Monthly Archives: June 2010

If only I had cowboy boots.

Listen, people. Let me tell you something slightly ridiculous. If I had cowboy boots, I would be wearing them right now. Probably with cut-off jeans and a plaid shirt with pearl-snap buttons. And a cowboy hat. And I would be line dancing. That’s how much I’ve been enjoying America. 

I’m visiting home and for the first time, I feel somehow not totally American. I mean, yes, I’m definitely American and I would never give that up or trade it, even for the joy of coming from a culturally neutral, globally inoffensive country. But somehow I am noticing the things that make America American… the qualities and characteristics that might take a little bit of an outsider’s perspective. I don’t know… maybe I’m completely off-base here… but there is this part of me that seems to have taken on a European perspective and is seeing the United States with a freshness that I have never had before.

Or maybe I’m just dreaming all these things up.

But these are the things that feel American to me–things I’ve noticed so far that feel different from what I’m used to but not unfamiliar, peculiarities that remind me of what it’s like here. Driving everywhere. Listening to the radio station that plays “80s, 90s, and Now.” Talking on a cell phone while driving. Country music. Strangers initiating conversation with you in the grocery store and while waiting in lines. Uninhibited friendliness. Slurpees. Free samples in the grocery store. People in my hometown (people I didn’t know that well but grew up around) actually caring what I’m doing with my life. Fake food. (Not what my mom cooks, of course. What you find in bags and boxes in the grocery store.) Extreme tanning. Exercising in public (especially women). Fat teenagers.

Here are things that are starting to feel like habits that might be strange, particular. Seeing people only once a year. Seeing people for the first and last time for years. Meeting up with friends for one hour and talking nonstop about everything as fast as possible to catch up, then hugging and saying goodbye again. Not knowing when you’ll be back. Being told, “I’m living vicariously through you,” by nurses and dental hygienists at the doctor and the dentist my family always goes to. Having all my doctors’ appointments and haircuts and financial documents taken care of in one week. Packing. Repacking. Basing purchasing decisions on whether the item in question is transportable.

My parents are moving from their house of 20+ years. Everything here has to be ready to go. Then I’m moving from Vienna to Lund. Everything there has to be ready to go. I was so excited in February when I thought I would be living in Vienna for a full year, and I thought I would finally be breaking the cycle of moving every six months. It looks like I’m at it again. I’m happy—life couldn’t be better on all fronts—but in this moment, surrounded by all the clutter I’ve collected and the clutter I’m choosing to box up and keep, I’m also a little sad.

transatlantic sketches makes it BACK over the pond

So, as you could probably tell from my last, slightly ecstatic blog post, I am currently in the United States with my family. And I’m loving it. Here’s what I can tell you so far:

My experience in the United States can probably be understood in terms of two sensations: fatigue and complete satiation. Here’s what a typical day looks like in the Wiseman household: wake up, eat, wander around the house a little bit, pack something (my parents are moving), mid-morning snack, watch a soccer game (the World Cup (come on people)), eat, maybe lie down a little, pack, start cooking dinner, wine and appetizers, dinner, food coma. My inner Naschkatze is growing to epic proportions. (So is my gut, actually.)

Goat cheese, smoked salmon, and salsa bruschetta
Thai spiced halibut with marinated carrots and wilted spinach, asparagus, spiced sweet potato home fries
Puffed apple pancake
The culinary goddess behind it all with a raspberry vanilla cream tart. 

How does she cook so well and stay so thin?? MOTHER, TELL ME THE SECRET TO YOUR MAGIC.

Ok, ok. Enough food porn. But you probably see what I mean.

As for my flight over, I have to say—I never had a better flying experience ever. I got to the train early and I packed in advance, so I got a reasonable amount of sleep and didn’t have to do my usual mad dash to avoid missing the plane. I slept on the planes and had quiet seatmates for both flights. I had a layover in Amsterdam, and they had free samples of food in their duty-free stores, and then I flew KLM to the US and they had a lot of really good movies, actually. I watched Videocracy, a documentary about the pervasiveness of media in Italy and how Berlusconi’s political persona and power is directly tied to his hold over the country’s television. Then I slept some more and then I continued to marathon on towards my destination.

