Paris – Vienne – Balaton – Vienne – Paris

In the middle of our move we took a week off to spend it with my family on lake Balaton. We packed a small bag for the lake and a large bag with winter clothes and Gergö’s collection of cooking pots. My carry on bag decided that was the best moment to die on me, after many, many years of faithful service. For a while now the handle wouldn’t go back in unless you knew exactly where to push with both hands at the same time. Now it doesn’t even come out, so I had to carry it everywhere.

We arrived in Vienna late on Friday night. On my way to my mum’s place we saw two older men walking on the street. One had a walking frame with 20 cans of beer on it. I thought that was a very Viennese thing, but it got even better. They wanted to cross the street, but there was a car parked where it’s easy to cross. So they crossed between two parked cars and the walking frame toppled over and the beers fell to the ground. The man started to swear loudly and called the car blocking his way a whore. It can’t get any more Viennese than that, I thought.

Well, I was wrong. My mum texted to say she was still out but that there was a knuckle of pork in the fridge that needed eating. She also had cans of Ottakringer beer. So that was our extremely Austrian dinner.

We left Vienna on Saturday, stopping off in Sopron to buy Hungarian children’s books for my nephew and to acclimatise: pörkölt and nokedli for lunch. Nokedli are Nockerl or Spätzle in German. The English word is dumpling, but they are not like dumplings at all and there is no English Wikipedia page for this food. Anyway, they are delicious and you should try them.

I also had cold fruit soup. It’s a Hungarian thing and I love it.

We went back to Vienna on Thursday night, leaving behind family and flamingo. On Friday we signed the rental agreement for our new apartment and then visited it for real for the first time. Before that day we had only seen it on photos and on a whatsapp video a friend took, while she visited the apartment for us.

We dumped the contents of our large bags onto the floor (no furniture yet) and bought a fancy mattress and slatted frame (at least that’s what my dictionary says is a Lattenrost) on a whim.

On Saturday we put all the empty bags into one of the big ones and flew back to Paris. We’ve been clearing things out, packing and running errands for the last ten days. 5 more to go!

Mon chaud manchot

The day after Parc Astérix we went to the zoo. Paris has two Zoos, a smaller one that is next to the botanical garden and a bigger one a little further outside, close to the bois de Vincennes. It doesn’t have as many species as some of the zoos we visited, but the enclosures are much better, I found. Huge and often with more than one species inside.

Just as we came by the enclosure, the sea lions were being fed. So we stopped and watched, took photos (my niece) and listened (Gergö and I). The sea lions are called otarie in French, not lion de mer. Next on our path and also being fed next were the penguins. Although in French they are called manchot. There is the French word pengouin but it refers to guillemots (Alk in German) which are birds that can fly. I saw a lot of them in Iceland last summer. Guillemot is also really close to the French word guillemet which refers to the French quotation marks « ».

So in order to learn the new vocabulary and finally memorize these words I repeated “manchot, otarie” to myself. Gergö asked “Who are you calling a hot sea lion?” (Get it?!!)

My favourite part of the zoo is the giant rock which works really nice as a dramatic backdrop for photos.


And the tropical glass house. This time it wasn’t even noticably warmer inside than outside. It’s huge and a lot of birds fly around freely. There are also sloths climbing on the inside of the roof. And there’s an aquarium with manatees inside.

The flora of inside the glass house is pretty impressive too

The flora of inside the glass house is pretty impressive too

tortoises doing it

I’d also like to include this picture to commemorate the fact that whenever my brother visits a zoo with tortoises, they are doing it. Very slowly.

bush dog / Waldhund

Other memorable animals we saw: dogs that seem to be related to either sausages or very small bears. They are called bush dogs / Waldhunde.

The giraffe enclosure is very big and also contains ostriches

The giraffe enclosure is very big and also contains ostriches. They seem to be permanently saying “Hi, I’d like to add you to my personal network on linkedIn!”


That’s also a photo of the giraffe enclosure (hence the elevated feeder hanging from the tree, the zookeepers aren’t sadists). The deer (maybe kudu?) also live there and so does this bird who appears to be practising to become a cult leader.

The zoo also has a little botany section we looked at, mostly to remind outselves how depressing the state of our balcony is.



Le printemps est arrivé

The weather wasn’t great the last couple of days. It was mild during the day, but humid and it rained often. So on Friday, when I left for the supermarket, I hoped I’d make it home before the thunderstorm would break. Dark clouds were already gathering in the East. (I’ve always wanted to write a sentence as uselessly ominous as this.)

