is different. We realised that in many senses already and therefore Markus took unmotivated 2 days off last week spending them mainly at home and in the gym. This short break gave him the opportunity to practice his skills in his favourite Playstation3 game – NBA2k9 – matching himself with his brother Stefan from 1000 till 1600 on Thursday yielding him in the end even victories thanks to some very helpful hints from his opponent!

The bear (market) is eating away the dinners - but we got our cookies

During the past weekend, the first of the 4 advent-weekends, for the first time real Christmas feelings came up: On saturday night we celebrated Tanja’s birthday with mulled wine and Feuerzangenbowle in the backyard of their house in Kritzendorf and on Sunday we took on the challenge again of baking cookies. We limited ourselves to three kinds: gingerbread, shortcrusts and vanilla cornets, whereas for the latter two we got a dead-poof recipe from Heidi which always works and provides for cookies that do not fall apart. Well, we do believe we dismantled the recipe of it being dead-proof, as the pastry crumbled massively. After all we somehow managed some cookies to stay together and got them out of the oven in one piece. And they are ideal. Ideal for people with no eyesight. They look horrible, but taste good. Some of you might be offered one or the other. In case that happens, please just close your eyes and enjoy!

Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No knock-out punch. No Loco-motion.

Last weekend winter has arrived in Vienna - just as the weatherfrogs have predicted. While friday was super-unfriendly, with some 3 degrees and heavy rainfall, saturday morning presented itself as a fantastic day with blue sky and crispy cold temperatures. A few hours later the sky darkened and when looking out of the window one felt like on a movie-set: the aircondition was turned down massively, the wind-machines were running on full-throttle and the guy on the roof emptied huge bags of tiny polystyrene-balls. We have never seen such funny and strange snowflakes before. After roughly 1 hour the snowflakes had againthe normal and usual shape one expects and our terraces as well the Prater put on a beautiful white winter-outfit. Luckily temperatures stayed low so that the snow did not disappear immediately. Unfortunately though the wind prevailed as well and not only made the temperatures feel much lower but also forced Markus' scooter into a horizontal position 3 times over the weekend.

The new week started of cold but nicely with stockmarkets all over the world being pretty strong. Not because Austria has a new government (or a t least new faces and new responsibilities), but because Citigroup, on of the largest financial institutions, has been bailed out over the weekend with a 20bn USD cash injection and a 306bn USD guarantee and investors were relieved and had enough of falling prices. How long will the euphoria last? Could be anything from 1 day to a couple of weeks. I would not get over-excited and not chase markets for short term profits, but clearly in the long run levels are attractive.

We are moderate and therefore did not celebrate the positive Monday with a Kylie-gig, huge fireworks and champagne like the opening of Atlantis - The Palm hotel in Dubai but with mulled wine and punch at the christmas market outside Schoenbrunn castle in Vienna with Viki and Stefan, Markus' brother. The four of us have not met for more than a months now and it was a nice, though a little bit wet-cold evening concluded with some snack and warm tea in their flat which is pretty close to Schoenbrunn.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Same Same, But Different

So far we were pretty lucky with the weather as it was relatively mild for November and actually also pretty dry. If you would not see live-broadcasts of ski-races instead of Formula 1 races on TV one would not guess its mid-November. But if the meteorologists are right, then we are heading for the first signs of winter and maybe the first snow.

We could return there every year without getting bored!

We can't imagine a better thing to do than to catch a car to the airport, get on a plane and flee to a sunny destination. Hence we are pretty envious on but at the same time very happy for our friends Lini and Peter, who have delayed their honeymoon from August to November and are heading to Thailand for a three week holiday next weekend. We used the last opportunity yesterday for a nice brunch with them and the rest of the Bella Familia - including special guests from Hamburg: Moni, the exile-Austrian and Tim, the photographer.

We are looking forward to the pictures from the trip and accompany Lini and Peter in mind to Bangkok, 30+degrees, sunshine and the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Have fun, enjoy it and come back safe!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We together - The race

Last week Saturday Kerstin came back from a week in Gran Canaria where she has visited her cousing Katrin and her friend Dipak together with Sandra. It was a great break from the grey (though warm) Vienna as temperatures during the day ranged between 20 and 30 degrees depending on whether they went to the south of the island or stayed in Las Palmas. Even short but heavy rain did not cool off the days a lot and only during the evenings temperature levels droppped. The sunshine allowed for hours on the beach (be it "normal" or nude), walks on the dunes and hiking tours to the mountains and in the evenings the 4 had great spanish dinner an met with their friends.

Unfortunately the wind in Gran Canaria was preventing Kerstin to use the time as training camp for today's big race: the 25th Cricket Sie-Er-Lauf in the Prater - a relay race over 2x 4km where almost 1200 couple-teams were participating. We obviously were adding training sessions during the past week, but the missed unites were very hard to make up for and we have had a big challenge to overcoe: our private race between Maria & Mirko, Lissi & Christoph and ourselves. The big favourites were clearly Lissi & Christoph (especially after learning that Christoph finished the 4km Vienna Nightrun in ca. 14 minutes!!).