Sidenote on the free food samples: the NY Times recently ran an article, “Casting for a Global Herring Market,” on the Netherland’s bid to popularize the “new herring” catch. Sure enough, there was a sample of raw, salted herring at the duty free store. Having just read the NY Times article, I had to try it. It was not good.

Besides the length of the trip (almost 24 hours between waking up and going to sleep) and the extreme traffic in DC that resulted in a quite extreme cab fare for the trip between Dulles and BWI, the only bad part of the trip was the terrible omen in the Vienna airport. I get a bad feeling every time I go there despite the fact that it’s a fast airport with really great duty free. You know why? The Icarus Cafe.

I ask you. What kind of idiot manager allows an airport cafe to be named the Icarus Cafe?? What, do you have no clue what happened to Icarus???! He flew too close to the sun and DIED! Have you no sympathy for the mythologically attuned??!

You could have named it Daedalus, and that would have been fine. He was also flying with Icarus. Did he die? NOOOO. He lived. But instead you have to name the damn cafe “Ikarus” and give me the heebie jeebies every time I see it. I don’t think that’s very considerate, and in this day and age, we shouldn’t be going out of our way to bring bad juju upon ourselves. Gaaaaa!

america, here i come!!!

hello, america!

hello, home!

hello, friends!

hello, famiglia!

tomorrow, i’m headed home… and I CAN’T WAIT!!!

Here is a list of things that rock

1. Segways rock.

3. Funny statues rock.

Salzburg, Schloß Mirabell
Denmark, Louisiana Museum

Copenhagen, Tivoli
Hey! That Sphinx is a LADY!
Belvedere Garden, Vienna

4. Being a guest travel blogger at Her Journey rocks.

5. Going home and seeing my family (most of it) (I’m looking at you Emily) in three days rocks (come on girl, come home) . 

6. Seeing my friend Sara Kay get married in 11 days rocks.

The cluster reunites!!
Alex… we’ll miss you…
7. Seeing my boyfriend in two and half weeks rocks.

8. Vienna in the spring, when it’s sunny and warm, rocks.

Schönbrunn gardens


8.5. Viennese interior design rocks. 

Staatsoper (State Opera House)


8.75. Viennese “cuisine” aka “dessert” rocks.

Nougatknödel from the dive cafe around the corner from my apartment.

The window display at Hotel Sacher

Eismarillenknödel from Tichy.


9. Yogurt and muesli rocks. Specifically, muesli soaked overnight in yogurt rocks. BEST BREAKFAST EVER. And then if you really want, you can top it with delicious fresh fruit.

Breakfast at the Mozart Wohnung Haus in Salzburg.

Ok, that’s it. Party’s over. Party’s over.

British Humor, Dad Addendum, and The Longest Day of the Year

Part One: British Humor

An English World Cup fan “wandered” into England’s locker room and confronted the team about how terribly they’re playing. Which was illegal, and now he has to go to court. But honestly, when the man explains his actions, you gotta feel like the South Africans should let him walk.

He’s 32 and a mortgage advisor. As the New York Times explains, “[Pavlos] Joseph walked unchallenged into the dressing room after asking where he could find a toilet and immediately found himself in front of Beckham.” In his own words, “I thought: What the heck. I’m in the England dressing room. Why not say something?” Joseph told The Mirror. “I looked David straight in the eye and said: ‘David, we’ve spent a lot of money getting here. This is a disgrace. What are you going to do about it?’ I told them, ‘That was woeful and not good enough.’”

Woeful, indeed! When I’m not hating the British, I really love them. (It’s not personal, it’s just because of the airlines, and also the airports, the airline staff is mean and the airports are full of crotchety old ladies, and not in the Betty White sense).

However, this gives me a great reason to revive MY FAVORITE PIECE OF BRITISH-NESS EVER, which is a customer complaint letter for Virgin Airlines (which I’ve never traveled on, but I’m sure I would hate as well, given my previous experiences on British airlines, which as I may have mentioned before were QUITE POOR and EVEN SUBSTANDARD and MILDLY INTOLERABLE). I don’t think that the Telegraph put it too strongly by saying that the following is possibly the funniest customer complaint letter of all time.