As I was walking along the Yvette, the insects were flying really low and I noticed the wind picking up. It was still warm and I’m not made of sugar, so I put up my hood and walked on. I figured I could wait it out in the supermarket, should the rain get really bad. Halfway to the supermarket, I noticed that I could already see the rain ahead, but it hadn’t reached me yet. When it finally arrived, big fat drops were falling, but so few, hardly any even landed on me. The wind was blowing petals around. At least that’s what I thought. On closer inspection, some of the petals turned out to be hail.

It was still mild and humid, just with big fat drops of water and the occasional hail pellet.

I got my shopping done and walked home with a heavy shopping bag on my shoulder. Just after the short descent down to the path along the Yvette I had to stop, though. Really close on the other bank there was the heron. I had spotted him before, but never this close. I stopped moving, turned off my music and just stared in awe. After a little while I wanted to take a step closer, but just this one step made him fly up. He circled a little, dipped his feet into the creek once and landed a bit further down on my side of the creek.

I was happy to stand still and just watch this time, but my shopping bag was so heavy it made my shoulder fall asleep, so I shifted it. That was enough to scare the heron away. He flew up, but they are big birds. It took him three circles to reach enough height to be able to fly away over the tree tops.

Only after my near religious experience with the heron I took out my phone to take a couple of pictures. The geese were for once not hiding. There’s a red headed duck around now. And I saw the first ducklings of the season and three (!!) baby nutria out and about where the geese feed, accompanied by one adult nutria. I didn’t photograph them, because all my nutria photos turn out terrible – the light, the water reflectin, the blurriness. You’ll just have to believe me.


duck parade


view towards the west along the Yvette


The red head.




New awesome smurf graffito under railway bridge


Gargamel has been caught spraying

Écrit sur mon support ordinateur

I hadn’t done a supermarket trip in a while, so I went ahead yesterday. Because I also hadn’t seen the nutrias the last couple of times I walked along the Yvette, I was extra alert. Instead of nutria I saw regular rats. My new theory is that feeding the ducks and nutria attracts rats, and that’s why the city put up traps.

Instead of nutria, I saw what I thought was a coot (Blesshuhn), but googling it now, I realise it’s a moorhen (Teichuhn).

common moorhen

This chick has crazy big feet

common moorhen pecking on the ground

On this picture you can see the red beak with yellow tip

On my way back from the supermarket I spotted the nutria again. It wasn’t in its usual place, but a little further upstream, munching on a fallen tree. NB: I’d take a house like that, with a garden backing onto the Yvette, ducks hanging out and nutrias visiting
nutria sitting on a fallen tree branch in the creek

nice place to live for ducks, people and nutria

close up of the nutria on the fallen tree

In the evening, Gergö and I went blackberrying again. Again, we didn’t find many ripe ones. I guess the birds are too quick for me. Instead we found a kiwi bush growing over a fence. And we saw the wild parrots Gergös friend was telling us about.

parrots sitting in a tree in the dusk
parrots sitting in a tree in the dusk

I think my next post has to be Parisian street art, to make up for all this nature talk ;-)

la nature

I mentioned the path along the Yvette before and the ducks and geese that live there. Gergö’s Austrian friend also told us about what he called “Wasserratten”. He didn’t know an English or French expression for them, neither did his French wife. Apparently the rats used to live right by the bridge, just down the road from us. Recently, the town has put up traps. When we went to the little bridge, they seemed to be gone.

But on one of our next trips to Auchan, the supermarket, we saw them a bit further down the path. They come out to feed as soon as someone shows up with bread for the ducks. And they swim among the ducks as well.

I remember a story by my mum about the time we grew up in Baden. The smelly river of Baden, the Schwechat, apparently had some muskrats that we liked to visit and watch. I don’t actually remember any of that, just that at some point the muskrat family “had moved away”. In reality, they were poisoned, because they were considered vermin, but my mum thought us too young to tell us that.

So I assumed the swimming rats were muskrats as well, and did some Wikipedia-ing. Turns out what he have here are river rats, also known as coypu or nutria. In German they are also called Nutria (which to me sounds like an artificial sweetener, to be honest) or Biberratte. They look very similar to muskrats, but don’t have a flattened tail, like muskrats do. The French word for them is Ragondin.

They are not native to Europe but were brought to Europe to be bred for their fur. Some escaped or were set free and voilà, ragondin population along small brooks in Île de France.