New Year, New Look

The start of a New Year is generally when gyms are crowded, diets are attempted and everyone gets focussed on their goals for 2015. A blank slate with 365 days of promise ahead….you’ve probably seen a few of these ‘inspirational’ gems floating around the interwebs on Instagram or Facebook.

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I’d like to tell you that I’m immune to these cheesy influences, but that would be a lie. And lying in January is unlucky according to Pinterest quotes….

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I’ve had some plans in the works for a while now and lo and behold, January just happens to be the month its all coming together. So today, I’d like to give you all a heads up that the site may look a little different in the coming weeks. I’m planning some fairly exciting ‘renovations’ to my little blog, so I hope you can bear with me while we tweak a few things in the background. It should mean that in a short while you can come back and visit a shinier, more exciting and interactive blog, with more info, more helpful links and more regular posts.

If all goes to plan I’ll be back up and running by February, but if things are a little quiet around here, or the site is wonky, it just means we’re in the process of a makeover.

I cannot wait to share with you guys the new look and feel of Austrian Adaptation, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think. Fingers crossed the tech gods are on my side and all goes well! Stay tuned for new posts, more categories and a whole new look very soon!

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I had to end with the cheesy hand written quote!

 

Austrian Achievements for 2014

Its end of year list making time! Don’t tell me you’re not excited at the thought. Rather than a list of my personal highlights (Bali, Tomatina, skiing with my family if you’re wondering). I thought I’d reflect on what my ‘Austrian Achievements’ have been for 2014, with an eye to keeping track of my progress for the next year.

So, in no particular order here’s a few Austrian skills I’ve adapted this year – if there’s something you’d like to challenge me to do in 2015 please do so in the comments!

Bike Time

I was never a great cyclist. I learnt on the bike paths of the outer Melbourne suburbs with my Dad and siblings on a mountain bike, but never really got the hang of being a ‘city cyclist’ back home. It seemed too intimidating and involved – do I have to know how to fix a bike chain? What shoes do I wear? More importantly, how flat will my hair be after wearing a helmet to ride to work? All of these factors meant I had no notion of the sheer joy of riding a bike everyday, helmet free in a well-equipped-bike-friendly city. Austria changed that for me and now, even in -3 degree temperatures bundled in gloves and scarves I love riding my trusty bike around the city. Austrian Achievement unlocked!

Biking Selfie

Bundled up to ride in my awesome Urban Legend cycling jacket which I looooooove

Supporting Winter Sports

Winter sports were always kind of an entertaining joke to me – like ‘Oh, they have winter Olympics, how cute’ with barely a thought given beyond that. Here in Austria of course its another story. Ski racing is watched religiously on a weekend morning (at least in our Tirolian influenced household) and the Winter Olympics are serious business. I graduated to all-out winter sports support in January of 2014 when we were lucky enough to get a hold of tickets for the Four Hills Ski Jump tournament in Innsbruck. We got to witness the absolutely batshit-crazy-insane ski jumpers launch themselves ridiculously high into the air and float down to earth with skis attached. Its mental…check out the video below:

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It was terrifying, breathtaking and so so much fun. The crowd was rowdy but in a friendly way and, natürlich, we had to hike a wee hill in order to witness the event. Completely Austrian experience. I’ll be backing it up in 2015 by visiting the world famous Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbühel for the first time!

Uncovering the Indie fashion of Vienna

Just over a year ago, I bemoaned the lack of ‘fashion’ in Vienna in this particularly popular post. Just over 12 months later and I am pleased to say that things have definitely turned around. I’ve uncovered a few golden gems with a mix of nordic and local fashion offering an alternative to the High Street chain stores. A few favourites include Kauf die Glucklich on Kirchengasse, the stretch of indie stores along Schönbrunner strasse in the 5th district and the occasional indulgence from Massimo Dutti in the 1st. Definite advancement in Austrian fashion stakes this year – but I still need a fix of Black Milk tights every now and then. Lucky for me a generous soul got me some for Christmas!

opening-wien-kauf-dich-gluecklich-2The hipsters of Vienna were pretty excited for it to open

Conquering Deutsch through Tatort

After some wonderful tips and advice from you lovely readers on this post, I started watching Tatort. The opening credits alone are worth it for their 70’s kitschiness, but the different accents, not-too-complex-storylines and social themes have really helped my German vocab and understanding. I don’t think i’ll be needing to solve any crimes in German anytime soon, but its been fun to muddle along in Deutsch on a Sunday night. I’ve heard there’s a Bar/Cafe in Wien that shows the episodes on a big screen to a huge crowd, so as soon as I get myself there I think I can rightfully claim to be pretty on track to Authentic Austrian status!

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 Nothing says ‘mystery’ like suspicious eyeballs

Es ist Wurst – Conchita Wurst!

It seems silly, but it took a ridiculous song contest to make me feel, even momentarily, that I was a true Austrian. When Conchita won earlier this year, I was screaming, whooping hopping and clapping for joy. Our little Aussie posse who got together to watch Eurovision in all its camp glory were thrilled to see it unfold and banded together in celebration. I walked home that night along the city streets ready to embrace anyone, to see people pouring out of bars with grins on their faces and felt there was hope for all of us in an Austria that supported Conchita, and dammit I was proud to be living in that kind of country. My gushy explanation immediately following the event itself is here.

