Forum Holitorium

Category: Travel

Among the Cranes

It has been a month since I visited the International Crane Foundation outside Baraboo, Wisconsin. You can see each of the 15 species of cranes of the world, many of which are endangered due to loss of wetland habitat. I had been there once before as a uninterested, reluctant child, brought by her bird-loving mother. This time I was the one who instigated the outing, and I had no difficulty convincing my mom to come with.

To prepare for my visit, I had started reading Peter Matthiessen’s The Birds of Heaven. What a disappointment! I just couldn’t warm up to his style and got impatient with his lengthy descriptions of the logistics of ornithologists traveling in Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. When oh when would the narrator retreat into the background and start describing nature’s jewel of a bird? I set the book aside and decided I would learn by simply observing the birds myself. Facts could be gathered from other sources later.

The majority of cranes have red, white, and black plumage. There is something archaic in their eyes that hints at their incredibly long history. Sandhill crane fossils have been found dating back to 3 to 5 million years ago. Their sleek aerodynamic shape has stood the test of time. The ICF is designed so that you can often stand eye to eye with these creatures that are associated with longevity and good luck in Japan, Korea, and China.

The two species that sport no red feathers are the blue crane (Grus paradisea), the national bird of South Africa and shown above, and the demoiselle crane (Grus virgo), named by Marie Antoinette and shown below. The elegant demoiselles do have red eyes – maybe from getting up really early to traverse the Himalayas when they migrate.

The whooping crane couple (Grus americana) have a huge area all to themselves. Visitors enter what feels like a Roman amphitheater, walking down to sit in one of the rows of seats that are at the level of a waterhole.

You can sit there as long as you like, watching the birds preen in the water or hang out on the berm.

If you are lucky like I was, you may even see a crane dance.

Sadly, it is not just students who are continually victims of gun violence in the U.S.; despite their endangered species status, one in five whooping cranes is shot.

The next time I visit the cranes, I will be sure to allow more time to walk the four miles of nature trails and to visit conservationist Aldo Leopold‘s shack and farm.

On the way back from Baraboo the next day, my party had intended to stroll along a trail or two at Horicon Marsh, one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands and the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States: a birdwatcher’s paradise. The marsh is a national wildlife refuge with a rocky past. Unfortunately, heavy rain arrived about twenty minutes after we did. The silver lining: besides some low flying Canada geese, I spied a few pelicans on the water. And nothing beats hearing the wind in the reeds and experiencing a storm roll in.

The crane’s legs have gotten shorter in the spring rain. – Basho

Happy birdwatching wherever you are!

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In the Kingdom of the Monarch

When I hear the word butterfly, I see a monarch butterfly. Still common in my hometown, this was the only butterfly I could identify until relatively recently. I was happy to see quite a few on a visit a few weeks ago to Richard Bong State Recreation Area, one of Wisconsin’s state parks. According to its homepage, the area was slated to become an airport for jet fighter planes but was spared at the last minute – as in shortly before the concrete for the runway was poured. How the world desperately needs more of these happy endings!

Monarchs thrive on a diet of milkweed, a plant that produces prickly pods that split to reveal silky seeds.

Pesticide use in North America and deforestation in Mexico, where monarchs spend the winter, have a direct impact on the monarch population. For readers in North America, growing milkweed in your yard is just one way to help out the monarch butterfly. Refraining from using pesticides also helps pollinators like the one in the picture below.

It has been good spending these past few weeks where remnants of the Midwestern prairie yield to Lake Michigan. The unseasonable heat and lack of rainfall is troubling, yet my wish to be here in this familiar landscape while the weather was summery came true.

The colors and the sounds (especially blue jays, crickets, and cicadas) have been soothing, the expanse of the sky a reminder of how limitless and open life can be.

Soon I will be experiencing the Alps in autumn, covering up with wool sweaters and opening up my umbrella. But now it is time to listen to the breeze whispering through the prairie grass and soak up a little more warmth while I still can.

May you enjoy the colors, sounds, and vistas around you!

My Salzkammergut Summer

Summer 2017 is drawing to a close. I have spent a fair share of this one in the northeasternmost reaches of the Salzkammergut, Austria’s lake district, getting to know places like Lake Traunsee. Gmunden is a pleasant small town located on its northern shore. During the monarchy, it was a popular resort area complete with an esplanade, casino, and paddle steamer; today it is known for its distinctive ceramics and Schloss Ort, the castle jutting out into the lake that is a popular venue for weddings. The stunning view of the mountains hasn’t changed since the fall of the monarchy, and you can still take a ride on the lake on the historic paddle steamer Gisela (built in Vienna in 1871).

