A Sole-ful Christmas – Snowshoeing in Warth, Austria 2014

Starting on December 21, 2014 we took a week long Christmas trip to the easternmost Austrian state, Vorarlberg, a very mountainous and forested region of the country, bordering on Germany and Switzerland.

Was a frosty, fun filled holiday – one that introduced me for the first time to a pair of snowshoes, which had been purchased for the trip back in Graz before we left.

Our hotel for the week was in Warth – a tiny ski village with less than 200 inhabitants. At an elevation of 1495 meters it is among the highest resting municipalities in Austria. The town is small but part of the largest contiguous ski area in the country – also said to receive the largest yearly snowfall in all of Europe.

The snowshoe outings were long, beautiful and exhilarating. For a six thousand year old invention, the modern version of snowshoes made of plastic and metal are not that different from the wood and leather originals used by the ancient Chinese. The wide and open design of both distributes the weight and prevents snow from building up, making them great for otherwise impassable areas in winter.

During one of the longer outings I had the idea of combining a snowshoe with retractable skis. This would enable the hill climber to simply breeze down the next slope before climbing again.

Afterwards I discovered that such a product – “skishoes” – already exists, exactly as I envisioned, lol. Pictured below …


Skishoes or no, the outings were fabulous and the whole visit unforgettable.

And here I have to add a word about our ever gracious hosts from Graz who accompanied us on the trip as well as some locals who actually live part of the year in Warth.

In addition to joining us for the snowshoeing, in which they provided great camaraderie and much appreciated guidance around avalanche hot spots, lol, they kept us entertained with shared meals, slide shows and warm blankets.

They also notably helped put the snow chains on the car tires, which this ol’ boy had somehow never had to do his entire life in Texas, lol. The chains were essential for the blizzard we ended up driving part of the way home in afterwards, lol. But as you will see in the last photo, that’s no joke…

So now please enjoy some of the sights from that wonderful White Christmas!

Next Post: Mountain Lake Village – Zell am See

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Visiting Our Next Door Neighbor – Italy (Ferrara, Tellaro) 2017

Hello everybody! As you can see, I’ve had another long lapse in posts. About 4 years to be exact. But I am in fact still here… and the promised coming posts are… still coming, lol.

And since I can’t be fired from this job as blogger there’s still hope it will all get done… eventually…

Despite the hindrances imposed on us all this last year (I refuse to repeat any of the key words that we’ve heard ad nauseum during the worldwide fiasco), my wife and I are somehow still doing beautifully here in Austria. Hope that’s the case for everyone back in Dallas, too…

So. About the coming posts. I’ve got around a half dozen from previous years to complete before getting back to the present. What else is new?…

As you can see from the title, am starting here with a trip to Italy.

That particular week-long outing, beginning on September 2, 2017, was not the first time for us to that fascinating country. We’d been there twice prior – and I will be posting about those trips as well later (Venice and Jesolo).

Each trip to Italy is like stepping into an ancient world of colored old facades, fountain plazas, painterly cities of gondolas and canals, and castles on the edges of cliffs. In addition to the striking Old World villages throughout the interior it also offers the closest sandy beach to us (on the Mediterranean).

Wonderful is not the wrong word for having such a fun, lovely and historic place – a museum the size of a nation sitting on the ocean – so close by – only a few hours drive from Graz.

So come along with us for a while to this dreamland on our border!

Our first stop this trip was an overnight stay in Ferrara, a UNESCO designated World Heritage village (132,000 residents) in the north central region of the country…

Above and below is the 14th cent. renaissance Castle Estense in the Ferrara town square, built in 1385.

From Ferrara we traveled to the coastal town of Tellaro which has been officially recognized as one of Italy’s most beautiful towns.

The high rugged shoreline and rich blue-green waters of the romantic little hamlet have lured many artists and writers from around the world to live and work in the area, including Byron, Rilke and Shelly, the latter of whom tragically drowned in the waters there when his small boat capsized in a storm.

The pics should say it all, except of the missing magnificent and at times scary multiple hours mountain hike we made high above the rocky seashore around Tellaro. Camera battery was dead that day.

Oh well, sometimes it’s good to be fully present for what you are doing without messing with a camera, especially around steep cliffs, lol…

Direct quotes from the mountain trail give you an idea of some of the scarier moments on that gorgeous hike: “Only for experienced hikers!… Danger of falling!… Steep drop offs!… Overhanging cliffs!… Occasional collapse (of mountain sides)!” Lol.