10881591_1012449668770195_5357570469149393116_nBetter than my average mirror selfie (see above!)

All these little pieces are helping to build my Austrian lifestyle – but I couldn’t do it alone. This blog and our little community here have done more than you can imagine to keep me excited about my emerging Austrian life. Thank you to anyone and everyone this year who shared a post, told a friend about the blog, Tweeted about it or to me, shared my posts on Expat forums, liked it on Facebook, left a comment, mentioned it in a bar, wrestled their partners to read it or generally got involved. I really appreciate each and everyone of you and cannot thank you enough. Let the madness and growth and love and sharing continue in 2015!

DSC03768We can celebrate with THIS MUCH wine!

With continued growth in mind, what Austrian activities should I challenge myself to achieve in 2015? I think trialling Latella is definitely up there, along with improving my skiing and maybe mastering the fine art of baking a Guglhopf…tell me your best ideas and I’ll rally to the challenge in this new and exciting year…Guten Rutch!!

Tirolian Fairytales – Photo Essay

Tirol is a ridiculous place. I’m talking fairytale ridiculous, with mountains, beautiful lakes, quaint villages and the relaxed pace of the countryside. I always feel like I’ve stepped into a Grimm Brothers tale when I visit.

UntitledPicturesque sunsets in Autumn

UntitledGorgeous village homes

UntitledEven the cemeteries are stunning

 The fairytale aspect is only enhanced whenever we spend time with the Misters family. His grandparents live in a traditional farmhouse. It was built by hand, there’s a burbling creek out the back with fish, a cow for your morning milk next door and a field backing onto the forest. I could not make it more stereotypically fairytale-esque if I tried.

But, like all great fairytales, there’s a flip-side. A terrifying, traditional, devilish flip-side.

UntitledThese guys will haunt your dreams

They go by the name of ‘Krampus‘ or ‘Perchten’ (depending on your regionality.) They are truly horrible but put on the most spectacular show each year to serve a warning to naughty kids on the 5th of December.

UntitledDo not mess with them

While St Nikolaus is said to brings nuts, treats and chocolates to children who are well behaved on the 6th of December, Krampus is the scary devil who kidnaps naughty children from their families by throwing them into a coal sack and taking them to hell*. When they march into the village in their gigantic traditional masks, hand woven costumes and booming drums, while the fire pit burns in the village centre, you can almost believe you are back in fairytale-times and the devils will steal you away!

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UntitledThis lot weren’t taking any chances – keeping a safe distance

For the real impact though, you need to hear the drums, smell the smoke and have your heart skip a beat when a smaller teufel comes past and covers your face in black coal dust. The video below will give you a taste, but to really understand the fairytales of Tirol, you might just have to see for yourself….

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*History nerd note – This is the colloquial version of events as told by locals in bars, on the village streets and when trying to terrify an Auslander like me!

Our Italian Roadtrip

Italy in the summertime is about as close to a picture perfect holiday as you can get. Beautiful people, ancient ruins, tasty gelato and beaches of bronzed bodies, all of them talking with big hand gestures and oozing European cool. Wine, antipasto and long lazy evenings are the order of the day.

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Life is always this fantastic in Italy – breadsticks, wine and beautiful people

As a last-minute birthday surprise in August, we headed to the Venezia region with two close friends, planning to indulge in some wine tasting, stroll the Piazzas of Venice and live the bella vita – what could be easier?

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Ready to conquer Italian living

Turns out, everything. Everything could have been easier. We chose one of the wettest summers on record (according to our chatty cab driver) to visit. We ended up driving laps of the highway entrance to Venice. We lost €100 buying a single slice of Pizza.We got stuck in traffic trying to find Jesolo. We spent 1.5 hours on a local bus because we left it too late to get the direct connection to our hotel. We managed to visit Venice on possibly the greyest day I’ve ever seen there.

View of clouds from Bridge of SighsView from the Bridge of Sighs with storm clouds approaching

And every disastrous minute of it was wonderful.

They say travelling is a true test of a relationship, whether that be with your partner or your friends. I’ve seen some pretty epic bust-ups over my years of working in travel, especially when people are tired, hungry, confused and frustrated. All 4 of us were at one point suffering from a combination of those emotions, but managed to make it back to Vienna having not killed each other, which was a minor miracle.

The weekend started well:

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Roadtrip selfies! Whoo!

The itinerary was Vienna – Padua – Venice. Padua was the exciting part for me, mostly because I’d never been, plus it appealed to my inner Shakespeare nerd (The Taming of the Shrew was set in Padua, I guess I was hoping for a theatrical bout of witty banter in the city square?). The icing on my nerdy cake was that Padua boasts the second largest city square in Europe and who can resist an architectural wonder? Not I. The square was so big in fact that I couldn’t fit it all in one photo:

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Untitled It was pretty damn impressive as far as giant city squares go

Padova was classically Italian and beautiful. We even managed to find a favourite restaurant and time our visit with their epic fireworks display for the Festa di Ferragosta*. Although we got a bit lost at some points, we spent most of the afternoon discovering picturesque squares, attempting to speak Italian, taking the occasional ridiculous selfies and eating. Oh the eating.