Swans can also be spotted paddling around Lake Traunsee as well as many of the other lakes in the Salzkammergut. Another lake I have gotten to know this summer that is frequented by swans is the smaller and less touristy Lake Almsee. Ducks and other birds whose names I do not know enjoy the fresh clear water.

You can walk along a trail that follows the very green eastern shore of the lake.

Lake Almsee is at the southern end of the Alm Valley and can be reached via Grünau, home of the Konrad Lorenz Research Center, where research is conducted on the behavior of greylag geese. At the end of the road running through this valley lies a nature reserve and this view of the mountains that protect it to the south: the Totes Gebirge (dead mountain range).

It is hard to write about these pictures and come up with words besides beautiful, stunning, or enchanting – this landscape is truly incredible and speaks to me tremendously at this moment in my life. I should probably stop worrying about my limited vocabulary and just keep enjoying what is in front of me. As I took pictures, I thought of how futile it is to try to reduce the view into such a small image – I guess blogging is ultimately an exercise in futility.

During my Salzkammergut summer, I have spent time observing the behavior of cats, pied wagtails, deer, wasps, flies, and dogs. I have seen red currants ripen and be picked. Now is the time of blackberries and apples, and soon the time will come for these elderberries to be separated from the bush they grew on. Perhaps they will become elderberry syrup that is mixed with sparkling water to make a refreshing drink.

Yes, summer is coming to a close. The next time I visit the Salzkammergut, it will be another season. And like many a bird, I am now readying myself for a long migratory voyage to another lakeshore.

Enjoy everything beautiful, stunning, and enchanting in what remains of this summer!

Reentering Roman Territory

Dear readers, I have emerged out of hibernation, my Winterschlaf (literally winter sleep). I think you will be happy to hear that I am carving out a space for writing once again. My refuge of snow and ice has melted and I find myself back in Felix Austria, tracing a triangle between Graz, Klagenfurt and Vienna. Today I found myself heading to the small town of Tulln an der Donau for what I thought would be a peaceful stroll along the banks of the Danube in the late winter sunshine. By the time I got there, the sun had gone into hiding behind the clouds. Despite the chilly, damp weather, the journey was well worth it, for I received a gentle nudge to return to the Forum Holitorium from this famous man on horseback.

On the river walk in Tulln, Marcus Aurelius sits on horseback, contemplating the sleepy Danube in front of him. The area of Tulln was already settled before the Romans arrived to build the camp of Comagena along the Limes, the frontier that marked the edge of the Roman Empire and followed the curve of the Danube River. Little did I expect to find traces of the Romans on the menu today. The Roman Museum was still closed for winter, but I was able to admire the Römerturm (Roman Tower), one of the oldest buildings in Austria that dates back to the 4th century. It is also one of the few antique structures north of the Alps preserved in its entirety and has been used as a repository for weapons as well as a storehouse for salt.

Besides the Romans, Tulln’s other historic claim to fame dwells in the realm of myth. An event memorialized in the German epic the Nibelungenlied is said to have taken place in Tulln: King Etzel (otherwise known as Attila the Hun) proposes to Kriemhild, widow of Siegfried, in Tulln. They marry and live not quite happily ever after down river in the land of the Huns. There is a statue with a fountain on the river walk commemorating this momentous occasion. My previous exposure to this Germanic saga was limited to a theater production of Friedrich Hebbel’s Die Niebelungen, and I must admit it extinguished any interest I had previously had in reading the German sagas. The Nibelungenlied is a medieval crime story about the murder of Siegfried and his wife Kriemhild’s avenging of his death. I find revenge one of the silliest and most immature actions on earth. My eyes start to glaze over at the mere thought of trying to keep all the plot twists straight. Instead, I prefer to shift my focus to more peaceable creatures like this cute little rat that looks upon the scene of Etzel’s proposal to Kriemhild and laughs.

May only peaceable creatures cross your path!

