Strange & Interesting Things About Austria

I’ve been wanting to do this post for a while now, pointing out strange and interesting customs and things I’ve noticed during my time here in Austria.

  1. Saturday alarm. So every Saturday, in apparently all of Austria, at 12:00 noon, there is an alarm that goes off in every town. I have yet to record the sound of this alarm yet because we are usually out and about doing something and I either don’t have my phone to record it or we are up on the mountain and can’t hear it very well. It sounds like a bomb alarm or a sound telling you to take cover. It’s a bit scary at first when you don’t know what it is. My boyfriend took advantage of this fact when I first heard the alarm. I was in one room, asking what the heck is that alarm?! and he comes running in saying, grab your stuff, we have to get out of here!!! I’m like WHAT?!!?! I became suspicious before he broke cover and started laughing but it was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard of.
  2. Grocery Stores Part 1. There are no complementary bags for things you purchase at the grocery store like in America. You need to either bring your own bag(s) or purchase a bag at the checkout line before buying your food so that you have something to put your stuff in before leaving the store. Unless you want to look like an idiot like I did the other day, trying to balance 15 odd shaped items in your arms while walking out to your car.
  3. Grocery Stores Part 2. Shopping carts require a “deposit”in order to check one out.  When you walk into the store and you see the grocery carts all waiting there ready to be used and assist you in your shopping, they are actually locked. You need to place a coin in the appropriate slot in order to release the cart and use it.  The coin then stays in the cart and you can get it back when you return the cart. Gee, thanks.
  4. Cash. Most transactions here are done in cash. It is very very common to go into a store or restaurant here and find that you are not able to pay with any type of card, credit or debit. I’ve been in a few situations here where I’ve been stuck and embarrassed because I don’t have enough euros on me to purchase a drink or some souvenirs. To be safe, when traveling Europe always make sure you have enough cash to cover everything.
  5. Lederhosen and Dirndles. Yes, they still wear them. It’s pretty cute. I like when I see places sticking to their traditions and customs. Usually these clothing items are worn at events such as weddings, parties, festivals or holiday events. However, I do see more people wearing them around Salzburg pretty frequently. Of course the workers in the tourism industry wear them pretty much all the time for work, for examples, staff at hotels, museums and restaurants. Some people also wear them to work or just out on the weekends, depending on the job and the person. This past week there was a holiday on Thursday. There was a parade in Muhlbach, as I think was the case in most towns and villages. Everyone wears their traditional garb to these types of things. Check out these fashionable little guys below. Apparently each town also has slight differences or their own customs when it comes to the traditional wear, whether it be colors or hats.

Well, that’s all for now but I will definitely be adding to this list as the weirdness definitely continues.  For now, I’ve learned that customer service here is pretty dismal. They definitely don’t make it easy for the customer. From what I’ve found, the businesses here get away with being able to nickel and dime the customer for everything. I was at McDonalds yesterday (I know, embarrassing but I wanted a coffee and an egg sandwich, without struggle, what can I say) and after I purchased my breakfast, I asked if there was ketchup. She said, yes but it’s 30 cents. Okay….. no thanks. I also witnessed the woman in front of me in line, after she received her meal, grab a Nutella packet from what appeared like the “help yourself area” where the coffee items were, etc. However, the cashier lady was very quick to come over and say that the Nutella packet was actually 50 cents so she would have to purchase it. Seriously?

Training for Kumpellauf!

What the heck is that, you ask?! Kumpellauf literally means “buddy run” in German and is a 26 kilometer trail run held annually in Muhlbach. This year it will be on June 24th. For my fellow Americans, 26 kilometers is approximately 16 miles. It’s called “buddy run” because it is set up as a relay race, comprised of six sections and five transition zones, one in between each section. After each section, you have the opportunity to switch “buddies” and the next person in your relay team completes the next section(s).

A few months ago, before coming to Austria,  I decided that I wanted to train for something big. I missed having that major fitness goal in my life, the long and difficult training, the excitement of race morning, the feeling of finally being able to just relax and take a nap after those long days of physical activity. More importantly, the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the end goal. Turns out, to no surprise, my boyfriend felt the same way so we decided to train for a big event together.  Since I knew we were coming to Austria soon and also of the Kumpellauf race held every summer, we agreed to make that our first goal.