Neither of us cares for hazards like these – we don’t do the dangerous rope-aided hikes or ones with narrow edged trails, etc, at all. I don’t mean to suggest that this was anything like one of those itself; it wasn’t.

It merely had some dangerous lookout points here and there that were quite easy to stay back from – at least for sissies like us who are trying to avoid the Darwin Award for as long we can, lol…

Unfortunately, there were other victims of the missing camera during this adventure…

A beautiful lunch with Eva’s sister, her boyfriend and his mother and father…

Some bright cool mornings on the terrace above the beach for breakfast with the sister and boyfriend…

And an exciting ad hoc tennis match between the once pro level boyfriend and a local ace, lol…

Regardless, all were transfused into memory – if not into the photo album – with the other scenes from Tellaro below…

Next post: Ski Resort Warth 2014

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Mountains, Skis, Austria, Bliss!

Hello all. I’m still chronologically posting about things done since arriving here in 2012. Trying feebly to catch up to the present.

However, I’ve decided to move on from the bicycling. Although there are many wonderful trail trips to recall in the last 5 years, I think the previous post (on our bike trip to Vienna) captured what cycling through Austria can look like. No need to show all the similar trips we’ve made.

Instead, I’ll switch to some other activities for the sake of variety. Fortunately, there are many to choose from.

Today’s post is from a fantastic blue-sky day in February 2014. Wife and I went cross-country skiing with our guides on the Salzstiegl Mountain, about an hour from where we live in Graz.

It was one of those bright chrystalline days in the Austrian Alps you can never forget. Hard to believe it was three years ago already! A golden memory from an enchanted land…

You will see in the captions below I’m joking around a bit. That’s because I don’t know how to describe the day’s joy and beauty that pictures can offer but a glimpse of…

Yes, but what a glimpse! (haha)

I invite you now to take a look…



Arrival… gear, check…


Team mate, check


Competition (reigning champs), check

Splendor, check

Okay, let the games begin!


They’re off! Team Austria grabs an early lead!…


Team Andrews trails back (but in style)…


The climb seems daunting…


And suddenly where is her team mate?


… fallen hopelessly off the pace!


The leaders are out of sight! – he’ll never close that gap!…


But wait! A fierce effort and he’s right back on their heels!


One last push and he can take the lead!


Yes, yes, he’s done it! – he streaks home in first place!


And now down to the hut to celebrate…


…in the “Buschenschank” – mountain restaurant


Still smiling over the win, Team Andrews consoles a former champ…


And the new one poses with the runners up…


He’s the new king of the hill – but the crowd still doesn’t know his name…


“In the midst of such glory,” he tells them, “just call me Happy!”…

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Bike Pedals Over Gas Pedals – Epic Trails, Austria

During our first winter in Graz,  2012-13, Eva and I picked up where we’d left off in Dallas by playing tennis almost daily. Outdoors in the Austrian winter! It was great! We’d play with gloves on our hands, lol. On at least two ocassions, there were even small patches of ice still on the court! Didn’t stop us. So yes, absolute tennis junkies, guilty as charged.

What did stop us, though, that wonderful winter, was a freak injury to Eva’s foot, which happened during morning jump-rope one day. No bones broken. No joint damage. She could even walk fairly well. She just couldn’t tolerate the pivoting pressure required for tennis. Worst of all, the injury wouldn’t seem to heal. What became clear to us at some point, hard as it was to accept, was that tennis would be out indefinitely.

The foot did eventually heal. But by that time we’d forgotten all about tennis. A whole new phase had begun. The tennis junkies were now hooked on cycling, lol, which we’d tried because it didn’t hurt Eva’s foot. “In every grief and pine/Runs a thread of golden twine.” – William Blake.

During the three years since then, we’ve logged several thousand miles worth of riding. That’s easy to do for bike lovers in Austria. Like Europe in general, it has a mapped system of numbered trails webbing over every corner of the country. Having seen many of these trails to date, I’m convinced there could be no better way to experience the richness of this land than on bike.

A word about riding style. Don’t expect to see us sporting colorful racing tights on carbon bikes with razor tires, lol. That’s not us. Adorned in our light and loose T-shirts, shorts and sandles, stradling soft-seated, cast iron bikes, our style is to nonetheless glide right by the flashier set on our way up the hills, lol.

