Sunday, September 1, 2013

Two Kittens becomes One

What do they say? Life is not fair. God giveth, he taketh away. Nothing is ever perfect...... We felt so lucky and happy to find our two kittens Stella and Luna. We were excited to make a home for the two sisters. We felt lucky to have the chance to raise both sisters, together. Then we noticed Luna had a cough that wouldn't go away. That she didn't play as much as Stella. And the cough was getting worse each day, the playing less. Something was seriously wrong with Luna. 

The second part of our vacation was in the Austrian alps in Kärten. We decided that as soon as we got to Austria we would look for a veterinarian on the internet and call Sunday to see if someone could see Luna. We found a vet who kindly came to her office Sunday to look at Luna, and she gave Luna antibiotics and intravenous fluid since she hadn't eaten the past day. The vet told us to come again next morning to look at Luna more carefully. We were worried. The next morning came and Luna was not doing better, she just lay still with her head lifted on a towel gasping for air. The vet said we needed to put Luna to sleep, that there was nothing she could do to help Luna, except to ease her pain. We did it, and we cried.

We buried Luna in the forest on Turracher Höhe. Although we only had her but a couple of days, it was hard to believe she was so quickly gone. What can you say? 

Luna with Ani.

Luna's grave.

The Adriatic from Croatia and two Kittens

After Plitvice park we drove to the coast and the island of Rab. A ferry brought us and the car over to the island. Here it is no longer green. The part of the island where the ferry docks is like a moon scape. Hardly a speck of vegetation. Beautiful for the eye, but brutally hot and dry. We stayed on the other side of the island facing the Adriatic sea, and there are pine trees and more green. Nonetheless it is still mostly rock.

One day we took a hike around a section of the island, staying on the rocky beaches. It was fun and amazing to see all the geology exposed on the cliffs along the way. I wish I understood more about what all I was looking at.

Rab is pretty much a beach resort town so we went swimming and spent time in the sun. A couple of times we visited the old town, and every night we had excellent seafood for dinner.

From the church tower of Rab.

Nightfall looking over the Adriatic.

The surprise of this vacation was two kittens, Stella and Luna. Anika discovered them in the hotel parking lot, living in a makeshift cat house someone had built. Ani and Pascal played with the kittens over several days. One day Ani brought Tessa down to see the kittens. She was impressed with them too and told us how although she thought Ani had found some mangy forlorn cats, the cats were actually playful and adorable kittens. Sabine and I thought about taking the two sisters Stella and Luna home with us, and on our second to last day we took the kittens with us to our apartment. They quickly learned to use a litter tray and were so sweet and adorable we all were in kitty love within hours. Below are pictures from those first days.

Parking lot abduction.

A very happy Ani with kittens successfully caught.

Kittens were soooo good. Tessa feeding them milk with a baby bottle.

That's Stella (the gray/white one) very active in our apartment.

Here is Luna.

Croatia: Plitvice Park and the Adriatic

The first part of our August vacation was to visit Plitvice Park in Croatia. This is quite the tourist attraction but well worth the visit. It is a large canyon with a river flowing through and down the canyon, but by means of a series of waterfalls and pools, with each pool cascading into the next waterfall, down the entire course of the canyon. Secondly, everything is intensely green, grass and trees are growing in the face of the waterfall, and water streams through groves of trees. Apparently the geology of the place is a consequence of all those plants and the limestone rock the canyon is made of: the plants take the CO2 from the water, making Calcium in the water more prone to precipitate, which when it does forms the dam like wall which both forms a pool upstream, and becomes the next waterfall downstream. The Calcium in turn is there because water dissolves it from the Limestone.

Anyways it is a fairy tale land of crystal clear water, trees and grass and waterfalls. The trail through the canyon was well maintained (due to the number of tourists) and for much of the hike consisted of a raised wooden boardwalk, often with water running directly below our feet.

No fishing is not allowed, nor would it really be fair.

Water everywhere.

Waterfall and cute girl :)

Hike up the Rax

We hiked the Rax mountain just outside of Vienna, and it was steep!!! The whole hike was like climbing stairs. We basically covered the same route the gondola takes, which is straight up almost 1000 meters. But we made it in around 4 hours. Tessa and Ani took the lead and left Sabine and me with Pascal, who wasn't having so much fun. First, it's a pretty ambitious hike for an 8 year old, and second he got pretty nice heal blisters on both feet about 1/2 way up (poor guy). To his credit he did try to humor his way through it, unfortunately with profanity but still with humor.

It was nice to make it to the top finally and take the gondola down the mountain again. I don't know if we would so quickly choose to do this particular hike again, but then it's nice to know what you can accomplish (1000 vertical meters) in several hours.

A short rest half way up, everyone is still in good spirits.

We will make it to the top!

The view across from about 3/4 up the Rax.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Slovenia I

We spent a week with Oma & Opa and our children in the Slovenian alps. I thought I'd be tired of mountains seeing my share of beautiful mountain landscapes in Austria - but no! the mountains, lakes and rivers of Slovenia are excellent. Below are a handful of photos.

Sunset on the plateau near our house.

Boys on the river.

Boy with mom on river.

You can just see the sets of mountain ranges in the distance.

Mountain lake with boat.

Mountain lake with Sabine.

No fear !

A castle built into a cave, and with a WC!

A more Tuscan scenery.

Wine, wine, wine.

Silly children in exhibit # 11.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

One last view of our winter.

The winter was heavy! Here are some pictures of Kahlenberg from January. It was cold. There was snow. We were there and we even played in it, but now it's summer and all that snow, that deep, cold, white snow, make me think we were on another planet!

That smile will melt all the ice in the world! 

Talk to the animals

There is a park about an hour outside Wien where you can talk to the animals! O.k. so in the park they have a fenced in part where you can walk freely with wild deer and mountain goats. The goats are shy and run away, the deer are more curious. One particular deer was incredibly friendly. I pet him and talked to him and he seemed to listen. Especially cool was the antlers! I could even touch them and grab them gently. See the video below: I was talking to the deer about how when he walks into a store he always knocks things over with his antlers, or pokes people, and so he's always walking around saying "sorry, excuse me" and then knocking something else over.


No way am I gonna touch that snout!

A big stinky PIG!

They also have wolves in this park, separated from the deer of course.

Watch out!

The super friendly deer.

Little sprouting antlers.

Our friendly deer. 

In between: there was sun between the rain and snow.

Every year Vienna hosts a marathon, and it gets bigger every year. We like to watch, and the course goes right through our neighborhood so it's easy to get there. This year BMW was giving out some kind of blow-up stick/sword. Well, they were swords to us. Ani and Pascal demonstrate their sword fighting moves! (see the video below)

Watch out pedestrians!

Spring (and lots of rain)

We took a vacation to the Salzkammergut (planned during the winter) to enjoy overnighting on a farm and the fresh air and green of the mountains. Unfortunately it rained, steadily, the whole time!! But it wasn't so bad really. Ani enjoyed the animals at the farm, and woke up extra early to shovel hay and milk the cows. She really loves working with animals. The Ms. of the farm was impressed with Ani's enthusiasm and if Ani were older and so inclined, probably would have offered Ani a job helping out on the farm.

Despite the rain we did still get around. We visited the salt mine in Hallstadt. This place is very interesting, as it has been a place of salt mining since the dawn of human civilization. I felt the long history of our kind in the salt stones of that mine. It's a salt mine, so where did the salt come from? Now we go back even further in history: the salt comes from the time when this part of Austria was ocean, then it became a salt lake, then it dried up, then it was shaped into mountains! Now that's going back a little in time. So in the mine are layers of dried up salt embedded in the rock, and since the dawn of civilization humans have been digging into this mountain to obtain the salt. Here's the neat part: the salt rock is right there in the mine, and if you lick it (and I did!) it not surprisingly tastes like salt! Coooool.

Despite the rain we also had luck. There was a festival in a town where they make floats covered completely with narcissus flowers. We were wandering around the day before the fest, and came across a tent where some people were constructing a R2D2 out of narcissus flowers. First they asked me to help lift the heavy iron scaffold from a truck under the rain tent, and then we were invited to help stud the R2D2 scaffold with flowers - no wonder, it's a ton of work: three flowers per chicken wire hole! Ani and Pascal took to the task happily! The other kids were surprised- especially about Pascal - about their enthusiasm. Said the one kid to the other about Pascal: look at him he does that good! Is he really a boy? Ja, of course, look at him he's a boy. This was all said in a pretty thick accent which made it all the more amusing.

Ani feeding a cow near the narcissus field.

The narcissus field.

Bucket and buckets of narcissus! First they collect them in the fields, which is a bit of work in itself, then they cut them and transport them to where the floats are being made.


Three flowers in every hole!