Now, after having completed the entire course in training, I have to say that each section is very different from the next and the run itself is a whole new ball game, unlike any running I’ve done before. The race takes you around the town of Muhlbach up and down the mountains. It is challenging. The terrain is difficult and technical. The scenery is amazing. Check out the website here: https://www.kumpellauf.com/de/.

The course:

The course is six sections and you begin in a different place than you end up. The start is at the trailhead beginning at Arthurhaus and the end is the copper museum down in the town of Muhlbach. There are no out and backs or loops, nor do you cover the same footsteps twice. It’s a journey of many terrains, a lot of concentration, sufficient energy and fuel and some strong ass legs.

Section one starts out mild. It’s a wider trail of dirt and  scattered rocks, large and small, relatively flat, traversing west along the middle edge of the mountain range Hochkoening. A lot of people hike this portion, or better yet walk, because it starts right at the parking lot for Arthurhaus and like I said, is relatively flat. You continue on and the trail gets a bit more technical. It narrows significantly and you start to get into more roots and forest. You also get to pass a lot of farm area and there are many cows to say hello to. This track eventually takes you to some beautiful waterfalls as you end up in a lower valley section where you need to cross over some rock beds. The end of section one is killer. I think this is the hardest part of the race. This is your first taste of going uphill and it’s pretty steep. In addition, it’s super technical. You are significantly warmed up at this point which is good, but you still have to take those calculated steps in order to get up and around big rocks and roots. Luckily, while it seems to take forever, this last section isn’t terribly long, maybe about a half to three fourths of a mile. After running up yet, you reach the Vier Hutten “four huts” which are four small alms scattered close together. This is the transition to section two.

Section two is pretty nice. Starting out relatively flat, you are again traversing around the curve of the mountain range Hochkoening and heading west. The track is brownish red dirt, single track, with a few rocks scattered. You’re surrounded by mostly high bushes, no forest. You look up to your right and sometimes in front of you and look directly at the Hochkoening and all the peaks, including the one on which is Mattrashaus, an octagonal built on the literal top of the highest peak of the Hochkoening mountain. Don’t look up too long because you really need to watch your step here. You end up crossing several rock beds, I’m talking huge boulders that flowed down like a sea from the top. What happens is the water, melted ice from the glaciers, gets stuck in the rocks that form the mountain range and in the Winter, when the water freezes and expands it cracks the rocks. They all come tumblin’ down and you’re running across what seems like a river of rocks. About half way through section two you need to make a left turn to go further down the hill and start heading south. My boyfriend got us lost a few times because he couldn’t remember where we cut off from the main trail that we were on but need to get off for the race. You feel like you could tumble downhill because ht trail is pretty non-existent, you end up making your own trail through the thick grass of some farmer’s field. Eventually you end up back on a dirt wide trail through the lower forest, again heading down hill and south. AT the end of Section two is a pretty steep downhill section that seems like a relief but is also a preview as to how deceiving downhill can actually be. Your quads and knees are burning as you try to not get carried away with momentum and fly down the hill since you’re likely to trip or worse. The last part of section two has you crossing the main road and getting to the other side for sections three, four, five and most of six.

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Section Two, traversing along base of Hochkoenig

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Section Two, meeting a family of horses along the course

Section three has you running through what I call is “Twisted Ankle Row.” It’s not really a trial but just a  barely worn track of grass running along a fence in a big flat farm on really thick grass and dirt sections, which most of the time is  broken up by what seems like a heard of animals running through in the mud. If you take the wrong step, your foot can dip down into a chopped up section and you’re screwed. This past weekend I tripped over some wood boards that had been laid down over a section prone to muddiness and fell down into the mud and got scraped up. Luckily I didn’t twist or hurt anything. The last eighty percent of section three is uphill. Just uphill. Slow, shuffling, uphill. You’re on a very wide gravel road that in the winter is a ski slope. Gradual, hairpin turns, slowly making your way up the mountain. You arrive at the relative top of the slope, just below the Gondola station. You get a really good view from here as you are able to see both where you began and where you will end up.