Of course, some riders outfitted like racers actually are racers. When that’s the case I just wave as they go by, lol.

In any event, beginning today, I’ll be posting photos from each bike tour of the last three years (the ones in which we’ve brought our camera – at least half of them have been camera-free, unfortunately).

But what about the hikes? you say. And the cross country skiing and snow shoeing? I will get to those. Each will be presented in its own sequence when I’ve finished the biking posts.

Which is to say, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

This week’s feature (below) is a really long post. Sorry, but it has to be. It was our most ambitious tour of all, a multi-day trek from Graz to Vienna, entirely on bike! Hope you don’t mind all the pictures!

The journey started on August 7, 2013, with us sleeping in private rent-out rooms and hotels along the way. Our destination was reached in 4 travel days, although we stayed an extra night in Wiener Neustadt prior to entering Vienna on the 5th day.

Once in Vienna, we toured the city on our bikes for another 5 days – on one of them taking a guided bicycle tour of the historical district (discovered this unique tour in a brochure at the hotel).

On the return trip home, because we were running short on time, we rode the bikes only as far back as Wiener Neustadt (about 50 miles from Vienna). Staying there overnight, we put our bikes on a train the next day, riding the rails the rest of the way home.

By the time we boarded the train, we’d covered upwards of 300 miles on bicycle that trip. I hope the following photos will give you an idea of what a beautiful and thrilling adventure it was…


From bottom right on the map, we started in Graz on Aug. 7. The trail crossed north through Bruck an der Mur, up through Murzzuschlag, Gloggnitz, Neunkirchen, Wiener Neustadt, Baden and arrived in Wien (German name of Vienna) 5 days later, after staying an extra night in Wiener Neustadt just prior to Vienna. Five more days were then spent in Vienna. The overall course from Graz to Vienna involves a 1,200 meter climb in elevation – and we felt every meter of it, lol, especially on the first day. Some major climbing done that day…


Departure. Each of the saddle bags holds 42 liters for a total of 84 liters on each bike – like towing two small children, lol. Actually, we had the heavier things in my bags. Eva said that was so I wouldn’t feel emasculated, lol.


An early water break after a change of shirts. Don’t touch the fence – it’s electric, lol…


Long sections of the trails are gloriously tree-lined, as above.


Wooden bike and foot bridges spanned the many rivers, creeks and canals on the way.


Castle ruins like this one, “Ruine Lichtenegg,” shot near Kindberg, are a frequent sight on hill tops across Austria.


Colorful small towns dot the countryside like this one passed near Muerzzuschlag.


A typical Austrian house seen near Muerzzuschlag. Notice the charming “Krueppelwalmdach” roof. These roofs make it look like the houses are wearing rain caps, which in a sense they are, lol. The flower baskets are a national tradition on window sills and bridge railings in summer.


Castle gateway, near Muerzzuschlag.


One of the numerous trail-hugging creeks. Notice the wooden foot and bike bridge.


Historic Pfarrkirche church atop the Semmering Mountain.


On the peak of the Semmering Mountain. When I told my recent German teacher in Graz that my wife and I had once ridden our bikes to the top of the Semmering Mountain, she said in a startled tone, “Respekt!” (German spelling.) Had she known that it was only a small part of a trip all the way to Vienna by bicycle, she’d have fainted, lol.

The “Villa Kleinhans” house on the Semmering – Austrian residence of the Herman Munster family, lol.


Rule one, when climbing a steep hill, even if your wife wants a photo, never stop. Too hard to get going again, lol.

Rule one, when climbing a steep hill, even if your wife wants a photo, never stop. Too hard to get going again, lol.


Rail crossing, Semmering Mountain.


Mountain village passed on the way down the Semmering…


Dramatically perched castle next to the Semmering, as seen on descent…


Parked for the night at one of the rent rooms we stayed in. You never knew what to expect from these accommodations in which a resident rented out a room of his house. In this one a grown man lived with an elderly couple. The man played ping-pong with his daughter all evening outside our bedroom window, lol. In another house the lady had to lock up her wolf like watch dog before she could let us in. Once we were in the room at the top of the stairs, the dog was let back in the house. He wasn’t too pleased we were there, apparently. I could hear him growling up and down the stairwell, occasionally sniffing at our door, lol.


Another trail bridge all in wood.


