Settling in

It’s October! We’ve been here for a month now and I think this blog, like our French adventure is coming to an end.

We’ve unpacked our boxes and assembled all the furniture. We even built a house from two of the boxes and had the triplets over to decorate it. And eat cake inside it. In short: we are settling in.

Before decoration

We’ve had adults over as well and had real sit down dinners with real chairs and everything. Yesterday some of Gergö’s family came by for a visit. Gergö asked them to bring the boxes we had stowed away in the cellar. We didn’t remember how many there were. I thought maybe two boxes, so realistically four because that’s how my brain works.

In the end there were four boxes of mostly books, but surprisingly also clip on cat ears, plastic elf ears and my CueCat as well as a few pictures and a box of postcards and photos I apparently had wanted to keep. I also found a ziplock bag of cash – some Forint and 10 British Pounds, a Barbados Dollar and some old Slovakian currency that is no longer valid.

Now I really need to finish painting the Billy shelf that I got from my mum. It was a bit yellowed, so I thought I’d spruce it up a bit with some colour. I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of cheerful people painting old furniture and then sanding it to make it look vintage. I have no intention of making Billy look more vintage than it is, I just found out that chalk paint is really easy to handle and even sticks to the plastic veneer. And while browsing in the hardware store I also bought chalkboard paint and metallic paint that makes magnets stick to the painted surface.

So far I’ve only painted the boards, not the rest.

We’ve started getting back in touch with friends in Vienna and already are regulars at a Thursday night pub quiz. We suck at music round, but won the quiz twice and somehow scored a ticket to the Austrian pub quiz championship.

Now that I have time to catch up with friends and family I get asked a lot what has changed and what stayed the same and what do I miss.

A weird thing I noticed is that I still have the impulse to get my ticket out of my bag whenever I get on a bus or metro. And boarding a bus via the back door seems wrong to me. I still have the urge to greet the bus or tram driver whenever I board. I had to get used to saying “Bonjour” all the time to everybody, now it’s difficult to stop.

There still are a lot of places where you can smoke in Vienna and it never stops to surprise me. The café in the shopping mall where we do our weekly food shopping has a smoking section. The Serbian restaurant that does delicious Pljeskavica has a smoking section and the one time Gergö and I had lunch there we were the only people in the non-smoking section. We were also the only people not saying “Dobar dan” when we arrived. I also was alone in the non smoking section of a coffee house on the green market that sells everything by the kilo. This week there’s a petition to sign at the magistrate asking to finally ban smoking in all cafés, restaurants and bars and I’ll certainly sign it.


Le 4ème déménagement en 3 ans

Today I hired a cab to transport an old Billy shelf, plants and my big red chair from my mum’s place home. I planned it badly, though, for the middle of the afternoon, when Gergö is at work. He started his new job on September 3 and will work from home. For the time being, he works at the office. His desk and chair are assembled now, but he is still waiting for his work laptop to show up, so he is using a desktop machine at the office.

I figured I only need to take out the shelves and carry the empty corpus (that’s what Ikea calls it) to the elevator with my mum. Turns it was about 1 cm too high to fit into the elevator. I really really didn’t want to carry a Billy down four flights of stairs with my mum. And the cab I’d hired explicitly said they only do transports from sidewalk to sidewalk, so I resigned myself to not being able to get this done today.

I had forgotten about the casual sexism of men used to doing heavy lifting. They showed up on time, wouldn’t let me load the car and when I said that the Billy didn’t fit into the elevator one of the guys carried it downstairs alone. I’m a feminist, but I will let strong men unload heavy things from the car and carry them much further than contractually agreed upon.

I paid them and even gave a big tip. The joke’s on me though, because I sent them away saying that I can get the shelf out of the lift and the 2 metres to my front door alone. I couldn’t. Not because it was too heavy, but because the wall on the 5th floor is lower than on the ground floor and blocks me from getting the shelf out from the elevator. I ended up taking it out on the 4th floor and sticking a note on it saying “Sorry, I will carry this upstairs later”.

I got lucky in most other aspects of the transport, though – the casual racism was minor and I managed to change the topic quickly and hear about the cab drivers side business as vegan pastry chef instead. And it only started pouring down once I had everything safely inside the apartment (or well, on the 4th floor of the building).

The last two weeks were exhausting. I knew that I hated moving apartments. After all, I’ve done it four times in three years. But I had, as usual, underestimated the amount of work that goes into filling an apartment with furniture. When we left Vienna three years ago we didn’t take any furniture with us. We sold, threw away, gifted and donated all of our furniture and most of our other belongings. And the last three apartments (Palaiseau, Paris Bercy, Paris Clignancourt) were furnished.

We still managed to accumulate a lot of things while living in France. We asked three moving companies how much it would cost to transport our stuff to Austria. The estimates were 2 000 € upwards, so we decided to move by post. One package of up to 30 kilos cost 59 €. Gergö estimated that we would need 10 boxes, I thought 3. We donated a lot of household things to Emmaüs (it’s a lot like Caritas).

