Importing an American Cat to Austria

Two years ago I imported my cat from America.  Before I looked into it, I thought that I would have to quarantine her for 3 months.  Luckily this wasn’t the case.  Essentially, what I had to do in short (for the detailed version please see here at the Austrian Embassy’s website.

1. Get the cat microchipped.  A lot of vets have varying opinions on whether to inject a topical pain killer into the area for insertion of the microchip, since the width of the microchip needle is much thicker than normal needles.  The vet I went to in Texas told me that it was not necessary, and just prolonged the stress of the cat, so I went with his expert advice.  From the reaction of poor Katzie (eyes bugging out in surprise, and what I can only imagine was pain), I regret listening to the vet.  I should have gone with my gut and given her the painkiller.  After insertion of the microchip she was very scared (another indication that it hurt her).

In theory, the microchip is supposed to be scanned at the border control upon your first entry into the EU to verify it is the same animal as described in the paperwork, but in my case they didn’t do it.

2. Rabies shot after microchip insertion: The rabies shot had to be given after the microchip was implanted (even if only a few seconds).  I thought it was a dumb rule at the time, but what can you do?  The rabies shot has to be given more than 21 days before entry into the EU, otherwise it is not valid — unless you have proof that the animal has had routine rabies shots at regular intervals.

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The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Cassie is a lot of things, an alcoholic, party girl, and least of all, a flight attendant–but is she a murderer too?  That’s the opening question in this entertaining book about international intrigue and espionage.

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Cassie wakes up in a swanky Dubai hotel, after getting black out drunk, to find that her handsome, rich, hook-up has been murdered in the bed next to her. His throat is slashed, and there is blood Ev.ery.where.  Due to the fact that she blacked out, she has absolutely no idea whether she was the one who killed him, which leads her to do many stupid and incriminating things (i.e., wipe down her finger prints, leave the hotel without notifying anyone, etc.)

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Jægersborggade, Copenhagen

Once ruled by gangs, this cute little street in Copenhagen has been taken over by unique shops, including artist galleries, second-hand clothing stores, organic eateries, and cafes.

My boyfriend and I spent hours on this street, just popping into the little shops and browsing.  On the weekend there are limited hours (sometimes only 11-2pm), so if you plan to visit, you should pay attention to the opening hours.

Some of our favorites:

1. The Coffee Collective: Roastery and Coffeebar

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Copenhagen is much more expensive than in Austria.  In Austria, a good latte can be purchased for around €3-€4 at a cafe.  In Copenhagen, we spent around €6 per latte.  Since I cannot eat gluten, I left it to my boyfriend to try the Danish pastries.  The one depicted below is basically a cinnamon roll, which I am told was delicious.  And, since I am addicted to Kombucha, I had to try the coffee Kombucha.  It had a very unique flavor which I will definitely have to try to recreate at home.

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2. Sneakers and Coffee

We didn’t drink any coffee here, nor did we end up buying any sneakers (even though my boyfriend spent a considerable amount of time agonizing over whether to buy a pair or not), but we thought the concept was really cool and fun.

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3. Beyond Coffee

Okay, I realize that this is yet another coffee shop, but this place had a twist.  At Beyond Coffee they sell mushroom growing kits.  The mushrooms grow in used coffee grinds!  Since i love both mushrooms and coffee, I thought this place was super cool.  While we didn’t buy a kit (not sure whether we could take it through customs) we did buy a coffee cup made from used coffee grounds.

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4. Ro Chokolade

This place had great hot chocolate and other chocolate confections.  I wanted to try the Aztec hot chocolate (with spicy chili), but I was so full from brunch at Social that I couldn’t fit anything in my stomach other than the small macron.  As chocolate macron’s go, I have had better in both Linz and Bratislava, but it was still very good.

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Here is a general idea of what chocolates you can buy:

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5. Ruben Og Bobby

While this place isn’t exactly on the street (it is around the corner), I just had to share because I think it is super cool.  It is a barber shop and arcade in one!  Yes, you guessed it, you can get your hair cut while playing old school /retro arcade games!

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Located in the basement, this barbershop is crammed full of retro / nostalgic toys and video games from the 80’s and 90’s.  They even had boxes full of pogs and shelves full of old figurines.  It was like stepping back into my childhood.

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Barnegat Bay, New Jersey

View from Mantoloking Bridge, in Mantoloking New Jersey.

Mantoloking / Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, down to Pt. Pleasant Beach is a great place to run.  There is a small park before the bridge where the ReClam the Bay, a local non-profit organization is “reclamming” the Bay, or in other words, is trying to regrow the population of shellfish.  According to the signs located in the Park, there used to be millions of clams and oysters in the Bay.  However, due to various reasons (runoff (i.e., fertilizer) from the watershed (i.e., an area of land that drains to a common body of water), lack of management, and reduced habitat), there are only a fraction of them left.

Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program. There are clams growing inside the tank.

As also mentioned on the board standing next to the clam grow tank, the organization starts in July with baby seed clams, about 100,000 per upweller. Each is only about 2.5mm. By the end of the season, the clams have grown up to 20mm. In the fall, the clams are then planted in the Bay under protective screens to keep them safe from predators. They stay there for a full season, where they are then transferred into the Bay.

Statue provided by Brick High School Art Club

If you are ever at the Jersery shore, this little park is a great place to visit.  Not only does it have the cool clam box, but it also has a playground for children and a runner’s track. Currently living in the landlocked country of Austria, it is always great to run around the water front.

 

Top 10 at the Jersey Shore

1. Kohr’s Frozen Custard. If you like icecream, you will love Kohr’s. It is so thick and creamy. The best flavor by far is the orange / vanilla twist. You can find it at the Pt. Pleasant Beach boardwalk, down by Jenkinsons.

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Left: Pumpkin / vanilla twist. Right: Orange / vanilla twist

2. Mueller’s Bakery. Around since the late 1800’s, this place is great for baked goods. It used to have much better coffee (when it was brewed fresh). I guess due to supply and demand issues, the coffee is brewed and put into “self-service” pots against the back wall of the bakery. If you don’t come just when it was brewed, you could be disappointed.

Mueller’s Bakery

3. Martell’s Tiki Bar. This place is super fun during the summer months. On the weekends they usually have live bands. There is a bar conveniently located at the end of the pier, so you can enjoy a drink and watch the waves crash against the shore.

Tiki Bar Pier

4. Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. This sweet shop is open year round, and is a great place to get homemade fudge and New Jersey saltwater taffy.

Ask for a taste test of the homemade fudge. My favorite is the peanut butter chocolate.

Homemade Fudge

Taffy comes in all sorts of flavors and makes a great gift!

Salt water taffy

5. Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Located at the end of the commercial portion of the boardwalk, this place is really fun for kids (and even if you are an adult). The animals are really nice to see, and there are shows (like feeding the Penguins) that you can watch. We would always take my niece and nephew here on the weekends–especially if it was a rainy day.

Aquarium

6. Running on the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 1 mile long, and is a great place to run (in the off season). Since it is super croweded during the on-season, I cannot recommend this as a good place to run, unless you come either really early in the morning or really late.

The View from the End of the Boardwalk

7. Bayhead. Bayhead is a cute little town near to Pt. Pleasant Beach. It has quaint little shops (e.g. Coffee at Noon) and is an overall good place just to walk around and see the sights.

Walking Around Bayhead

8. Sushi. Living in Austria, American style sushi is hard to come by, so whenever I am in town I love to go out for sushi. My favorite place is a small restaurant in Normandy Beach called Blue Sushi. The food is fresh and tasty. The restaurant is BYOB. Price for Amazing Roll was $17, and 3 pieces of sashimi was $6. A normal roll like Spicy Tuna was about $7. If sushi is not your thing, they also had typical Japanese restaurant food, like Udon noodle soup and teryaki.

Amazing Roll and White Tuna Sashimi

9. Spikes: My family and I have been going to spikes for decades. It is a small fish market and restaurant with wooden tables and benches.  The food is always fresh and consistently good.  If you go in the summer time, expect to wait up to an hour for an available table as they do not take reservations.

10. Local Urban Kitchen. This little restaurant has great food (vegan and gluten free options available), great coffee, and homebrewed teas. I meant to take a picture of the blackbean burger on gluten free bread, with raw kale chips, but I was so hungry and it looked so good that I totally forgot.  After lunch, I had a non-fat latte. My tastebuds thanked me.  Being a kombucha homebrewer and general kombucha enthusiast, I had to try the kombucha on tap.  It was lavender-mint flavored, and was very crisp and refreshing. Kulture Kombucha is a local NJ brewery.

 

 

 

Kohr’s Frozen Custard, Pt. Pleasant Beach NJ

I have been coming to Pt. Pleasant Beach for the past 20+ years. Kohr’s frozen custard shop on the boardwalk is a staple of the Jersey Shore experience. It is the best icecream I have ever had (it is so thick and creamy). Whenever I take a lick, I am transported back to the summer of my childhood, spent playing in the waves and building castles in the sand.

Custard on the left is Pumpkin spice / vanilla twist. Custard on the right is orange / vanilla twist.

Hohentauern, Styria

A little more than an hour from Linz is a small village in Styria (Steirmark). During the winter time it is a great place for skiing, but during the rest of the year it is possible to hike up the skiing trails.