Ridiculous Italian Dessert

This particular monstrosity could only exist in Italy as a legitimate dessert option

Day two was Venice discovery day and depending on your point of view, it was either an unmitigated disaster or an hilarious shambolic success. Despite losing €100, getting caught in the rain, killing my knees wearing stupid shoes and being frustrated by the fact that a group of 4 people on holiday take at least 15 minutes to make any kind of decision, I had a fantastic time.

St Marks Square

 Note ridiculous shoes, grey skies, the smudge of rain on camera lens…and us, blatantly ignoring it all.

I’d been to Venice so often as a tour guide that it was a delightful change to relax, go to the outlying islands and switch off my brain to meander like a tourist for once. Oh, and did I mention the wine and eating?

UntitledGelato eating in particular. This may be my favourite photo of all time. 

By Sunday we were ready to go home, having gorged ourselves on Italian life – I’m pretty sure my metabolism is not built for endless plates of pasta, bottomless wine glasses and prosciutto by the boatload. S had one last birthday surprise in store for me though. He talked us into a slight detour, which seemed like a disastrous decision when we were crawling through the Italian countryside, stuck behind campervans, geriatric Austrians and cars full of Italian families. The payoff was worth it though. After a 2.5 hour detour we arrived here:

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That my friends is a beach. An honest to god, sand in my toes, 35 degrees in the sunshine, salty ocean water beach. My Australian heart leapt at the site – it had been a long, long time between beach visits and it’s the one thing that Austria can’t offer me. Family can visit, friends can Skype but Austria just doesn’t have the long sandy salt-water beaches of Australia. Except for this particular Sunday – we found Jesolo beach in Italy. On this Sunday, with my close friends, it was just about damn perfect.

 IMG_1707The face of sheer joy, right beside the squint of a man without sunnies

*History nerd note: This festival allegedly began with Emperor Augusta from Roman times encouraging people to celebrate a ‘lazy summer break’ in reward for the hard work of harvesting agriculture. BONUS FACT in the Fascist era it was a 2 to 3 day holiday break where lower social classes could cheaply get access to the Italian mountains or seaside through Government organised trips. Nerd fact win!

How to Learn German in Vienna

I thought I’d learn German in about 12 months. I figured that seen as I lived in a German-speaking city and had decent motivation (desperate need to order coffee without stumbling on my words) it would simply come to me in good time. Presumably in the night, like a lightning strike, or a giant slap to the side of the head. One year seemed, to my naive ambitious self, a perfectly reasonable amount of time to pick up the intricacies of conversation.

I’ve since discovered 3 things;

1) I’m not a patient person

2) 12 months flies by when you move to a new country

3) Learning a language is not as easy as movie montages make it appear (damn you Colin Firth in Love, Actually!)

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I’m now two years into my Expat life in Vienna and still at a beginners level of German. I can follow conversation in a group of Deutsch speaking friends, thankfully coffee & brunch ordering is now possible too. But the true art of expressing myself fluently still eludes me.

Brunch at Freyung

Life priorities

I’ve tried intensive courses at IKI, which were challenging but got me the building blocks. I’ve experimented with reading children’s books with S to reach the language the same way I learned English – through a love of reading. Now I’m enrolled at the Deutschinsitut, a slightly slower paced course better suited to full-time work schedules.

The kicker in Vienna is – everybody speaks English. Including my entirely English-speaking workplace. With such a flood of tourists and International organisations in the city, you could actually get by without learning a scrap of Deutsch. But I’m pretty sure that makes you an Expat arsehole.

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Never, ever, be this guy

 So here are a few ways I’m trying to force myself to speak more Deutsch everyday –  if you have any language learning tips to add please let me know in the comments!

– Talk and talk and talk at home. I wuss out of talking Deutsch at home. All. The. Time. I’m like a 1950’s housewife avoiding sex, with my standard lines of ‘I’m just so tired today’ ‘Its been a really long week’ ‘Do you really want to? Right now?’. It’s the biggest challenge, but should be one of the easiest to overcome – it just takes discipline from you and your housemates.

– Text message auf Deutsch. This is an everyday activity that will sharpen your writing skills. I can follow conversation face to face, but my spelling and conjugation when writing Deutsch isn’t great. Texting gives you some everyday practice. Just make sure you only try this with your native German-speaking friends – group Whats App messages in German with the English-speaking family don’t go down so well.

– Read the free papers & familiar magazines. The U-bahn daily metro papers are filled with small, easy to follow articles with pictures. I can’t understand every word, but the gist of the article can be pieced together with regular reading to extend your vocab. I’ve also had a go at purchasing the Deutsch version of Cosmo. Even when written in another language the articles about ‘This seasons hottest Winter Coats’ & celebrity interviews are the same format as in English, making it easier to follow along.

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‘Dress Up’ & ‘Sex Appeal’ are apparently universal phrases 

– Ask for help. When you’re talking to a native speaker and they say a word you’ve never heard, ask what it is. Yes, it will be excruciating, yes it makes you feel about 10 feet tall, but if you don’t ask, your friends can’t help and you won’t learn. Suck it up and ask for help (still my biggest challenge!)