Bike trail sign. It was great to have these markers pointing the way… when they were accurate. More than once we had what I’ll just call “Austrian sign trouble,” lol, and leave it at that…


No end to the beautiful trees in Austria…


Entering Neunkirchen, charming small town south of Vienna.


One of the town’s historic churches – 12th century…


DSC00248 The pre-auto infrastructure of Austrian towns, like Neunkirchen above, creates many narrow divides – passable, lucky for us, only on foot or bike.


Most villages have canals as well. Neunkirchen. With yet another wooden bridge – covered, at that.


Arriving at the hotel in Wiener Neustadt, where we stayed an extra night because the room was comfortable and we wanted to see more of the town.


Comfy little room in Wiener Neustadt.


Eleventh century church, Wiener Neustadt.


Its interior.


Through the narrow straits…


… and cleanswept pathways of Wiener Neustadt…

... we rode...

… we rode…

Even the water towers in Austria are beautiful (yes, that's what it is, although no longer functioning as such)...

Wiener Neustadt. Even the water towers in Austria are beautiful (yes, that’s what this is, although no longer functioning as such)…

Base of the water tower (bigger than it looks)...

Base of the water tower (bigger than it looks!)…


“In loyalty and thankfulness,” reads the inscription of this memorial in Wiener Neustadt. Translated without Eva’s help, lol…


Tree-lined trails between the towns, this one starting in Wiener Neustadt.


DSC00334DSC00443 On our way from Wiener Neustadt. Next up, Baden, but with Vienna in view…


Lovely pond on the trail between Wiener Neustadt and Baden. So tranquil we sat and read for a while…


Last stop south of Vienna, the most picturesque little town ever, Baden, Austria…


One of the many immaculately preserved buildings in Baden.


Auto-free street, Baden.


Striking court-house, Baden.


Baden was great but it was getting late. On to Vienna!


Wonderful tree-shrouded trails just south of Vienna…


DSC00526 “Wien” is “Vienna” in German! We’re there!


First, through a miles-long city park…


…then into the grand Innenstadt (downtown). Notice the bike lane…


First stop, the 300-year-old, 1,450 room Schoenbrunn Palace, haunt of the Habsburgs – and of a certain home invasion by Napoleon after Austerlitz in 1805.


Schoenbrunn Palace, Vienna.




Can you spot my blue wind breaker? lol.


Schoenbrunn Palace yard, shot from inside the building during our tour of the interior.

Back to the bikes. So much to see...

Back to the bikes. Much more to see in this magnificent city…


… like Hofburg Palace…


… and the parlament building (during our guided bike tour)…


… and amazing passages…


… and the Rathausplatz (city court-house and plaza)…


…. and St. Stephans Cathedral (no apostrophes in German)…


… and Karlskirche (Carl’s Church)…


… and the Hofburg Dome…


… and the Opera House…


… and all the myriad delights in the auto-less streets of the city center…

... surrounded at every turn by the inexhaustible splendor of Vienna...

… surrounded by the inexhaustible splendor of Vienna…


Yes, with so much to take in, it was far too soon to leave! But no matter, we’ll always have Vienna!


Next week: Back to the shorter posts with, “Spielfeld – On the Border”

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Our Welcome-to-Austria Party

About six months after our arrival in Austria, when we’d had time to buy a car, complete the language testing and residency and then find and settle into our apartment, our hosts treated us to an Austrian welcome reception on March 16, 2013. It was a fantastic event. Not only for the fanciful cultural experience it turned out to be, but for the warmth and cheer of everyone involved.

Almost the entire gathering came dressed in “Trachten” or Austrian/Styrian traditional attire, commonly worn here since the early 1800s for special occasions. Eva selected the fabrics and had her dirndle custom made at a Styrian trachten shop out in the country, where my suit was also fitted and purchased.
A traditional Austrian accordion band, “The Fawlkensteiner,” had been booked to entertain – and did so wonderfully the whole evening. Made up of an acoustic guitarist, two accordion players and cellist, who doubled on trombone and tuba, the band delighted with their ancestral vocal harmonies, waltzes and polkas.

Other pre-party pics and poses…


… then, all arrayed in Trachten, the guests arrived…

Eva and I started things off by making a little comment of appreciation in front of the gathering, hers in German, and mine in Texan, lol. Then, somewhat to my embarrassment, we danced a solo waltz for the audience, kindly accompanied by the band. (I tried to refine my Texas two-step enough to fake my way through – to what I’m sure must have been comic effect for the land-of-the-walz audience, lol.)


