Stadtwanderweg 1

074I’d been out there before, several times.  Enough that I no longer really remember the chronology.  I know that the first time, I couldn’t quite get from where I started to the trail with the stroller, so I spent an hour or so trying to find a way around.  And then when I finally figured it out, it was time to go back home again.  I know I went out there at least once when Jo was with us.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve been at least one other time, but that’s where my memory is less clear.  I could have sworn I’d been out there at least once with Dan and both of the kids, but he says he’d never been before.  I’m not sure.  But I do know that each of the times I’ve been before I’ve basically walked back and forth over the same mile of the 7 mile loop.  I’ve walked just far enough to arrive at the first of the vineyards, and then turned around.  Each successive time, I’ve actually made it one vineyard further along the trail before I turned around, but I’ve never made it very far.

079I love to walk and to hike.  I love to explore and to see a place on foot.  (On horseback is even better, but I haven’t had that chance for a few years now.)  It’s truly something I enjoy.  And Vienna understands me.  The city has 11 signed and maintained hiking/walking trails throughout the most scenic parts of the city.  Each is 6-10 miles long, none is completely stroller friendly, and since they are in scenic places, they also tend towards being quite isolated, so I’ve never gone far on one alone.  So, though these are exactly the kind of thing I’d love to explore, we’ve only done little pieces of 3 of the trails.

088This past Sunday was my turn to choose a family activity, so I decided to try for another piece of the Stadtwanderweg 1 (city hiking trail 1) — the one I’ve visited most often.  I had no illusions that we’d complete the whole thing, as it’s about 7 miles long.  The purpose wasn’t to complete the loop, but to go further than I had before.  We put on our sunscreen and our sturdy shoes, packed a picnic and headed out.

It was a lovely walk, with (as I’d seen before) some lovely views of the vineyards of Grinzing.  The kids were fascinated, at first, by every flower and bug, but after the first mile they became fixated on lunch instead (though it wasn’t yet 11).  It turns out that the section of trail I had chosen was almost entirely uphill, unfortunately.  We hiked a couple of miles before finding a suitable picnic spot, and the tentative plan was to turn around after that and head home.  I had covered 089almost a mile of new trail, the kids were happy to have had a picnic, and we all still had a bit of energy left.

Looking up the bus routes on my phone, though, we realized that it would be a much shorter, though more uphill, walk to the bus to continue along the trail.  And it also looked like there might be a restaurant up ahead, which might serve the ice cream Liam was really hoping for.  So we continued.  And though the walk got lovelier, and very shaded as we went truly into the woods (except for one section where there had been some logging), it also got steeper and rougher.  Less than an hour later, hot and grouchy, we did eventually pop out of the woods.  We found ourselves right at a bus stop (closer than the one on my map) AND at the foot of a driveway to a restaurant which served ice cream.  So, after our 4.3 mile trek, and over 2 hours of walking, we headed home.  It was a tough adventure, but a good one.


093And now, for next time, we know exactly which bus stop to head for in order to pick up the trail for the next (almost entirely downhill) section.  We may complete the first trail one day after all.

(As a note, though we did fine, I wouldn’t really recommend this part of the trail — clockwise around from Nußdorf to Sulzwiese — to families with small kids unless you have a very sturdy stroller or are prepared to carry the kids a lot.  We carried our boys most of the way.  It’s not an unpleasant walk at all, but it is long and truly almost entirely uphill.)

Going on an adventure

Every so often, we make a plan to spend some one-on-one time with each of the kids. (The goal is to do it with each of the boys about once a month, but so often, things get in the way — travel, illness, incompatible combinations of available free time and the desired activity — and we really do it a lot less frequently than that.) Part of the fun of having the time together is that the kids get to be the one to decide the activity. It’s completely open ended, as long as it’s something we can do in about an hour. We’ve been surprised that so far, the kids’ requests have been incredibly modest — so far, we’ve gone on bus rides, ridden on the U-Bahn just to see where it goes, gone out for hot chocolate or cookies, gone to the playground.

20130426-234036.jpgYesterday, Liam and I finally got a chance to have our hour together, after over a month of trying to find the right time (which is really ridiculous, given that I spend 3-4 hours alone with Liam every day). He wanted to go for a bus ride, to see where the bus that we ride every day would go if we didn’t get off until the end.

So we rode out to the end of the line, to a part of Vienna called Aspern. Liam looked out the window of the bus and told me all about everything he could see. Once we arrived out in Aspern, we saw that it was mostly residential with a cute little town center. It didn’t feel like being in Vienna at all (and truly is almost at the edge of what is actually Vienna). It was a beautiful spring day, and we enjoyed a little walk around (Liam got to navigate) and then I got turned around when it was time to head home and ended up walking twice as far to find the bus as was really necessary. We had a great time exploring, and Liam took a bit of a nap on the way home. It was a good adventure.

And, since it’s spring again, and we’re all feeling (relatively) healthy, we’ll be exploring and adventuring a lot more. I have a list of places to go and things to see, and I’m ready to start on it. And I’m sure Benjamin and Liam will each continue to add their own destinations, as well. I love these adventures with them.

An adventurous weekend

024 (1)The passing of our six month milestone here, along with the rapid onset of cooler temperatures and earlier sunsets have really kicked me into gear in terms of getting out and doing the things we want to do around Vienna.  The days are short (and getting shorter), cold (and getting colder) and numbered, so we must get out and see what there is to see.

With Benjamin in school until noon every day, we don’t get home until around 1:00.  Then it’s time for lunch, then a nap.  By the time they’re up and about, it’s typically 3:30 at the earliest.  Even this leaves us a few hours until Dan’s return home and the beginning of the dinner/evening/bedtime routine around here, so I’m going to be making a point to use those precious hours, as well.  But, for longer excursions, it’s got to be the weekends, and we’re going to make the most of them.


This weekend, we definitely worked toward that end.  Our Saturday morning was spent in our usual manner of going to the grocery store, vacuuming, folding laundry and doing 049other small chores around the house.  But, after nap time on Saturday, we were done with chores and tasks.  We set out to do some hiking/walking around (to me, the difference is whether or not the surface is paved, and we did a little of each) and to have dinner up on the side of the mountain overlooking Vienna.  It was chilly when we left home (about 10 degrees Celsius) and it started getting dark (and colder) almost immediately after we started our walk.  We had an excellent time.  We saw some beautiful sights, explored (may have trespassed at) a gorgeous hotel overlooking the city, and had an amazing dinner by candlelight.


Today, we left, first thing, for the zoo.  The plan had been to get out of the house as early as possible (we left around 9:30, which is pretty good) and to be back for nap time 024 (2)(around 1:00/1:30).  In a shocking (for me) display of flexibility and enjoying the moment, we didn’t get home until after 4:30.  Benjamin made a list, last night, of the animals he wanted to see.  We saw them all (he liked the flamingos the best).  We rode the train (twice).  We walked from the back exit of the zoo to the Gloriette of Schonbrunn and looked down on Vienna (Liam walked a significant part of the way, holding Dan’s hand — he did NOT want to ride in the stroller or be carried).  We had an impromptu lunch in the sun on a bench, the boys threw several fits (each) and we all came home worn out, a bit out of sorts and completely off of our normal schedule.

037It was great.  I wouldn’t change anything about it, and I’m already thinking about what we’ll do next weekend.

It’s not easy for me.  I make a list of the chores and tasks to be done around the house every weekend, and it drives me a little crazy if they don’t get done.  I have to let go of that if I want to make the most of our weekend in terms of exploring.  This weekend, we left more than half of our to-do list undone (much of it not even begun).  I’m also making a serious effort to live more in the moment — to enjoy what’s happening around me instead of thinking about what needs to happen next (and when) or obsessing about what’s still to be done at home.  I don’t feel the need to cram every moment full of “experiences” (staying home and cuddling on the couch is an experience, too) but I do want to prioritize having fun over having a clean house, being together and enjoying ourselves over feeling accomplished at checking “something” off of our to do list.


We don’t have an infinite amount of time here.  I want to make the most of the time we have.  I don’t want to leave here with any regrets about things I wanted to see, or do, or experience with the boys.  Realizing this about my time in Vienna makes me realize how true this is of life in general.


The vacuuming can wait.  The flamingos can’t.


Discovering Vienna

041As we explore Vienna, I often talk about “discovering” something — a restaurant, a shop, a favorite spot, or a new way to do something.  Yet, my “discoveries” are a little like Columbus discovering America . . . there were aleady people LIVING in America when he “found” it.  (Although, I think I’m going to start declaring locations around Europe, as I visit them, in the name of the Calle clan.)

My “discoveries” are the same — there are already plenty of people who take for granted the knowledge of all the things I’ve been learning and finding out.  For all that this is novel and challenging for me, this “experience” I’m having is just life for people who live in Vienna.  Of course, I’m aware of this (I don’t think everyone here is on an extended semi-vacation) but it’s easy to get wrapped up in my own perspective.

I’ve only been here six months, so I’m still learning new things all the time.  I’m still finding cool new places, and I still get impressed with myself for navigating the U-bahn without a map or actually communicating successfully with a stranger.  I’ve been having a difficult time, lately, at one particular bakery.  It’s near Benjamin’s school, so it’s a convenient place to stop.  It’s not in the central, touristy part of Vienna (where we live) so they speak faster, less clearly and are more likely to give up on me than to try more than twice to say something.  I refuse to give up (the location, and the baked goods, are just too good) so I’ve been going in, almost daily, for weeks.  Today, for the first time, I had a completely German transaction with the most persnickety employee there.  After I had completed my transaction, I was so proud of myself.  I smiled at the cashier, but she was already on to help the next person.

From my perspective, it was a successful transaction, with someone who wasn’t helping me out a whole lot, in German.  (Woo hoo!)  For her, it was a 25 second conversation.  (Not a big deal.)

My successes and discoveries here are my own.  There were already people living here.


Dance Party Osterreich

019On a whim this afternoon, my mom and I packed the boys into the double stroller and set out for a walk with no particular destination in mind.  We got a couple of eiskaffees and started walking down the Ringstrasse to look at some of Vienna’s sights:  the Rathaus, Parliament, the Volksgarten, the Hofburg.  We came upon a place I’d seen before but not visited:  the Burggarten behind the Hofburg.  Dan joined us there when he got off of work.

It was lovely, as most of the gardens in Vienna are, if a little less . . . orderly.  I have not yet seen a place where so many people disregard the “keep off the grass” signs.  But, it was beautiful, verdant and very popular.  Benjamin made friends with a little girl his own age by a fountain — they played chase and flirted until she ran off for an older, badder boy.  (He seems to have gotten over it.)  We really enjoyed it, and it was fun to make another discovery of a nice place to walk and enjoy Vienna.

033Then, on our way out, we joined into an impromptu swing dance party.  Right behind the Hofburg, at the base of the stone steps, on the wide marble walkway, people were dancing enthusiastic, American style triple swing and Lindy Hop.  Dan and I joined in, and Benjamin quickly added himself to the mix.  We all took turns — Liam and my mom danced, too.  It was great to dance again — it’s been a while.  We danced ourselves to exhaustion — even Benjamin just wanted to watch by the end.  And then, when we were done, Dan got up the courage to talk to the assembled dancers and ask whether they get together often (they apparently do, and we got their information).

We had a great day.  I am worn out.  Now I remember why I was in such great shape when I was dancing.