Lastly, there’s a few different language schools that offer courses at varying price levels to get you on your way to comfortably speaking. Courses aren’t for everyone – some friends have learnt German from reading comic books or spending time deep in the countryside where there is no other option – but for me, the structure of a school and deadlines keep me honest. A few of the better known ones are:

www.berlitz.com – One of the most expensive. Strictly only apply if your workplace can afford to cover the costs. They have 1 to 1 sessions, small groups and private office tutoring available.

www.IKI.com – My first Deutsch Kurs experience, it’s very thorough, moves at a decent pace and they offer intensive day time courses and 8 week evening courses. Your certificate from the OIF is included in the price, which is worth keeping in mind when you compare to other cheaper schools.

www.deutschinstitut.com The current option I’m trialling, these guys are reasonably priced, in the central 6th district and use the same workbooks as IKI. Their evening courses are particularly popular.

www.deutschakademie.at These guys are the budget conscious option in Vienna. When I first moved here and money was super tight we looked into courses here. To be honest, their offices and setup put me completely off when I went to enrol – everything felt cramped in, they were using old computers despite their location on the Ringstrasse it just seemed, well, cheap & nasty. Friends have studied there and liked the additional materials but I’m not sold on it myself.

My Deutsch is still a work in progress, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s tricks to picking up a language – if only to give me hope that I will one day conquer the dreaded German Grammar!

Leibster Award Nomination!

Exciting blog community news! I’ve been nominated by the lovely Thom Kuntz from The Smile-IT Blog to participate in the Liebster Awards. As the name might imply, its a German thing, but don’t worry, I’m most definitely going to be writing in English (new Deutsch course starts next week – might be a while longer until I can write auf Deutsch!!).

The Liebster Awards are a fun way to find out more about some of your favourite bloggers and see their answers to curly questions about why we play this whole blogging game anyway. The rules of the game and my nominations are below – but first, to the questions as asked by Thomas:liebsteraward

1. Who’s reading your blog and why are they?

Funnily enough, I have a lot of Austrians following my blog, which is lovely, as I write about my experience of Austrian life. There’s also a decent number of Americans, British and Aussies mixed in. As for why – well, I like to think they enjoy my unique perspective on all things Austria, but it may just be they get a kick out of my naive struggles and confusion! Probably a mix of both.

2. What are you gaining by producing content for your blog? What makes it worth it? 

I started the blog initially as a way to channel some creativity when I first arrived in Austria. I was completely broke with no visa, no job, absolutely no ability to speak Deutsch and no friends. Writing about my positive experiences and the funny things I noticed gave me an outlet and some purpose. Now, its worth it because even though my life here got much much better, I still love having a creative space and way to chronicle the crazy experiences of being an expat, travelling and generally getting through my twenties and beyond.

3. What do you love the most to write about?

The adventures I have with my mister – whether its a travel adventure to Bali or just a new brunch spot we found in the city. Discovering something new with someone you love is so much fun, you can’t help but share that enthusiasm in writing.

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Added bonus – photos are better with people in them

 4. What are you reading?

I just finished Khaled Hosseni’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ along with Lena Dunhams ‘Not that Kind of Girl’. I’m a book maniac and can pretty consistently be found with a novel in my handbag and another one on the bedside table – my bookshelves are jammed full.

5. How much in your blog is “private” life? How much is job life? How much is mixed?

The blog is definitely my private life – sometimes my travels will be due to work but I’m always writing from a personal perspective.

6. What other public appearances do you maintain (like e.g. facebook or TED talks)?

I have a Twitter feed @carlyhulls and Instagram account which is open to follow. At work I host regular On Air video Hangouts (checkout the TourRadar Youtube channel) and I’m trying to get off Facebook as much as possible. My dream would be to host a TEDtalk one day…feel free to pitch me!

Glorious Oktoberfest weekend with this stunner #oktoberfest #tourradar #travel #topdecktravel #amazing

A post shared by Carly | Austrian Adaptation (@carlyhulls) on

7. What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened with or by a blog post of yours?  

I cringe at my early posts – the pictures are embarrassing and the writing isn’t great, but I think its important to keep early, mildly terrible posts online because when I first started blogging I checked the early posts of some of my favourite blogs and it gave me hope!

8. When was the last time that you sang a song (in the shower or on a stage)?

I tend to turn regular sentences into a song at any given time, I don’t even know I’m doing it, it just suddenly becomes an Aria or silly tune. I think the last time I did it was about 40 minutes ago!

9. How many devices do you own and which?

 Samsung S3 mini phone although its soon to be replaced, shared household iPad 2 and my beautiful shiny new desktop Mac that I adore using for all things blog related.

10. Do you only use the web interface on your PC to blog or do you also use your mobilephone, email-2-blog, …?

In a pinch I’ve posted from my mobile but I much prefer writing on a bigger screen and getting an overall feel for the post.

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 Snapshot of my desktop at this very moment…little slice of heaven

11. Joker: Are you on your own, live with your Love, have a family or still reside at your parents’?

Living with my lover-boy in Vienna, in the 14th district.