Turning Forty in Vienna

When I wish to hide behind words, I respond to the question of what brought me to Austria by saying because my birthday is the Austrian National Holiday, or Nationalfeiertag. In 1965, October 26 was declared an official holiday to commemorate the day in 1955 that the Austrian parliament issued its Declaration of Neutrality. My birthday won out over May 15, the date in 1955 the Staatsvertrag (Austrian State Treaty) was signed that declared Austria a free and democratic state, the date that foreign minister Leopold Figl made his famous statement: Österreich ist frei! (Austria is free!).

A few weeks ago, I was asked anew what I thought of Austria. Evading the question, I replied that I have been here too long. More than a quarter of my life, to be precise. I have been learning German for more than half of my life and started wishing I could speak German more than three quarters of my life ago. The Austrian variant of the German language has sent down roots in me so deep that their removal would be painful. This language has become an integral part of me, shaping my thoughts. English is home, and German is Heimat. What linguistic abundance I enjoy! I would like to officially retract my statement. As long as Austrian German is spoken, I have not been here too long.

A sassy, literal answer to the question “Wie bist du nach Österreich gekommen?” (How did you come to Austria?/What made you come to Austria?) is on the night train from Poland. Early on May 1, 2003, I arrived at Südbahnhof (R.I.P.), Vienna South Station. My first experience of the famous Ringstraße that curls around the center of Vienna was the traditional parade celebrating Worker’s Day. That September, I moved to Graz for what I thought would be a brief period of time, intending to eventually relocate to the capital. Which still hasn’t happened. Nevertheless, I have come to know the city quite well over the past 13 years and am always looking for an excuse to spend time there.

For my fortieth birthday, I treated myself to two days in Vienna, meeting up with friends, strolling around the center, drinking coffee, browsing in bookstores, talking to a chimney sweep in a silly white hat, lingering on the Schwedensbrücke bridge over the Danube Canal and gazing north toward the hills as the sun set and commuters rushed home in anticipation of a day off. As part of the National Holiday celebration, the Austrian military displays its equipment to a mostly uninterested public. I was happy to walk by this helicopter and discover that I had left danger behind me and was heading in the opposite direction – a good sign for the upcoming decade.

What is a stroll around Vienna without a close inspection of a statue or two? I found a serene mermaid in the atrium of a shopping mall. What is a visit to Vienna without a good long coffeehouse session writing in my journal and luxuriating in the feel of a marble tabletop? I spent a few hours at my favorite café.

Austria’s National Holiday is not a patriotic extravaganza. Instead, it has become a day people like to go for a hike. One Austrian, two Italians, and this American spent a couple of hours meandering through the autumn woods and golden leaved vineyards just south of Vienna in Gumpoldskirchen. The cultivation of grapes and production of wine in this area are yet another testament to the far-reaching influence of the Romans.

Wishing you a pleasant walk in the woods and golden autumn!

And We Observers, Always, Everywhere

I fell in love yesterday, love at first sight, with a pine tree. It was a lopsided tree with branches reaching in all directions except towards the path. Es bleibt uns vielleicht irgend ein Baum an dem Abhang, daß wir ihn täglich wiedersähen/There remains for us perhaps a tree on a slope that we see every day, Duino Elegy 1. My hand on its rough bark, I was struck by the clarity and honesty of this feeling, all the while accepting that we could not stay together unless I were to remain perched on a rock high above the sea, warmed by the sun and drunk on the resiny smell of my beloved. Tempting as it is, my destiny is leading me in another direction.

I finally did it. After thirteen years of wanting to visit Duino, Italy, and walk along the cliffs south of Duino Castle, the place where 104 years ago Rainer Maria Rilke heard the first line of what became the Duino Elegies, I found myself on the Rilke Trail, rereading the first lines of the poem about angels and the terrible power of beauty. It was a dazzlingly beautiful day yet with no dread in sight, just sailboats on the blue Adriatic and green brush and trees growing on the white chalk cliffs. The castle was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman military fort. As I walked along the trail, I became slightly unstuck in time and imagined what it must have been like to walk along these cliffs two thousand years ago in a linen or wool tunic, delighting in the warmth of the sun on my bare forearms, breathing deeply. Looking, watching. Ich bleibe dennoch. Es giebt immer Zuschaun./Nevertheless I remain. There is always watching. Elegy 4.

Hiersein ist herrlich./Being here is marvellous. Elegy 7.