It is a wonderful little place for a day hiking trip. There are many trails to chose from for all levels of fitness.

It is also possible to stay for the weekend and there are several hotels in the area. I have personally not stayed in any of these hotels so I cannot make any recommendations.

If you are in the mood for a bite to eat at a cute Austrian restaurant, I would recommend the Passhöhe. Family owned and operated for more than 100 years, this place will not disappoint. However, there are not so many vegetarian or gluten free options as it is very traditional Austrian food.

Bratislava, Then and Now

When I first visited Bratislava 18 years ago, it was not yet part of the European Union.  I had traveled to Europe with my High School German class during winter break.  After visiting Vienna, Austria (see post My First Austrian Encounter), our bus traveled to Slovakia.  Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is about a 30 minute drive from Vienna.  There isn’t much to distinguish the two countries, especially now that there is no border control to speak of, except for the Soviet Era architecture of the buildings.

Back in 2000, however, it wasn’t so simple.  I wrote in my diary that our bus was boarded by boarder guards, who collected a passport and $20 from each person.  Reflecting on it now, it was probably the fee for the Visa to enter the country.  In my diary I remarked that lunch was cheap, only about $4.  I didn’t write the name of the restaurant in my diary, but I can report that lunch is no longer as cheap (but it is in no way expensive).

Having returned to Bratislava in February, 2018, I can highly recommend it for a weekend trip.  According to Google Maps, the drive from Linz to Bratislava takes about 2 hours and 28 minutes.  We left on a Saturday morning and arrived in Bratislava around early afternoon.  We stayed at the Falkensteiner.  The hotel room was decent, and the price we paid was about €60 per night.  If you want to eat breakfast at the hotel, there would be an additional fee.  We did not chose this option.

Interestingly, the Falkensteiner rooms were designed to have a window between the bathroom and the bedroom.  In the photo below, I am in the bathroom, and my boyfriend is looking in at me from the bed.  Needless to say, this feature was fun, if not also slightly creepy.

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After checking in and playing Peeping Tom, we went for a walk in Old Town, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel.  On the way we found cute little shops like the one pictured below.

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We had not pre-selected a place to eat lunch and we figured that we would just walk around and find something.  Since Old Town is a very touristy spot, we were expecting many tourist places.  We were surprised to find a cute cafe on the main street called Enjoy Coffee.   This place sold its own blends of tea (both to enjoy at the table and to take home).

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As a person who is both vegetarian and gluten intolerant, I was able to find several options on the menu.  I had the mushroom buckwheat risotto with feta cheese.  My boyfriend, who is not vegetarian, had the duck sandwich.  If one has kids, this place was also extremely kid friendly, with a small play area in the back.

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Mushroom buckwheat risotto

After lunch, we walked around Old Town.  Since the town is rather small, it is possible to see all the tourist sites within one afternoon.  To see some good suggestions on what to do, check out this article from The Huffpost.

We had no itinerary, and found that walking around had its advantages.  Along we way we spotted:

  1. Statue of the Man at Work.  20180303_160504
  2. Old Town Hall.  When we were in Bratislava, we tried to purchase tickets to walk up to the top of the tower, but it was closed.  If you would like to do the same, go through the archway (bottom right hand of below picture).  On the other side you will find a small square.  To the right are glass doors.  You purchase the tickets inside from a very unfriendly woman who doesn’t speak any English whatsoever.  Don’t worry, there will be signs posted in English if the tower is closed.20180303_155017
  3.  Michael’s Gate:  20180303_153005

In the square by the Old Town Hall, we found (purely by chance) an awesome wine bar called Wine Not.  They have literally hundreds of different wines from all over the world, including from Slovakia.  One in particular that we absolutely loved was called Vulcanica.  It was a white wine that was self carbonated due to the fermentation process.  As lovers of all things fermented, we just had to try and we were not disappointed.  Price per bottle was around €26.  We loved it so much we ended up taking a bottle home with us.

This place is cool not only for its enormous selection, but also due to its ambiance.  It was warm and inviting, and the staff was super friendly.  They answered all of our questions regarding the wine.  If you visit on a weekend night, it is advisable to make a reservation, especially if you want to sit in the front room looking out on the square.

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Back room of Wine Not

For dinner, we walked from our hotel to Lemon Tree, a Thai fusion place.  Unlike the other places we had been to, Lemon Tree was a little on the expensive side.  It is located next to the American Embassy on the top floor of the building.  We stopped to take pictures in front of the American flag (because MURICKA!)–the guards with the automatic rifles were watching us closely from the other side of the fence.

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Outside of the heavily fortified American Embassy

The view from the restaurant (in the background of the picture below) was of the St. Martin’s Cathedral, which I visited in 2000, but did not have the chance to again in the 2018 trip.  My fruity Prosecco drink pictured below is topped with cotton candy.  It was very tasty.