My Nominations:

A selection of expat ladies’ blogs

http://accordingtotiff.wordpress.com

http://tinasrabbithole.wordpress.com

http://becomingaussie.wordpress.com

http://thecharmedcupcake.com

http://shootingvienna.wordpress.com

http://confuzzledom.wordpress.com

And two pretty well known blogs – but I’m a huge fan and would love their responses!

http://loveandlondon.com

http://www.livhambrett.com

Rules to go by:

  • Start with saying thank you and linking to the blog having nominated you
  • Add the award plate image
  • Answer the questions given
  • Chose 5 – 11 other blogs – the intention is to make little known blogs known
  • Formulate 11 questions of your own to challenge your nominees on. No boundaries and limitations on creativity whatsoever …
  • Repeat the rules nicely at the end of your blog
  • Send a nice little eMail to your nominees adding a few explanatory lines
  • That’s it. You may wanna add the optional “rule” to leave a comment at the nominator’s blog – it’s like a nice little virtual bouquet and another way of saying “thanx”

Questionsliebsteraward

Why did you start your blog?

What’s your most popular post and why do you think it is?

When/how do you fit in blogging around your everyday life?

Are you a chocolate or lollies (candy) fan?

What is the blog that inspires you the most?

Do you have goals for your blog? What are they?

What’s your favourite thing to write about?

Which social media profiles are you most active on? (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr…..)

What time/day of the week do you normally post?

How has your blog improved your life? 

What’s the number one piece of advice you have for fellow bloggers?

Looking forward to seeing their responses – go check out my nominees blogs now, they are all delightful fun. Big thanks to Thomas for the nomination!

I’ll be back to regular posts shortly after a quick trip to Tirol this weekend (wish me luck its bloody snowing up there already!!)

Bali Tips – Nusa Lembongan

I’m jumping around a bit in my posts – I’ve been on so many little trips recently that I still need to fill you in on, from Venice, to Valencia, London, Oktoberfest and a few little side trips around Austria still to come – so I hope you’ll forgive the broken timelines. Despite all these wonderful little jaunts, my heart right now keeps returning to memories of Bali. Perhaps because the weather here in Vienna is turning grey and the daylight hours are getting shorter, or maybe because we’ve had enough distance from the after-effects of Bali-belly (yes, its real, and no, you don’t want the details). Whatever the reason my brain keeps skipping to snippets of our little paradise island and the incredible start to our summer break. So, to make my daydreams more useful, I thought I’d share a few insider tips for travelling to Bali, in particular, Nusa Lembongan.

I straight up loved Nusa Lembongan. It was the perfect mix of a small-scale touristy development and rough island escape, just off the east coast of the main island, between Bali & Lombok.

bali-mapThe teeny one beside Penida

Our main reason for visiting Bali was a wedding, so we had a lovely first week filled with family, cocktails, friends and celebrating on the mainland of Bali. However, after a week of Aussie-style partying and touristy resort-style holidaying in Legian we were ready for a change of gears, which Nusa Lembongan certainly delivered.

The easiest way to get there is via little local boats, as there’s a number of companies that run transfers direct from Sanur. We went with Scoot because the internetz assured us it was the most reliable and well priced cruise line, but we later found out any one of the 6 or so major operators would be cheaper and just as reliable. It can be a rough ride over if the weather is a little choppy, so if you’re not great with small boat transfers, brace yourself to look like this after a 45 minute ride:

Lembongan arrivalExcited-but-debating-whether-to-vomit-face

Arriving on the island felt like stepping back to how Bali might have been 20-odd years ago. Before the mega clubs, the Aussie influx and ‘investment properties boom’, before super-hotels and McDonalds and Starbucks and KFC and cheap surf-shops and Eat, Pray, Love tours. Nusa Lembongan is still a touristy spot, but I actually saw locals in the streets, grilling fish, working, riding mopeds and going about their daily lives that weren’t wholly focussed on servicing tourists. Speaking of streets – there’s one. Just one, single street. It consists wholly of broken up bitumen, gravel and dirt – suitable only for mopeds.

Nusa LembonganThe ‘main drag’ and best stretch of road on the entire island….peak hour traffic in action, obviously.

There’s also only one ATM on the whole island – which can cut out for days at a time depending on the power supply, so come to the island cashed up and make sure you have credit cards to pay at hotels and some restaurants. The warungs where locals eat will most definitely not have EFTPOS machines, but the bigger, regular restaurants will.

In terms of food there’s only really two restaurants I would wholeheartedly recommend:

Bali Hai Located on Mushroom Bay, right where a lot of day-transfer boats do drop-offs, this restaurant was connected to the Hai Tide Beach Resort and had reliably, deliciously good food. Toward our second week on the island both S and I were struggling with the delicate Bali-belly, so Bali Hai became one of our go-to restaurants, as we knew the food quality was good, nothing was going to make us sick(er) and most of all, the views were to die for. You are literally sat on the beach-front watching the waves roll in as the sun sets. It’s open seating so you can stroll up in your thongs (flip flops for you non-Aussies) straight from the beach and enjoy their excellent service and drinks list. There’s even little bean bags out the front on the sand so you can sit and relax in a group. I really enjoyed my steak here and the creme brûlée is excellent – but you could stay for the views alone…..