We posted 7 boxes of clothes, personal belongings, favourite mugs and documents to Austria. The 6th one I called box of shame, because frankly, it consisted mainly of things I should have let go of but couldn’t. The 7th box consisted of things I had forgotten about. If it had been a word document I’d have called it “box_last_last_final_2.docx”.

We took it to the post office on Wednesday, our very last day in Paris. I was nervous about returning the apartment because our landlords were extremely thorough when we moved in. They basically counted every tea spoon and pillow case. So I reckoned that would happen again. Instead they did a cursory tour of the apartment, offered to write a cheque for the deposit but agreed to do a transfer instead. 30 minutes later we were in a cab on our way to the airport. Way too early, but there really wasn’t anything left to do in Paris.

I said something like “I was nervous, but I think I handled that pretty well. I didn’t freak out and I didn’t even cry once.” Gergö said he thought that I was indeed calm, but he thought that I was catatonic, sitting on the sofa, reading on my phone. And I was trying very hard to distract myself with funny gifs and uplifting buzzfeed listicles on home improvement. I even mostly stopped reading my twitter feed for the last two weeks in Paris because I felt I couldn’t handle any more terrible news from all over the world.

We arrived in Vienna fairly late. My dad picked us up and had an inflatable mattress, blankets and pillows borrowed from my sister and my mum in his trunk. We spent our first night on the inflatable mattress in an otherwise empty apartment.

I slept badly, but I think it was mostly the adrenaline wearing off.

Our fancy new mattress was delivered on the first day. The delivery people brought them up and put them on the floor of the living room. I asked if I needed to sign anything. “One second, there’s more”, they said and brought in two large boxes. I was surprised because I hadn’t ordered anything else. But I signed the papers, they left and I lifted the boxes. They were very light. I opened them and they were empty. There was absolutely nothing in it. I have no idea who messed up and how, but for some reason our mattress delivery came with two boxes of air.

They ended up coming in handy for collecting all the cardboard we accumulated.

The first two days we spent without anything to sit on, except a hand crocheted carpet I had insisted on bringing. My sister and my mum brought over the triplets for a picknick on the carpet and jumping on the inflatable mattress. Since then we have been to Ikea twice and had a large delivery by them as well. The apartment has filled up with Ikea flatpacks, empty cartons, assembled furniture and the detritus that comes with all of this. I borrowed my sister’s orange cart (the one that fits three sitting three year olds) to bring a cartload of carton and plastic to the Mistplatz (the place you take the recycling that’s too big for the bins or for which there are no bins).

We got back Miriam, our sour cherry tree that had been at my sister’s place and also a giant ficus benjamini

We are slowly getting there…

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!

Vienne, tu me manques

We left for Vienna on December 24. We hadn’t been in Vienna for quite a while – we changed trains there in the summer but didn’t stay over night. We spent a single night there on the way to a wedding in June. But I think the last holiday in Vienna was a long weekend in March, when the triplets celebrated their second birthday.

So, as usual, we spent the week in a hectic blur of food and people. We met with my family on the 26th, Gergö’s family on the 29th and friends on all the other days. We were staying in the 7th district, very centrally and close to Mariahilfer Straße, which is a big shopping street. There were trams and the most useful of all busses, the 13A really close by. So I had the opportunity to play a lot of Pokemon Go during my week in Vienna. I could turn a lot of Pokestops on the tram and bus and hatch eggs and even put the occasional Pokemon in an arena.

I also went shopping – we found ourselves with a couple of hours to spend right on the biggest shopping street of Vienna. I bought a ridiculously huge dark red down coat. It even has fleece lined pockets! Several people commented on the size of it and how I look like Bibendum (the official name of the Michelin man, as I recently learned on twitter). I would have preferred it in black, obviously, but it was the red one that was 60% off, so I will be snug and smug in my ridiculous enormous coat.

Despite my declared dislike for Christmas markets, I managed to visit two in my week in Vienna.

Because we met with so many people we went to a lot of cafés and restaurants. And people in Vienna still smoke inside. We had brunch at a place that is non-smoking for breakfast, but it reeked of smoke from the night before. And even weirder: there are little stickers to show if a place is smoking or non-smoking or both and the non-smoking stickers are red and the “smoking is allowed” stickers are green.

When we visited some friends in the 14th district they told us that they have a Chinese restaurant around the corner that they’d love to try, but you are allowed to smoke inside. And as we walked past the restaurant we all glanced inside and there really were people smoking away at the restaurant tables. Very unreal.

I noticed two other things I apparently really got used to in France: When you enter a restaurant or bar or brasserie or café in Paris, in most cases you wait to be seated. Sometimes you are told: sit wherever you like but mostly you are seated. I went to a café with a friend and there were people waiting for a table that was about to become free and my friend suggested to look around for a table for two. I wanted to say something like “surely we’ll be seated right after them” when I realised: nobody cares where/if we find a place, it’s everybody for themselves in here.