Big excitement before the race

Sunday morning at 0945 the three teams + our two cheerleaders Evi and Valentin met in our flat to get prepared for the race which was started at 1100 not far from our place. The excitement was big when the girls started off and fighted hard - after 2 km they were level. Unfortunately on the second 2km Kerstin was outdistanced slightly by Maria and Lissi and so Markus had the almost undoable task to chase Christoph. The task could not be fulfilled at all, but Markus and Mirko crossed the finishing line together. Whatever the result - it was big fun and we were very happy that we have signed up for that event! We will be working on our pace for next time! So be warned ;-)

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No signs of global warming, but rather Ice Age

This week Kerstin, Sandra and Heidi were supposed to visit Katrin and Dipak in Gran Canaria for an autumn break. Unfortunately though Heidi was not able to fly and after several days of wrestling for a decision the two sisters decided to do the trip anyway and so they flew out to Spain on Sunday morning. They seem to enjoy the time in relatively warm temperatures and sunshine Heidi in the meantime checked into hospital and luckily is on the way of improvement again. Not the ideal way to spend your holidays, but we are glad to see you getting better again, Heidi!

Markus used the situation "home alone" to spend some spare time with his PS3 playing the newly released NBA 2K9. Better don't ask if he improved his skills. The frustration level at certain points was very high. At least in real life his team, the Oberwart Gunners, managed take revenge for last season's heartbreak final for the championship with a strong 93-82 victory against the Fuerstenfeld Panthers on Monday evening in the second round of the ABL.

The weather forecast: Freezy!

On Wednesday evening Markus flew over to London for a two day business trip. He was too late by a few hours for the premiere of the new James Bond movie - Quantum of Solace - which was partially shot in Bregenz on the floating stage (approx. 10% of the movie!!). He also missed the first snow in London on Tuesday. This was the first time in over 70 years that London had snow in October. London presented itself still crispy cold but snow-free. But not only are the temperatures close to the 0 degree mark, also business climate is almost at the freezing point. Credit crunch, falling house prices, massive lay-offs and doomsday scenarios in the media. In Austria we do not feel this chilly wind and we do not see this extent of the economic crisis. But there are chances/risks that it might haunt us there as well. We definitely hope not!

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, October 20, 2008

When I grow up, I will run away from home and join the circus!

What a week! The rollercoaster ride on the equity markets is nothing for the faint-hearted. You must have a good stomach for that. If not, a gastric ulcer can be developed very quickly. Whether the worst is yet to come is a very tough call. Markus somehow feels that volatility and bad news will persist for a while, but we are not seeing the end of the world. Let's hope he is right!

The past weekend was absolutely gorgeous and it was crispy cold both Saturday and Sunday morning, but there were hardly any clouds and sunshine all day long. Ideal to relax, go for runs in the Prater Hauptallee and enjoy the sunshine. The perfect peak of the weekend was the Cirque du Soleil with its show "Varekai". Kerstin's present for Markus' birthday were two tickets for this amazing "circus" which is back again after quite a long time in Vienna. Quite conveniently the Grand Chapitaeu, that's the name of the tent, is situated 15 minutes walking from home on the other side of the Prater.

The Grand Chapiteau - not far from home

We were both really excited about the show as we have seen also "Allegria" and "Quidam" in the past (we are not sure if we also saw "Saltimbanco"… seems like not, as the shows are memorable!) and we have not been disappointed at all. Cirque du Soleil is not a common circus but much more a mixture of carnival and perfect body control & artistic peak-performances! The costumes of the actors were colourful and amazing, the music yet again perfectly fitting the performances of the artists and kind of mystique. But the breathtaking part of the show was, what the artists are able to do. Whether it was the girl on the Aerial Hoops or two guys on the aerial straps, whether it was the performance on crutches or the juggler who handled among other things 4 ping-pong balls in his mouth (!!). It almost hurt us watching the girl hand-balancing on tiny pillars and bending herself to the extreme and the Russian swings, which catapulted the guys meters high through the Grand Chapiteau did enthuse the whole crowd. Both of us were though most amazed by the Icarian Games which are very hard to describe as it was so unbelievable to see. Basically one guy was juggling his partners (one at a time) with his feed lying on the back. The partners were flying through the air doing somersaults and other moves. It was jaw-dropping and the ultimate body control.

Truly amazing what these artists are doing!

Whenever Cirque du Soleil stops by near you or whenever you have a chance to go to a show, please do so. It is worth every Euro-Cent. Go for it!!

Kerstin & Markus

Friday, October 10, 2008

Closer to the gutter than to the stars (??)

Whenever you believe it can not really get worse, you can be quite sure that you are proven wrong. The events on the global stock markets this week are one good example for that wisdom. The meltdown of asset prices is not really something unprecedented, but clearly the scale and even more so the fact that markets globally are affected is quite a while back.

The Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the Russian financial crisis in 1998 and did not manage to trip over global markets, the Swedish real estate crisis in the early 1990ies reshuffled the whole banking industry in Scandinavia, but the rest of the world was marginally shocked and the burst of the internet bubble at the beginning of this century had only limited impact on the industrial and commodity markets which helped us stand up again. The Wall Street Crash in 1929 resulting in the Great Depression seems to be the most suitable comparative event as it also had massive influence on global equity markets, global economies and the personal wealth of the population. The fact that US car maker General Motors (GM), whose share price last night closed down 30% in New York has now the a lower market capitalization (2,8bn USD!) than in 1929 is anecdotal!

The market believes GM is now worth less than 1929. Is he right?

It feels very much like a Black Friday today, the mood in a dungeon can not be worse and most of the people Markus was speaking to were fed up and hoping they would not be working in that industry. Some are thinking already what they could do instead, either because they expecte to be sacked or because they consider withdrawing from the investment arena. This smells very much of capitulation, which is what we need. But whether we are seeing the lows today, we would not want to bet a lot of money on.