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Meeting some goats 

Section four is back to a technical track traversing the mountain. It’s single track again, more roots, dirt and forest than rocks and boulders. You continue on through the forest past small waterfalls and vistas. The second part of section four you end up on a wider gravel trail and then on to more single track trails. You are now on the other side of Muhlbach, behind the hill where we live. I like it back there, it’s quiet, not much going on but still very beautiful and wide open farms. There are some alms back there but not as many.

Section five is again back uphill, the entire way. It’s a wide gravel and dirt road, similar to section three but it’s more forested and shady. Also, you’re not on a ski slope but on an actual road. I like this portion because of the shade. Just when you think you can’t go any more uphill, you reach the flattened portion and it’s about a mile more to Pronebenalm but on a relatively flat gravel road again. This portion is nice because you know that the uphill part of the race is pretty much over (except for a small part at the end). You end up a Pronebenalm and see the animals and people having lunch and just enjoying a nice day out on the mountain. Check out Pronebenalm and Gut here: http://www.proneben.at/proneben-alm/die-alm/

Section six is pretty much all downhill. A mix of single track, difficult and technical trail down the hill from Pronebenalm. it’s very forested which is nice because of the beauty and shade but still difficult because there are a lot of muddy sections where there is again pieces of wood laid out for you to walk on. It’s also very technical due to the tree roots and the fact that you have momentum going downhill and cannot miss a step.  You end up traversing through a farmer’s field and there I have seen the biggest anthills known to man. They are huge piles of what looks like thin mulch with big black ants crawling all over. You need to get through here quick as it seems these ant hills are everywhere! You end up coming down to Paussbauer Alm and say hello to the animals there and weekenders having lunch and hanging out. From there you are on a road, traversing down the hill back into Muhlbach. This portion seems easy but towards the end of the hill your knees and quads are again hurting due to the downhill running. Once in Muhlbach, you take the small trail that runs along the ravine and behind all the houses and then cross over into the middle of town where you have the last uphill run. I’t sonly a short uphill portion but takes you into the old copper mine and you get to run through the mine. I have yet to do this part because ht mine door is usually closed but I hear it will be very cold in there and dark! I’m looking forward to checking it out. After you come out of the mine, you’re practically at the finish line as you make your way towards the copper museum in town.

The training:

We started training pretty much as soon as we arrived in Austria some weeks ago. That is, as soon as I was able to get my mountain legs, which admittedly took a few practice runs and a day or two of being extremely sore. We began by starting at the beginning. Obviously.  Section One. We had actually run this section before many times as it, and consequently the race, starts at Arthurhaus, a mountain resort at the base of Hochkoening. We would typically drive up there and start the trail and run to the waterfalls and back, which in total was probably a three mile run. the thing with the training was that if we completed one section, we were  not close to where we live, so we had to get a ride or get picked up at the start or end, depending on the section we were doing. After running on section one and then another day one and two, we were ready to move on to section three. We parked at the top and did one through three and his mom picked us up at the end. Another weekend we were able to walk to the gondola station and take the gondola up to the top, which is near the transition zone from section three to four. From there we began on section four and completed the remainder of the race from that point.

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Section Five; Hochkoening in the background and Muhlbach down there in the valley. We began that day (and the race beings) basically where my left shoulder is 🙂

Last Sunday, we completed the (almost) entire course. I say almost because the last couple kilometers of this race are back uphill through town and through an old copper mine. The mine is normally always closed so we couldn’t do this portion anyways.We have a week left of training until the big day. We are confident and excited about the race, now that we completed it and know it’s possible, albeit painful and exhausting. I love that we can train for something like this together and we have the discipline and wherewithal to get through it. I’m aware that not everyone can do this sort of thing, but I’m also aware that people do way crazier stuff. (For example, this insanity was held last weekend: https://www.hochkoenigman.at/en/.) I’m so appreciative that I am able to train and participate in this race in this beautiful town and truly enjoy the challenges and beauty of this alpine landscape!

I’ll be sure to update everyone after the race with all the scoop and pictures!

 

Excursion to Untersberg!

