Live Well, Today

M napping on the train in Austria

Today is what you will be nostalgic for, in a few years.

Occasionally, I am overcome by fond memories of childhood in Mumbai; visiting cousins, relatives and grandparents in the rural Karnataka towns of Bhatkal, Honavar, Hosad and Kumta. From what I remember, then I was busy running around, chasing dragon-flys, seeking bird eggs, stoning mangoes, or herding cows.

Now I miss my grandmother – I see her working the orchards, taking care of the household, and scribing “shri ram jaya ram jaya jaya ram” in her notebook every evening. Even when the power went out – which it did most evenings in the summer – she'd light an oil lamp and continue writing. Once more I'd like to peek up at her and see her furrowed brow, the violet bindi and reading glasses perched on her nose. Once more I'd want to be scolded by her. Continue reading “Live Well, Today”

Stefansdom, Vienna

Stefansdom (St Stephen's Cathedral), Vienna, Austria

After many trips to Switzerland, this year we added Austria to our travel plans. Glad we did. The mountains are spectacular, though they don't sit as majestically as in Switzerland; their coffee and pastries were equally delectable and even a tiny village bakery offered the widest variety of healthy breads. Verily, M was in bread heaven.

Despite our urban upbringing, or perhaps because of it, we love rural travel. Be it India, US or Europe, we both enjoy the joys of small villages; simpler beautiful people and less complicated lifestyles. Just give me a comfy bed and a good cup of coffee for breakfast, and I promise not to be cranky.

But we couldn't really visit Austria and not tour the spectacularly beautiful cities of Vienna or Salzburg. In Vienna particularly we were overwhelmed by the imperial architecture. We couldn’t walk anywhere and not come across a palace, a noble residence or imposing government offices. All buildings were immaculately maintained, from the elaborate copper cornices to the tiny flags on sides, and flower arrangements in surrounding gardens. I took ample pics of beautiful buildings, but alas, on reviewing them they all looked similar and I couldn't tell which building was whose palace! In my mind too, nothing stuck.

Except, the imposingly Gothic “Stefansdom”. While the palaces were certainly more opulent, this 12th century cathedral is the cultural heart of Vienna. All roads lead to it! Situated at the cross-roads of an intricate maze of streets with curio shops, book stores, cafes, bakeries (think pastries) and delicious ice creams.

Despite the gray, water marked exterior, the interior was massive and carefully maintained. Even my widest lens could not capture the interior in one frame. This pic with my 17-55 lens kinda gives you the idea! The place was packed with tourists and certainly not conducive to communing with the divine. Worshipers must come at other times.
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

An example of the exquisite workmanship in niches. There must have been nearly a dozen such niches and chapels, throughout the church. One could easily spend a week observing the details of the pillars and the ceiling.
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

The blessed “M”!
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

The most beloved and imposing landmark in Vienna – the Gothic masterpiece Stefansdom sitting in Stefansplatz. Note the intricate chevroned artwork on the roof made with glazed tiles.
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

M at the feet of Johann Strauss. The angelic figures around him suggests that listening to his music would elevate you to heaven. Apparently, Austrians have not heard Pandit Jasraj.
Photos from Johann Strauss sculpture in Vienna by Arun Shanbhag


Heldenplatz in the Hofburg, part of the cluster of Imperial Palaces and Residences. From here for more than 600 years, the Hapsburgs ruled the Austrian-Hungarian empire. In March of 1938, after the German army entered Austria, Adolph Hitler rallied the Viennese from this balcony. Thus began the Third Reich!


The Complete Travelogue from Austria:

Vienna: Those pastries tempt

pics of Gerstner Bakery Vienna Austria by Arun Shanbhag

Gerstner Bakery, Vienna, Austria
The year has been crazy: traveled seven countries and ran two marathons (Boston and Chicago). This week I tended sore legs. In the gym, I simply stretched aching muscles and tendons, worked on the upper-body (M thinks I have the attractive physique of a starving ethiopian refuge) and caught up on gossip. For the rest of the year, I refuse to venture far from home. A self-imposed grounding.

But I can still travel through photographs. Let me introduce you to this beautiful bakery in the center of Vienna. Our host and friend, Mr Eichler gave us the insider's tour of Vienna and brought us to this fixture in Wiener culture. While many other bakeries in town served pastries, this one was head and shoulders above. The place had an old-world charm, and their melange was simply the best. These pastries would go well with that filter kaapi, no?

I'll stop the words now and let your eyes take in the masterpieces. And stop drooling on the keyboard.



The Complete Austria Travelogue:

Good Bread is Good for You

pics of fresh breads in a bakery in Vienna Austria by Arun Shanbhag
Display of breads in a tiny bakery in Vienna – steps from our friend's house. The bakery carried a large variety of multi-grain breads and everything was “organic.” The front counter displayed an assortment of dessert rolls, croissants, tarts, pastries and other savories. We'd nibble on an almond- or walnut-filled croissant and sip their superlative melange (espresso with hot milk!). Soon this became a routine. What’s not to love! Continue reading “Good Bread is Good for You”

Celebrating Mozart

Two hundred and fifty years ago in Salzburg, was born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In a brief 35 year span, he composed enough music to last us all a lifetime – many times over. In my bachelor days I took every opportunity to attend symphonies. A collection of his music was the first CD I ever purchased. But his musical genius could not stand the force of the Indian naariM. Overnight, Mozart was deposed and replaced by Dandia Mix, Dance Masti and Kantaa Lagaa. My Western classical CD collection is collecting dust (or possibly water logged) in our basement. I now find solace in Sudhir Phadke's Geet Ramayan, or other bhajans with the theme of surrendering to God. What else is left to do in life?

Mozart kugeln chocolates by Arun Shanbhag Continue reading “Celebrating Mozart”

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