Then I, the person to stop at red lights in Paris, found myself impatiently crossing at red in Vienna – with the exact same excuse as everyone here: There was no traffic! There’s really no point in waiting around at a red traffic light if there are no cars! And I promptly crossed the road in plain view of the police while looking in their direction. I didn’t get a ticket, though. Probably because it was in the middle of the night and there really was no other traffic. And today I almost got run over by a motorcycle because I was so busy avoiding Puddles (and checking Pokemon Go on my phone) I didn’t see that the light had turned red again.

I also noticed things that changed in Vienna: There are far fewer firecrackers before New Year’s Eve. When I lived across a playground in the 2000s, it felt like the teenagers from the school around the corner tried to blow themselves up every day of December. And it was still bad a few years ago, when we looked after Gergö’s former dog. Now it’s much quieter and I only heard firecrackers on the 30th and 31st. All that’s left to learn for Austrians is that the firework starts at midnight.

In a weird counter example to my experience in Viennese cafés, I saw a queue in front of café Sperl on Gumpendorfer Straße. People were actually standing outside in the cold waiting to have coffee in there. It seemed ludicrous to me. I remember Sperl as the place with the most worn down leather chairs and grumpiest waitresses and it was really smoky, too, though that may have changed since I last went there (in 2008 maybe?). I bet the café is mentioned in a guide book as the real Viennese experience and that makes people willing to queue for overpriced coffee.

Luckily we got to see a lot of my nieces, the triplets, as well. They love to sing right now and will burst into strange songs at any occasion. When we had a playdate with friends who have a daughter of the same age, two of them grabbed hold of railings in the hallway, dangled from them and sang “Hoch sollst du leben / an der Decke kleben / runterfallen, Popschi knallen / so ist das Leben” (“you shall be celebrated / stick to the ceiling / fall down, hurt your bum / that’s life” – I just checked, there’s a category called birthday songs on Wikipedia, but the original version of this song is missing, just like the children’s version).

Anyway, everytime they sang “runterfallen” they let themselves drop to the floor. Songs seem to be a way to get them to do stuff – as long as it’s not being quiet. There’s a song about a bear sleeping where they will immediately lie down and pretend to be a sleeping bear. They even include the snoring noises sometimes. The trouble is it goes on: the bear wakes up and then hops, hops, hops, or stamps, stamps, stamps, or dances, dances, dances all day long.

The apartment complex where my sister lives has communal spaces. We took the kids’ new train set and went to the “theatre”. It’s just a big room that could be used as a stage. Not half as fancy as the cinema room or the communal kitchen. The theatre just had the problem that the lights went out every 5 minutes. Whenever that happened H. would scream, get up and run towards the sensor, while I. spontaneously started to sing Bruder Jakob / Frère Jacques. She even sang it in French, well, an approximation of it.

We also went to the climbing room. The girls would have preferred the slide room, but they are still a bit too small to climb the ladders alone and we wouldn’t fit in the slides in case they got scared and needed support. The climbing room is mostly interesting for the big mat that covers most of its floor. While two of the kids ran around playing catch and doing summersaults, A. rearranged our coats and played with my handbag. I gave it to her thinking there’s nothing in there that could break. She promptly took out the USB cable and stuck the micro-USB end into the regular one. “That works?”, my sister asked. “Only with force.”

I showed her how to plug it into my external battery instead – I figured it might save her hours of time if she learns early on how to plug in a USB cable the right way up.

When it was time to brush their teeth before bed, they weren’t impressed my by rendition of “Zähneputzen, zähneputzen, das wird deinen Zähnen nutzen” though. I didn’t think anybody else knew this song. We had to sing it in kindergarten while the other kids brushed their teeth until it was our turn at the sink. Now I googled it and apparently it’s a thing to motivate kids to brush their teeth. Well, it didn’t work.

Later in the week we met with Gergö’s family, including his two nephews. His brother was impressed how much more experience we have with little kids now (“please sit down on the chair to drink”, “use both hands to hold the glass!”, “Ok, I’ll walk up and down the stairs with you, but you have to hold my hand!”). It was also the one and only occasion for me to impress someone with Pokemon Go. The 5-year-old was interested in the game, and duly impressed by my Pikachu wearing a Santa hat and my strongest Pokemon, a Tyranitar with over 3000 CP. He even caught a Sentrett while we waited for the train and only needed 5 or 6 Pokeballs to do it. Most grown ups’ reaction is “Somebody is still playing this?”

We also met his other brother’s fiancée. But Gergö didn’t get a chance to talk much or ask about the dress code for the upcoming wedding because his crown came loose. So we spent the evening at the dentist on weekend duty.

the smile of a real princess.

It wasn’t really how I wanted to spend the evening, but it could have been much worse. Across from us in the waiting room was a girl with her parents whose horse had kicked her in the face. Her dad carried bits of her front teeth in a tupperware container.

While I was waiting for Gergö to finish two young men showed up – one had a toothache, the other came to help with translation. When they struggled with the information form I offered my cell phone as a dictionary. They had brought their own, but readily introduced themselves – (Hello, I’m XYZ from Syria!) And while the translator’s German was pretty good, they were happy to have some help with words like Herzschrittmacher/pacemaker, Spritze/injection and the like.