No matter whether the G7 meeting over the weekend will come up with a magical solution for the crisis or not one drought will come to an end for sure: Finally this coming weekend the Austrian Basketball season is getting underway again. Tomorrow, Saturday last season's cup-winner Allianz Swans Gmunden take on the 2007/08 champion Raiffeisen Fuerstenfeld Panthers and one weeks later the regular season kicks off. Judging by the transfers, team changes and pre-season performances one can expect a very tight and interesting season as there are five teams which are expected to be able to beat each other: The two above mentioned plus the Kapfenberg Bulls, WBC Kraftwerk Wels and Markus's team, the Oberwart Gunners. On top of that with UBM Arkadia Traiskirchen, kelag Woerthersee Piraten and xion Dukes Klosterneuburg there are three contestants which could easily suprise. With Admiral Sportwetten the league has received a new main sponsor and the fact that Premiere continues to broadcast up to 45 league games live should enable more presence for the sport and help Markus to stay close the the events. The target to see more games of the Oberwart Gunners live should not be difficult as last year he saw only 3 games all season long live in an arena.

Let's go Gunners!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The attempt to run away from the horrible markets.

Yet another turbulent week on the stock markets in which everyone focused on the ONE event on Friday: the second voting in the US congress on the bailout package. The expectation was that the bill will be passed this time and so the trading session did start off positively. Unfortunately market participant's reaction to the positive voting was a classic: as the structure and amount of the 700bn USD package was seen as not sufficient the markets sold off. The news on Saturday, that the support package for Hypo Real Estate collapsed as up to 100bn EUR are needed spilled some oil into the fire burning these days on equity markets. It’s probably best to keep your cash at home under your pillow!

Friday night, while the congress casted its votes we were driving to Vorarlberg where Markus was participating in the Sparkasse Marathon over the half-marathon distance. The cold temperatures paired with rain on Saturday were scary, but the weather forecast for Sunday was somewhat better. Especially the news that it’s supposed to be dry was heard with joy.

Sunday morning the weather was just perfect: crispy cold in morning, but no cloud and sunshine. After breakfast at Sandra and Flo's we boarded the MS Vorarlberg which brought us to Lindau, where the start of the run was. After warm-up routine and additional motivation with the right play list on Markus' iPod the run was started at 11:11 with ca 18 degrees in the sun and 9 degrees in the shadow.

Warm-up is key. The right music for it helpful

Markus, who had an "official" target of 1:45 for his race and was hoping for a time below 1:40, started off moderately with ca 4'15/km over the first few kilometers. After ca. 15 minutes he started though to feel horrible stitches and he had to slow down to an avg. 5'10/km, but the pain was persistent. When Kerstin saw him at km 7 Markus looked like not making it very far and indeed he was considering to turn in at the 1/4-marathon.

Along the pipeline he got the pain under control, managed to speed up again and the 21,0975 km were back in play! What followed was in all of his past half marathons unseen: he made up time vs. his target in the second half of the race, could mark strong last 3kms and reached the finishing line as 31st in his category and as 288th man after 1:39:30. This is ca. 1,5 minutes slower than his personal best (1:38:10 set in October 2004), but within the time he hoped for and clearly good considering the problems at the beginning!

It was a "happy finish". Different to a Thai massage though.

As a first reaction Markus was happy with seeing the finishing line and the time, but pretty soon also some annoyance about the problems in the first third of the race came up. The positive takeaway is clearly the fact that the speed in the second half was kept stable at ca 4'45/km and that Markus was running with an average heart rate of 178 bpm rather than ca 185 in previous races what usually resulted in much slower times towards the finish.

As we have taken Monday off we are planning a small late birthday dinner with Sandra, Flo and Werner and tomorrow morning we are driving back to Vienna.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, September 29, 2008

After the elections is before the elections

Yesterday, Sunday we Austrians were "forced" to early parliamentary elections, as the two coalition partners rather quarrelled than worked and split up earlier this year. This development paired with rather colourless election campaigns lacking real messages from pretty much all parties resulted in a shake-up of the political landscape with the coalition parties loosing significantly and the right wing gaining massively. Not really surprising that many of the coalition supporters who disliked the elections, showed that by not casting their votes.

The leader of the socialist party, who could defend though its "first place", sent out a very strange message last night by saying that he sees no way in a coalition with either blue (far right) or orange (centre-right) which leaves basically the same situation as we had so far, only with less seats in the parliaments - a coalition of socialist and conservative party. This option bears the massive risk of driving politics yet again against a brick wall and Austrians could be forced soon again to elections. A light at the end of the tunnel is a new leader for the People’s party as the first consequence appointed today. Lets hope this light is not an oncoming train! For sure the next weeks will be quite interesting as to what coalitions work out and whether we will see another season of "The Muppet Show" or some serious and meaningful politics.

Is this really what Austrian politics is all about? If so: Who is Who?

Not necessarily due tot the above mentioned election outcome Markus left the country early Monday morning for Poland, but a long-planned investor trip gives him the chance to get out of the circus. Lucky him! But lucky only in a certain aspect: this coming Sunday he is planning to overcome the half-marathon during the Sparkasse Marathon by Lake Constance and instead of ideal nutrition, relaxing and perfect preparation he is supposed to rush to meetings, taking care of the client and taking him out in the evenings. Not the perfect setting.

The events of the day on the other side of the Atlantic where the congress voted against the 700bn $ bailout plan for the banking system caused stock markets to reach new lows (the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a record 777 points or 6.98%!) did not add much joy at all to Markus, his client or other players in the financial markets.

Looking towards the weekend: The target for this years half-marathon is no new personal best (1 hour 37min) but to achieve a time in the area of 1 hour 45min which could be quite challenging anyway considering unfriendly weather with approximately 10 degrees and high probability for rain. But so far the hope for a wrong weather forecast keeps a glimmer of hope alive!