On Saturday (Samstag, in German), my boyfriend and I decided to take an excursion and be tourists for the day. We went to Untersberg, which is a mountain located on the border of Austria and Germany, in Salzburgerland. It’s one of the many mountains located in the Berchtesgaden Alps, which spread throughout Germany and Austria. Strangely, my boyfriend has lived in the same town in Austria his entire life and had never been to Untersberg before, despite having seen the gondola going up the peak as he drove by that section of highway a million times. However, to his credit, he has hiked many times up to the highest peak in the range, Hochkoenig, which is virtually in our backyard now. Despite being so close, the Untersbergbahn  is one of those things that is so close and accessible but as a local you don’t always take advantage of those types of places. Possibly because you think it will always be there and can go whenever you want.  Even still,  on Saturday we finally decided that it was the beautiful day we were waiting for to go up there.

To get to Untersberg, you exit highway A10 heading to or from Salzburg and then follow the directions on your GPS. Once you arrive in the village of  St. Leonhard, you will see the signs to the Untersbergbahn. Bahn translates to several words in English but commonly “way” or “track” and is used in a lot of complex words in German. For example, Autobahn, which refers to a highway, and Sommer Rodelbahn, which is a summer sled track. Hence, the Untersbergbahn is the gondola that you will take up to the top of the peak. Being that it’s Austria, it is of course possible to hike up to the top on your own and I think it takes about 2.5 hours. Once you arrive at the parking area for the Untersbergbahn,  you will buy a ticket to ride the gondola up to the top. When we went, there was a gondola going up every 30 minutes and it’s about a 9 minute ride to the top. It’s a very scenic and you get a sneak peak at the beautiful vistas you will see when you reach the top.

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O​nce we arrived at the top, we decided that we were hungry and wanted to get a bite to eat before hitting some of the trails that are up there. There were several small restaurants to choose from up there. We ended up going to Hochalm, a small place a short walk up passed the gondola station. As it was a gorgeous Saturday,  it was pretty crowded. Nothing crazy like Disneyworld of course, but when we arrived at Hochalm, all the tables outside appeared taken up. Not to worry though, because in Austria, it is very common to sit with other people at a table and enjoy your meal while sitting with strangers. It was no surprise that the inside of the restaurant was totally empty, but we, like everyone else, wanted to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful view and weather. So, we ended up sitting at the end of a table with a group of four people, a young couple with her parents.

The alm had a small but simple menu of Austrian specialty entrees and deserts. We were pretty hungry by the time we got to order but our dreams of eating more food were dashed when we notice on the menu that they didn’t accept cards for payment. I am still surprised and peeved about this fact but it seems to be very common in Austria. Businesses a lot of time prefer cash (for reasons you can probably figure out on your own) so you must make sure you carry cash while traveling around. This is something I need to get used to coming from the States where hardly anyone deals with cash anymore. We all usually pay by some sort of card method or more recently with a mobile app.   Luckily my boyfriend had some euros (he is a local after all!), albeit not much, and were able to order one meal and drink to share. We ordered Kasnocken, a traditional Austrian dish, and a Hollersaft to drink. Kaseknocken is a dish usually served in a cast iron skillet, or pfandl, as it is called in German. It’s basically like mac and cheese. It’s a noodle similar to spaetzle and is prepared with melted cheese and topped with chopped chives and crispy onions. ìt is delicious. We shared that meal and a hollersaft to drink, which is a refreshing juice made with holler syrup and water. Holler is a flowering bush found locally from which they make a light syrup that can be added to water to make a nice summer drink. We enjoyed our meal and the company of our table mates, who, once they realized that my boyfriend was speaking American English to me, began to talk to him about their trips to America and show us pictures of the Grand Canyon and beaches.

Once we finished our meal, we started on the trail that went up to one of the peaks. Untersberg is the name of the whole mountain, and there are two named peaks. One is on the German side, which is called ​Berchtesgadener Hochthron and is 1,973 meters high, the other is on the Austrian side and called Salzburg Hochthron at ​1,853 meters. We hiked up to both and there are crosses at each, which is very typical to see.  The trail to Berchtesgadener Hochthron was short, only about a 15 minute walk but pretty technical as it was a mix of uphill, downhill, rocks, and mud. There was still some snow patches up there which was really cool to see, especially since it was late May and it was a warm day. Even though it was noticeably cooler up there, down in Salzburg it was probably in the high 70s degrees Fahrenheit. The gradually melting snow made the path a bit muddy in parts. Nevertheless, anyone and everyone was on the path- old, young, people who looked ready to hike for the day and people who were clearly just making a stop off the highway wearing flimsy sandals. The views up there were absolutely stunning. You can see the entire Berchtesgaden Alps which is comprised of more than eight mountains in both Austria and German, the whole city of Salzburg including a clear view of the airport and castle, as well as the surrounding towns and rivers, and more mountains in the distance.

