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Greetings from Vienna, #14

March 23rd, 2004


Old Business

If This is Wednesday, We Must Be At My Wedding
Ur, Karin pointed out a couple of factual errors in my account of the wedding day. To wit:

  1. The couple before us was late, but their ceremony was squeezed in without affecting our wedding schedule. (Their ceremony was apparently somewhere on the order of two to three minutes, which made them grumpy, Karin tells me.) The other people who showed up at the waiting room were for the next wedding.
  2. Karin did come on the tram. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend went in the car with my in-laws.


Greetings from Vienna
Part the Fourteenth, Another Day in the Life

The Woodcut School
I've been working with my father-in-law. This is not as straightforward an activity as it might sound as my German is really not up to scratch[1eng], and we are now in the preparation stage of the remodeling. "What remodeling?" I hear you ask. If you have not read the wedding poems, I would direct you thither and come back when you are done. Go on.
Wedding Poem, German
Wedding Poem, English

Done? Great. So now I can expand on the poems a bit and tell you that we are trying to remodel one corner of Karin's (paternal) Grandmother's house. If you've looked at the pictures of Grandma Reißner's Birthday party (from newsletter #5), then you've already seen bits of the property. Here is a view of the famous stables:
It's across the yard from where Grandma Reißner lives, and use to be the stables, back when the family kept animals and Karin's Grandfather did a bit of blacksmith and farrier work. Once that stopped, it became storage. You can see the state it was in:
To the right of the stables is the straw room, to the left is the tractor shed, with an attic space above all of this.

The plan was to remove the non-load bearing wall between the tractor shed and the stable, and turn the resulting space into combination living/bedroom (where the piano and computers will also live). The straw room will have the kitchen and bathroom, and possibly the main door into this "suite" of rooms. We have some other ideas, but they all require more planning on the possible complete remodel of the entire property. But in any case, we have to begin with a major cleanup, followed by some judicious demolition. Here is what the stables looked like after the cleaning up:
This was done two weeks ago, and my father-in-law and I generated quite a bit of recycling, trash, and things that needed to be stored somewhere else for the moment (including three treadle sewing machines).

This was the first opportunity for the two of us to spend extensive time together. Luckily, despite the language gap, the work we had to do was very clear. While I was certainly not ready to have a philosophical discussion in German, I could easily follow directions such as "the shed", "the attic", "the blue sack" (recyclable metals), "the circular saw", etc. Between the work of clearing out the stables, he also had me split some logs. This was actually quite fun, though he did have to correct me on my grip.[2]

Last week, we began the demolition phase of the project. Along with Manfred, my father-in-law's brother-in-law (Manfred is married to Eva, my mother-in-law's sister), we spent this past Thursday taking down the wall between the tractor shed and stables, as well as getting started on breaking up the concrete floors in both rooms. Here are before and after pictures of the shed, and a view of the stables from this newly opened angle:
IMG_2925_tractor_shed IMG_2931_tractor_shed_no_wall IMG_2936_manfred_floor_demo
Here you can see Manfred and my father-in-law (in the overalls) at work:
And this is the new great room with half the floors gone:

This time, I got to use the sledge hammers, picks, shovels, and other implements of destruction. And we needed all of them. The wall was relatively easy, being mostly brick with some cinderblocks. The floors were much harder, requiring the alternate use of sledge hammer and pick to break out sections of concrete. And of course, all of the rubble had to be hauled out into the wagon. Here is a picture of the first wagon-load of debris:
This contains the wall (about the front two-thirds), and the larger pieces of the stables' floor. The tractor shed floor is proving to be much tougher to demolish; my father-in-law informed me that it was made from "American" concrete. Whatever its origins, I can tell that it was a much higher grade of concrete, with nice aggregates (the rocks that goes into concrete). By this time, we were all pretty tired, and it was time for us to call it a day.[3] Friday and Saturday were pretty tough for me, as my upper body was very sore from the work. Unsurprisingly, my legs and back were only a bit twingy; all that dancing is definitely good conditioning.

This week, I'm expecting to go back and see if we can finish off the tractor shed floor. I may even get a chance to help take the demolition debris to the dump. My father-in-law offered to let me drive the tractor; we''ll see how it goes.

Return to the Blue Lagoon
Unlike the States, there has long been a "do-in-yourself" tradition in Austrian house building. This is reflected in a place called "The Blue Lagoon" (Blaue Lagune) just south of Vienna. It is a showcase of model homes from a number of vendors. Where people can come and get ideas for their own home, or even price out and order a home. Karin and I, being definitely of the "needing ideas" variety, went this past Saturday to check out some houses.

Observation #1: Not all Austrian homes have doorless showers. Quite a few of the model homes had showers with doors. We did notice that as the price of homes went up, the more like it was that we'd see a shower with no obvious doors or rods for curtains.

Observation #2: Karin really likes exposed wood in a house. We saw a number of what she called "block houses", which Americans would call "log houses", though the main building components might be squared off logs. Karin especially liked those. I, on the other hand, appreciated wood, but thought that higher ceilings were much more important.

Observation #3: We need a big place. We have one child on the way, so that already demands thinking about a child's bedroom. But we also have to consider the piano. We would pretty much go into each model home and immediately try to find a place for the piano, then a master bedroom, then a child's bedroom (or two).

As the demolition phase of the remodeling winds down, Karin & I will need to really figure out how this space will be organized, so we'll probably to back to the Blue Lagoon again. Since I did not take photos (which was prohibited in many of the model homes, anyway), you can check it out yourself at:

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy the pictures, and we'll see you next week, when I will talk a little bit about the coming of Spring.


Bis Bald.



[1] Meaning "not good enough" or "not sufficient for."

[2] Having studied Japanese sword, I did instinctively try to use the same technique. The problem was that swords are designed to be balanced near where the hand goes, whereas I was holding the axe by the head because otherwise I didn't have the strength to control it well on the downstroke. However, this slowed it down and greatly reducing its efficiency. The trick was to bring the axe up with the hands well apart to support the weight, but then bring the upper hand to the lower hand as the swing starts.

[3] Meaning "finished for now."

[4] Slang for movie. Comes from the word "flicker", or "flackern" in German, which is quality of the light from a movie screen.



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