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Like a virgin no more - Madonna in Vienna

Sunday evening Sandra and Flo arrived in Vienna for half a week with the main event: Madonna's first ever Vienna concert during her "Sticky and Sweet"-Tour on the Donauinsel. While we had to work both Monday and Tuesday, our guests had two fine days, whereas Sandra used Monday to fight an oncoming flu. She suceeded and was on top form on Tuesday.

In order to have enough energy for the concert, Flo made on Tuesday evening a fantastic pizza which was eaten away pretty fast before we got on our way. Having arrived at the venue we tried to find a decent spot close to the stage where we also had a chance to see the stage, but arriving at 1915 was obviously too late as many of the 45000 people where already there and so we were rather in the back, so only Markus did have a good view.

At 2040 the Queen of Pop, Madonna Louise Ciccone, came on stage and opened the concert with "Candy Shop", one of the tracks from her current album, "Hard Candy". The stage itself was full of technology, glamour, screens and in that respect impressive. Unfortunately it was not very high and therefore one did not see too much. The screens revealed to a certain extent how agile and fit the 50 year old still is. No way we could see details, which might have provided us of more age-evidence.

What was striking was that both older tracks as well as new ones have been performed in re-mixed versions, newly interpreted and they were not immediately recognized. This meant that the crowd had difficulties to get going and the atmosphere was rather cool, whereas the weather was ok - only 10 degrees, but dry. Only a rather genuine version of "Like a prayer" got motion into the crowd, but a humble attempt to integrate the crowd more with a 'sing-a-long' of one of her songs failed as unfortunately no-one recognized this song and so it was pretty much embarassing for both Vienna as well as Madonna and she seemed to be pissed off by that. What should we say? In a final attempt to make everyone happy the rather dancefloor-type of track "Hung up" has been performed in a heavy metal way that Rammstein or Metallica could be proud of.

Somehow expectation and performance did not match

Maybe the expectations were too high, maybe the way the gig was set up would have suited rather for an indoor performance with less people or maybe it just was not our day, but Madonna clearly did not impress us much and - before the gig we would not have bet a cent on us saying that after the concert - if we would not have been to the concert, we had not missed much. Let's stick to the albums which are great, but a Madonna live concert in a large arena: No, thank you! For impressions of the concert (actually mainly the stage) take a look at the our Picasa webalbum in the picture links.

Kerstin & Markus

Friday, September 19, 2008

London was Calling - It needed a shrink!

On Monday evening Markus left the rainy and cold Vienna again for probably one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, the home of Princes Charles, William and Harry, London, for a conference on Austrian companies, a management meeting and several client meetings until Friday. Having lived for almost 4 years by the river Thames, London became something like a second home to Markus and returning is always connected with nice memories. We are trying to come back at least once per year for a weekend, as both of us love the city to pieces. For 2008 our visit together is still pending actually!

Shopping in Carnaby Street is an integer part of any London visit

The conference, co-hosted bz the Vienna Stock Exchange and UniCredit MIB took place in the Courthouse Kempinski Hotel, just opposite Carnaby Street, one of the nice pedestrian zones and shopping streets in the West End of London. the hotel used to be, as the name says already, a court in previous times, and some oparts of the hotel have been kept pretty much unchanged. The most obvious examples were three cells (including toilets) which form part of the hotel bar, and which could have been used ideally for very private or detailed, undisturbed discussions between investors and some companies. Given the markets sold off yet again during the week (most of all hitting ImmoEast which lost 50% until Thursday close due capitulation of shareholders) such meetings would not have been a big surprise.

Ideal for very private conversations: One of the cells in the Courthouse Kempinski

Given the UK economy and housing market is structured in a similar way to the US market and after bancrupcy of Lehman Brothers, the takeover of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America and the bailout of AIG on the weekend also HBOS became a vicitim of the credit crunch and is most likely being eaten up by Lloyds TSB its not surprising that the mood in London's city was very depressed as the ghost of redundancies, job losses and recession were walking around rather than waiting behind some corners. Hence the management meeting on Thursday was a pretty much serious event with lots of measures having been discussed and taken in order to weather the heavy storm best.

Markets cost Markus' colleague his shirt..

As Markus moved to London in summer 2001, a time when job-losses, layoffs and depressed ewconomy was a big topic the last time it was not a complete shock, but the city presented itself very different to the past few times. Nevertheless, the mood did no harm to the beauty of London and the fact that Markus likes is looking forward to returning soon again. Obviously he can't wait to get back home again after 4 days away to spend some quality time together with Kerstin again!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, September 14, 2008

30 years of Flo - Too much? No way!

Friday night, after having finished a tough week at work - Kerstin's clients got busy ahead of the Austrian elections & Markus trying to sail through the turbulent times at the stock markets - we got into our car and headed west: Flo, Kerstin's sister's boyfriend has called for celebrating his 30th birthday on saturday in Bregenz. We did not hesitate a second once we heard about the plan and were quite excited to be back in Kerstin's home country. Having caught the "movie-virus" in the past weeks, we decided to make a short video for Flo as contribution to our present - a weight-bench in order to keep fit. We won't win an Oscar for sure, but it was fun anyway to produce it seemed that also Flo liked it!

We also brought along a surprise for Heidi, Kerstin's Mom: In the quest to renovate the house - this summer she got a new kitchen and a few things in the living room have been upgraded - we decided to buy her a slim Panasonic Plasma TV (the same make as we and also Sandra/Flo have) instead of her large, old & heavy TV set. Upon arrival Friday night we replaced the old TV with the new shiny toy and it took quite a while on Saturday morning for her to realise, but once that happened the joy was big!