 But that was in keeping with the occasion, a laughter filled and lively evening. When I didn’t understand something in German, I had my trusty translator (wife) to let me in on the jokes. And though I couldn’t exactly speak good German, she and I moved about the room doing our best to communicate with everyone to some extent. Afterwards I was pleased to hear the others were just impressed with my ability to remember everyone’s names, let alone what German I could manage, lol.

 Und jetz, “Mahlzeit!” (And now, Meal time!)


After dinner, as the band continued, the whole crowd joined in to dance the most beautifully twirling and gliding waltzes I’ve ever seen in person! Fortunately, I found my two-step less embarrassing when thoroughly overshadowed by true dancers, lol.

To heck with embarrassment, lol…


Lastly, to finish the festivities, Eva and I ceremoniously cut the tiered chocolate cake for dessert. We may not be cake eaters ourselves, but couldn’t deny it looked exquisite. Nor that it seemed quite a hit with the others, lol…

In the end, the marvelous fabled atmosphere, the colorful clothing, old language, and sweetly lilting “Volks Musik” – that so defined the evening – gave the event a charm and excitement that were truly unforgettable. It was easily one of the most enjoyable events of my life…
All together now, let’s hear it for…

… the very best welcome to Austria party ever!

Next week: Epic Trails…

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Austrian Tidbits #1

This will be the first in a series of short posts thrown in with the main ones. Each tidbit will pair a German folk saying with a You-don’t-say – a curiosity of Austrian government, culture, language or geography…

German saying:

1. “It’s raining cats and dogs.” The German version is: “Es shuttet wie aus Eimern.” The non literal or connotative meaning in both languages is, of course: “It’s raining heavily.” However, the literal meaning of the German is, “It pours as out (of) buckets.”

Tip. Knowing the literal meaning of the German phrase will help you memorize it. It’s easier to remember the words when they have been invested with meanings, as opposed to remaining empty sounds. Once memorized, try using the German phrase at the first opportunity. When you translate it back to English for your listener, the language contrast will lend a different perspective on the phrase, providing a fun way to freshen up your cliches.

You don’t say…

Austria is an extremely green country, made up of a prodigious 40 percent forest land! How has all that territory remained undeveloped? The answer is fortuitous. It’s simply too inconvenient and unprofitable to commercialize much land on the sides of hills and mountains, except as ski resorts, lol. Regardless of the reason, thank goodness all that beautiful foliage has escaped the saws and bulldozers…

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A Place of Our Own

We moved into an apartment in downtown Graz on November 1, 2012, and have been there ever since. The newly renovated flat is in an “Altbau” – a 100 year old building that sits in the Eggenberg district on the western side of downtown. It’s a bright, spacious maisonette with hardwood floors, a scenic balcony and incredible wall sized windows upstairs and down, including one next to the tub in the bathroom, lol. One of the two giant windows upstairs is on rollers and is the largest sliding window I’ve ever seen. It’s literally 20 feet across! A shot of it below…


And a tomato plant on the balcony, why not…


Being on the outskirts of downtown places us at the foot of the low mountains which encircle the city. Beautiful old houses, some dating to the middle ages, stand on the lower level of the mountains, which start only a few blocks away from us. From that level to the top, however, the mountains are covered in open woods and trails, with castle ruins and little old chapels on some of the peaks, providing a great place for hiking and sightseeing, among our favorite pastimes since moving here. Below, the dark red Kolbenburg House, dated 1579, graces the lower ranges of the Plabutsch mountain…

2013 red house plus

One of Kolbenburg House’s grand old neighbors…

2013 old house 1

Also at the base of the Plabutsch, the closest mountain to us, is the great baroque castle known as Eggenberg Palace. One of the “newer” castles around, work was started on this fascinating structure in 1625 (its inner Gothic chapel was actually built in 1470). The huge palace grounds, just down the street from us, feature a magnificent manicured lawn with towering trees and a lovely Renaissance garden in which a dozen peacocks wander about. Below, an aerial view from Wiki…


Some of the great castle’s rooms have become a museum with scores of paintings and sculptures displayed, and, in one, a premier ancient coin collection. There are immense ballrooms with baroque murals on ceilings and walls and double rows of crystal chandaliers throughout. Each of the chandaliers have real candles set in them that fully illuminate the rooms, as in the days of old! Here’s a shot of me starting up the mountain behind the castle…


Farther into the same hills, on another outing, I captured shots of a second castle, the Goesting. This one is much older than the Eggenberg above, having stood almost a thousand years and is now partly in ruins. Incredibly, it’s completely open to the public – just climb the mini mountain (a natural deterrent to crowding, lol) and, on top, wander through the grounds and buildings as much as you like. Quite often, you have the entire place to yourself, inside and out!