Sand and ocean are RIGHT THERE, behind the cute boy’s head

Sandy Beach Resort: This was our brunch lifesaver. I’m all about eating local and enjoying the culture of a place i’m visiting, but when it comes to brunch, all bets are off. Sandy Beach Resort has been designed exactly for the likes of me – a traveller who enjoys their home-style good coffee, likes to indulge in breakfasts and cannot pass up a beautiful beachfront seat. While dinner here is superb, it’s a lot pricier than anywhere else on the island. We tended to visit here in the mornings to mix up the monotony of our hotel brekkie. Sandy Bay is best when it’s near-to-empty, quiet and you can be guaranteed a table right on the sand to luxuriate over breakfast. The bliss of waking up early, jumping on a moped with your lover to enjoy a relaxed brunch overlooking the surf is as close to heaven as it gets for me. This place also hosts weddings and is jam packed at night – you’re best to book a table in advance. The restaurant will also organise a shuttle to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. Otherwise the moped journey home in the dark can be treacherous!

Necessary Coffee

 We loved it over coffee in the morning….

Sunset angle

….and over cocktails at sunset

Which brings us to my final tip for Nusa Lembongan. Beware where you stay. Although looking at the map on Booking.com you will notice most hotels are situated on the main central strip of Jungut Batu Beach, do not stay there. You’ll be close to the sometimes-working ATM, but the hotels and restaurants and beachfront here are not great. They were some of the earliest built accommodations and the area is more designed for the serious surfers who want a cheap place to stay that’s super close to the surf breaks. If you want a proper island getaway resort, find a place in and around Mushroom Bay, Tamarind Beach or Dream Beach, all of which have very reasonably priced options. Or if you really want to get away from the world then there’s a few special places on the connected island of Nusa Cenigan – slightly further removed from the ‘town centre’ but completely idyllic and quiet. There’ll be more about my favourite beach there in a later post….

We stayed at the lovely Nanuk’s Beach Bungalows in traditional thatch-roof huts and enjoyed the extremely friendly staff (Jacob is the BEST) and laid-back atmosphere. Most accommodations will rent you out a moped to get around easily. For about €4 a day its an absolute must-do to explore the wilds of the tiny island and really feel like a local.

There’s a lot of reasons to visit Nusa Lembongan. For the cheesy photos, for the authentic Balinese atmosphere (even though tourism is clearly taking hold of the place) for the views, for the slower pace of daily life that forces you to relax, for the stories you’ll bring back. But mostly, you should go there to strong-arm your mister into taking freckle-faced selfies, to run around barefoot in a sarong all day and to feel completely young and free on the back of a moped, no matter what age you are.

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Getting healthy & nude in Austria

I may joke about it often, but when it comes to healthy living, Austrians really do have their priorities straight. Getting up early on a Sunday to go for a hike in the woods was never, ever my idea of an ideal Sunday morning, but here it seems to be a regular family habit. There’s a few ways that the Austrian attitude to healthy living, traditional home-made meals and body image in general has started to impact my own attitude to fitness and, shockingly, shifted my Sunday focus to hiking instead of brunch. Well, at least to hiking a little bit BEFORE brunch. Here’s why:

1. Austrians think about exercise socially. Throughout my life (and maybe this is different for the dedicated fitness fanatics) I always thought of exercise as work. Not a fun pastime, but hard, time-consuming work and effort. You HAVE to go to the gym screamed TV, magazines and (loudest of all) the guilty voice in my head. Sports and P.E class in school were enforced – despite my very clear lack of skills in the ball-throwing department. Running was about the most tortuous thing I could imagine (still is). I tricked myself into exercise by doing fun things, like dance, ballet, calisthenics and running around in drama classes. But here, exercise is a means to a social end. Hiking is something done with a group of friends with beers to celebrate afterward in a local hut. Volleyball teams spring up at the drop of a hat in summertime. Skiing is about the most social sport I know – with the little breaks for schnapps making it a particularly appealing ‘sport’ – generally done in friendly groups. The point being, Austrians don’t see sport as work, it’s a natural extension of their interaction with their mates. Genius.**

DSC04737The views when hiking on a Sunday don’t hurt

2. Austrians accept their bodies. When I did join a gym my first year in Austria, the number one thing I noticed was the ease with which the women around me accepted their bodies. Not in a flaunting way, but in a very ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ nonchalant manner. It was incredible. They were of course in a gym to exercise, but there was none of the ‘I hate-my-x-body-part’ and ‘oh I wish I was a size ten like you’ negative type of conversation and behaviour that is so ingrained in Aussie women. Australian (and I think Western) female body culture is primarily about shaming yourself for being fat or not having a thigh gap, or not being ‘curvy’ in all the right places. Here, women of all shapes and sizes were comfortably wandering around the change rooms naked- young, old, fat, thin, hairy, freckled, you name it. This is a society completely at ease with its human form. Either that or I was deeply misunderstanding the old ladies’ german conversations. Why and how did they get so confident? Well, I think it’s because…