The doctor glued Gergös crown back into place and most of the visit was spent waiting for the cement to dry. And it was also fairly low on bureaucracy for Gergö: He filled out two forms with the data on his European health insurance card and didn’t have to pay anything. He reckons there will be a bill from his French insurance at some point.

Retour de Vienne

I returned from 10 days in Vienna yesterday morning. I managed to get sick again, just like last time I visited. I blame flying and dry air and these things.

I only met with a few people this time, mostly because I was sick and tried to not overdo it. But also because I had inadvertently chosen another long holiday weekend for my visit. The October 26th is a national holiday, and so is the November 1st. A lot of people went away for the weekend. I only booked the flight because it was very cheap. I splurged all the money saved on a taxi to the airport in the morning, because 6:40 is just so damn early to fly.

Most days I thought I’d stay home and recover and ended up getting bored and restless and decided to visit the triplets or meet someone after all. I also went to an afternoon Amanda Palmer concert. I was too slow to buy tickets for the evening show. Because it sold out so quickly she scheduled a second show at 4 pm. It was so early, she brought her son on stage. And being Amanda Palmer she breastfed him for a little bit while playing Eisbär on piano in a lullaby version. People to the left and right of me were pretty incredulous. I think not because of the exposed boob. It’s Vienna after all, where there are nude bathing areas on the danube island. I think they thought it odd she would bring a little kid on stage, where it’s loud and bright and just not particularly kid friendly.

The concert was great, but it didn’t help with the recovery. Neither did the Sturm I felt I had to drink. It’s the season after all and it’s not something we get in Palaiseau.

All during my coughing and sneezing time I visited the triplets and helped my sister taking them home from kindergarten. She said they are sick all the time anyway, so my cold won’t make much of a difference. They are still adorable and very lively. With their identical rain suits they get a lot of looks from passers by. “Are those twins? No triplets!!” My mum calls them turbo girls. They are in the phase were they often don’t want to get in the pram, don’t want to walk, and want to be carried. I can lift them onto my shoulder now, but it’s hard work. They don’t really hold on and tend to lean back a bit. Add to that the fact that there’s an empty pram to push, the walk home from kindergarten usually ended up in sweat (mine) and tears (not mine). No blood though, so that’s something.

On one afternoon I met up with all my siblings for coffee. The four of us took the triplets home and it was noticeably easier when there were as many adults as there are kids. We had fun this evening, we danced to a ram sam sam, because my niece loves it. We looked at books and practised saying at-se (cat) at every animal. The nieces were really fascinated by their baby cousin and were really sweet with him (most of the time). We had spaghetti and cleaned off spaghetti off every surface and a lot of body parts afterwards. They can’t say my name yet, but they say Ena, which is good enough for me :-D

I took lots of photos and even video skyped with Gergö once. One video I took I shared with my family: It’s of one niece helping her sister put on pants. My sister still doesn’t want to raise YouTube stars, which is understandable. But also a bit of a pity with material like that.

Au revoir, Vienne!

I returned from Styria to Vienna on Monday 2 August. I think most people forgot I was still here, or assumed I had returned to France by now, so I had a rather quiet ten days, compared to my previous visits.

I met a couple of friends in the evenings, which left the days to do some work, complain about the heat, visit the triplets and hunt Pokémon. My current house sitting flat has a great balcony but sadly no internet connection.

pias balcony


A bracelet made from a zipper.

A bracelet made from a zipper.

Because I was running low on my cell phone’s data plan, I’ve been drinking too much matcha latte at places with free wifi and conveniently placed electrical outlets.


Wednesday afternoon I visited my dad’s partner at the store where she sells among other things the awesome jewellery and upcycled clothes she creates.

Afterwards, I was at Café Schilling. They have outdoor seating with built in heaters for winter. The heaters are not in use right now, of course, and unplugged. I could use the free electrical outlets for my computer, which is rare for outside seating.

At one point I got to chatting with my seat neighbour and she asked if I am at university, which I find immensely flattering :-) I explained that I was working on a website and she asked for my card, because she might be interested in one herself. I had to admit that I don’t have one. Instead I scribbled my email address on the back of an old subway ticket.

When I told the story to my sister she ordered me to go print cards at the copy shop at the train station right away, which I dutifully did. Now I have 30 cards with my name, email address and phone number. Black on white background. At least they make it very clear that I am not a designer.

rat graffiti stencil

Later that week, I saw this stencil and my mind immediately went to Pokémon Go again.  What if people start tagging the city with the places where the rare ones spawn.

One morning I went to Stadtpark. It was in the news recently for being Vienna’s Pokémon hotspot and I wanted to see for myself. It’s pretty bizarre and a little unreal. Lots of people sitting on benches in reach of three Pokéstops. You can recognise the players easily: most of them have a cable from their phone to their pocket, where the external battery provides extra power. The game is a real battery drainer.


When you walk into the park new Pokémon spawn everywhere. All around the park are small groups of people shuffling zombie-like, staring at their phones. Intermingling with them are tourists, looking at maps and taking pictures of the golden Strauß statue.