Now we go onward deep into the mountain forests of what we like to call “our back yard,” lol…



Not too many miles in, we come upon another ruin, hidden off of the trail, the 800 year old Pfannberg Castle, utterly overgrown and abandoned, which you see me climbing to over a very steep embankment at the peak…






And yet another of many adventures comes to an end. Time to take the trail down…


… and back indoors again…


While the sun sets on our great Eggenberg “back yard,” as seen from the balcony…

… I hope you can tell why, “Wir sind mit unserem neuen Heim sehr glucklich!” (We are so happy with our new home!)

Next week: our welcome-to-Austria party…

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Crisis Averted

There’d been no reason to believe my Austrian residency wasn’t in the bag. In our first month here, we’d gone to the immigration office a few times already. This time we were expecting to complete the requirements by handing in what we’d been told were the final forms necessary.

Then it happened. At the last minute, the registrar dropped a crusher on us: either I pass the official Austrian German language exam as administered by the state before my visa expired the next month or we had to leave the country, she said.

What a blindside! What a shock! Eva may speak excellent German but you could never have said that of me! The registrar had mentioned nothing of this in listing the requirements during our previous visits! Not a word! (I’ve since learned that Austrian public servants are legendary for this kind of foolery. Maybe that’s why they are frequent fodder in TV comedies here as well.)

It turned out that Austria has a German language law just like the one in Germany. Excepting immigrants on asylum visas, there’s no residency possible without first passing the language test. Fail and you’re gone.You not only have to exit Austria but the whole European Union, lol.

As final as that sounded, the registrar didn’t seem to leave it at that. While we sat stunned in her office that day, she suddenly seemed to think of something else, as if there were still some hope after all. She pulled some books from her shelf and went into this showy search through the pages, as if looking for a loophole that would let us off the hook. While we sweated and hoped, she thumbed through page after page.

The thing I won’t soon forget about this was the inexplicable little smile on her face while she went through these motions. What was she smiling about?

Finally, she closed the last book. With even more devastating effect than the first time, she repeated the awful verdict. There was just no way out for me – or what would have been more precise, no way in. Not without passing the test.

“How can I do that in less than a month?” I asked, dry mouthed. Then as she gave a shrug and shook her head no, it seemed to me something like glee slipped into that little smile on her face. What was going through her mind, I wondered. Was she laughing at us?

Questions started dancing around in my mind: what person in her position wouldn’t already know these requirements inside and out? She couldn’t have been ignorant of such a law! Why hadn’t she told us before? And why had she implied there might be a way out when the rule was so clear and absolute? Was she pretending? Had she been toying with us just to make it worse in the end?

In any case, with less than a month till the exam I had no time to even enroll in a short course with the hope of somehow mastering enough language to eek my way through the test. Having no option, I signed up to take the exam anyway.

Then for three short weeks, Eva and I did all we could to prepare me. I studied self-help materials every day. Eva tutored me when she could. The German program I’d used in the States before moving turned out to be of very little use since it didn’t teach grammar. Almost nothing I’d learned from it would help.

Moreover, the test was to be a comprehensive one, we were told, covering not only reading, but writing, listening and speaking! After the first three exams were over, I would have to come back later in the day for a big verbal test in which I would be expected to talk persuasively in German about what seemed my entire life. The topics would cover work, family, diet, sports, hobbies, children and friends!

But even that wasn’t the end of it. When that part was over I would have to role play in German, impromptu, a scene from everyday life, in which I played one part depicted in a random photograph and the examiner played the other.

Considering the short time left to prepare, we fully expected the worst. Despite the test prep, there seemed nothing left to do but conjure up plans of where on the continent we could go to regroup when I had to leave the country. At last we came up with Croatia (a non EU country nearby). The plan was to live there on savings long enough to study and pass the next scheduled exam when we’d re-enter Austria, maybe early the following year.

When we arrived at the testing center that Wednesday morning the 4th of November, 2012, I was a nervous wreck. Feeling doomed, one of the last things I said to Eva as she left me in the room before start of the test was, “Viva Croatia!”