READ THIS: Letter to Sir Richard Branson by an anonymous customer

I want to type out some highlights, but then I would ruin the amazing timing of it all. Look, all I can say is read it, look at the pictures, read the highlights, and die laughing.

Part Two: Dad Addendum

My sister Emily was inspired by my post yesterday (homage to Dad) and posted the following video on YouTube. She also has a blog and in it, she writes, “During parents’ weekend at school my sophomore year, we were just having a casual conversation in my dorm room when my dad gets up and starts tapping on the walls to determine the viability of track lighting.”

I have now watched this video clip almost eight times and unfortunately I cannot understand much of what my dad is saying until the end. I know when he’s gesturing at the ceiling, he’s saying, “It would be perfect, right here, and it could…” However, the clearest it gets is when he asks Emily, “Do you have a measuring device? Do you have a measuring device?” And then my mom starts cracking up.

Also, the camera work is quite shaky, so if you’re part of a population that might be affected by Pokemon cartoons, I don’t think you should watch it. But if you do anyway, I claim absolutely zero responsibility for any adverse side effects. However, you can quite clearly tell what my mom’s reaction is. The laughter that sounds like a nervous chipmunk’s is Emily.

I hope you enjoyed that just as much as I did.

Part Three: The Longest Day of the Year

Happy Summer Solstice, y’all. Today is the longest day of the year in normal climes. Today, however, it has been dark since 6 pm since apparently it doesn’t matter that it’s June and winter has returned to Vienna. NOT HAPPY. I’m serious. It’s, like, you know, legitimately cold and stuff. I had to put on the heat again last night! I repeat, I AM NOT HAPPY.

Ok, and point three point five, I’m going home in four days! AHHHH!!!!!! Extreme happiness growing to immeasurable bounds!!!!

daddy dearest!

I’m missing Fathers’ Day this year because of living in Europe and all, and also I think I think I missed it the last two years for the same reason, but I wanted to highlight some of the MANY ways my dad is amazing.

1. My dad knows how to dress for the elements.

There’s this saying in Sweden that I hate but I think my dad would love. The saying is, “There’s no bad weather. There are just bad clothes.” It’s that kind of attitude that led my dad to torture me throughout high school about wearing hats, gloves, boots, and raincoats, which I did not appreciate then but definitely do now. Wet feet are uncomfortable! Boots are great! Dad really led the way on this one for me.

2. My dad is an extreme tourist.

Multiple guide books! Backup camera batteries! Shorts that turn into pants! Hiking boots for urban siteseeing! Detailed daily itineraries! My dad’s love for in-depth, intensely informed tourism has been an example over the years. And even though I don’t have a picture to illustrate this, that goes for travel planning too. He is a master of ingenious flight plans and insider deals.
Also, in that second photo, my dad is wearing a head lamp in a hotel. My dad brought a head lamp on a trip to Europe. You never know when you’re going to need a little extra light to help you search in your suitcase or… to tie your shoes…

3. My dad has taught me that there’s no sense in being half-hearted about anything.

When you know you want something, go for it. Don’t look back. Follow your dreams. This goes for everything… including Walker’s Shortbread. My dad is a Walker Shortbread enthusiast the way he is a Twinings Tea enthusiast the way he is a Perugina Gianduia enthusiast the way he is a crunchy peanut butter and grape jam enthusiast, which is to say: there is nothing half-hearted about his love for these things. My dad is not half-hearted about anything, as far as I can tell, and I like that. He knows what he likes and he goes for it.

4. My dad is always on duty.

This is a picture of my dad at my sister Beth’s tennis tournament. Not only is he decked out in sunglasses, safari hat, and windbreaker, but he is totally, totally focused on the game. He spent the entire day like this, catching every minute. (Granted, the outfit makes his presence a little bit of a double-edged sword, but I think we’re all used to that by now.) He does the same for our vacations together, graduations, family holidays, and birthdays. He also answers the phone at 4 am when I call him, panicked because I have a stomachache. He gives me pep talks for landlady showdowns. All of these things are amazing.

