Tuesday, August 31, 2010

360° and you too

Monday morning was wet and cold. Cold as one usually would expect in October, but not late August as the temperature did not manage to climb above 11 degrees. This fact per se would not have been a problem, but given we had plans for the evening outdoors,we were worried about the rain as well as the chilly temperatures. At least the rain stopped during the afternoon and made us hopeful for a great night out in the nearby Ernst Happel Stadium. Grandma Heidi as well as Renate and Werner took care of our little sunshine in the evening and thus enabling us to be part of a the biggest crowd ever in Vienna's largest arena: We were two of the 75.000 people seeing and hearing U2 in their first concert in Austria since 5 years.

For two hours U2 excited more people than ever in the Prater

Due to the fact that Sandra and Flo were lucky enough to get hold of two separate seating tickets but not being able to take two days off from work we inherited the tickets and were able to see Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen live on stage for the first time. Our seats provided us with a great view overlooking the crowd and were absolutely rain-secure as they were at the very top of the stadium just below the roof. Thanks to the huge 360°-videowall above the impressive stage we could see well anyhow and the mood up there was great as well -neither of us was sitting during the whole concert. The gig was a great music show where the band fas clearly the centre-piece rather than dance acts etc like we have seen at Madonna's concert two years ago. Not only that Bono hit the tunes at all times - even when obviously his technicians deafened him with too high volume in his earplug - but also the band came across as very sympathetic, the highly respected charity projects were not thrown at the crowd but delivered in a very decent way and on top of all that the gig itself offered a great mixture of old classics, new stuff and great atmosphere.

Overall the concert was a very memorable event in which we only would have wished the weather to be nicer (and maybe standing tickets) and with Jakob having behaved nicely the door seems open now for more evening events to attend together again in the future.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer activities in and around Vienna

Since our return home from Vorarlberg after a smooth journey last week Wednesday night we have been pretty busy actually. Luckily there were no bad surprises waiting for us at home as Markus' brother looked well after our home and so we could concentrate on getting our "Vienna rhythm" again and on enjoying the warm summer weather. On Saturday morning then we drove to Oberwart where we had birthday lunch with Markus' Dad followed by Fabio's 1st birthday party in Stinatz.

On the way to an appointment in the pool

On Sunday morning we went to meet family Strutz and by lunchtime drove to Bad Voeslau to spend the afetrnoon in the very nice outdoor thermal pool. For some strange reason we were not the only ones with this glorious idea on a day when the thermometer showed more than 30 degrees and thus we were not only looking for a parking space for quite a while (before deciding to park right in the middle of a car park) but also we had to take any left space on the lawn next to the playground with the shade of the children's slide as the only sun protection. The day was absolutely perfect, Anna and Jakob had fun, we all enjoyed ourselves and a great barbecue in the Strutz's backyard was the icing on the cake of a wonderful summer day.

Rain in summer is not necessarily a horrible thing

At the beginning of the week we continued to exploit the sunshine and did some more swimming in the Stadionbad before clouds and rain started to appear on the horizon. Come Saturday, grandma Heidi as well as Renate and Werner arrived in Vienna for a few days and a clear mission: They are due to take care of Jakob on Monday night.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Out- & indoor action

With the weather rather unstable and reminding rather of a warm but rainy early autumn rather than mid August our activities during the day were rather limited to anything inside or not too far away from home, just in case another downpour would start. Friday afternoon was dedicated to the larger family with the whole Meierei (Werner & Renate, Katrin & Dipak as well as Anja) joining us for coffee & cake in the afternoon followed by a Mexican evening with Tortilla chips au gratin, Tortillas, beef & chicken, guacamole, squished beans, feta, salad, tomato-coriander salsa, cheese and sour cream.

A spectacular start for the kayak

On Saturday morning we were real daredevils leaving for Andelsbuch in the Bregenzerwald together with Sandra & Flo to watch the Outdoor Trophy, an event where teams of 4 did a mountain run, paragliding, kayak and last but not least mountain biking. We headed for the most spectacular point, the handover from paragliding (a 17x30 meter box had to be reached fro landing in order to avoid a penalty round) to kayak and it was very good fun. Jakob was fascinated by the whole scenery, the athletes did a very good job - only a few had to run the extra round and only one had to empty his kayak after the jump into the water - and the weather was luckily in favour of us and the event. In the later afternoon Markus headed together with Sandra & Flo to Ulm to buy a new wardrobe at Ikea for their flat and for Heidi's house. Not only that the journey lasted 50% longer due to the speed limit in germany once u drive with a hanger, the largest and most heavy parts were sold out and so another trip to Ikea has to be done by them in the next few weeks.