As for the party: Just imagine 31 people in a flat with 80sqm on a day when it was raining all day long with temperatures of 15 degrees. The nice terrace could not be used and we had a cosy night inside with loads of food (critical voices call it a "sickness" that in Vorarlberg there is always plenty of food availabe), plenty of prosecco, wine, Mohren and vodka. The evening was very nice and full of laughter, we saw many pictures and nice birthday-present-presentations including a revival of TV show "1, 2 oder 3" and a poem recited by Kerstin, Heidi and the Meierei (Renate & Werner). The PlayStation has also been used heavily for Karaoke singing and as far as we could judge, not many tunes were hit correctly. By the end of the night/beginning of the next day at 0445 most of the food was gone (= eaten) and also the majority of liquids have been liquidated. "Well done" to everyone!

Does this man look like 30?

On Sunday afternoon, having slept a few hours and helped cleaning up the mess in the flat, we are getting into our lion-car again and get on our way to Vienna where we prepare ourselves for what will most likely be a very busy week for both of us.

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Swan Lake - Come fly with me

Tuesday evening Markus yet again left the country to meet investors and clients in Frankfurt with two of his Polish analysts. It has been almost three months that he has been there and in the meantime quite a few things have changed on his clients' side, with more changes to happen now that Commerzbank has taken over Dresdner Bank.

After a busy schedule on Wednesday, which by the way brought further losses on the stock markets he is active in (Russia, Czech Republic performed worst, down 5% each), he came across a beautiful creature again at the airport: the 747-400. The jumbo-jet, developed by Boeing in the 1960s and introduced to commercial aviation in 1969 is in Markus' opinion the most beautiful airplane, exceeding also the looks of the recently launched Airbus A380. We have had the pleasure flying the "swan" on our way to South-East-Asia, when we went on our first diving-holiday to Thailand back in October 2004 and it was quite an experience. Not that Kerstin cared so much about the plane she was sitting in, as long as the bird was flying, but Markus was really excited!

We wish we could board this beauty and ideally sit upstairs!

Given the heavy traffic on Frankfurt Int'l Airport most people hate this airport, but due to the vast number of 747s one can see there Markus likes it quite a lot. Whenever he spots one of these planes landing, taking off or parking, he is overcome by the urge to fly away and go on a long-haul trip - be it for holiday or business. So here we are again: holiday feelings but no plans or flight tickets in the pocket yet. The desperation level is still low, but with every visit to Frankfurt it will rise again. You can be assured!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Maria, Mirko and Valentin combined with one ring. The "Haemmerles"

Yesterday it was time to conclude the wedding season 2008 with the wedding of Maria and Mirko which was held at Weingut Hillinger in Jois. Markus, arriving in the morning from Istanbul where he did not manage to get sleep and so only had a nap on the plane, was hoping to at least get a power nap in the afternoon, but as Kerstin was Maria's witness there was so much still to prepare, that there was no chance for a single minute of rest.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous with more than 30 degrees, sunshine and a light breeze. It offered the perfect surroundings coupled with the setting of the wedding on the hill just above the vineyard overlooking the Neusiedler Lake. Maria was absolutely stunning and must have either denied to wear half the wedding-dress or expected such nice tempreatures as her wedding dress was very sexy and just a bit more than a whiff of nothing. The men - wearing suit and tie - were jealous of such a light outfit. The ceremony itself was short and compact, Kerstin recited a nice poem dedicated to the couple and the obligatory rice-shower was coupled with bubbles and a rose cordon.

One ring to rule them all! M&M are married!

Markus was at center stage of the traditional "throwing of the garter" which literally dropped into his hand. Lets see if that means anything ;-). During the following dinner we heard several very nice and funny speeches and songs, whereas we would like to highlight Maria's mom's speech as very special and also Maria's brother Michael's speech due to the fact that his daughter Matilda added her ad-hoc comments.

Over the past few weeks also we, together with our friends, better known as the Bella Familia, have prepared something special for the newly weds: We adapted the lyrics of "We are the world", went to a sound studio and recorded and filmed the chorus. The result was a 9 minute long video which we showed on a big screen. For all of you who dont mind wrong tones and imperfect singing, take a look at the video and/or the "making of" both of which Markus has already put on his YouTube channel. With this video we wanted to say "Thank You" to M&M as they have been contributing big time to every movie we made so far for weddings, birthdays et al and we wish them together with Valentin, their son, all the best for their life as an "official" family!

Following dinner, a fantastic selection of Vorarlberger cheese and all speeches, songs, videos etc. the party really started, most of us switched from wine to cocktails or vodka and we all danced and jumped until the early morning hours. Even the several children/babies stayed quite long at the party. Not really dancing, but sleeping outside on the terrace in their pushchairs as the weather and temperatures allowed for that. Evidence for the waking of the party-tigers will be shown soon in the picture links. At the moment we can only tell you: its worth to come back and have a look!

The singing and dancing took its toll and so we left the party close to 0400 together with Evi (who by the way was dancing at two (2) weddings that night) and Christoph to our hotel, the recommendable and very nice Weingut Agerlhof in Jois.

Again all the best from us for the new family!

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Liquidity was back - shit happened

After a short pit-stop at home which Markus basically used to grab fresh clothes he flew on Wednesday morning to Istanbul for the large Conference for Emerging European Markets investors with more than 100 investors and more than 70 companies attending. The event was yet again organised by "conference fairy" Helen Claussen and her team exceeding the high expectations of the salesforce with a perfect organisation of the event held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. In case ANYONE of you out there ever wants a conference or congress organized properly, let us know and we link you up with Helen. She will sort you out!

