The the building of the upper Belvedere Palace began in 1717. Years ago, I had read that the White House was intentionally designed to be a modest structure. During visits to DC, it had always seemed pretty grand to me. Given the opulence of truly grand palaces built around the 17th century, the White House is actually quite modest. The ceilings on each floor are at least 40 ft high. Walking up the steps, it became obvious how high the ceilings were. There were four flights of stairs between each floor.
When we came upon the above monument we were surprised to see the Cyrillic lettering. Looking closer we saw the gold shield at the top with the hammer and sickle of the former Soviet Union. Wikipedia shed light on the monument, “The Soviet War Memorial in Vienna, more formally known as the Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee (English: Heroes’ Monument of the Red Army) is is located at Vienna’s Schwarzenbergplatz” It is a tribute to the 17,000 Red Army soldiers who during WWII lost their lives in the Battle of Vienna. It seemed strange to have a monument dedicated to the Army that conquered the city. The Viennese view the monument as a painful reminder of Soviet occupation during the weeks following the war. Putin visited the monument in 2007 to lay flowers on it and thank the citizens of Vienna for not demolishing it. Despite protests, the city paid to refurbish it. When we visited the monument was in excellent condition.
Alex and Sarah took the train to Vienna, while Marcia, Ella, Rachel and I drove. We meet at the Park Hyatt in Vienna. Thanks again to Hyatt Chase Visa points.
Ella and Sarah were reluctant to make the trek through 3% of the 1441 rooms of the Palace. Sarah, Ella and I stayed back and waited at a restaurant, got bored and took a walk, and came back to a different restaurant and ate. The Schönbrunn Palace was built between 1696 and 1730, and eventually converted into a residence for Maria Theresa, the only woman to serve as a Habsburg ruler. Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary, Maria Theresa had 16 children, 5 boys and 11 girls. One of her daughters, Marie Antoinette became Queen of France.
One of the highlights of the visit to Vienna was seeing the performance of the Lipizzaner horses at the the Imperial Palace. 450 years of tradition in a portion of the Palace that the Habsburgs watched comparable performances. No pictures were allowed. I failed to check the battery in the camera. It was completely dead, so it did not matter that taking photos were prohibited.
The highways from Graz to Budapest were divided four lane highways between the cities. Once we were south of Graz, the countryside could have been mistaken for Indiana north of Martinsville. The only difference was that in the distance foothills could be seen. A little over halfway to Budapest we stopped to see Lake Balaton. It is about 80 km long and quite wide. There were several sailboats we could see at a distance. They were too small to be seen in the first picture.
We had planned to have lunch by the lake, but the busiest restaurant did not accept credit cards or Euros. Without any Hungarian currency (Fortin, FT), we continued on Budapest.
Once we unloaded all our luggage and parked the car in a public garage, we got settled in the nicest apartment of our trip.
The next day Marcia and I had a wonderful meal at a cafe on a pedestrian walkway. Being in Hungary, we went with local dishes, Hungarian Goulash Soup as a starter, followed by Mangalica steak served on a very hot stone. The Mangalica pig is a long-haired pig that looks like a sheep. We were a bit weary when a fairly thick piece of meat came out that was 95 % raw. The waiter explained the procedure of cutting off a slice of and putting it on the stone. He told us the stone would stay hot for an hour. The stone very quickly cooked each slice. It reminded us of being at a fondue restaurant where you cook your own meat. With the seasoning on the stone it was absolutely delicious. According to several internet sources Mangalica pork is as prized as Kobe beef. Better than Kobe, in our opinion.
The girls were equally pleased with their choice of restaurant, KFC. They ordered the Koser Classic Bucket that came with a mix of wings, tenders, a couple legs and french fries. They sat by the window, so they could see us and we could see them.
One of the highlights of May 22, 2016 was Sarah’s 13th birthday.
The Piber Stud Farm is the home for breeding and training Lipizzaner horses in Austria. They train the horses for the first three years of their lives. The horses do not start out their characteristic shade of white. For the first two or three years of their lives the fouls are brown, reddish brown, or gray. We watched two of them train in the indoor arena.
The video shows the Lippizaner herd in the one of the pastures. At the end of the video Rachel rides the mechanical horse in front of the ticket office.
We missed seeing the Lippizzan stud farm in Lipica, Slovenia. The Slovenian stud farm at Lipica dates back to 1580. At the conclusion of WWII, the herd was divided and a portion of the studs were moved to Austria. We had intended to see the Slovenian Lippizzan horses in Lipica, but since the ferry was cancelled from Patras to Trieste, we missed it. Hopefully, the next time in Slovenia, we will visit Lipica.