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The St. Martin’s Cathedral can also been seen from the Bratislava Castle.  In my diary from 2000, I wrote that the inside of the cathedral was much plainer than the cathedrals of Austria, but more decorative than the ones in America.  I also wrote that “the wooden pews were so rigid that when you sat in them, you were forced to sit straight up.”    I remarked that I was not allowed to take photos of the inside, but purchased a post card (which has been since lost to time).   Had I remembered I had visited the Cathedral back in 2000, I would have made a point to go inside for comparison.  Next time.

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If you like dancing to Latin music, drinking cocktails, or even smoking cigars, the place to visit in Bratislava is Cuba Libre.  This place was packed with what appeared to be locals as well as tourists.  I even observed some high local drama, as a man escorted the scantily clad woman he had been closely dancing with out of the bar.  10 minutes later he reappeared with a more demurely dressed, plainer woman, who could only have been his girlfriend.  Crisis avoided(?) People watching is hilarious.

The next day before heading back to Linz, we ate brunch at Ranno Ptacka.  The food was good, but the service was horrendous.  The waitress forgot to put my order in.  After finally noticing that I had not gotten my food (as everyone else’s food was dropped off by another waitress), she asked me “if I still wanted my food”.  To which I answered, “Of course!”

Finally, after everyone had finished eating, I received my food.  It was good, but I am not sure it was worth a 30 minute wait to receive it.  In any event, if I even find myself in Bratislava again, I would still go back there.

Lastly, on the way out of town, we visited Bratislava Castle.  We didn’t go inside, as we were tired from our previous night out.

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All in all, Bratislava is a great weekend trip, and one that I would recommend to anyone.

My First Austrian Encounter

March 2000

From the Diary of my 17 year old self (edited):

March 14, 2000: Breakfast is so much better in Österreich than in Italy.  The bread was excellent.  After breakfast we went to Salzburg. We had a tour with this really nice German lady.  I got a 3rd hole in my ears! I think that my mom will probably kill me.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any rubbing alcohol at the pharmacy.

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Mirabell Garden, Salzburg (March 2000)

March 15, 2000: It’s snowing! The flakes are huge and so much bigger than at home! Last night it was raining…awful weather.  We are going to Vienna tomorrow.  Hopefully we get to go to the disco tonight!  The Mondsee Church (Mondsee Abbey) was so large it makes American churches seem insignificant.  The Monastery was huge! It was as big as 20 High Schools put together, some stacked on top of each other!  The place we ate at for lunch was a total rip off!  They charged us 50 cents per packet of ketchup! Last time we got ketchup it didn’t cost us anything!  We just got back from the pool. We had to pay 60 shilling (to put my 17 year-old self’s annoyance in perspective, this amounted to about €4.40).  We just got back from the disco.  It was so smokey that sometimes I thought I was going to die.

March 16 2000: We just got back from seeing the palace of Maria Theresa (a.k.a. Schönbrunn Palace), the mother of Marie Antoinette.  It is so cold! The wind chill makes it even colder.  The palace was huge! It had something like 1,444 rooms in it (actually 1,441, but close enough).

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Schönbrunn Palace Gardens (March 2000)

Still March 16, 2000: We are now having a bus tour of Vienna.  We just passed a really big porn/erotic dancing shop.  We are talking Cherry and Web big (I have no recollection of how big this is).  We have just passed the winter palace of Maria Theresa (I believe this is the City Palace).  It had like almost 2,500 rooms.  There are so many churches here!  The ones back home are so plain in comparison (thanks 17 year old me, you already said that).  And none of them are less than a few hundred years old.

We just got back from seeing this really weird house.  It is called Hundertwasser.  Don’t ask me why it is called that.  Oh wait, I was just informed that the last name of the guy who built the apartment building meant “hundred waters”.  They named the building after him.

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Hundertwasserhaus (March 2000)

Still March 16, 2000: I am back at the hotel after a nap and a shower.  Everyone went swimming, but I didn’t want to pay the 60 shillings again (get over it 17 year old me, it was like literally €4.40).

March 17, 2000:  Last night we went to a Strauss concert.  It was really good.  The only problem is, was that we missed the first half of the concert because we went to the wrong Lichtenstein Palace.  But I really liked it.  I thought it was going to be boring, but it wasn’t.  Our teacher told us we had to get up this morning at 6:30 a.m., but I was like, yeah, right.  I got up at 7:00 a.m. (what a rebel I was back then).   Last night before bed, !”§$% dyed my hair brown.  I think it looks good.  Everyone likes it here but I wonder how people are going to react at home.  We just crossed the border into Slovakia…(to be continued…)