3. Austrians are around naked bodies from a young age.  I haven’t yet written about my first European sauna experience. That story deserves a post all of its own, but suffice to say, it was my third date with S and definitely more than I bargained for! What I’ve discovered since that shock introduction to nude-friendly folk, is that Austrians are much more comfortable with their bodies. Whether they are in the sauna, or sun baking at a nudist beach or even generally sitting by a lakeside, there is a 95% chance that someone nearby will be naked. Not gratuitously. Just straight up enjoying the sauna/beach/lake with their kit off. Austrian kids are surrounded by this attitude their whole lives. I’ve seen families swimming in a lake all completely naked, together with their young children. Rather than being creepy – which would be the classic reaction of my repressed inner-Englishwoman – it seemed natural and normal. In fact, thinking on it afterwards, I wondered if our ‘western’ repressive, overly-politically-correct attitude to nudity may contribute to the high rates of anorexia, bulimia, not to mention obesity in Australia and the US. If kids see realistic human bodies in their own backyards or beaches with their scars, flaws and rolls, instead of bodies that are photoshopped or distorted from plastic surgery, surely that can only be a good thing? I’d love to know what you guys think…

Non-gratuitious and most definitely non-sexy nudity by the lakeside (stock photo imagery used!!)

4. Have you seen older Austrians?? They are a hardy, hearty bunch. Whittled from years of hiking, being outdoors and I can only assume a super-human strength to digest and process metric tonnes of pork and potatoes over a lifetime, older Austrians are extremely healthy. It can’t hurt that the government helps support retirees by sending them on yearly ‘health and wellness’ retreats for 2 weeks, known as ‘Kur‘. This is part-funded by the government and from the look of Austrian retirees I’d say a worthy investment.

old arnie

 This is, uh, not quite what all older Austrians are like….but ridiculous Arnie photos are the best!

5. Incidental exercise is easy. In Vienna safe bike lanes are plentiful. Elevators in old-buildings are slow, or non-existent, so you take the stairs. The city is flat and well-designed enough to walk around it without excessive exertion. You can get by without owning a car at all, which removes the temptation to sit in it for ten minutes instead of walking for twenty minutes to get to your destination.

All in all, Austria makes enjoying exercise feel easy, rather than like hard work. This weekend they even had an entire festival in Heldenplatz to celebrate and encourage people to play more sports, the ‘Tag der Sports’, full of different sports clubs promoting their specialties:

 

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 Where Judo suits were accepted and cool

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 Simulated skiing on grass

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I have no idea what sport this is, but it looks totally badass and ninja related

In short, the Austrian attitude to sport is teaching me the simplest of lessons – to finally enjoy it, and embrace the body I have. To find the form of exercise that works. For me that’s a mix of cycling to work, early-morning Blogilates sessions and yes – hiking on a weekend with S. And if you need the lure of a delicious brunch at the end to keep you going, that’s ok too.

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Home-made brunch is the best brunch!

**NB perhaps this is true of any country, but as I am, ahem, a slow developer in the ‘enjoying sports’ realm I’ve only noted the Austrian penchant for it!!

Eating around Melbourne

When on holiday, I always manage to eat way more food than usual. I’m not talking about eating to fuel your body, but eating as the main – and sometimes only – activity of the day. Serious food dedication. With nothing else pressing on the agenda, eating exotically can become the sole focus of holiday activities. A dangerous and delicious slippery slope! This was the unavoidable situation I found myself in when I travelled back home to Melbourne for a short visit late last year.

 

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S pondering his next meal choice…

Luckily, Melbourne has a massive foodie scene, and the restaurants you trip across down back alleys (literally) are usually gourmet delights. I could (and have) spent days trying out different cafe’s, brunch spots, hidden bars, hipster hangouts and lush restaurants. Food art is taken very, very seriously and the atmosphere of the restaurant is nearly as important as the food itself. So, what rocked my boat?? Read on…

Brunch Spots

I miss brunch. I yearn for poached eggs and wilted spinach on a sourdough toast when in Vienna. Brunch used to be my Sunday habit when I lived in Carlton. Meeting friends at a cosy cafe to debrief about the weekends shenanigans was our own kind of religion. What seemed like half of Melbourne would be doing the same. Naturally then, my first port of call on landing in town was catch up brunch:

Brunch O'clock

We went to the adorable and airy John Gorilla‘s to get my my poached egg craving  satisfied. Good service, great coffees and most importantly they allowed us to while away over two hours of catch up chats. Despite the place being near full, we weren’t hurried along or made to feel uncomfortable. Brilliant!

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Happy brunch fans

phwoar Brunch!

So thrilled to be eating good brunch!!

However my favourite brunch spot of the week has to go Annoying Brother on Nicholson Street. A short stroll from buzzy Lygon Street, this place was adorable, with great spins on classic brunch items, service was chatty and friendly but not too in your face. Their coffee was so great I had one pre and post meal and the smashed avocado with feta and a poached egg was scrumptious. Plus, look how cute this place is!!

Annoying Brother

They even speak my adopted language!

