Neusiedlersee, Eisenstadt

Our first train ride!  We get to go visit Verena!

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This is the third country where we’ve had the company of our friends, Verena and Drew.  First Ukraine, then Zambia and now Austria.  We were always told the Foreign Service was a small world…

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Verena is Austrian.  She is patiently teaching us all the finer points of Austrian greetings (Servus!), grocery store deli meats (leberkase), navigating a German menu (tafelspitz, flecken, knodels and eirschwammerl), and letting us play with her dog, Ivan.  Austrians love their dogs.  Some would say more than their children!

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On Saturday Verena invited us down to her family’s home in Eisenstadt, about an hour south of Vienna by train.  We woke up early to buy tickets, cappuccino and krapfen, and find our way to the Bahnhof.  Once again we are amazed at how wonderful this city is.  Trains!  Coffee shops!  Food to buy!  And this is only the train station!

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It’s fun to ride trains.  The city suburbs quickly open up into fields of sunflowers, surrounded by village farms and people tending their gardens.  We got off at the platform in Mullendorf where Verena rolled up in her car, to drive us through the gentle hills of her childhood home near the Neusiedler See.  “See” means “Lake.”  Here is a picture of the summer homes people have built along the shore.

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They are small escapes, with boats and paddleboards and wide outdoor decks, where people sip wine and sun themselves in the direct midday sun.  They also have outdoor showers.  I believe this marks the first vision Jake and Eli have had of a fully naked woman, outside showering unashamedly on the deck.  “Why is she naked, Mom?”  “Because she’s taking a shower, Eli.”

They also got to drive the boat.  Much more memorable at this age than a naked lady!

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The bottom of the lake is covered in “healing mud,” meaning “mud that is full of sulphur and smells like rotten eggs.”  We didn’t mind that so much because being out on the water was so beautiful.  Jake jumped in to cool off.  He is training to be a Navy Seal.

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After tooling around on the boat for a while we drove to a town called Rust for lunch.  Rust is a popular biking destination for day trips from Vienna, and a popular roosting destination for storks.  Is that why they call it Rust?  All the rooftops have one or two huge nests on top, with storks in various states of roosting and flapping their wings.

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There were also cobblestone streets and heaps of geraniums spilling from every window.  We were grateful for Verena knowing her way through the wineries, restaurants, and churches, to help us dodge across the bicycle trails and settle in for an afternoon of Gruner Vetliner and apricot dumplings.  There are Verena and Jake, walking across the Platz.

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Now, which way is the wine tasting?

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The best part of our day was going back to Eisenstadt to meet Verena’s parents for espresso and cake.  Ice cream, poppy seed cake, homemade elderflower syrup, and more fun with Ivan in the backyard.  Elderflower is called “holandurbluten” in Austria, and is just like St. Germaine.  We are living in a place that celebrates sparkling wine, elderflower, and bitter liqueurs like Aperol and Campari.  The unexpected dreams keep coming true.

Just like today.  Thank you Verena, thank you Drew!  It could not be any better than this.

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