Last Monday I met with a friend for dinner in the city center close to Maria am Gestade. I walked there, crossing through some of the most touristy areas of Vienna. Everywhere there are tourists looking at maps and looking at buildings, taking photos and selfies. I’m rarely in the city center and when I am, I barely register the beautiful surroundings anymore.
It’s during these summer nights that I really enjoy the city center. It’s so vibrant, so many people speaking so many different languages out and about, walking, talking, eating ice cream.

rhyming dod poop baggies have to be one of the most Viennese things I encountered lately

rhyming dog poop baggies have to be one of the most Viennese things I encountered lately

On Tuesday I visited a friend and talked him into a walk around a newly opened park, despite already having a cold. It’s all about walking at the moment – that’s how you hatch Pokémon eggs. I noticed the baggies they provide for dog poop are newly designed and now rhyme.

I also spent some time at Hotel Schani. They rent out coworking desks, but also let you use their wifi for free if you sit in their café area. I quite liked the atmosphere, probably because it was quiet (apart from Lounge versions of 80s and 90s pop songs). I also like how they rent out electro scooters and long boards. And finally, they don’t bring these teeny tiny little glasses of water along with your coffee, but have a bassena instead. I’d rather get the water myself than be brought 1/8th of a liter. Yesterday, while showering, I could smell the chlorine in the French water and realised that I didn’t drink nearly enough of the delicious Austrian tap water.


A bassena, for those of you who are not Viennese, used to be the public tap on every floor of a tenement where people fetched water from. It’s also synonymous for gossip because that’s where you chatted with your neighbours.

I’m back home in France now, reunited with powerful wireless internet and smelly cheese. As a good bye present to myself I went to the airport two hours early and had a big fat ice coffee at Demel.

Ice coffee in Austria actually contains ice cream. In the back you can see the teeny tiny glass of water I complained about above.

Ice coffee in Austria actually contains ice cream. In the back you can see the teeny tiny glass of water I complained about above.


Vienne, Linz, Budapest, Styrie

Gergö joined my in Vienna last Sunday. Somehow we managed to turn a week in Vienna the most stressful of the year – we decided to visit friends in Linz on Monday, his little brother in Budapest on Wednesday, and now I’m in Steiermark.

It was good to visit Linz, but far too short a time, of course. I was playing Pokémon Go in Linz and I noticed that I take fewer pictures now. When the game is loaded and stable, I don’t want to quit it, just to take a picture. Especially now that there’s so much dust in my camera lens that all pictures have weird light reflexes. At night there’s fog clouding up the image.

You have to take my word for the lovely weather and surroundings.

We took the train to Budapest on Wednesday. A met us at the train station and we walked to his new place. It was hot and sunny and I had no internet, so I had plenty of opportunity to take pictures of Budapest without missing out on Pokémon ;-)


A’s apartment is in the 8th district, which is called Jószefváros, which is just like in Vienna (Josefstadt). There are lots of old pre-war buildings, many of them run down.

girls school in joszefvaros

There are plans and renovations taking place in Budapest, but for now this mural looks more like a promise than an actual plan for Jószefváros.

joszefvaros kolibri

A’s apartment building is one of those run down on the outside, but nice on the inside buildings. The courtyard has Pawlatschen – a word I couldn’t find an English translation for. It’s a word for the covered walkways surrounding a courtyard. Here’s a picture, feel free to chime in with a suggestion:


We wandered into town, enjoying the Budapest feeling.


We came past freedom bridge (I’m not even going to start trying to spell it), which is closed for traffic for the moment.

don't climb the bridge

And spent the evening sitting by the Danube close to a building called the whale.

Jonas in the whale

There’s a craft beer place inside the whale called Jónás (get it?!) and they sell a beer called Arany Jónás. Gergö laughed at the name, but it took me ages to understand the joke – Arany Janos is the name of a Hungarian poet. Arany is also the word for gold, so it makes perfect sense as name for beer.

The whale is part of the pricier night life of Budapest, so beers are only about three times cheaper than in Paris, not five.

The next day we woke up to a very loud thunderstorm. The temperature drop was a huge relief for me, but I had brought nothing against the rain. We walked through the covered market to avoid the rain.

rakoszi market

A wild fearow appeared

Sorry, terrible photo, terrible Pokémon Go joke. I couldn't resist.

Sorry, terrible photo, terrible Pokémon Go joke. I couldn’t resist.

Because the rain didn’t stop we ended up taking the new driverless metro line M4 to the train station and wandering around a shopping mall to avoid getting soaked. The driverless metro is nice, all shiny and new. What they saved on drivers they invested in random people with yellow vests and walkie talkies standing around on platforms instead.

After checking out the mall we decided on Hungarian fast food: I had cold fruit soup (gyümölcsleves (I only had one accent wrong on my first attempt this time!)) and Gergö noodles with cream cheese (Túrós csusza (copy/paste job)). The lady behind the counter asked something, Gergö said yes, and I saw her pick up a bottle of what I thought was mayonnaise and pour it over his noodles. She kept pouring in circles, while Gergö was grinning happily. Only when I saw the result I realised it’s sour cream not mayo she added to the meal. It should have been obvious from Gergö’s expression, really. “It’s not that much sour cream”, was all he said.

topfennudeln mit speck fruit soup, kalte obstsuppe

We returned home Thursday night. I went directly to Museumsquartier to meet friends. I packed up my stuff at 1 am and leaft today at 9. Right now I’m sitting on the main square in Bruck an der Mur, waiting for a friend to pick me up in an hour or so. I’ll join her for the weekend and return to Vienna on Monday.

I never knew Enzis (the things people sit on in Museumsquartier) are exported to other towns these days.






Ce train ne va qu’au Port Royal

I booked a flight for Vienna a while ago. Because I’m cheap, I didn’t book any check in luggage. Turns out 8 kilo really isn’t much. I did pack knickers this time, but no second pair of shoes nor anything warm. I also decided to leave all the presents behind for Gergö to bring along when he joins me. He isn’t as cheap as me and booked a flight with check in luggage. But he stays less than a week, because he wanted to avoid the expensive Sunday prices.

My flight left on Tuesday at 9 pm. I left for the airport with plenty of time to spare. At 6:21 pm I was on the lovely air conditioned RER to the airport. About ten minutes later I was bathed in sweat because the air condition didn’t stand a chance against the heat and the amount of people joining us. Besides, the train was really slow and it didn’t take long for an announcement of delays on our line. Technical difficulties between Gare du Nord and the airport. The train will terminate in Port Royal. I’ve never heard an entire train of French people make that disappointed “Nawwww!” before.

The train driver suggested to get out at Denfert Rochereau, which has lots of metro connections, but I hesitated. By the time we were in Port Royal though it was 7:21. It should have takes about 20 minutes instead of an hour. I checked alternatives but the airport bus takes an hour from the city center which was still far away by then. So I decided to get a cab instead.

When I had flagged down a taxi on the street and told the driver where I need to go and by what time, he actually said “Oh la la!”. He seemed more nervous than me, which in turn made me more nervous. He told me the price (55€), checked the traffic information on his tom-tom and gave everything. We crossed at least one red light and honked our way through the étoile. He really leaned on the horn when a car blocked our way at a crossing. All the while he told me stories of how he is usually lucky when it comes to close calls. It was the last ten minutes or so when I started to get really nervous. You know, when after a highway you have to slow down again and everything seems to go in slow motion.

My fear was unfounded, though. We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare until boarding. I had forgotten how close the drop off point for cars is to the terminal (compared to the train station). I also realised about half way to the airport that I only had about 25 € in cash on me, so I asked if the cabbie accepted cards. Of course not. Cheques on the other hand are no problem. When I explained that I didn’t have any cheques, he suggested I get the money at the airport ATM, but we both weren’t sure if there was one. Alternatively, he suggested I give him as much cash as I have and post the difference to him by cheque. When I said that I don’t even have a single cheque he was quite surprised. He gave me his address to send the money by post but also accompanied me to the airport terminal. The ATM was about 10 metres from the entrance. I was so nervous about missing my flight, I even asked the guy ahead of me in the queue if I could skip ahead  in the line. I still have the cab drivers address in my purse somewhere and have vague plans of sending him a thank you postcard from Vienna.

Inside the terminal I was suddenly alone and didn’t need to pretend to be calm anymore. I actually ran the serpentines of the empty security queueing area. The queue consisted of one (1) single person. He waited patiently to be called to the security check while I danced around nervously behind him. I managed to skip ahead and gain valuable 10 seconds or so while he took of his belt. Then I harangued a woman who blocked the place where the luggage comes out of the x-ray machine to move out of the way. I walked out of the security check with 10 minutes until boarding and no gate announced yet.

It was only about then, that it sank in that I would not miss my flight. Despite the air conditioned cab and airport building I was sweating heavily and used the waiting time to buy an iced shake.

While I cooled and calmed down I messaged Gergö who had been following the drama from afar. Upon boarding I met the woman from the security check again, this time checking my boarding pass and ID and was relieved I had been apologetically nervous and even remembered French at this point in my journey.

We needed to take a bus to the plane. In true fashion I have come to associate with Parisians but have to accept is really everyone everywhere, people stepped on to the bus and then stopped walking. More people tried to get on, but nobody moved out of the way and further into the bus. Not even when airport staff asked and waved and made pushing movements with their hands. It took at least five minutes until people seemed to accept that we wouldn’t leave unless they let the remaining 10 or so people board the bus. When the bus stopped at our plane they didn’t open the doors, though, but waited with closed doors.

This lead to a red man in a pink shirt shouting the word “air condition” at the bus driver, who nodded his head but left all the doors closed. They started letting people off the bus in small groups and only by the front door. I assumed it was the revenge for taking so bloody long to board a bus. At some point they agreed to open the doors but asked everyone to only leave by the front door. That way we had a bit of air circulating. A guy in shorts, high brown socks and ugly sandals tried to sneak out though and was told off and sent back. Which confirms all my preconceptions of men wearing socks in sandals with belted shorts.