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Big surprise, after we were done hiking around on the top and enjoying the views, we were hungry again. Especially since we had only shared one meal earlier. We still had some time to kill before the last gondola went down at 5 pm so we sat down at a different restaurant close to the station. Again, very simple menu of Austrian dishes but this place accepts cards so we were in luck! However, we found out after ordering that they were out of pretty much everything (because ì guess it was just a busy day), except, you guessed it, schnitzel! Schnitzel is definitely one of the most popular dishes here in Austria, and I had yet to try it. It’s basically meat, normally veal, which I would never eat, or in this case turkey, that they pound very thinly, lightly bread and then fry. It’s pretty light as it’s very thin and not soaked in grease like the fried stuff in America. I normally don’t eat much meat but I was so hungry and decided to try it. My boyfriend and I both ordered the turkey schnitzel with a side of potato salad and I have to say it was quite yummy! They serve it with lingonberry jam (made from lingonberries) which adds a nice sweetness to each bite.

We had a great time on this excursion and had a perfect clear day with barely any clouds in the sky and it was very sunny. The air was fresh, the flowers blooming and birds flying. It was a great excursion and it was special that my boyfriend and I got to share the experience together for the first time.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” – J.P. Morgan

Travelling with your pet(s) to foreign countries

Have you decided to bring your pet(s) along with you while you travel? Great! This can be an exciting decision as we all know it’s hard to leave them behind when going on vacation or an extended trip. I referenced in my previous post “Arrival in Austria” that I would be writing a post on the nitty gritty of travelling with your pet to a foreign country. Please visit that post for details on my recent experience.

First, visit https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home. This is the website of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This agency provides information regarding the importing, exporting and interstate travel with animals. Specifically for this article, we will focus on the information provided for American citizens on bringing their pets into another country. This includes finding out the requirements of your destination country/countries regarding paperwork, pet health, and any thing else you might need to take them into that country.

Click on the Pet Travel link at the top of the page. For purposes of this article, take a look at the first category, which is about taking your pet from the US to a foreign country. There is a drop down menu where you can select the country you are travelling to. To be safe, you’ll want to eventually bring up information for each country you will be visiting or passing through with your pet. For my purposes, I only had to click on Austria. The selection you make here becomes very critical later on so make sure you click the correct country or countries.

The next page is where you will click on the category that matches your pet, whether it’s cats or dogs, birds or other. Here, I clicked on cats, the first category. This brings you to a new page with the requirements. As you can see, the first question asks if you have an EU passport for your pet. If not, then you will need to follow the following categories. I didn’t even know that EU pet passports existed so I obviously didn’t have one. (I will be looking into this for the future though!). Most folks do not have one so you will need to follow the remaining requirements. There is a down arrow in the right corner of each blue step. Go ahead and click these arrows in order to expand the steps and show the details of that particular step. I took the liberty of printing out this entire page once I had expanded all the steps. This way, when I did comply with all the requirements and for some reason had trouble at the airport, I could refer to this page as reference and say that I did comply with the rules.

I’m not going to get into the details of each step here as it could be quite boring and technical. Basically, your pet must have a microchip and a rabies vaccination. This is where it’s crucial to speak to your vet and generally start with these requirements at least two months ahead of time. This is because you will find per Step 3 that there is a 21 day waiting period after getting the vaccination. Luckily, my cat was not due for rabies until after my arrival in my destination country. Otherwise, I would have gotten him vaccinated and been subject to the 21 day waiting period on travelling. This was going to be impossible as I already had my trip booked within 14 days  of when I found this out. I know, I know, I didn’t start early enough and was a bad example. However, I fully admit that this was my first time travelling with a pet and this is exactly why I decided to write this post and inform others so that they can travel informed and stress-free!