5. My dad is a grill master.

Check it out. Grill master, grill meister, maestro of the grill. Doesn’t matter how you say it. The proof is in the (grilled) pudding.

6. My dad makes the funniest faces.

Mmmhmmm. Check.

7. My dad is awesome at fixing stuff, especially technology and sick children.

I love this photo because here you can see my Dad fixing my computer and two of my friends’ computers while using his own to control the matrix or whatever it is that makes technology work. Every time I go home, my dad takes my computer and spends three days making faces at it and making these deep, deep sighing sounds. And then he emerges with my computer, only better, because there’s no spyware and no viruses. And then he admonishes to do a better job of updating, and I swear to do just that, and everything is right in the (technological) world once more.

Also, anytime I’m sick, I call my dad and he tells me what’s wrong with me and what I should do and then miraculously I get better again. It’s like he’s a doctor or something. Ok, yeah, he’s a doctor. BUT HOW DOES HE ALWAYS KNOW WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? Maaagic!!

8. My dad loves my mom, and my mom loves him back, and that is an ideal parent-situation, so thanks a lot, you two.

Yeah, Dad, you couldn’t do it alone. So part of being a good Dad is being part of a good team. Nice work. Good talk.

Overall, my dad rocks.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad!!


Hanging out with the original Austrian meatheads (really) and a trip to Salzburg

Do you know what this girl did tonight?? Went to a super secret MEAT MARKET aka local apartment butcher shop aka underground farmers’ market aka I don’t know how else to explain this.

So, this guy who lives in my building (Michael) is really nice and invited me to his birthday brunch like two weeks after I had moved in, which made me feel so good and at home. And he has drunk a few glasses of wine with Christina and I both (Christina also lives in my apartment building), and once when I locked myself out of my apartment, he broke into my apartment for me and opened the door without breaking the lock or a window. AND (icing on the cake) he has the third Stieg Larsson, in ENGLISH, and he lent it to me. Wie geil ist das denn!!?!!

So he invited me to go to this meat… party. The conversation started out like, “Are you a meat lover?” which actually sounded like a really bad come on or the beginning of a dirty joke but ended up being the beginning of the story about some farmer-butchers from Upper Austria who raise their own organic meat and bring it to Vienna to the farmer-butcher man’s sister’s apartment and sell it to her friends. I couldn’t really pass this up. I mean, come on. A meat market in an apartment in the middle of the city. What are we, in 1899 or something?

So we went. The apartment was beautiful—the entire building was Art Nouveau/Jugendstil era with amazingly ornate staircases and elaborately decorated pane glass doors, and then the entire kitchen was full of meat, meat, sausage, käsekrainer, cheese, and meat. And some fish. And then some whipped lard spread and livers, and then some meat. I bought the least-meaty things that were there, but I think they will be equally delicious. I got speck knödel (dumplings with bacon/prosciutto style meat inside) and fresh saibling fish. I don’t know what saibling fish is, but it’s small and thin and it’s from Austria and it’s not pangasius, the fish that almost ruined my life. We’ll see how it goes.

As a side note, did you know that they have white sausages here? They’re squishy and they look a little like the albino jailkeeper in The Princess Bride. These sausages are apparently from Bavaria (especially Munich) and according to Michael (who is originally from Munich) it is VERY IMPORTANT to eat them with sweet mustard instead of sharp mustard. A traditional Bavarian breakfast therefore consists of white sausages (boiled not fried) with sweet mustard and a wheat beer. Welcome to continental Europe and thank you for ordering; would you like a side of a small heart attack with that?

Hey! I didn’t take this photo! I took it off the internet. You can find the original page here.

Yeah, don’t those sausages look a little suspicious? According to my in-depth conversation with the butcher (in German, I might add), the meat of the weisswurstel is exactly the same; it’s just that the weisswurstel has onion and parsley mixed with the meat and they use regular salt to preserve it instead of a different kind of salt. The variety of salt gives the sausage its distinctive color. That goes for all meat. Regular salt turns meat white-gray; some other kind of salt (it was German, I can’t remember) turns other sausages and meat products red. So now you know.