Ah, but, “Ende gut, alles gut.” (All’s well that ends well.)

The following day, I found out I not only passed the test, but scored in the highest category, lol. On the listening section I missed only two questions, and on reading comprehension only one.

The real stunners were that I got all possible points, a perfect score, on the writing portion (writing emails) as well as another perfect score on both parts of the oral exam (the life intro and role-playing)!

In fact, during the final part of the oral exam Eva was sitting outside in the hall when one of the examiners came out to tell her that she’d been astonished by my performance. My overall score was well into the very top category, called “Sehr gut.”

It’s amazing what you can do when your life depends on it, lol.

Not long afterwards, I received my official German language diploma in the mail from the Austrian government in Vienna. You’ll never know how glad I was to lay that baby down in front of the registrar to complete my residency. The surprise on her face when she read the “Sehr gut bestanden” was worth a million bucks, lol. “Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten.” He who laughs last, laughs best.

For Internet privacy, I've redacted my last name and document number. The

For Internet privacy, I’ve redacted my last name and document number. The “Sehr gut bestanden” near the bottom means, essentially, “Passed with flying colors” lol…

Next week: A place of our own…

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Update April, 2015

Hello to all! I guess it’s time to catch up again after almost three years of silence, ha ha.

The short version is: our move here has been an unqualified blast – notwithstanding an initial scrape with deportation, lol. The fun and fascination have just been endless, from our life in charming downtown Graz to the innumerable outdoor adventures we’ve racked up around the country – bicycle tours, mountain hiking, cross country skiing, snow shoe hiking and more.

To detail it all, I will be posting weekly photos and descriptions from the past three years in chronological order that lead right up to the present.

Life in Austria has been a dream. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t missed the States! As they say in German, “Andere Laender, andere Sitten.” “Other countries, other customs.” There are differences between the countries – good and bad – that require some adjusting. In fact, I’ve noted around a hundred of them to date and will be blogging on these differences in the weeks to come, along with the other posts.

The above folk saying, by the way, invokes another tidbit as well: I now know 95 “Redewendungen,” or German folk sayings by heart, and will also elaborate on these in the future – contrasting the English with the German.

But that’s it for this week. Please look for my future blogs. I’ll send announcements when each one appears.

I do hope things are going well for everyone back in Dallas. Feel free to leave comments here and in the coming posts because I wonder how you are.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, here’s a look at me now.


My first beard ever! Eat your heart out, George Clooney, lol…

Tschuss und bis bald! (Goodbye and till soon),


Next week: My scrape with deportation…

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Your Emails and Other Feedback

Hello again!

Glad to announce the site has already received lots of lovely email and other feedback, for which we are grateful!

This post is devoted to sharing your comments. Below are excerpts from your emails as well as comments you’ve left on the site. Thanks to all for your wonderful input!

**Hi Lindon!
You’ve been in our thoughts! WOW! What a beautiful place! It’s breathtaking! We miss you but, we’re extremely happy for you and your wife.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience and beautiful pictures with us.
Take care and please keep in touch.
Best, Norma- Mckool Smith

Thank you for the update. Graz looks just beautiful, serene. I hope it is everything that you hoped for.
Jeff – Mckool Smith

**Hi Lindon,
It was so great to hear from you. Looks like you are adjusting well and who wouldn’t be considering your surroundings. I loved your travel commentary and the photos are gorgeous… Please stay in touch and post more commentary and photos when you can. It’s kinda like we are taking this journey with you, which I think is very, very cool! Take care Lindon and please give my best to your wife,
Connie – Corporate Green

** Thanks, Lindon. Can’t wait to read all you have to say. Your wife is cute. You two make a nice couple.
Carlene – Mckool Smith

**Spectacular! Thanks for sending.
Joyce (family)

Thanks so much for sharing! I haven’t had time to read it all yet but I will later in the day, thank you so much! Your wife is GORGEOUS and it is so beautiful there!
We miss you!
Enjoy your beautiful life out there! I can’t wait to read it all!
Love, Susan – Mckool Smith

**WOW ~ What a joyful experience to see where you are living and to see all the pictures. Lindon, you are an excellent writer!! You and your lovely wife have a healthy glow and I am so happy for you. I will look forward to other writings and pictures.
Dottie- Mckool Smith

