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Old farmhouse and meadows, somewhere in the countryside.

Some photographs from a recent trip to Austria (over the winter holidays). I was hoping to also go to Budapest (where I have gone before) and/or Prague (where I have never visited previously), but in the end that didn’t happen. I did travel to both Vienna and Graz, plus some towns in the countryside of Austria.

Note: I posted a number of these on Tumblr already.

Naschmarkt, Vienna

(Closest tube station: Kettenbrückengasse)

I always, without fail, go to this market whenever I am in Vienna. Although it sells a kind of things, it’s really a market for foodies. You can get both high-quality items from Austrian farmers (local produce and traditional products such as sauerkraut and cucumber pickles) as well as exotic wares from everywhere, in particular Turkey and parts of South East Asia – the latter because the Naschmarkt is located in the area of Vienna’s Chinatown. It’s a lively place: sellers will call out to you and offer tasters (olives, hummus, dried fruit). They also always oversell (if you want 200 g, they’ll give you 250 g, because that’s alright, isn’t it?), but haggling is allowed.

Christmas trees for sale:DSC_3600

Beeswax candles. The mushrooms and piggies are lucky charms for the New Year:DSC_3636

You can get just about any dried fruit or nut at the market. Kletzen are an old variety of pears dried in a special way:DSC_3633

Barrels of Essiggurken (cucumber pickles, front) and Sauerkraut (back):DSC_3619

The Naschmarkt is, hands down, one of the best places to get spices. Here’s an Indian shop (the market is a mix of enclosed shops and open stalls), but you will also find plenty of spice stalls which sell everything from long pepper to chilli threads to sumac to you-name-it:DSC_3640

Brownie points for anyone that knows what the brown sticks are (Hokkaido’ is the pumpkin).DSC_3628

The Turkish influence at the market is unmissable. There is a whole history to it, as Vienna was besieged by Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries (and shaped by modern immigration in the ~1970s) – the city’s coffee culture owns its beginnings to these historical events.DSC_3632

I bought some Zotter chocolate (new variety: Rice & Soya: “Shanghai”) at the market. In fact, we finally (after years of trying) visited the chocolate factory that produces these hand-craft, gourmet chocolate bars:DSC_3658

Non-food stuff for sale:DSC_3651

I couldn’t quite figure out a good way to photograph this, but these poster scraps that remained behind on this fence (at the market’s edges) really caught my eye:DSC_3644

Downtown Graz

Graz, which is located in the province of Styria (Steiermark in German), is the second largest city in Austria. It’s in the south-east of the country, about half an hour from the Slovenian border. Graz tends to be overshadowed by Vienna (the capital) and Salzburg (thanks to Mozart and, for North Americans, the Sound of Music), and even Innsbruck (since Tyrol is at the heart of skiing culture), but is actually a rather charming city to visit. It’s mostly the Japanese that seem to be aware of this, as you can always spot some J-tourists in some corner of Graz.

The city’s old town is particularly well deserved and has many (and some extremely gorgeous) buildings from medieval to contemporary times. In fact, the historic city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.DSC_3814

Here’s something that has been around since at least 1569 (the bakery itself only, not the actual building – its current location is from 1880). The ‘Hofbäckerei’ name, by the way, is a reminder of imperial rule.DSC_3822

Christmas Deco, Graz

For the past few years they’ve been hanging small Christmas trees upside down between buildings in downtown Graz:DSC_3809

One of the side effects of coming from an expat family is that you end up with rather atypical things. While we stick with some traditions – a real Christmas tree and real candles (yes, really!) – the ornaments we use are papier-mâché baubles, bells and birds that my Dad brought from Kashmir (Indian part) over the last ten years.DSC_3967

Schöckl, Graz

The only time I saw a bit of snow during my trip was when going for a day hike on a small mountain (1445 m) called Schöckl, which lies at the very south-eastern edge of the Alps and is known as the ‘Hausberg’ (‘home mountain’) of the city.

From where we started our hike (just about no snow):DSC_3866

The view from the top is rather pretty – mostly a wide expanse hills and mountains as the province is known as the ‘green heart’ of Austria (~60% is covered in forest, another 25% is meadows, orchards and vineyards).DSC_3896

Not a great picture, but it gives you a bit more sense of the view:DSC_3902

If you find the Austrian flag painted on a tree, you will know that you are not lost, as this is the marker used for official hiking or forest paths:DSC_3905

Higher up there was icy snow, not tons, but enough for my sister and I to go sliding down on our bottoms when descending (’twas easier than walking):DSC_3875

Tasty Bites

The sis and I went to the Sapa, a French-Vietnamese fusion place in Vienna, which serves rice paper rolls, clay pot curry and soups. Yum yum. Here’s the vegan bánh canh chay, with home-made udon:DSC_4075

I also cooked up some stuff (tofu and veg) in a tetsunabe pot I bought (in a Korean shop) at the Naschmarkt. The bowl, spoon and place mat are stuff my family got in either Taiwan or Thailand (don’t remember), the blurry table cloth is from India, because, that’s just how things are at my parents’ place.DSC_3975

As always, I ate roasted chestnuts, which they sell on the streets from November on. They are one of my favourite things in the winter, though I think the roasters in Graz do them much better than those in Vienna (more generous portions, slightly charred chestnuts so you get a crunch and contrasting softness inside).DSC_3843

Leaves and Things

Random, pretty vegetation, mostly a reminder that December and January felt more like autumn than winter. It was much too ‘warm’, around 8 degrees Celsius most of the time. Boohoo for the total lack of snow.DSC_3736DSC_3755DSC_3754

Silvester (New Year’s Eve)

I’m writing ‘Silvester’, because I think it’s a much more charming word than the English ‘New Year’s Eve’. In the photos there are some lucky charms (four-leaved clover, chimney sweep, pigs, the poisonous Fliegenpilz mushroom) for 2014 at the Farmers’ Market, which people hand out to family and friends on Silvester or the first day of the new year:DSC_3752

Another Silvester tradition is to melt lead figures (often in the shape of lucky charms) and pour the liquid into cold water. The resulting shape is then used to predict one’s fortune for the year to come:DSC_3788

And a final picture, half-way between Graz and Vienna (~190 km apart):DSC_4059

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