Notice the pretzels also. When I was in Salzburg this past weekend, there were pretzels everywhere. It must be because the two areas are so close and locked in deadly enmity. Case in point with the Salzburg pretzel obsession:

I'm really not sure where this pretzel came from. Did I intend to buy a pretzel? No. Did I want to buy a pretzel? Well, yes. But how did this happen? This frantic little pretzel vendor man came tearing through the streets with a cart full of pretzels and a terror-stricken look upon his face. As he careened around the corner, he shoved this pretzel in my general direction and said LADY! ESSEN! which of course means "EAT!" So I had to, obviously.

Here are some more photos from Salzburg.

Picture one: the sweetest, suβest little beehive I ever did see. Picture two: catching up with MOZART! Picture three: the real life home of the Salzbug Global Seminars today; the fictional home of the Von Trapps in the Sound of Music a while ago. This is where they drive up to the house in a boat and Maria is, like, such a rebel. And the stuck up rich lady who really *does* have heart sees the competition. And Elaine lived here for a summer. In the house. No joke.

At Schloß Mirabel - Slogan: it's not a Schloß if there is no unicorn.

Oh yeah, and something slightly more officially touristy: “WE,” a sculpture by world-renown artist Jaume Plesna.


World Cup Update (Because I can’t resist.)

Did any of you see that red card against South Africa last night?? SHAMEFUL. And all the fans looked so sad! And then they started leaving!

And my bracket is continuing to suffer heavy losses… not that I’m competitive or anything.

My lovely friends, Elaine and Abigail, totally humored me and watched the US-Britain game. I still maintain that the US could have had them!! Many free drinks were had by all.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Knight and Day Movie Review and Dreams of Salzburg, Vienna

The Käsekrainer Experience



Ok, here’s what’s up.
If you haven’t heard Shakira’s FIFA World Cup song, listen to it NOW!
I am obsessed!! There are like 8 million music videos  for this song, but this is my favorite and better quality than most. And it starts off with TEAM ITALIA!!! FORZA ITALIA!!!!!!!!!!!! Alright, and it’s too bad they didn’t get an African to sing the World Cup theme song, but Shakira is awesome. She’s a singer AND an activist AND she was published in the Economist AND that’s really cool. Hello, girl crush!!!!
Alright, second of all, are you watching World Cup obsessively? Because if you’re not YOU ARE REALLY MISSING OUT! Let me tell you what, people. Soccer is beloved and popular THE WHOLE WORLD ROUND because it is FANTASTIC. There are upsets! Hearts breaking! Triumphant glory! And North Koreans other than Kim Jong Il on the television! And then North Korea scored against Brazil!! I mean, seriously. If all the earthquakes hadn’t convinced you already, we are living in BIBLICAL TIMES of great surprise and uncertainty!!! And then Switzerland beat SPAIN! WHAT!?!?!
Whew. Ok. People, if you’re not into World Cup, get with the program.
This is a picture of me on the train from Salzburg to Vienna. Look at how good and touristy I am with my Lonely Planet travel guide. ONLY NINE DAYS UNTIL I GO TO THE UNITED STATES!!! Family, friends, USA, brace yourself. Woohooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

FORZA ITALIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the art of life transition(s)

This weekend, I went to Salzburg with Elaine, and together we visited her sister. Salzburg is famous for a couple of things and especially for being the birthplace of Mozart, the setting for The Sound of Music, and the home of the Salzburg global seminars. It was an amazing weekend, mostly because I had these incredible feelings of escape and relaxation the whole time I was there. I couldn’t believe it was only two days that we were gone from Vienna. I felt like we were there for five days, at least, and then on the train ride home I couldn’t believe that I actually had to go to work the next day. It was like somehow I had managed to step out of my normal routine in Vienna (working as much as possible, doing a million things in my free time, and then crashing on the weekend) and had entered this alternate universe were things were much calmer and slower-paced. It was really nice.