This summer, a friend and I vowed to read through Rilke’s The Duino Elegies in the original German. And we did it. When you tackle a difficult work, especially one in a foreign language, the task of the first reading is simply to orient yourself in the text. Upon finishing it, I decided I needed to reread it and focus on a few main themes in order to make sense of the work and come up with a coherent interpretation of my own. So now I am in the middle of this rereading of the elegies. I love how Rilke comes back again and again to the importance of observing, of watching, of learning how to see the world (this is also a topic in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, which I intend to revisit this winter).

Being in Italy is always a treat for my senses, especially taste and smell – the best coffee around, sweets laced with lemon and pine nuts that are not cloying. But I am trying to focus more on cultivating my sense of vision, actively looking on more and observing what is going on around me. Paying attention creates a connection between me and the world. When I am lucky, I feel as if I can share in the joys and sorrows of those around me and have tapped into the stream of life. In Palmanova from Caffeteria Torinese: the excited children running around in anticipation of the fun to be had over the weekend as amusement park rides were being set up on the main piazza. In Aquileia in the basilica: the creatures of the deep captured for millennia by the careful creators of mosaics. In Grado: the local Gradesi working hard to cater to the swarms of tourists still arriving to enjoy the summery weather while dealing with the milestones in life (the basilica was the site of at least one funeral and two weddings on Saturday).

May the act of observing connect you to the stream of life!

My Viennese Songline

Café Nil, Siebensterngasse, seventh district. This is where any visit to Vienna starts. Turkish coffee with cardamon, maybe hummus with bread or lentil soup if I need more nourishment, a slice of basbousa for a bit of sweetness. A group of community radio people introduced me to Nil shortly after I moved to Austria 13 years ago. Then I rediscovered it a few years back when I spent one weekend a month doing Luna Yoga  just around the corner. Now whenever I come to town, I throw out my anchor at Nil, have a coffee, and wait until my breath settles into the rhythm of the city.

On most visits, yoga and friendship keep me occupied in the seventh and eighth districts. Yet there is usually time for a stroll through the first district, the place where the lines of Austrian power intersect and tourists flock. I come from the direction of the MuseumsQuartier, walking by the statue of Maria Theresia. Having crossed the Ringstraße, I approach the Hofburg Palace, the center of Austrian imperial power until 1918. Today the huge complex hosts a number of museums and is also the residence of the president of Austria. (Since this position is currently vacant, you might be able to stay there if you come to Vienna in September – maybe it is listed at Airbnb?) The only part of the Hofburg I have actually visited is the wing where the Austrian National Library is located. A collection of historic musical instruments awaits visitors with a hankering for lutes, harpsichords, crumhorns, and ranketts (also known as sausage bassoons).

Vienna is a paradise for statue and doorway enthusiasts – and admiring them is free. Just brush up on your Latin first for the full experience. I continue my walk and brave the passage full of tourist trinkets for sale, traverse the main courtyard, go past the Spanish Riding School and its lucrative Lipizzaner horses, and finally come out of the dark into the light of Michaelerplatz.

The Romans were here, of course. For around 350 years, Vindobona was a military post on the Danube where the Limes, the line delineating the edge of Roman influence, crossed the Amber Road, the trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Baltic Sea. At its peak, it had 30,000 inhabitants. The center of Vindobona is just a short walk northeast of Michaelerplatz. Excavations from 1989-1991 revealed the foundations of Roman houses that were part of Canabae, small civilian settlements that developed next to military posts and provided them with goods such as food and clothing. Since Roman legionaries were not allowed to marry, their partners and children lived here. What would it have been like to stand here two thousand years ago, long before men from the lands of the former monarchy dressed up like Mozart and peddled tickets to classical music concerts?

Though I am not a fan of monumental statues, I have always felt drawn to this fountain by Rudolf Weyr entitled Macht zur See (Power at Sea), which also watches over the lively action on Michaelerplatz. The woman looks very confident, relaxed, in charge as she strikes a pose while dancing on the bow of the ship – souverän, you could say in German. Now it’s time to leave this square behind and continue along the periphery of the Hofburg, past the Lipizzaner stables, past the doorway flanked by two huge stone women seen in the film The Third Man. Eventually I arrive at the steps leading up to the Albertina, one of Vienna’s many excellent art museums. And here they are, the statues representing the rivers of the monarchy. I give my regards to the statue of the Mur before returning to the MuseumsQuartier and the seventh district.

Have a nice stroll along your personal songline!