The view from the room was stunning
Markus' room in the Intercontinental Ceylan Hotel offered a fantastic view over the Bosphorus, but the conference did not allow a lot of time to enjoy it. While there were very interesting business meetings during the days the evening events were memorable as well. Markus concluded the welcome drinks on Wednesday wit a visit to Taksim Square at 0200 for a Kebap with some colleagues and clients, but the home made Ayran seems to have disturbed his stomach. The whole of Thursday he had numerous visits to the toilet and he was pretty tired and exhausted in the evening so that he could not enjoy the gala-event at Hotel Les Ottomans right by the Bosphorus which is a perfect setting for such an event. So he left at 1630 and went to bed in order to hopefully recover and be back fro Friday night.

The bad Kebap-stand from Wednesday No good!

The good Kebap-stand from Friday. Yes please!

A 2 hour nap after the conference on Friday late afternoon made the trick and enabled him to enjoy the night properly. As bankers and investors are not at all exclusively boring farts, Friday night was concluded in the world's best place for party and clubbing in Markus' opinion: outdoor club Reina, right underneath one of the 2 bridges connecting Europe with Asia. He had again a Kebap to make the night in Istanbul a real night and was just in time back in the hotel to pack, write this blog and check out before heading back home for the wedding of Mirko & Maria.

Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pandora's bo(to)x has been found. Or was it Katarzyna's?

Sunday we used pretty much for spending time together, starting off with a run in the Prater in the morning, breakfast with fresh apple&carrott juice on and scrambled egg on our terrace followed by enjoying the fine sunny afternoon on the roof-terrace. In the later afternoon we delivered Maria and Mirko their presents (Maria's Manolos and Mirko's poker-set and vodka-kalashnikov) and Kerstin discussed details about this Saturday's wedding. Markus left early for the airport heading to a 2-day business trip to Warsaw.

Close to the Intercontinental Hotel in which he was staying one can find the Palace of Culture and Science, the unloved monument in Warsaw's city center is very similar to Moscow's Seven Sisters, was a present by the late Russian dictator Stalin to the Poles and stretches over a vast territory close to Markus' hotel and the main train station. Noone really tells you, what the building really is used for, which shows how much they love it.

From Stalin with love - the love is not really returned by the Poles

In the two days one of Markus' client wanted to meet oil&gas and retail companies as well as do some 'mystery shopping' in Warsaw's most modern shopping center, Zlote Tarasy. Not only was the center absolutely packed for a monday afternoon, but also there were shops we don't even have in Vienna! One of the shops Markus saw seems to be the explanation why there are so many good looking women in Poland: a quick-fix Botox Shop! With such tools its quite easy to be attractive, no?

A "botox drive-in" in a Warsaw shopping centre was the most curious observation

The trip also made it clear that Poland is not (yet) in recession: the shopping malls full, the people out spending and the restaurant where Markus had dinner on Monday evening was expensive and busy. After 6 more meetings on Tuesday, including one with an oil exploration company digging for oil in Kazakhstan, Markus flew back in the evening for one night, as on Wednesday he will set off for Istanbul to the Annual Emerging Market Conference which UniCredit is hosting there. He will only return on Saturday morning, just in time for the last stage of the wedding tri-athlon!

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reality bites - The class of 1993

On Friday night Markus was yet again confronted with the fact that time is running fast and he is on his best way to become an old geezer. After work he headed south to Oberschuetzen, the little town in Burgenland where he attended high-school for the class-re-union celebrating 15 years school leaving examination (Matura). The most scary bit about this is, that it does not feel like so long ago but makes it quite obvious that Markus IS getting old.

This picture marked the end of Markus' "school-carreer" - You spot him?

Kurt Gamauf and Andi Gross have been so kind to take initiative a few weeks ago and organised the late afternoon/evening - a big "Thank you" for that. Due to work commitments Markus could not join the tour through the school starting at 1800 as he only left Vienna at around that time, so he only joined the food and drink session in Mostschank Unger. Out of the 28 pupils in the 1993 - 8A of the Bundesrealgymnasium Oberschuetzen 20 people could be detected, invited and made their way to - and it was pretty nice and funny to meet after such long time. As Markus has only with Andi, manager of the Oberwart Gunners, regular contact, it was almost like a "turn-back-time" experience and interesting to find out what happened to the classmates both on private level as well as in their careers.

It was nice that also Wolfgang Tretter, the teacher who led us through our last 4 years at school, and Heinz Hafner made themselves available and joined for some substantial meal alongside good wine and beer and helped to come to terms with the past. Similar to the past 15 years also last night time was flying by as there were so many old stories they recounted again accompanied by lots of laughter and several schnapps. By 0330 they called it a day, but an ipmortant decision has been taken as well: Regular meetings (at least every 2 years) will be called! Kurt, still spokesperson of the class, took ownership of this task.

There was neither much time to spend with his family nor a possibility to play the attempted round of Golf with Klaus (Promise: we will still play once this year together!) as Saturday morning Markus had to rush back quite early as he had an appointment at 1000 in Vienna before family Benkoe was coming for BBQ in the later afternoon. Hopefully Felix's bruise really has healed by now!

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A hot night with Sophia Loren & a day by the Zurich lake

For many people the signs for an ending summer are foggy glass panels on the terrace, feeling cold in a suit in the morning on the scooter to work or when you need a jumper when sitting outside in the evening. For Markus another good indicator is the slow re-start of business travel-activity.