We have used VRBO, AIRBNB, and booking.com to reserve places to stay. We have had great luck finding places to stay. We favored apartments with verified reviews. Reading the reviews would provide great details about wifi, beds, cleanliness, neighborhood, etc. When meeting the person who gave us the key and showed us each apartment, Marcia typically asked about the safety of the neighborhood. At Graz, Joel said the neighborhood was safe. He said there are a lot of college students and young families. Later he explained that the neighborhood was like the red light district in Amsterdam, but much tamer. Looking down the street confirmed his comment. From visiting the Louvre and seeing the anatomically correct Greek and Neoclassical statues, getting lost in the red light district near Moulin Rouge in Paris, and walking by a gentleman’s club in Graz, the girls are getting an education in an unanticipated domain.
According the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Hofer carries a 9mm Glock on the campaign trail. He says “carrying guns is a “natural consequence” of immigration and likes to post pictures of him and his family (he has four children) on gun ranges.” More from the Daily Telegraph,
Hofer was responsible for drafting the new Freedom Party manifesto which has taken the party back to its nationalist roots, focusing on “identity” – that’s code for native Austrians, not immigrants or their children.
He has also been spotted wearing the blue cornflower, which is an old clandestine Nazi symbol that harks back to ideas of pan-Germanism, the nineteenth century idea of a ‘greater Germany’ that ultimately inspired Hitler’s foreign policy and the annexations and invasions that triggered the Second World War.
In the British press, Hofer has been compared to Trump based on his anti immigrant stand. The votes are being counted at the moment and the vote is 50/50 with Hofer leading the exit polls by a thin margin.
Last summer, Bob and Rhonda had much praise for the people and countryside of Slovenia. Their recommendation was spot on. Ljubljana had a vibrancy consistent with a nation’s capital. Home to the University of Ljubljana, the streets and cafes were full of students. Shops and cafes line the streets adjacent to the river.
On our way to Graz, Austria, we visited Maribor, home of the Spec’s. Aleksander, Natalija, and Marušam were great hosts. Natalija served croissants that had just come out of the oven. Another treat was the best strawberries I have tasted. They were picked that morning and were exceptionally juicy. They are grown locally and must be eaten within a day or two. Thus, they are not sold in supermarkets.
After the snack we headed for Pohorska vzpenjača, a ski slope, and the location of World Cup Alpine Skiing for the past 30 years.
One of the retired gondolas and on the right is the former base for the the gondolas.
We stopped at Restavracija Villa Rustica for a late lunch. The Spec’s knew the owner. Wonderful service and excellent meals. Ella’s dessert is pictured below. The size of the dessert is not exaggerated by the photo. Ella’s sister and her dad helped finish it.
After the restaurant we followed the Spec’s as they drove through Maribor and pointed out some of the sites. We parked our cars on by the river. Standing on the edge of a very steep bank, the girls threw grass to the geese. Thankfully no one went swimming. Saying goodbye to the Spec’s felt like we had known them a long time. Very nice people, that we hope we will see again sometime in the future.
During the first full day we were in Ljubljana, we saw a film crew shooting a movie. We missed the opportunity to get photos. Two days later we saw the same film crew at Lake Bled. We were able to watch the filming close-up.
The woman below was clearly the star of the movie. We watched them do several takes of one scene. After a take they would review and then make adjustments.
There was a continuous wall of graffiti outside our apartment. On the other side of the wall was a once prosperous bicycle factory. The Rog factory is now shuttered. At one time our apartment was housing for factory workers. Interestly, when I was taking the pictures there were cyclists passing by.
The tour of the cave lasts 1.5 hours. A 15-minute train ride takes visitors into the cave. The train passes through a very narrow passage. A tall person would need to duck frequently. Like the there was no room on the sides. They did not warn the passengers to kept their arms in, but it was obvious. The train stopped and everyone walks a trail for the next hour. Because it had rained during the previous week, the ceilings were constantly dripping. A startling fact was that the stalagmites grow at the rate of one millimeter during a ten-year period. It take a century to add one centimeter. To add an inch, it would take 254 years.
We had the good fortune of meeting Aleksander and Natalija Spec and two of their children Miha (age 17) and Marušam (age 11) in Ljubljana. Their oldest son, Matic is studying at the University of Minnesota and is the boyfriend of our niece Kaitlyn. The Spec’s are from Maribor, Slovenia and drove to Ljubljana to meet us. We had a wonderful day as we walked around the city and saw the sights.