The next step, Step 4, is where a USDA certified veterinarian needs to examine your pet and fill out the forms. However, you need to first click on the link in the yellow box in order to obtain the forms. Be careful here, this is where your pervious selection for destination country in the drop down menu becomes very important. For example, the form I had to get from Austria were bilingual and were written in both German and English. These will likely NOT be the same forms if you are going to France or Spain, for example. This is why you cannot rely on old print outs from your vet, or forms they have used before, or why you think you can just select any country from the drop down. These are very specific forms. You need to have the forms for each of your destination counties. I cannot stress this enough. The first time I took my cats to the vet, the assistant had filled out the wrong form. So I got down to Miami and the first thing the USDA official did was reject my form and tell me I had the wrong one. I can only suspect that the assistant had a folder of these forms and just used one that was used for, say, Britain, or an old form that she had made copies of. This caused a lot of stress and running around and money spent unnecessarily while the correct form was easily accessible by clicking on Austria in the drop down and then this link in the yellow box.

Once you download and print the correct forms, bring these to your pet’s appointment with a USDA certified vet. (If you need to find out if there’s one in your area, visit this link: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/find-a-vet/pet-travel-locate-an-accredited-vet and click on the link to the pdf in paragraph 4). Make sure you bring all their health information and medical history if this is not their regular veterinarian. The office should be able to fill out the form for you with the microchip number and vaccination information and dates. You will need to assist by providing your name and information and where you will be going, and an address and phone number.

The last step is to take your USDA veterinarian certified paperwork to your local USDA office. Visit this link to find out your local office: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/service-centers-endorsement-offices. The office I went to was in Miami, near the airport, and allowed for walk-ins and appointments. Call your local office and decide what is best for you. At the office I went to, if you were a walk in,  you had to come back the next day to pick up your endorsed forms. If you made an appointment you could get it all wrapped up in the same short visit. There is a fee so make sure you have payment. Once you get your forms endorsed, I recommend making copies and placing them in your pet’s carriers and also having copy on your person while travelling to reference. I also made sure I brought copies of my pet’s health and medical information just in case.

Safe travels to your and your pet(s)!!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu

 

 

Arrival in Austria

This past Monday, my kitties, Marco and Cairo, and I finally arrived in Austria. After some crazy last minute preparation and a long day of travelling, we were so happy to reach our new home. I decided to post about this experience instead of the myriad of other things that happened the week leading up to the move and now this first week we all spent in Austria. I hope it will be more informative for all my readers and that you enjoy our story. Updates on what we’ve been doing are forthcoming in new posts!

The preparation:

Most of the information I would place in this section will actually have it’s own dedicated post that I will do separately, solely regarding the “requirements” presented by the USDA for American’s interested in travelling with their pets to foreign countries.

As with any successful preparation, you need to start early. First, contact your veterinarian at least two months ahead of time to let them know that you will be traveling with your pet. Depending on vaccinations needed, you might really need this time to get everything done and satisfy any requisite waiting periods. If your vet is not familiar with the requirements, you’ll need to do your own research and educate them on what your pets need from them. Speaking with the vet also allows you to prepare for any prescriptions, tests or tranquilizers your pet will need during the trip and while abroad. Keep a file for each pet so you have this information and prescriptions readily available. As for tranquilizers, I received a prescription from my vet for one, but after discussing it with my boyfriend and family, I decided to only use in on an if-needed basis. I knew my cats were great travelers after driving with them in the car two hours to visit my parents most weekends. However, if you think you might need to use medication to keep your pet comfortable, you might want to test it out on them before the journey to see how they react.

Second, let the airline know that you will be travelling with your pet (what kind of pet, how many, etc.). You’ll need to find out what, if any, requirements they have regarding this. It doesn’t hurt to go online as well and print out any information to back up what they tell you so that you have something in writing in case you have issues at check in.

Third, get the appropriate carrier for your pet(s) to be contained in during the travel. I bought two soft carriers, one for Marco, one for Cairo. To get them comfortable with their carriers, I left them out in the house so they could explore and smell them and also used them on several car trips before the big day. This is essential as they will be stuck in these carriers for a very long period of time so you want them to feel like they are safe there and they have familiar smells and toys or padding in there.