Fun at the playground was rare the past days

The following days Markus finished the DIY in Heidi's house with a little help from a small friend called Jakob, (assembled the wardrobe, fixed some shelves etc), our sunshine used each rain-free minute to run the terrace and he enjoyed himself in the shopping centres in Buers and Dornbirn where he dashed through the alleys. Especially at H&M in the Zimbapark our sunshine was running for almost half an hour without stopping, laughed and screamed permanently and made this shopping trip a short one even though the decisions what Sandra should be buying seemed to not having been the easiest ones.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer activities: sliding & hiking

Summer returned on Monday and on Tuesday the weather reached temperatures for a day in the outdoor pool again. Hence we got on our bikes and went to nearby Strandbad Eichwald in Lindau, which offers both the possibilities to go for a swim in the lake as we as in several pools. The Eichenwaldbad offers great possibilities for children of all ages with swings, sandboxes, pool in with several depths as well as a water slide. Jakob loved it there, both inside and outside the water and if Kerstin and Markus improve there skills on the waterslide again, that might be more fun as well in the future: Both of us tried to slide down together with Jakob, but we held up the traffic and had to push in order to move on at all. If the weather allows we will give it another try this summer!

Back in the child carrier and still smiling

On Wednesday we put on our hiking boots again as the whole family Meier and Blaser (apart from Flo who has not holiday unfortunately) went to Moeggers to hike the Walderlebnispfad. The tour is not too long but completely in the woods and offers a lot of possibilities for children to play and learn trees and the nature life in the woods and it can be spiced up with the Inpsirationspfad where water has to be crossed via small bars, a rope or hanging bridges. Jakob was dead tired as he did not sleep in the morning and thus missed 2/3 of the tour (including the swing on the rope) but was full of joy when he was awake in his child carrier. Afterwards we all had fantastic lunch in the Ried Stueble, remotely located but excellent food, before we headed home and enjoyed the rest of the late afternoon running (Markus) or cycling to the lake and taking a swim (Jakob, Kerstin, Heidi & Sandra)

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving pics from the Big Apple

Once Markus has arrived back in Austria, had reviewed all his pictures and had his impressions settled one of the early Beastie Boys albums inspired him to a small video about his days in the Big Apple. The clip is available also on YouTube.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Monday, August 9, 2010

New York - a recap

On the flight back home to Europe Markus for some strange reason had time to review the past few days in one of (if not THE) the most exciting cities in the world. When he came to New York for the first time on business back in March this year he fell in love with the city in the very first moment. Back then though all Markus was able to see was the glimmering life in midtown Manhattan and all the touristy stuff. The decision to come back again and get to know the city better was taken back then already and so this trip was not really a spontaneous thing.

Most of the tourists buy and wear these kind of shirts. Markus did so too!

The Big Apple was different this time. Completely different actually. It was hot and humid, the subway became the alternative means of transportation to walking and Markus had all day long to dive into the city rather than spending most of the time in meetings and being kind of isolated. Markus obviously saw a lot of tourists again on his ventures (Italians were virtually everywhere), but he also went off the beaten track where he mainly saw New Yorkers (not necessarily Americans, but still people living in New York). The other New York did not disappoint Markus at all - rather the opposite: He fell in love with the city even more!

It's virtually impossible to name the most impressing thing as there were so many of them, but the view of midtown Manhattan from the north end of the Jacky Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park probably qualifies best for it. The fact that Markus enjoyed that view in March already and staying somewhere midtown makes this moment reachable on a daily basis makes this Markus’ New York moment and something one could get used to.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Markus' final hours

Sunday morning Markus had a “lie-in” and only got up at 0715, skipped his morning run through Central Park and has early breakfast instead, checked out for his room and ventured of for his last day in New York. As routines should not be changed, his first destination was anyhow Central Park. On his way he stopped by Apple’s Flagship store on 5th Avenue which is open 24/7 on 365 days a year (!!!!) to pick up a small gadget for a friend and continued his stroll through the huge park. He had a look at the façade of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took a closer look at the Upper East Side which he concluded with a coffee at Dean & Deluca. Afterwards his way led him around the Jacky Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in the middle of the park from where one has a fantastic view on midtown Manhattan and he dipped a few blocks into the Upper West Side around lunchtime.

The view on Bedford Av from Markus table in Fabienne's Cafe

Once midday went by Markus took the Subway for his final destination of his stay in the Big Apple – the hip and neighbourhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Markus’ journey ended right in the heart of Bedford Avenue and the area immediately cought his full attention. It reminded him very much of Camden Town in London, just with a bit less tourists. He had excellent lunch at Fabienne’s cafe , a very cool and nice café/restaurant on Bedford Av/North 5th, strolled through the neighbourhood which is characterised by some old residential blocks with several new developments in between. The crowd there can be best described as young & hip and can not be compared at all to the tourist laden crowds in Manhattan. The time in Williamsburg went by extremely fast and so soon he had to head back to his hotel to pick up his luggage and go to JFK airport again in order to catch the flight back home.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, August 8, 2010

To Brooklyn and back

Markus’ plan for Saturday was to check out the Brooklyn and so he left his hotel after another early morning run in Central Park and breakfast and boarded a subway towards Coney Island. He exited close to Prospect Park, watched training sessions for junior football and soccer teams – interesting was that a large number of parents was there watching their offspring during practice and it seemed almost like a family picnic with whole families present – and he then made his way through the park towards the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Botanic Garden was a real refuge from the noise and heat of the city with all the trees and plants and so Markus took his time, rested underneath cherry trees and enjoyed the time.

An oasis of fresh air and nice smells in the heart of Brooklyn

After leaving the park Markus passed by and on the Brooklyn Museum and moved on towards Manhattan and even though he was planning to walk less today he ended up crossing Brooklyn Bridge per pedes again and basically walked a similar route than the day before with the only difference that he moved north, not south. A short stop in the hotel and a shower refreshed him again and gave him energy for a trip to the southern tip of Central Park where he enjoyed the last sunrays of the day.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, August 7, 2010

An eventful day on both sides of the Atlantic

Thursday evening Markus adjusted to New York time by strolling from his hotel near Times Square (the hotel @ Times Square) through the Theater district and Hells Kitchen to the Hudson River. There he watched children play with the water fountains, had something to eat and a drink and watched an open-air promotion fight-night with 4 bouts over three rounds each. By 2230 local time he was dead in bed though and finally had some proper sleep again.

Friday morning he woke up though at 0530 (which translates to 1130 at home) and ventured out at 0600 for a run in Central Park. He was pretty surprised not only by the fact that already at that time it was very humid and had 25 degrees, but also by the countless people that were running, cycling, walking or playing tennis at such an early hour! Clearly the city never sleeps! While Markus was sweating it was wet also back home, but because it was still raining and thus Jakob & Kerstin again had to spend most of the day indoors. They visited Sandra in Bregenz and there our little boy tripped, fell and bumped his head properly. As a result he has the first decent bruise right above his left eye, which was not bleeding, but was well visible for Markus when we had a video call thanks to the iPhone 4 and FaceTime.

Markus, Brooklyn Bridge & Manhattan

Markus focussed today on the southern part of Manhattan and walked via 6th Avenue through Midtown, Chelsea, the Flatiron district and Greeenwich Village, SoHo and TriBeCa towards the Financial District. On his way he dis some shopping at Hollister, Gap and Abercrombie&Fitch before visiting Wall Street and taking a look at the charging bull which he did miss the last time he was in the Big Apple. After a walk through Battery Park he boarded the Staten Island Ferry and took a closer look at Lady Liberty. The free of charge ferry takes half an hour one way and offers a great view of the Satue of Liberty and is therefore a good alternative for people who do not need to get up to the top of this New York landmark. Once back from Staten Island Markus also walked across Brooklyn Bridge and enjoyed the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park in the sunshine.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Friday, August 6, 2010

Second Trip - First Class

Thursday morning Markus’ alarm clock went off very early at 04:35 as he had to catch a flight from Friedrichshafen Airport to Frankfurt at 0600. After a 30 minute drive (held up by a few lorries) Heidi’s taxi service delivered Markus just in time at the small airport. The flight to Frankfurt was short & smooth and upon arrival Markus was picked up by a Porsche Panamera S right by the airplane parked in the outfield to bring him to the Terminal. The reason for that fuss was the fact that Markus granted himself an upgrade to the First Class for his onward flight to New York, a goodie which he could enjoy all the way given it was a daytime flight.

There is not many hotels which have such a large bathroom like the FCT in Frankfurt

Markus was brought to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt where he had to spend 3 hours waiting for the connecting flight and the service there was truly unique. He was welcomed by a Lufthansa representative and all his luggage scan and passport control was taken care of. He had breakfast freshly prepared in the restaurant – run by Do&Co – took a shower in order to have a fresh journey to the US and relaxed. Come boarding time he was accompanied to a limousine again and brought right to the plane where he made himself comfortable on the upper deck of one of Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-400.

Who said it's no fun when it's raining?