The flight was uneventful and arrived on time. I spent it sitting with my feet on top of my little purple wheelie suitcase because all the overhead compartments were full. After landing and firing up my Austrian SIM card, I learned that there had been no trains between Gare du Nord and the airport until at least 10 pm, because there was a fire that was thought to be arson. Apparently somebody tried to steal cables from a substation and tried to cover the theft up with arson. (I might be getting the details wrong, because at this point I was still coming down from quite a lot of adrenaline).

Since landing in Vienna I spent a lot of time picking up nieces from the kindergarten and walking them home in midday heat. I didn’t regret leaving my sneakers and hoodie at home, yet. The park across from my sister’s flat is finally open and she has a small spot in a community garden, where I took the image of the full moon rising over Vienna. In reality it was huge and red and much more impressive.

Aller et retour

I’m back from my trip to Vienna. I spent ten days of my two week winter holidays there. The schools are closed during these two weeks and I also don’t have my French course. And ten days, even so soon after my Christmas holiday in Vienna wasn’t too long at all.

I went by train this time, but I don’t really recommend it. It was more expensive than if I had booked a flight at the time. And it took 12 hours with one change in Frankfurt going to Vienna and two changes (Salzburg and Mannheim) on the return trip. I usually like train rides. I can bring liquids and a backpack and a shoulder bag if I want to. I sit around a lot anyway. But 12 hours is a bit too much sitting around next to strangers with strange habits.

Model train at Frankfurt train station.

Model train at Frankfurt train station.

I love the retro look of the controls. I almost expected a different currency.

I love the retro controls. I almost expected a different currency.

I managed to read an entire book on the train ride. I haven’t done this in a long time. Mostly, because I think I should be reading in French, to practise. Instead I end up reading nothing, because reading a book in French is hard.

Vienna was hectic, but good. I managed to meet four groups of friends that I couldn’t see during my last trip.

A lamp made from a crash helmet at our friend's place. Love the idea and execution!

A lamp made from a crash helmet at our friend’s place. You are not supposed to use a helmet after you had an accident. So he decided to upcycle it. Love the idea and execution!

I also spent some time with the triplets, of course. They are almost a year old and all walk now and pretty fast at that. I tried taking photos with my phone. But despite getting a lot of comments for the big lens, it’s not great indoors. Sometimes it looks like the kids are missing limbs, because they are waving around an arm too fast for my phone camera to capture.

I was staying at my mum’s place this time. Gergö and I took her out to her favourite café. It’s a gem in an unexpected place: opposite the U2 stop Krieau, right next to an old lady hair dresser and one of those Viennese Beisl I would probably never set foot in. It’s called “Little Britain” but has nothing to do with the tv show. It’s all twee and cute and has scones and those little triangular sandwiches.

On my last full day in Vienna I made the classic mistake of trying to squeeze in *everything*. We went for the above mentioned breakfast and afterwards bought Mozartkugeln as souvenirs. At noon, I went to the hairdresser that always takes much much longer than expected (two and a half hours this time) and then returned home to have coffee with my brother, my niece and my sister. Around six I dropped in at my other sister’s to say goodbye to her and the babies. We bathed them (and they us, really, with the splashing) and afterwards had a couple of beers with friends at a nearby Beisl. This is more action and interactions in one day than I normally have in a week.

In the last two weeks two people who had promised to visit finalised the exact dates and two more will follow soon. So maybe I will stay in France for while now and have everyone come visit me, instead.

My return trip was pretty exhausting. The train to Salzburg was late, so I had to run to catch the train to Mannheim. Bizarrely, there was a chain mounted between the two platforms, with a sign saying “border controls” or something similar. Because of the police present I didn’t just slip underneath it but ran along the length of the platform to the opening in the fence. The police ignored me, of course, and checked the brown family with kids instead.

After the luxury of the railjet the German train was a bit…basic.

They don't even have sharpies, poor Deutsche bahn.

They don’t even have sharpies, poor Deutsche Bahn.

I had a reservation but because of the delay I was on the wrong end of the train. I ended up staying where I was since it wasn’t very full anyway. Also, you could watch the train driver at work and see out of the front of the train. I love sitting in the upstairs front row of double decker busses but usually kids get there first. There were no kids on the train, but a few guys in suits checking out the train drivers / view.

Is it called cockpit in a train as well?

Is it called cockpit in a train as well?

I had time to buy dinner while changing trains in Mannheim. I had been offline for quite a while at this point, so I queued at a coffee shop advertising free WiFi. First I dropped my French SIM card, when I opened my wallet. As I bent down to retrieve it, my water bottle fell from my backpack. I cursed loudly and said “Ja, hearst, Oida!” and then hoped I brightened the rush hour of the many grumpy looking, business suit wearing Germans buying their after work lattes. If that didn’t do it, then probably when I took photos of Mannheim train station.

I didn't cheat when taking this picture. Even aroud the corner all you can see is "Erster Wiener". I somehow doubt it is, though.

I didn’t cheat when taking this picture. Even aroud the corner all you can see is “Erster Wiener”. I somehow doubt it is, though.

I don’t know what I find weirder: the singer’s name or that he plays at Mannheim train station.

The TGV ride I caught from Mannheim was uneventful. Despite it being the same route as ten days earlier, only in reverse, I was surprised again that all these places I only know from football club names and “Wetten, Dass” broadcasts really exist. Frankly, I’m still surprised that Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken are TGV stops.

Joyeuse Nouvelle Année

After Christmas, we boarded a plane to Austria to spend some time with my family and friends in Vienna. I almost froze my butt off – not only because it was cold (down to minus 7°!) but also because I only noticed in Vienna, that I had forgotten to pack any underpants. That was an absolute first for me. A suprising number of people told me they made the same experience once. I also brought the wrong SIM card, so for the first few days I had to stay really close to Gergö, who opened up a wifi for me. He thought I took the sim card news worse.

The cold really threw me. I wasn’t really equipped for minus 7 degrees. The weather forecast for Vienna had been less dramatic. Last winter was also much milder, so I kind of hoped to be able to avoid it all this year. Nuh uh. It was freezing, it was windy and there was snow. My friend Eva called my being ill-equipped and in complete denial about the possibility of snow “The Wiener Linien Syndrome”. I love it!


Gergö and I are sad because of the cold weather, the snow, and the wind. Also, we really need to work on our selfie game.


Snowmargedoon on Mariahilferstraße. Not pictured: my bag of new knickers.

3D glasses give me headaches, because they are so heavy. 3D glasses for Imax give me an terrible headache because they are ginormous. Without the snow, wind and cold, the selfie is much better, I notice.

3D glasses are heavy and therefore often cause headaches. 3D glasses for Imax cause terrible headaches because they are ginormous. Without the snow, wind and cold, the selfie is much better, I notice.

I spent every single one of these ten days meeting at least one group of people, sometimes two. I managed to see my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins in Styria for one day and get a Schnitzel-fix. We saw two of Gergö’s brothers and went to a pub quiz with friends. I met former colleagues from fachhochschule. I spent new year’s eve with my sister and her triplets, hoping they would sleep through what sounded like war outside. I actually saw someone hand a handgun to a kid who couldn’t have been older than 11. He shot sparkly crackers from the presumably gas pistol.  We even managed to squeeze in a big meal and traditional Austrian Christmas biscuits with my dad’s family. Oh and we finally saw the new Star Wars film and then spent two days discussing it in depth. All those things involved food and drinks and it’s a miracle I didn’t need a seatbelt extension for my flight back. I do need to recover from my holidays, though.

The first few days we spent at a friend’s place who lives really close to my sister with the triplets. So we had a few chances to drop in, get them all excited and then slink off to let the parents deal with getting them to sleep. I feed them and bathed them as well, which was great fun, and both involved some splashing.

Our host returned from his family a little earlier than planned, but as luck would have it we scored an awesome apartment. Gergö’s friend Sebastian renovated his old apartment after moving in with his partner, and rents it out on airbnb. It has the best matress I ever slept on in my entire life. I cannot recommend this place enough. Should you ever need somewhere to stay in Vienna, check it out. It’s right around the corner to where Gergö used to live, 5 minutes from the metro (U3 Hütteldorferstraße) and tram (49). The kitchen is pretty well equipped and the shower has a ledge on which you can sit down, should you end up hung over and tired on new year’s day. Also, the couch is identical to the one we used to have, so for sentimental reasons, I like it even more. The only down side is that there’s no door between the bedroom and the sitting room. So there’s room for four people, but they have to really like/know each other. Oh and it’s all official and above board, so Sebastian actually charges visitor’s tax that he has to pass on to the city of Vienna.

— end of advertisment

Before we left Austria in August, we stored some boxes in Lower Austria, that we ended up having to move. We managed to squeeze that into the 10 days as well. With the help of my dad we brought them to Vienna. He also reminded me of another, final box of my stuff at his office. It’s just some old fabric/clothes I want to use to crochet another carpet with. I made one for the triplets and it turned out to be the most useful and least ugly DIY project I ever made.

crocheted carpet made from thirts

I was convinced that after emptying our luggage of our souvenirs there would be plenty of space to transport it all back, but it was a very close call in the end. Not so much for the luggage but for Gergö who kept complaining. Now that my dad announced he’ll drive up in May for a visit, I regret it a little. (By the way: if you ever want to get rid of old tshirts or fitted sheets or anything made from cotton jersey: I will cut it up and crochet a big fat carpet with it. Doesn’t matter if they have holes. There just might be a way to transport it all up to Paris in May…)

Which reminds me: come visit us! Our couch is not as awesome as the one in Basti’s airbnb, but it will do. Also: heated floors! I keep repeating the invitation and most people reply: We will! But then, nothing happens. So my new plan is to put a calendar up here on a separate page that shows when we are away or already have visitors and when we are free. Maybe that encourages people to come. I count on you for sightseeing and touristy things!