Zurich presented itself from its best side

Yesterday night he has boarded the first plane again since early July heading for a day in Zurich visiting clients. When he arrived at 2145 it was still 21 degrees and he checked into his hotel - Hotel Wellenberg - in the very city centre. Due to travel restrictions the hotel was rather dodgy: worn out, no aircondition and noisy. The best thing were two large photographs of Sophia Loren on the wall opposite the bed. So he spent a really hot and sweaty night with the diva for only 290 CHF!

Quite odd to have pictures of Sophia in front of your bed

The Wednesday was warm and sunny with 26 degrees and the lake was absolutely beautiful. In between two meetings it even worked out to sit down by the lake for 10 minutes and enjoy the view, but the rest of the day was meetings, taxis and lots of discussions. To wrap the day up and relax he will go for an 80-minute run in the Prater Hauptallee once he reaches home lateron.

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, August 24, 2008

'Sex and the city' vs. 'Reservoir Dogs'

This weekend our flat was at centre stage for the 2 "Goldengnu" bachelor parties: On Friday night it was the ladies' turn and on Saturday the boys celebrated.

The girls' Motto was "Sex and the city" and all Maria knew, was that she will be picked up by a driver at 1915 who will bring her to the location of the evening. She neither know where he will take her nor what she has to expect. The flat was perfectly decorated in pink and white and upon arrival they had reception with drinks at the roof terrace. meanwhile the Thai cook, Miau, which Kerstin has booked served the starters and after an hour the 12 girls made their way downstairs for the main course and then the delicious dessert. After dinner Maria received her present, self-made "Manolo Blahnik" shoes with the girl's pictures on and loads of small, personal presents in the box for Maria from all the girls. What followed was a lot of wine, Prosecco and Gin and Prosecco, Karaoke, more wine and lots of laughter. In the early morning hours then the hardcore team (Maria, Angi, Claudia, Evi and Kerstin) moved on to Passage for clubbing and the driver who picked them up was incidentally the same who brought Maria! When Passage closed down at 0600 the ladies had breakfast from the sausage stand in the Burggarten which just opened up. Kerstin was home at 0730, woke Markus up and then went to bed. Markus himself got up at the time and cleaned up the mess in the flat to prepare it for the boys' night!

The ladies definitely had fun

The initial plan for Mirko was to go to Velden in Carinthia and have a party there, but as the weather was rainy and cold we changed plans and surprised Mirko (who knew somehow what was planned due to a leak) showing up at his flat at 1400 all dressed in black suits, white shirts, black ties and dark sunglasses, just like the the "Reservoir Dogs". He grabbed his backpack and the 3l bottle of Vodka he had prepared and we set off to go to Christoph's, Oliver's and Peter's place where Mirko a) received outfit that matched ours and b) several Vodka shots in each place. By the time we left Peter's we have emptied more than 2 bottles and were working on the third one. On the way to our place Mirko surprised us completely on the highway when he was mooning us! When we came to our flat it was completely darkened, only the TV was on showing 'Reservoir Dogs' and on the table we had a poker set - we planned to play a night of Poker + Vodka with Mirko. Gery brought along a glass-Kalashnikov in a wooden box (just like a real gun) filled with Vodka as 'special' present! What followed was a lot of vodka & beer, noise and loud music, a bit of Poker, Pizzas, Karaoke and more Vodka. Mirko decided to sleep for an hour or so before we headed on to U4 where we continued to celebrate until it closed down at 0600. Mirko, Christoph, Gery, Peter and Markus moved on for breakfast at Cafe Drechsler with Goulash and sausages (Christoph opted for the take-away Goulash!) and Markus&Peter came home just before 0800.

The Reservoir Dogs in Peter's backyard

At 1230 on Sunday we met for breakfast with the Sinabells, the Strutzs and Sandra in Museumsquartier. The rest of the day was rather quiet and only in the later afternoon Katrin and Dipak stopped by before heading back to Vorarlberg on Monday.

So in a nutshell one has to say that the two parties were absolutely stunning as far as we can remember, we had lots of fun and our flat was properly introduced with a two-stage housewarming party (luckily our only neighbours are on holiday so we did not really disturb anyone) and now everything is prepared for a decent wedding party on September 6 in Weingut Hillinger in Jois.

In case you want to see some more evidence than the below short video, loads of pictures can be found in the link section as well as Peter's Picasa Webalbum or on the U4 webpage.

We wish Maria and Mirko (+Valentin) all the best for their wedding and marriage!

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Not 2Pac. Not Teabag. BUT: Dipak

Yesterday we finally met the newest member to the larger family for the first time: Kerstin's cousin Katrin's boyfriend Dipak. Katrin and Dipak are on a 4 week vacation in Austria and have spent a few days in Vienna. We met up on the City Hall square, where each summer a large filmfestival with exceptionally good food takes place and we spent an absolutely wonderful summer evening there. We so far have read and heard a lot about Dipak and were very curious to get to know him and he is definitely a nice and funny guy and it is quite obvious, that Katrin enjoys the time with him. Markus and Dipak talked a lot about economy and business while the girls exchanged all sorts of informations given the long period they have not seen each other.

Katrin and Dipak on our terrace for a glass of wine on sunday

Today the two holidaymakers have headed to Budapest in the morning for a 2-day sightseeing trip and we will meet up again on the weekend before they head back to Vorarlberg. Katrin was hiding in Gran Canaria, where she is living together with Dipak and the last time we met her at Werner's birthday party (see the pictures in the link-section) in April. They will return to Spain early September and the next possibility to meet up will be Christmas. Dipak will join the Blaser/Meier christmas experience for the first time. Good luck to the Rookie!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The last unicorn

After a rather chilly and wet Saturday on which we were "on the road" from the very morning shopping, Sunday presented itself absolutely stunning. Summer was back again and already in the morning it was blue-sky and sunshine. We got up early and went for a run in the Prater Hauptallee, basically our backyard, followed by a nice breakfast on our terrace with coffee and freshly squeezed apple&carrott juice (thanks to Heidi and her squeezer!). Lissi, Gery and Emma popped in for a quick flat tour and refreshment after their run and we soon had to move on to our next appointment: an afternoon with Jutta, Tom and Felix in the Zoo in Schoenbrunn.