A Castle with Peacocks

The novels of Thomas Hardy tend to start and end with a character traveling along a road. I thought of this each time I ventured outside the castle in Franken, Germany, where I spent last week doing yoga and watching peacocks. During one of my walks, I sat down at a crossroads along the approach to the castle, pausing and wondering which way I should go next.

Paths converge and diverge. The road that rises up to meet you might lead you farther afield. Doors and gates that open and reveal secret gardens and other enticing sights may suddenly close with a bang behind you, blown shut by the mischievous wind. How many times did I walk by the castle’s vegetable garden, wondering when the splendid ruby Swiss chard would land on my dinner plate? After several days of fervent wishing, I was finally treated to a delicious chard quiche for lunch.

As you approach the castle, wheat fields give way to an orchard and the vegetable garden before you enter a long avenue sheltered by trees. Each time I looked down it in the direction of the outside world, I heard the sound of horse hooves and saw a coach rapidly approaching the castle. What was it like to arrive here in centuries past? What went through the mind of poet, translator, and professor of Asian languages Friedrich Rückert as he came for a visit in the nineteenth century?

The rain created a rather dreamy atmosphere. One morning I looked out my window at the back courtyard and was greeted by mist rolling in. Unlike in the Middle Ages or Renaissance, it was warm and dry inside. I loved walking up and down the spiral staircase, which was housed in a tower and whose wooden steps delighted my bare feet. The many windows let in ample light, and there were flowers and statues and other treasures to discover on every windowsill.

The most fascinating sight, however, was the peacock show, performed live every day all day. Like with storks, my appreciation of peacocks dates back to my years in Poland, where I enjoyed watching them strut around Lazienki Park in Warsaw. Schloss Eggenberg here in Graz is also populated by peafowl (peacock just refers to the male; a female is technically a peahen). The main castle courtyard is the home to two males, two females, and five chicks. While I knew that peacocks can fly and like to hang out in trees, I had never seen a peahen with her chicks. When the chicks are two weeks old, they are able to fly and huddle under their mother’s feathers during the night, when peafowl roost in trees to protect themselves from predators. The chicks I observed were all old enough to seek shelter in the branches of a tree.

There are two species of peacocks, the Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus) most commonly encountered in the zoos and parks of Europe and the green peacock (Pavo muticus). Whereas the Indian peahen is a dull brown so as better to camouflage herself and her chicks, the Indian peacock is the Prince of the avian world. Instead of purple velvet and lace, he sports shimmering blue feathers, zebra striped feathers, scale patterned feathers, feathers with a round pattern reminiscent of eyes called ocelli, and tan feathers – at the same time. This crazy color combination is all about looking pretty to attract the opposite sex.

Then there is the peacock’s call. When a peacock cries, I am struck by the same sense of joy and urge to smile as when I hear a Canada goose honk. Wake up, open your eyes, notice the beauty around you, the peacock says. Since it is the national bird of India, it seems appropriate that my week of yoga was accompanied by these representatives of the pheasant family. I had the luck to spy a feather with an ocellus in the courtyard.

Keep your eyes open for a beautiful feather of your own!

Nice Mon Amour

The first Christmas I spent away from my family was in Nice. I was 34 and my aunt and godmother had died of pancreatic cancer in April, a handful of sand slipping through our fingers in the short span of three months. When someone you love fades so quickly, when you look into the face of death, it shakes you and questions you can’t afford to ignore start haunting you. What do I really want? What have I always dreamed of and still haven’t done? What will I regret not having done if death were to come calling on me soon? One of my answers was spending time on the French Riviera in winter. So I bought myself a train ticket to Nice.

Sometimes you need to do things for yourself that the people you love do not understand at the time, things that are connected to the private realms within you that normally remain out of sight yet steer you along your path through life. That year was a year of transition and often painful transformation, and it was clear that I needed a time out to nourish my soul. Nice symbolizes a time I dared to take care of myself and make a dream become reality.

I started my day with a coffee and a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, appreciating how winter felt and envying the Niçois who could do this every day, sitting and staring at the Mediterranean in all kinds of weather.

Christmas on the Riviera was so markedly different from what I had known before – palm trees decked out with white lights, oranges ripening on the trees, the Christmas market serving up socca, the ultimate in street food, a chickpea flour flatbread baptized in olive oil. This ancient city has a remarkable wealth of art and I was able to go to museums devoted to two of my favorite artists, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. No city on the Mediterranean would be complete without mosaics, and this mermaid and merman are still working hard to keep things in balance.

