Saturday, May 3, 2008

Good - Bye

Today was our last day in Austria. We spent it inFeldbach with Jutta's parents Waltraut and Rupert. The kids played in the tree house, fed the fish in the pond, had a campfire and roasted potatoes and ran around like wildcats. Everyone had a great time. Mary was able to feed one goldfish named Nemo from her hand. She sat very still with a piece of fish food in her hand eventually Nemo swam up to Mary's hand and took the food - very fun!

When Mary woke up this morning her front tooth was very loose. She was very happy when it fell out a little before breakfast. She has been giving me that very cute toothless grin all day. It looks as if the second one should be falling out any time now. Hopefully, she will wait until we are back in the states.

We catch out plan tomorrow morning. We have to leave the apartment by 8am and we should be arriving at Dulles at 4:30 in the afternoon. It's been fun Blogging with you. This will be the last post for Mary and Suzie's Grand Adventure! It was grander than we could have imagined! Good-bye and enjoy the day!

Photos from Riegersburg Castle

Friday, May 2, 2008

Riegersburg Castle

Sorry for the late posting. I fell asleep at the computer while editing pictures from the day. We had an amazing time at Riegersburg Castle and the Zotter Chocolate Factory.

The day began at Waltraut and Rupurt's house. Adrian had the opportunity to share his tree house in the garden with Mary. I love the gardens and lawns in Feldbach. They are full of dandelions and the grass in untrimmed. In Austria there are not weeds only wildflowers. No pesticides.

Victoria came to the house and we headed to Riegersburg. It is a beautiful castle in the area. We hiked up to the castle. The ruts in the road are from the wagons. The castle is about 800 years old and had never been taken. From the fortress walls to the left you are able to see Hungary and to the right (I forget - I'll ask Rupert!)

We attended an outdoor falcon show. The birds were all raised in captivity. They do not accept birds from the wild. I saw a wild falcon soaring one of our adventures this week - beautiful. The birds were well trained and flew right over our heads. I believe we saw about 10 different birds of prey: hawks, eagles, owls and vultures. The lecture was in German but Jutta translated interesting facts for me. Mary was intimidated when an owl flew right over her head. : ) I thought it was fabulous.

The castle was completely unbelievable. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. The views from the castle walls were absolutely amazing. I've never imagined anything so spectacular.

Lunch was delicious. The atmosphere was perfect. We ate outside under a grape arbor at a local restaurant. The food was amazing and wine fantastic and the company even better.

The choclate factory was really fun. Mary tried all the different types of chocolate. She chose a while chocolate as her favorite. I decided that I liked all of it but prefer a dark chocolate that is not too bitter. But white chocolate is good too. The chocolate was BIO und FAIR which means organic and fairtrade. Eating chocolate to save the planet. It's a concept that I could get into. The chocolate is all organic without preservatives. They do not produce chocolate in the hot summer months because of this. The factory employs about 80 people.

According to Joseph Zotter, What creates passion for some people, may cause sorrow for others. The aftertaste of chocolate can be very bitter, if you pause and think for a while that cocoa farmers work under extremely hard conditions, while other people profit from the fruits of their labour.
Since 2004 Zotter has been a permanent licence partner of FAIRTRADE Austria. Zotter acquires the basic raw materials such as cocoa and cane sugar from fair trade in organic quality.

That's All Folks!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Family, Friends and Lightning

Our plans for today were to travel to Feldbach for Jutta's family reunion. Her father is one of 11 siblings. The reunion began at a wonderful restaurant. I had the yummiest meal. Meat (steak, chicken, pork, bacon and a hot dog) grilled with butter and garlic and served over fried potato wedges served with a salad. The platter was enough for at least 3 people. I ate what I could. I shouldn't have to eat again until Sunday! It was great!

The party consisted of about 60 people, all happy to see one another. Mary was a little intimated by the large party of people laughing and speaking german. She did regain her courage and ran outside to play with the other children. Opa Rupert and Jutta's 13 year old cousin, Joseph played with the children outside. Mary was in her element in a matter of minutes.

After dinner we headed on our next excursion with all of Rupert's relatives. They had a bus that took us from the restaurant to the zoo. The sky looked cloudy but we were hoping the dark clouds would blow over. No such luck.

We began our trek through the zoo with Jutta and her extended large family. We saw the lions, the cheetahs and the baboons. And then the rain came. We headed for shelter in a small pavilion next to an ape house. The rain was coming down in bucket fulls. The storm was quite violent. But we were dry in our small pavilion. The kids played on the fence, with the picture prompt from Madagascar and some log stools.

I was talking with Jutta when the lightning struck. The lightning stuck the ape building next to our pavilion about 15 feet away. When it struck, before we heard the thunder. I felt a vibration and a shock. I looked down at my left foot and saw a spark. In my head, I'm wondering if I was struck by lightning-it was that close. The thought came to me that I couldn't have been struck by lightning because I'm still standing here. Jutta at that point is pointing to the ape house. It was obvious that it was struck. Smoke was billowing out of the building. The thatched roof went up in flames quickly. We moved to another location under an awning. And watched the building go up in flames. The pavilion that we were standing in also was burnt down. The winds from the storm spread the fire from the ape house to our first shelter.

It was very scary. Mary was very concerned about the animals and the people. She now has a very healthy fear of lightning. The two apes in the ape house died. One died instantly by the lightning and the other died in the fire.

The storm was increasing. We needed to get to a better shelter so we rain in a down pour to the gift shop. Once at the gift shop, it began to hail. Some of Jutta's relatives were trapped on the other side of the zoo by high water. They had difficulty getting the kids and strollers through the foot deep water.

Everyone was fine. But the party was over. As we headed for the bus Mary and Adrian pointed out that they only saw 3 animals. We had planned to visit a castle after the zoo but decided against it. We headed for Feldbach and spent the rest of the afternoon with Jutta's parents.

We had a very exciting day even though it was nothing like we had planned. Tomorrow we will be visiting another castle in the morning and then heading to the chocolate factory. We will be spending the day with Victoria. Victoria lived in Hollidaysburg a few years ago for a year. We can't wait to see her.

I have video of the aftermath of the lightning strike. I am having trouble loading it onto the blog. I will try again tomorrow.

Enjoy the Day!