Main Meals

I was in town for my sisters birthday, so our family had multiple excuses to go out for meals all week. The first place we went was a surprisingly lush and high end Indian Restaurant, hidden (where else?) down an alleyway in central Melbourne. I vaugely remember the site used to be a nightclub, and walking down there you almost believe you’ll be entering a dingy bar.

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Melbourne’s famous alleyway street art

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Shoes hanging from what I hope are not electricity lines outside the restaurant!

Once you find Tonka, it is a surprisingly gorgeous open and airy restaurant looking over Flinders Street. Completely unexpected at the bottom of an alleyway! We were there for lunch so the place was soon filled with well dressed Melburnians enjoying the extraordinarily good food.

Tonka

The views before the mad lunch rush

This is not your average Indian curry and korma, this is beautifully infused, delicious and high quality Indian. An absolute highlight of the week. Service was impeccable, and the wine and cocktails were… well, lets just say our ‘lunch’ ended at 5pm, so we thoroughly enjoyed it all!!

fancy drinks

A very close second was the much hyped Meatball & Wine Bar. Located in the alley-adjacent Flinders Lane, this place was brilliant. Who knew such wonderful things could come of eating meatballs?? We wandered in late on a Thursday evening after a hearty day of touristy shopping and were lucky enough to land a table. Apparently the wait times here can get out of control in the evening. Walking in, the place felt more like a hot-spot bar than restaurant, with dim sexy lighting, couples flirting at bench tables and a party vibe throughout. Once the food came out though, all that trendy, edgy stuff was irrelevant because man, are those meatballs good!

Alleyway restaurant must-have;  artfully deconstructed brick walls. 

It’s very simple really – you choose your meatball type (beef, pork, chicken or veg), select the ‘bed’ you want it to rest on (potato mash, pasta, vegies) and the sauce you want drizzled on top. Voila! It’s that straightforward, and so so delicious. My mum  was telling people about her pesto mash potato for days and days afterwards. The extra fun part was the size and genius of their desserts. I can’t resist dessert – try as I might to be healthy – and I believe the Austrian love of sweet treats has only encouraged my weakness! Meatball & Wine bar did not disappoint on the dessert front, take a look at this delicious specimen:

Heaven. Or a heart attack. 

That, my friends, is heavenly home made ice cream sandwiched between two cookies. The best bit is, you construct sandwich the same way you construct your main meal. By choosing from six flavours of cookies and three flavours of ice cream to create the perfect dream dessert. I went for a lemon shortbread cookie on the bottom and chocolate cookie on top with classic vanilla ice cream in between.

It. Was. Incredible.

I wish I had photographic evidence of my joy but we were so caught up in the frenzy of eating such deliciousness that there was no time for photos. We headed home in an overstuffed, satisfied food coma…but not before I noticed the drinks special on offer at the Bar:

It seems the Aussies have discovered the Austrians favourite summer cocktail. Aperol Spritzers are a must have on any self respecting Austrian menu, and finding a venue in Melbourne that sold spritzer’s by the carafe gave me a little bit of hope that maybe my two homes aren’t so far apart after all. Malzheit!

Summers Day in Schönbrunn

If you happen to find yourself in Vienna during a summer heat wave, let me share a little insiders secret trail to heavenly relaxation.

First, take yourself to the famous Schönbrunn Palace and marvel at the resilience of tourists who insist on sightseeing in 36°C and beating desert heat.

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Its basically a desert wasteland – with a palace in the middle

Take a left away from the palace, away from the famous rose gardens and meander past the Marionette theatre until you reach these picturesque gates on the right hand side:

Schonbrunn Gates

Habsburg gardens don’t do understatement 

Pass through the gates and don’t be disheartened by the long, dry and dusty path ahead of you. The trees to the left and right will offer some slight relief from the heat.

Schonbrunn Walk

The snazzy Austrian man in green pants will definitely outpace you

If you stroll at a relaxed and steady pace for ten minutes, you’ll soon reach the following staircase, which may look insurmountable to your heat addled brain, but quite ordinary afterwards…

Stairs to Schonbrunner Bad

Your trek up the stairs will be rewarded with this magnificent view over the Egyptian Obelisk monument, the back of the palace and the simmering city skyline.

Monument View

Take your breather here and admire the view

At this point you will start to see children skipping and locals carrying what looks suspiciously like beach and bathing gear.

Strolling to the Bad

 Ignore the overly dedicated runner on the right, and follow the family with the swimming bag!

Suddenly, like a mirage (because who could imagine a swimming pool inside the palace grounds??) the Schönbrunner Bad will appear on your right hand side, and it will be a revelation.

A rolling hillside of green, a bright, clean and cooling pool, big enough for lap swimming, the occassional divebomb and lots of poolside lounging. Most importantly, it is cold and wet and so so soothing after your trek to get here.

Heavenly Pool

Simply pick your spot, splay your towel, and kick back for an afternoon of sunshine and relaxation. Of course because this is Austria, there’s options for activity available…

Beach Volleyball Court

 This particular round got very intense – volleyball is not for the faint of heart

 …but more exciting is the fact that you can order a drink from the on-site cafe and enjoy it while kicking back on the grass.

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A secret royal pool including drinks and summery vibes? I’ll take that option any day of the week!