Thirdly, prepare for the worst. I had toys, treats, food, wipe pads, paper towels, water, dishes and other things in case we had an unexpected layover, potty issues, etc. Use your imagination. Luckily, this time, we had no issues and I didn’t need any of these items.

The flight:

Luckily, our friends were able to drive us all to the airport in my car so for the first hour of the journey the cats were in familiar territory and could stay relaxed. Once we got out of the car in the departures area, it was pretty warm out and we had to get all our luggage out. Despite their first exposure to bustling travel, the cats were pretty good during this time. Marco cried a little bit but Cairo was quiet and seemed calm. We proceeded with check in and to security. During security we had to take each cat out of the carrier and hold them while we walked through a metal detector. My boyfriend held Cairo and I held Marco. They behaved pretty well and we made it through. They were happy to go right back into the shelter of their carriers after that.

Getting settled on the airplane was interesting. We had to be strategic about it as we each had to hold a cat in their carrier on our lap the whole time. Meals and bathroom breaks were actually welcome to me as we got to switch up and stretch our legs. During take off (and landing) we had to place the cats in their carriers on the ground “under our seats” (which didn’t totally happen because it was cramped down there). I think this was a bit scary for the kitties as they didn’t have our hands in their comforting them and it was probably loud and they felt all the movement being on the ground. They didn’t complain however and we picked them up as soon as we could.

Overall, the flight attendants and everyone on the plane made no issue of the cats. Some people seemed interested, especially kids, and were looking in at them. During the flight as we got comfortable and my boyfriend and I each tried to catch some sleep and watch movies during the time warp that is sitting in coach on a trans Atlantic night flight, the cats were mostly asleep as well. We each were pretty good about opening the carriers just enough to stick our hand or hands in to pet them or just leave our hand there for comfort and calmness. The cats didn’t really take advantage and try to get out of their carriers, for the most part. Cairo at one point did get restless and kept coming out. Luckily, my boyfriend was able to keep him at least on his lap and in between us. We were all under a blanket that I put over our heads and laps so we could have some semblance of darkness and calm. Since Marco was stretching while he was asleep, his whole head and neck were out one end of his carrier resting on my arm and Cairo actually took advantage of this and cuddled up to him. It was too freaking cute.

We arrived in Vienna (finally!!) and had to go through immigration and another security checkpoint.  Immigration was a breeze. My boyfriend took both cats just in case questions were asked as he is a citizen of Austria. The official didn’t say a word to me or him. At security, we had a choice. We could leave the cats in their carriers and put them through the security conveyor thought the x-ray machine or we could carry them over to  a separate checkpoint and go through a metal detector. However, with this option we also would have had to subject the cats to a physical exam by an airport official. We thought this was going to be a waste of precious time (we had a connection to catch) and also the cats would not like to be subjected to a physical poking and prodding by someone they don’t know. They went through the conveyor and it was fine, no issues. We went on our merry way to our next gate which was a connecting flight to Salzburg and would  only be a 35 minute flight.

The next flight was a bit much. We had to walk out on the tarmac to the airplane and walk up the stairs to the cabin. It was very warm out and the AC on the plane was not working properly. Marco was overheated and panting. I felt so bad for him and we tried to fan him off, remove the padding from the bottom of the carrier and I gave him some water on his lips. He became cooler as we ascended and seemed to be better. However, take off and landing of that flight was just something to get through. We were so happy when we landed and could step out of the plane into the fresh air.

After that flight, we were able to quickly get our bags and into the car of my boyfriend’s mom and on our way home. It was about a 30 minute drive through the mountains which was again taxing on the cats. I let them come out of their carriers a bit more but also hoped that they wouldn’t get motion sick from the curvy mountain roads!

The new digs:

We let the cats out as soon as we got in the front door. We quickly set them up in the bedroom with food, water and litterbox so that they could explore one room and not be overwhelmed with all the other areas of the apartment. While I was half dead, they seemed to have a renewed energy as they wanted to sniff everything and explore every corner of their new place. I passed out into a deep 5 hour nap shortly after we got home and ate and showered. During that time, my boyfriend brought his cat Yoda (only a month younger than Marco and Marco’s former roommate- more on this later;)), back home after Yoda was staying with his parents while my boyfriend was in Florida for the past two weeks. He told me later that everyone sniffed each other and proceeded with establishing the hierarchy of the house. Apparently Marco hissed at Yoda and Yoda hissed at Cairo. So there you have it. Cairo is the youngest at 8 months. Marco is just over 2 years old and so is Yoda.

This week the cats have really come into their own and seem very happy. Everyone is getting along great and playing. Marco loves that he figured out Yoda’s cat door to the patio likes to spend time out there. They all seem to have their favorite “spots” in each room. They love the fresh air when we have the windows open. They are still my little shadows and like to follow us into the rooms where we are hanging out. They like to sleep in bed and cuddle.

Overall, this travel experience to Austria has been a success. It was a hard and long day for us all but I’m glad we are all here together and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

 

Moving Day!

Sunday, May 14-

Just a quick post today as I am in the midst of doing last minute packing and getting ready to leave. I cannot believe the day is finally here! The day when I leave with my boyfriend and two kitties for our flight to Austria. It’s been two whirlwind weeks filled with saying goodbye to friends & family, getting in some last minute beach time and other things I enjoy locally. Then there was the whole saga with getting the cat’s health certificates. (FYI- I’m planning on doing a separate post about how to do this for those of you thinking about travelling with your pets). As we spend today packing up and doing last minute things, I feel as if I’m just moving through the motions. It’s been a challenge for me to fully soak in the weight of this move, even if it isn’t necessarily permanent. Every aspect of my life is going to change and I thought that I would be having trouble processing it and would be more emotionally strung out. However, the pace of the last couple weeks has been very fast and I haven’t been able to spend much time examining the emotions. I’m sure that will all hit me pretty hard once I’m in my new life. For now, it’s time to get ready and enjoy this last (half) day in Florida until August when we return for a couple weeks. Pictures to come!

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”- Helen Keller

The Last Monday

Tomorrow is Monday and also the last Monday I will endure at my current job. It’s really the last dreaded Monday as I know it; I cannot see the next 9 to 5 in my near future due to my upcoming move to Austria (and for the record, I would really like it to not be the traditional 9 to 5. Who would?). Last Monday I told my boss I was making a big life change and moving to Austria. I told him that I was giving two weeks notice. I can’t believe that first week went by so quickly and here I am on the eve of my last Monday.

As I was hanging around today, doing the usual Sunday thing,  I realized while making my bed that I wasn’t stressed. My next thought was that tomorrow was Monday. I thought, hmmm, this is interesting. I only just realized this was a Sunday preceding a work Monday and that I wasn’t dreading it. I hadn’t even thought about work all weekend or had the idea that the weekend was finite and I didn’t want it to end. Then I remembered that this will be my very last week at this job. Aha!! I’ve never been in this position before. I don’t really know how to approach this week. It still hasn’t hit me that I will not be coming back to this office. I think the first reason is because I’ve taken plenty of vacations and have had plenty of time off so there’s a small part of my subconscious that thinks I’ll be returning in a couple weeks. In reality, the fact that I am leaving this job for good is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of things about my current job; the location, my boss, my coworkers, the hours and flexibility. It’s just what I do that I can’t stand and am more than happy to be not having to do it anymore.

The second reason is that I’ve been at my current job for over 2 years and it’s just so familiar. It’s strange to think I won’t be preparing my lunch the night before work, or setting out my gym clothes for the next day. That I won’t be waking up in my bed to get ready and put on my business casual attire and  then drive to the office. That I won’t be seeing my coworkers or my work bestie and slogging away in my office all day, looking at my computer,  reviewing and signing documents. That I won’t be dealing with foreclosures [hopefully] ever again, handling the same annoying phone calls, the barrage of emails and stressful issues I have seen every day since I started. As I clear out my office this week, I wonder how I will feel and if it will really hit me.

Overall I’m thrilled. Not only am I over the moon to be moving so that my boyfriend and I can be together full time, I’m really looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone and embark on a  totally new adventure. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be living this life. Yes, there will be challenges and I still have many things to consider and take care of before I leave. And I am nervous about leaving my home, family and friends and my comfort zone to jump into a strange world. But the payoff is so great. I won’t be getting secure paychecks for a while, at least in the traditional sense, but I think it will be well worth it. IMG_6929