**Hello Lindon!!!!!!
So good to hear from you!! I have just forwarded your email to everyone here. I can’t wait to read your posts, but just scanning the photos takes one’s breath away! Simply beautiful!! Miss you lots guy! All good wishes to you & yours!
Ty – Corporate Green

**Thanks for sending the link. Looks wonderful! Wish you both the best and we miss you!
Gail- Mckool Smith

**…Wow, I really enjoyed … getting an idea of what your life is like there… Please continue to post more photos. Your description reminds me of some of what Annette and I experienced in Europe after college… Brings back fun memories for me! Anyway, we miss you guys and it helps to feel close to you with your commentary and photos. Looking forward to your next post. Love you both,                                                                      Rachael (little sis)

**Enjoyed your narrative and pictures. What a lovely place!
Sarah Anderson- Mckool Smith

**Thanks for the pics. Yeah, I miss ya man… Happy for you and your wife.
Terronce- Mckool Smith

**Lindon, we (and our plants) surely miss you. And I am truly jealous!!
Laura- Mckool Smith

**Lindon, this is awesome!…
Kevin (family)

**Good Morning to you! Hope everything is well with you… It is SOOO gorgeous there… Wishing you well and keep in touch…
PS love the shout out!
Ashley – Lincoln Property Company

**Hi Lindon! the story is great and the pictures too…I’m jealous!!!! Glad to know all is well. All the best!
Genevieve and the Benning US team

**Hi Lindon! I’m so glad you are happy, enjoying life to the fullest! We do indeed miss you greatly here at Corporate Green. Your photos are great, you really captured the moment & feel of the area. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to your next post!
Justin Means – Corporate Green

**Lindon, you guys are living a dream.  It’s beautiful there!  I’m so happy for you!  Please keep us posted!  We miss you! Susan- Mckool Smith

**How beautiful, I love all the photosl!! Thank you for sharing your experience.
Sandra- Mckool Smith

**Are you trying to make us jealous, Lindon? Well, it worked. I’m glad you and your wife are having a grand adventure. YOLO. (You only live once.) Carlene- Mckool Smith

**What a beautiful place!! The city building facades and countryside are so pictureque.  I am so happy for you that you are there, but we miss you.  Best wishes on your new endeavors.
Looking forward to more photos and commentary.
Rosemary- Mckool Smith

**Hi Lindon!  What beautiful pictures!!  Thank you for sharing your experience.  Wow – your journey has just begun!  Corporate Green misses you!!  And we are so happy you are sending us updates!!
Betsy – Corporate Green

**You must be constantly pinching yourselfs, this truly looks like a dream.  I’m so happy for you, and yes, the new guy seems nice, but we miss you on Fridays!  Thank you so much for sharing.
Take care, Kelley- Mckool Smith

**Absolutely beautiful! Loved all the pics. The villa looks like my dream house. The scenery reminds me of Ireland. So amazing. I can’t wait to see yall in traditional clothing… Keep sending posts. Would say that I hope this finds you both happy n healthy, but u post says it all. Am so happy for u both. Take care! Love to u both from the Jackson clan – (family)

**Beautiful!  Thanks for sharing!…
Angela (family)

**Hi Lindon! First, ‘unsere besten’ (‘our best’ if I have it right) to you and your lovely wife!!  I have FINALLY had the time to really look at and appreciate the beautiful photos, and read your fascinating narrative.  May I say you are very well spoken, and the accompanying text to the pictures on your blog is almost poetic.  I found myself being nearly absorbed by the images, as if I were able, for just a moment, to stand on the same street and take in the beauty of the environment.  Simply awe-inspiring and breathtaking!..  Without question, you are missed by many of the people at your accounts, and you are missed within the ranks of Corporate Green.  I certainly miss you Lindon, and all good wishes go out to you and yours! Please stay in touch and email whenever you can. Unsere besten!                                                                                            

Ty and Cathy – Corporate Green


**Lindon… It sounds like you have had an eventful four years and I really enjoyed reading your blog post.  You made a gutsy decision and it is really paying off for you as you are actually living life to the fullest.  Congrats!

Brett – Charhon, Callahan Robson & Garza, PLLC

**Lindon… glad you are doing well! Looks like you have had an eventful few years. The blog and pictures are great… If I ever find myself [in] Austria, I’m going to look you up!

Martin – Charhon Callahan Robson & Garza, PLLC

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments