None of us would rate this as a “Best! Summer! Ever!,” our household having had various interruptions of one kind or another, but in the grand scheme of first world problems we have no viable complaints.
Anna Grace and I played tourists, taking in a tour of the beautiful Vienna State Opera among other activities. We opted for the intimate (15 people) German-language tour rather than 30-person English tour, and the small group size made our visit pleasant.







Tony and Jack, and Jack’s belongings, were on the move this summer.
From Hanoi Tony returned with street chicken photos and goodies from the markets.
Jack was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen again this summer, serving as Area Director for the BSA camp. One of only three days over the month of July without rain. Rough month.
Meanwhile, Jack’s desired college belongings were being stuffed into a 6 cubic meter air freight box, with guarantees of arrival in time for move-in next week on campus.
Over our two years here we have had visitors passing through for a night or two, usually in town for a conference; our children have had some of their friends visit; but finally it was our turn to play host. Jack thoughtfully offered up his bedroom to our guests in exchange for a plane ticket to Romania to faff about with two of his Romanian friends.  It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
When the boys weren’t being overfed by Romanian grandmothers, they explored Bucharest (telephone wires! and cows), took in some history, and hung out on the Black Sea beaches.
The palace in Bucharest from where Nicolae Ceausescu terrorized his people.
The weather, and one of our friends being under the weather rearranged their itinerary a bit, but I think everything worked out just fine.  Food was emphasized, of course. We enjoyed a heuriger evening (local wine, yes! blood sausage, no!), the ubiquitous Schnitzel (“okay”), Turkish food (“very good”), and Hungarian cuisine on our day trip to Budapest (“excellent”). Plus coffee and torte at Cafe Schwarzenberg (“most excellent”).
We overdosed on all things Hapsburg by touring Schloss Schönbrunn and Hofburg, though friends were glad to have an on-the-ground Holy Roman Empire context for their long-forgotten high school history. That, a walk through Naschmarkt on a rainy morning and a peek into Stephansdom and Peterskirche was enough Vienna for them. They pronounced the city, “staid,” an assessment with which I largely agree. “Vienna is a ball gown,” I explained, “The other “capital” of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest, is a favorite pair of jeans, comfortable and a bit worn, and welcoming.”
So off to Budapest we set one (long) day, jamming in both the Buda and Pest sides of the river. Friends agreed it was a nice contrast to Vienna. Gritty and charming all at once.






St. Stephan’s Basilica, named for the first King of Hungary


The first McDonalds behind the Iron Curtain, 1988 Budapest. The interior is totally modern, alas.

A duct-taped Trabant!

We also visited Mauthausen. Sadly, no place is too sacred for graffiti.

Our friends departed on one of Austria’s 39 holidays, leaving me and Anna Grace to make a run across the border to the Czech Republic to shop for school supplies. Because Austria was of course closed (which also explains why every fifth car in the TESCO parking lot had Austrian tags).

The old border zones between Austria and the Czech Republic are interesting places. Some of the larger crossings have embraced seedy capitalism with casinos and “non-stop” night clubs. This smaller crossing, in contrast, offers a hotel and restaurant.

The busy parking lot inspired us to stop for lunch, because what isn’t awesome about excellent food at a shared table in a former border zone (and the ability to pay with either Czech Koruna or Austrian Euros)?

Summer 2014 wasn’t the best of times, and wasn’t the worst of times. What it definitely is, however, is over. Today brings the start of the AIS school year, with Anna Grace being the big fish in the middle school pond (being taunted by her college freshman brother.) Auf Wiedersehen, Sommer!