I’ll write more about Salzburg later, but here’s the major life update for today: in about a month, I’ll be leaving Austria for a while. It’s all still pretty indefinite, but my visa is running out July 7th, and I wasn’t able to get a new one or have the old one updated in time to keep working in Vienna. So I’m headed home to Grand Rapids, Michigan at the end of June, going to Davidson, North Carolina, for my friend’s wedding, and then coming back to Vienna July 5th to work two more days and tidy up loose ends.Then at some point in July, my boyfriend is driving down from Sweden to pick me up, and I’m moving to Lund, Sweden until the visa issue is sorted out.

I’m feeling all mixed up about this. Sometimes I’m so happy I grin like a crazy person at strangers on my way to work. Sometimes I get a bottomless pit in my stomach. I’m both nervous and excited. On the whole, I’m more excited than anything else though. I’m also sad about leaving Vienna in the summer, because honestly, this is one of the greatest cities in the world (in this writer’s humble opinion), and summer is beautiful. I’m excited to spend time with my boyfriend. We’ve been together long distance for so long, and it will be so nice to get to spend so much time with him. I’m nervous about how continuing to work from a distance is going to work out, worried about money issues, and a little scared it won’t work out and I’ll be fired and I’ll be unemployable and I’ll never hold another job again and my life will be over (and so on). And now I have to set aside German and start up with Swedish again… yet another language to heighten my linguistic confusion. I have so much to look forward to in the coming month, but it will also be a time of a lot of change and transition once again. In the last two years, I’ve lived in four countries and moved nine times. I do love how much I’ve been able to travel and live in different cities and countries, but I’m also a little tired of navigating a new country every six months. Oh well… at least this time it won’t be such a shock. I spent the summer with my boyfriend in Sweden last year, and I really, really like his friends. All that makes everything so much easier.

One big thing to do when I’m home this time: pack up my stuff to bring back to Europe. My parents are moving from their home of almost 20 years to Maryland, and we all have to sort through the things we’ve all accumulated in that time. (By the way, anyone want to buy a house in Michigan? It’s really beautiful and there are many happy family memories built in and included for no extra charge). I’ll be trying to decide what to store, what to give away, and what to bring back. While I’m normally reluctant to bring a lot of stuff from my parents’ home to another place because I know I’ll be moving fairly quickly, this time I’m just going to bite the bullet and do it. It seems like I’ll be in Europe for at least a year more, whether it’s in Vienna or Sweden, and I want to have some books and my beading stuff for making jewelry and my external hard drive and the rest of the somewhat extraneous stuff that always gets left behind. Poor boyfriend. He’s going to be driven out of his own apartment by my move-in.

Anyway, all of this is crazy process of change is about to be set in motion. My odyssey to the United States starts in ten days, and then everything will be a blur until I’m sitting in the car with boyfriend dearest headed north to Sweden. As the Austrians would say, unglaublich

semi-life update

i was at schönbrunn last week, and it was beautiful. everything that was just empty structures and dead trees is now alive, alive, alive. there are roses in the rose arbors, and everywhere you go it’s green. for some reason, this means so much to me.

roses at schönbrunn

anyway, tonight was my night to put everything in order at my apartment, to clean the bathroom, to make some dinner, and to get a good night of sleep before going to salzburg early tomorrow morning. but then i had to work late and then i left work with silja and she had to go by julia’s apartment and julia had two bottles of white wine that she had just put in the fridge and the next thing you know i was dancing around julia’s apartment to florence and the machine and it was actually somewhat late at night.long story short, instead of cleaning my house and putting my life in order, i drank wine, danced around, and ate a kebab. it happens.

anyway, still there are some major changes coming for me in the future, but in the meantime i’m just so excited about going home soon. june 24th, i’m headed back to grand rapids, michigan, for a week to spend time with my family and then to davidson, north carolina for a weekend for my friend’s wedding. i can’t believe we’re at this age already. where does the time go? am i old yet or what?

tired now, but missing my friends and thinking so much about all of you.

alles liebe kate