Monday, April 28, 2008

Paris Transport Article

While I've always been a fan of congestion pricing, I realize how difficult it is to implement. So I was happy to read this article from NYC Streetsblog on how Paris is improving its transport system without congestion pricing. It's an inspiration for us all!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Best Transportation Photos

Wired magazine is having a contest for best transport photos and that gave me the incentive to create a set of my best and put it on my flickr site.

The photos are simply ones that I like, some are kind of arty but most are just interesting (at least to me). Here's a link to the set. The photo above is of the lighthouse at the entrance to Buffalo NY harbor.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tram Dogs Vienna

Today as I was riding home on the Tram 49 there were two small dogs playing with each other (under their owner's gaze) on the otherwise fairly empty tram. They were having a very nice time and gave us all something to smile over. It made me think of my friend Walt, a real dog and transit guy, he would probably love it!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Easter Photos 2008

Here are two photos from Easter 2008 in Wolfsberg. The first shows the traditional Austrian Easter dinner: raisin bread, hardboiled eggs, (cold) ham, wurst (salami), tongue meat, and freshly grated horseradish. Easter is like Thanksgiving in the USA, you eat a big meal on Saturday afternoon, then have leftovers for the rest of the weekend (but, no football on TV). The ham and horseradish is a particularly nice combination.

The second photo shows a couple walking home from Easter mass. They are wearing very nice traditional clothing. I was particularly impressed with the man's hat, and I thought of the American song Easter Parade ... in Austria the men wear the colorful hats (Easter bonnets)!

Vienna: Gaumenspiel Restaurant

One of our favorite restaurants in Vienna is Gaumenspiel on Zieglergasse in the 7th District. We had been staying away for a while because of the smoke, but they have recently gone smoke-free, so we went back - and it's still fantastic.

They have menus, but you can mix and match as well as order ala carte ... the choices are difficult. We both ordered four-course menus. I started with a Styrian beef salad (top photo) and Christa had a salad with seibling (a fish).

We both had the artichoke ravioli. It was really fresh and tart, the pasta cooked just right.

For main courses we had lamb cooked two ways, a simple filet and a braised lamb on a combination mashed potato - wild mushroom puree: out of this world! I had a nice glass of curvee wine (Pinot Noir and Zweigelt) that went perfectly with the lamb.

For dessert, I had a lemon tart with lavender ice cream (!!!) and Christa had a chocolate cake with nougat ice cream (one of our dinner companions ordered two, well actually three - his wife took his first one - of the chocolate dessert).

Gaumenspiel has a great assortment of Austrian wines and the staff know them. They also serve my favorite Austrian beer: Trummer Pils. We each had a beer and a glass of wine and spent 110 Euros. They also have a midday lunch menu including soup and a little dessert for somewhere around 10 EUR ... it's worth the trip.

Vienna: Restaurant Kurz

The Vienna Slow Food Group met at Restaurant Kurz in March (click "Lokal" for the location and telephone number). The menu was Barlauch
(bear's garlic) soup followed by beef filet (two pieces: one from a slow food producer and one from a bio farm).

The meal was excellent and the service was excellent: friendly and efficient. The restaurant has a very nice wine list featuring Austrian wines and the wait staff really know them so they make nice recommendations.

Finally, check out how green the Barlauch soup is ... many people make Barlauch soup, but often it is relatively tasteless ... this one put all the others to shame!

We spent about 30 Euros each including wine.

Urban Plague Monument

Here's an interesting photo. The monument in the background was built to commemorate the end of the plague (Middle Ages) in Wolfsberg Austria. But it's surrounded by a more modern plague ... parked autos!

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

On Thursday I cooked one of our favorite recipes: Pizzoccheri della Valtellina. Valtellina is a valley in northern Italy along the border of Switzerland. I'll discuss it again in a future post.

Pizzocheri is an "Eintopf" dish in the sense that it is (mostly) cooked in a single pot. It is one of those very hearty Alpine dishes designed to keep the shepherds warm and well fed using easily available food. The photo above (sorry for the dark quality) is Pizzoccheri we enjoyed at the Croce Bianca Hotel in Poschiavo Switzerland. Everyone has their own recipe, notice the carrots in the photo, but enough talking, here's my recipe, feel free to be creative:


  • 1 pound buckwheat noodles, use flat, wide (1 cm wide), short (6 cm long) noodles for best results;
  • 1/2 pound potatoes;
  • 1 pound mountain cheese (e.g. as strong as you can stand: Appenzeller, Gruyere are great);
  • 4 ounces bacon (spec) diced small;
  • 1 pound onions sliced;
  • 4 cloves garlic (or more if you like);
  • 1 pound spinach;
  • Crushed peppercorns to taste (I use 1-2 ounces);
  • Salt, olive oil;

  1. Place sliced onions, bacon, olive oil in large (12-quart) Dutch oven pan (non-stick best), cook at medium heat stirring frequently, add salt and pepper as you cook;
  2. In another large pot boil about 8 quarts of water;
  3. Peel potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes;
  4. Place potatoes in boiling water, cook for about 5-minutes;
  5. Place buckwheat noodles in boiling water (with potatoes), cook for about 10 more minutes;
  6. While noodles are cooking grate the cheese (note this is a good opportunity to get rid of all your old cheese, use whatever you have on hand);
  7. Taste noodles, when they are almost done add the spinach;
  8. Stir the mixture constantly, taste the noodles and when they are done drain most of the water;
  9. Add the potato-noodle-spinach mixture to the onion-bacon mixture, stir carefully so as to not smush the potatoes too much;
  10. Add the grated cheese to the mixture, again stirring it carefully;
  11. Add a bit of the noodle cooking water to the mixture;
  12. Cover the pan and let it settle for a few minutes;
  13. Serve in pasta bowls.

Cavett on Iraq and Language

Dick Cavett has a great op-ed in the NYT today that discusses the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker before Congress. The op-ed dissects the language they used and clears through the fog of war.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Smoking in Europe

One of the things that really bothered us about moving to Europe was the lack of smoking restrictions in restaurants, cafes and bars. It was interesting because it did not bother my wife until she spent 6-months in San Francisco - then she understood!

However, since we moved back to Europe in 2005, countries have gradually been imposing bans. The big surprise is really how few problems these have caused. I could never imagine Italy or France without a cloud of smoke - but they have done a pretty good job.

In contrast, Austria and Switzerland, two places where you might think clean air was popular, have not been able to pass effective national regulations. In Austria the debate has degenerated into absurdity and is now a pawn in the larger coalition government party free-for-all. Imagine the Health Minister arguing for weaker regulations and suggesting that the regulations not go into effect for 4-5 years!

Happily both the Swiss National Railways and Austrian National Railway are now completely smoke free. The story in Switzerland is especially interesting. In about October 2005, I read a story in the SBB's customer magazine (VIA) saying that the SBB was considering when to ban smoking and probably it would be done by 2011 or 2012. Then, on about December 1, the SBB announced that all trains would be smoke-free starting December 12. They also did a great advertising campaign with posters like a cowboy on a horse lighting-up while the train left the station. (I will try to find links.)

Anyway, about six months later I read an article saying that the SBB had received about 100 complaints (!!), essentially none about the change. Oh, and they saved millions of Swiss Francs in costs.

Poppy seed specialist

Today I was surprised as I walked to my job teaching English at the college of applied science by a van that had advertising on the side for a restaurant. It said specializing in poppy seeds. Maybe it's my German, but I need to go to this restaurant to find out exactly what it means.