A few years ago we had the chance already to experience First Class when we were upgraded by Thai Airways on our last holiday in Thailand and so Markus knew what he could expect. Fresh flowers as decoration, vintage champagne, fresh caviar, delicious scallops and excellent personalised service lived up to the expectations and made the journey to the Big Apple a short and a truly memorable event. While dad was enjoying top-class service above the Atlantic Jakob had to put on the rain-gear in order to be able to get some fresh air. Equipped with new waterproof boots and a proper raincoat our junior had fun outside in the rain.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Thursday, August 5, 2010

First trip - First Class

Wednesday morning we drove to Wangen, a beautiful small city in the Allgaeu where we met Kerstin's schoolmate Moni and Stefan, who have spent a few days with us in Vienna in June. We had breakfast on a nice square in the oldtown and afterwards strolled through the weekly market which is held each Wednesday. Early afternoon we visited family Meier for late lunch and met Anja who arrived in the morning from Barcelona.

Later in the afternoon we decided to have the first trip on the bike with Jakob whch took us to tyhe newly opened Seehotel "Am Kaiserstrand" in Lochau. Jakob liked it a lot to be driven in his chid seat, he was singing and "talking" all the way - below clip gives you some impressions. After a drink in the Badehaus just offshore the new hotel - a converted military base - we returned home where Jakob fell into bed shortly afterwards.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On the bike

Sunday evening the weather turned wet and cold again and during the whole night lightning turned the darkness for several seconds into day followed by thunders and lots of rain. Come Monday morning the rain was over and it looked like a beautiful day with bearable temperatures. After the exhausting day in the mountains we did not do much though on Monday but only drove to Dornbirn to do some shopping in the Messepark after lunchtime.

When we came to Vorarlberg last week one of the bulkiest pieces of luggage was Jakob's Hamax bicycle seat which we took over from our friend Sandra since Rosemarie does not need it anymore. Given it took away so much space and given one can use this seat for several years we decided to buy a second one for our vacations in the Laendle so we don't need to transport it all the time back and forth.

A sceptical look as Markus stopped after only a few minutes

Once back from the Messepark with the new seat Markus immediately got on the case to mount it to Kerstin's bike. Afterwards we tried to convince Jakob to test his new helmet - an absolute must when traveling by bike - and that proved more difficult than we thought. It very much looked like he is scared of the large thing being put on his head. As we all got a bit inpatient, we decided to simply jump into the cold water (literally) with Jakob and put him into his new seat. the light rain that started did not disturb the joy and interestingly, once our junior sat in his seat he had no problem whatsoever with the helmet. The short round Markus was cycling with the small boy in his back showed though that - as expected - Jakob likes the bicycle a lot and thus we expect to cycle to Bregenz in the next few days - once the weather allows.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, August 1, 2010

He was accepted!

What is the best thing to do on a hot summer day in Vorarlberg? Going for a swim in Lake Constance unless the water has cooled down to 17 degrees due to the most recent heavy rainfalls. The second best thing to do is then to go hiking in the mountains. We decided to pursue the latter plan and headed off at 1000 towards Bizau in the Bregenzerwald where we hiked around Schoenenbach, a beautiful plateau amidst the mountains. While Sandra, Heidi, Renate and Kerstin as well as Flo and Werner carried rather light equipment Markus had a large and heavy backpack to carry as it included Jakob. Our sunshine enjoyed the the time in his child carrier from where he had a great view of the mountains and from where he could oversee all the action. Our trip was an easy one with not too many ascents - the tour is actually also suitable for pushchairs - and the most exhausting was actually the warm, not to say hot temperatures. Given we were above 1050m temperatures of close to 30 degrees are quite something.

Jakob must feel like a king being carried in the shade

Everyone was pretty happy when Jakob was hungry and forced the group to a break in the shadow where he had his lunch and the rest of us relaxed. After that break our junior had to give in to the fresh air and fell asleep (again) while Markus carried him on the back. When we finished the roundtrip after a two hour walk we had lunch at the Gasthaus Egender, an inn which is famous for its Kaesespaetzle. This traditional dish from Vorarlberg, rich of cheese, fat and onions is not liked by everyone and we so far have not fed it to our junior yet (it does not seem to be the right nutrition for a child). When Kerstin had her portion on her plate in front of her Jakob did taste it and as a consequence took over the fork and fed himself more or less. He obviously liked it, so far he also tolerated it and thus he has passed the "Vorarlberg acceptance test". Thank God!!! Surprise surprise - Jakob was dead in the evening and fell asleep instantly in his bed after an overdose of fresh mountain air

Below one of Jakob's favorite songs and some of the moving pictures we took today in the mountains:

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus