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.)

Public footpaths

049All across England, Scotland and Ireland, we encountered signs marking public footpaths.  These are (relatively) maintained walking paths that the public has a right to use.  It’s remarkable to me because, out in the country, they’re everywhere — not just along the edge of the road, or through parks or other public spaces, but very often through and across private land.

Following several of these public footpaths in England (we did less exploring on foot in Ireland and Scotland) we went across meadows, around lakes, into forests and through (occupied) sheep pastures.  (All of the pictures I’ve included in this post were taken while we were on a public footpath.)  Many of these areas are enclosed by fences and you have to pass 132through a gate (or a stile) in order to enter the field.  As a horse owner, and someone who spent a lot of time during my growing up years on a sheep farm, I’m astonished that this actually works.  (But, I guess it must, because I imagine that otherwise, something would change.)  I would have nightmares about my animals getting out, or someone getting trampled and suing (although things are different outside of the States when it comes to litigation).  Most of the gates we encountered were either kissing gates (basically a livestock comparison to an airlock door) or weighted to fall closed on their own, which is good, because people are generally bad at remembering to close gates (especially when the animals in question aren’t theirs).


Even so, I think it’s a wonderful system, and I’m amazed, yet thrilled, that it exists.  Vast parts of the English countryside are open to the public, allowing so much of the beautiful land to be explored.  We weren’t limited to public parks and sidewalks, we really were able to explore.  It was fantastic.






Grinzing vineyard walk, again

Late last spring, I tucked Liam into the stroller and climbed aboard one of Vienna’s trams (the 38) and rode out to the end.  My destination was a picturesque vineyard hike through the foothills of Vienna’s outskirts, called Stadtwanderweg 1.

I was only moderately successful.  I had a tough time getting from the end of the tram line to the beginning of the hiking route (too many stairs), and although I’d imagined the walk as semi-rural, I wasn’t quite prepared for how isolated parts of the path would be.  I ended up walking just a short distance before heading home, kind of disappointed.

004When Jo moved here, revisiting the vineyard walk was on my list of things to do.  With more information and a companion, I knew I’d do better.  Of course, she arrived in October and leaves at the end of the month, and I hadn’t done anything about it yet.  We were running out of time, so yesterday, we took advantage of the beautiful springlike weather in Vienna and hit the trail.

To start, we took the D tram line out to the end, instead of the 38.  This landed us in Nussdorf instead of Grinzing.  As it turns out, the D tram line certainly was an easier access point to the trail, and the part of the trail it connects to is more suburban and less isolated.  The tradeoff comes, though, in the lack of amazing views — although there’s a pretty creek along the trail, we were mostly walking past fenced yards and driveways.

005We had a nice walk, though.  Spring is in the air (although I suspect winter isn’t yet done with us).  We saw crocuses, butterflies and a bee.  We heard the birds chirping, and even got warm enough as we walked to stow our coats in the stroller.

The entire loop would have been about 6 miles (although it’s extremely hilly — the estimated time given for the route is 3.5-4 hours, and that doesn’t count walking parts of the route at toddler speed).  We only had two hours before the end of B’s school day, so we walked just a little way and then doubled back.  Our pace was slowed by Liam walking on his own, but he was happy to be free, and we were happy to enjoy the sunshine.

006We walked far enough to find the spot where I eventually joined the trail last year.  That section, plus the part beyond where I had previously turned around, was the prettiest we saw, with views up the mountain and over sweeping hillsides lined with grapevines.  Spring is just beginning to wake everything up, so there was a lot of brown and only bits of green (and even some piles of snow left in the shadows), but it was pretty and invigorating as only an outdoor, uphill, country walk can be.

I want to go back again, in the summer or maybe the fall, hopefully on a weekend where we can take our time, stop for lunch along the way, and see the rest of the trail.  I love to walk and hike and see what there is to see, and I’d love to see more of this lovely part of Vienna.  I suspect the view will be even better as we explore further along the path, and I look forward to discovering it.

Hot chocolate at Michaelerplatz

The last few nights at our house have been rough.  Liam is teething again, and Benjamin was having strange (and apparently unpleasant) dreams about Elmo and Grover being at our house, which had something to do with us having to move.  So, we were ALL up a lot the last few nights.  I managed to sleep in a little bit this morning (thank you Dan) but it was still one of those weird days where I can’t quite seem to get anything to happen the way that I want it to and I somehow make it to 4:30 in the afternoon without having done any of the things I intended to get done.

005It being Friday, this concerned me less than it might have on another day (because having one of “those days” at the end of the week doesn’t tend to spiral into the following days, thus leading to one of “those weeks”).  But still, I wanted to at LEAST get my walk in for the day, so around 4:30 this afternoon I started to get the kids changed, dressed and out the door for a walk.  We made it out by 5:00, Dan was due home by 5:45 and I was wondering if it wasn’t just a silly thing to try to accomplish with my day.

I’m really glad we went.  I walked, Liam rode in the stroller and Benjamin rode his bike.  It was chilly, but really lovely — we made it out in time to still have a little sunlight to enjoy the beauty of Vienna.  I didn’t get a lot of exercise in — Benjamin was easily distracted today, and the dark was closing in quickly — but I really enjoyed a nice time out with my boys.


Heading back, we came through Michaelerplatz.  It was just getting to be dusk, and the chilly air was starting to creep in.  We went past Starbucks, and I couldn’t resist — I took the boys in for hot chocolate (really, just for me and B, Liam just got a little whipped cream).  We sat outside and watched evening come on.  It got darker in the square — the carriage drivers lit their lamps, the cars and bicycles turned on their headlights, and the streetlights came on, one after the other, in front of the Spanish Riding School.  Benjamin proudly carried, and drank, his hot chocolate all by himself.










We sat, and talked about our day.  I wrestled Liam (who desperately wanted to get down and walk around on the cobblestones).  Dan got home and walked down to meet us.  I love these moments with my kids — when we share something completely ordinary, yet very special.  Going “to a cafe” (as Benjamin explained it) and having hot chocolate, together, on a chilly fall day, is pretty special.  Doing it in the heart of Vienna makes it magic.

First steps

Liam is now mobile.  Well, he’s been mobile for a while — ever since he could roll over he appeared to have a destination in mind, and once he started crawling, he was off to the races.  I have seriously never seen a child crawl as fast as he does.  Given that we have parquet floors here, his crawling was even at some personal cost:  he’s regularly gotten blisters on his feet and hands ever since he started speeding around our hard floors.

003Of course, first thing this morning, when our backs were turned for 15 seconds, gathering up Benjamin’s stuff for school, he toppled over and gave himself a good bonk on his head (of course, he hit the one part of the edge of the entertainment center that isn’t covered by cushioned foam) and he didn’t make any further attempts at walking today.  I can’t imagine he’ll be discouraged for long, though — that just isn’t in his nature.  (It did put a dent — no pun intended — in his other favorite pastime of banging his head on the floor, though, which he usually does at least a dozen times a day.  Every time he did it today, he burst into tears — poor guy!)  By this evening, our living room/dining room/kitchen had become a race track for Liam with his “push car” and Benjamin with his “push bike”.  (Benjamin is faster, but not for long, I imagine.)

I suspect, now that he’s walking, he won’t look back — he’ll quickly overcome his fear of toppling over, and I imagine it’ll be nice to leave the blistered hands and feet in the past.  It’s astonishing how fast things change.  A year ago, I was eagerly anticipating my due date and Liam’s birth, and now, 355 days later, we are miles from there, in so many ways.