Felix showing us where the penguins swim

Felix kept us all mobile and active. He was most fascinated by the penguins and seals - clearly the young boy is into water and we could hardly get him away from the large windows into the animal's pools. While the older generation got pretty much tired and needed a refreshement, Felix seemed to run on Duracell. Unfortunately that was the time when Markus took over and soon we met probably the last unicorn: Markus paid no attention for a second, Felix tripped, fell and hit his head. A nice bruise on his forehead and some alarming sounds were the result. Markus was not only embarrassed but also felt really sorry that he did not take better care. Luckily the pain disappeared after a few cookies and all that remained was the "unicorn".

We continued our tour,visited the lemures and the old-boys also entered the rainforest-house for a pit stop at the bats. We bumped into the family Lehner who also spent the afternoon at the zoo and we then moved on to the Gloriette for another refreshment. This location offers one of the best panoramic views in Vienna. No wonder that the Austrian emperors have spent most of their summers in Schoenbrunn!

On our way home we stopped by at Viki's, who took care together with Steve of our plants when we were on holidays, to pick up our keys and then we had dinner - Kerstin's speciality: Spinachstrudel - on our evening terrace.

Even though the weekend was "long" it went by far too fast and we got to go work again tomorrow.

Kerstin & Markus

Friday, August 15, 2008

Long time, no see

There is nothing better than returning from your holiday and having a short week immediately. We could not wait to get out of the office yesterday and could not really immagine to spend all week in the office. So you can immagine, that we pretty much enjoy the long weekend, even though we have pretty much a full schedule.

Yesterday we have met the Trautenbergers - Tanja, Christian and lovely, tiny Sophie - again after more than 2 months. Markus combined the trip to Kritzendorf with his running programme and so he set off for the 1 hour and 50 minute run right after work, Kerstin drove there a bit later by car bringing along some fresh clothes for Markus. We had a chance to briefly see Sophie, an absolutely sweet little girl who has developed quite a bit in the past months, before she went to bed, had good barbecue, tasted a selection of international beers & several Aperol-Sprizz and listened to the cicadas in theb garden (as well as several cargo trains passing by). Also present Tina and Olli, a really funny couple who we have not met for an even longer period.

Was really nice and refreshing to see the five again and it was a great start into our long weekend!

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Neither freezing nor smelling!

For all of you out there, who have concerns that we are either freezing as we have no warm water to shower or who are afraid, that the people near us have to suffer from heavy & awkward smells as we refrain from washing, let us calm you down: The gas meter has been installed yesterday morning and the heater has been re-ignited.

Hence we can CHOOSE again, whether we want to have a refreshing cool or a relaxing hot shower, rather than forced refreshment!

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to "reality"

After a long wedding party and us being the last ones to leave the location we were pretty dead on Saturday and showed up to the brunch at Heurigen Wechtitsch-Zuser only at 1230, 1,5 hours after the rest of the crowd. We kept the tone rather low, had some grape-juice and coffee and for the afternoon we decided to lead some of teh Bella Familia members to the Kalachakra Kalapa Center above the restaurant where we had dinner at on Thursday night. As the way was hard to find and we were the only ones who have been there before, we volunteered as leaders, even though we were dead-beat. What we were not aware of was, that from Gasthof Paulitsch it was another 10 minutes steep and narrow roads up, as the center was on the very top of the hill. The center itself was closed for a retreat, and so we only could walk up to the Stupa (Mirko carrying Valentin + the pushchair!!, Gery only carrying Emma). The beautiful Stupa was in combination with the view we had from up there really impressive, but unfortunately we had no camera - so no pictures.

Bella Familia (ex wedding couple) at the wedding party

Given it has been raining again and the low temperatures at these heights we made our way back to the hotel rather soon, where we hade a short rest before we headed for dinner at Gasthaus Stöcklpeter with a nice view of the castle Deutschlandsberg where we had typical Styrian food: Backhendl (baked chicken). As most of the crowd was rather tired we called it a day rather early and went to bed at 2200.

For Sunday we decided to head back home right after breakfast as we had 2 weeks of holidays behind us and for sure a lot of things to sort at home, tons of clothes to clean and wanted to start work in a relaxed way. This turned out to be the very right thing to do! Traffic on the way home was good and when we arrived at home in our new flat at first all seemed ok. A bit warm inside, but ok. After a while only Markus found out that the heater was not working and the reason was detected soon: our neighbours haven been installed the gas meter but the technician has cut makeshift-gas supply. That means: no warm water! Luckily its summer and not too bad, but stress was back with us. Now guess, what Markus was trying to sort out all Monday: Installation of a gas meter and re-connection to the network. Great! A solution is on the horizon, but it wont be solved today!

Apart from this "gas-suprise" we were fine though, managed to clean the majority of our clothes, went for a run, worked on a few issues for the coming weeks and relaxed a last time before heading back into what most people call the real world: work. As always, the first day back is rather slow from our side, but that will for sure change.

Blog-feeds will be reduced now that we are back at work, but stay tuned for more input, especially as stage three of the wedding tri-athlon is not far away: the wedding of the
Goldengnu - Mary and Mirko on September 6th!

Kerstin & Markus