Nice has recently been catapulted into limelight because of the painful events of Thursday evening. I feel it is important to revisit and share my positive memories of Nice to affirm the beauty of that city and to prevent all the negative images flooding the media from sticking to it. My heart goes out to those who were on the Promenade, those who lost someone they loved, those who stared into the face of death and are now asking themselves those important questions.

A few years back, I had a conversation with an unhappy, grizzled, chain-smoking man who stated that the world would be a better place if more people listened to the music of Georges Moustaki, the great French singer-songwriter who died in Nice in 2013. I agree. Here are the original French lyrics to one of his songs followed by my English translation.

 

Le Temps de Vivre

 

Nous prendrons le temps de vivre

D’être libres, mon amour

Sans projets et sans habitudes

Nous pourrons rêver notre vie

 

Viens, je suis là, je n’attends que toi

Tout est possible, tout est permis

 

Viens, écoute ces mots qui vibrent

Sur les murs du mois de mai

Ils nous disent la certitude

Que tout peut changer un jour

 

The Time to Live

 

We will take time to live

To be free, my love,

Without plans and without habits

We will be able to dream our life

 

Come, I am here, I’m just waiting for you

Everything is possible, everything is allowed

 

Come, listen to these words that vibrate

Against the walls of the month of May

They tell us of the certitude

That everything can change one day

 

Listen to some Moustaki and take good care of your soul!

Spreading My Wings

Europe is like that: go a mere two hours away in any direction and you may find yourself in an entirely different landscape and climatic zone. Head northeast from here and you end up where the Alps give way to the Pannonian steppe. Forming part of the border between Austria and Hungary, Lake Neusiedl, or Neusiedlersee, is the westernmost steppe lake and is located in a closed drainage basin. Unlike most lakes, whose waters flow into rivers that ultimately meet the ocean, it loses water only through evaporation and seepage. Most of its periphery is protected by a layer of reeds within which a rich variety of birds feel at home. The small town of Rust touts itself as the “city of storks and fine wine.” Intense sunshine and headache made me focus on the former, not the latter.

An association in Rust works to maintain adequate habitat for storks, and near the main square where the town meets the lake, benches in the shade face a protected area where you can sit and admire the birdlife. A stork taking off, flying, and landing is a sight to behold. Egrets, ducks, greylag geese, and many other birds I am not expert enough to identify go about the business of their lives here.

Before I spent two years living in Poland, I was mostly indifferent to these birds who showed up in folk tales dangling babies from their beaks. During my travels around that country, I encountered these birds in the wild, spying them flying above or strutting their way through fields, and their lanky grace and staccato clattering call delighted me. When they clatter, they often bend their heads back to touch their bodies (contortionist storks, anyone?), and like with swans, I envy their suppleness. Though their numbers have diminished because of pesticide use, loss of habitat, and encounters with electrical wiring, they don’t seem to hold it against us and choose to live side by side with humans, often nesting atop houses. They are thought to bring luck in many parts of central and eastern Europe including Austria and Germany, where they are humorously referred to as Meister Adebar. A Storchbiss, or “stork bite” is the word for a birthmark on the back of the head.

Yes, Lake Neusiedl is a fine place to be a bird, especially a migratory one. When you migrate, you depend on the wind to blow you where you want to go to conserve your strength. The wind constantly rustles and rushes through the reeds, furnishing a soothing soundscape that the still, shallow water does not. The sound reminds you that come fall you will shake your feathers and fly off to warmer climes. In the meantime, the screen of reeds hide so many attractive spots where you can hide from the gaze of stork cameras and humans, who mostly prefer not to sully their shoes tramping through the wetlands.

Trees play a supporting role in the landscape, and their shade is much appreciated as the sun beats down. The air is much drier and more pleasant than in Graz. Despite being underneath the final approach path to the airport in Vienna, the air at the lakeshore energizes and invites you to take a deep breath. Water, then reed belt, then vineyards as far as the eye can see – which is not too far because the foothills of the Alps lurk on the horizon to the west and north. To the south, where the storks will head in a just a few months, the eye rests on blue sky, puffy clouds, and shapeshifting dreams.

Hope you can spread your wings under a blue sky!