Tag Archives: Carinthia

Life List – Another One Checked Off

To Do (in) Life List Item # 101. Renovate the Austrian Apartment.

√ Check.

This was one heck of a learning experience. It was fun, often stressful and frankly was enough to give me pause when considering whether we ever want to build a house. I’m not sure I want to care that much about drawer pulls again…at least for a good long while. Now it’s done and we can enjoy it.

There we are!

It's more put together than any apartment we've lived in. I'm not sure if that makes me proud or embarrassed.

Here’re all the related posts:

* A recap of what led up to this (link)

* Before, during and after pictures (link)

* How we dealt with reluctant workers (link)

* The Kitchen (link)

* The Entryway and Bath (link)

* The Bedroom (link)

* The Living Room (link)

* From Dining Nook to Cocktail Corner (here)

And we're done here for now. On to the next one!


Renovation: The Living Room and Cocktail Corner

Part 2: The Cocktail Corner

Cozier, but now seats more.

The dining nook became the cocktail corner, sort of by accident. We replaced the original faux farmhouse table with a much smaller table we got from the proprietors of the oldest Hütte on the mountain. It’s a super cool old little table, but it certainly makes things cozier. But for cocktails, I reasoned, this is more than fine.

We’d been looking a long time for a table and had gotten nowhere until we asked someone on the mountain to help us find something with “Hüttenerfahrung” or a bit of mountain experience. They did one step above that. When we went to  thank them, the wife smiled and said with a wink that the table had tons of experience – including plenty of good times for them in their kitchen. What that really means, was purposely left open to interpretation. Continue reading

Renovation: A Recap


So right before all that reproductive stuff happened, Oliver and I had been in Austria checking out our itsy bitsy little vacation apartment, figuring out what renovations we wanted to do.

There it is!

Here’s a little recap.

* A small idea snowballed and suddenly, almost by accident we bought a little place in the Fall of 2009. You can read more about the why’s and what’s here.

* The original owners had been there since the building was constructed, so it was packed full of everything, including four sets of oil and vinegar. We left everything in place until renovation time, because moving anything left a gaping hole. You can see some ‘before’ pictures here.

* In August of last year we drove to Austria to make the arrangements. We had some interesting ideas, including using pink. You can read about my concerns here.

* And then it began. First step: get rid of everything. Everything included all the inner walls. Ouch. See it here.

All caught up? Ok. Renovation is only partly about destruction, tomorrow we’ll see some of the fun parts. Until then, below are some final pics of reaching zero, rock bottom, the empty shoebox.


…and then there was nothing left but the subflooring and some pipes.

I think this used to be the bathroom.

Time to start over from the ground up.

And then there was nothing but the shoe box it came in.

Remember that I said it was more like an Airstream trailer than an apartment?

Renovation: Demolition

Hallway and kitchen: Before.

Hallway, bedroom and kitchen: Gone.

Living room: Gone.

Pink bathroom: Gone.

I come from a family of packrats where everything is sacred and has value, unless it’s covered in excrement or on fire. My visits home inevitably include a forced funeral for an old cofffee maker or toaster that isn’t good enough for Goodwill, but according to my dad not good enough for the trash.

What happened to the contents of this apartment was a cardinal sin in my family.

I used to be one of them. But moving around so much during college and then abroad pretty much cured me. Still I tried to give away what I could and I surveyed eBay to see what if anything was worth salvaging. But really, who needs an egg cooker that’s 20 years old?

With a few exceptions, pretty much everything went.  I like to think that the building manager had some local folks come by and collect some of the furniture and that maybe someone grabbed a knick knack or two on the way out the door. But realistically, most everything went into the dumpster.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Renovation: Before Pictures

The view of the entrance hallway, from the kitchenette.

When I tell someone that we’re renovating a little vacation apartment in Austria I actually use the words “teeny tiny”. It’s almost like we’re fixing up an Airstream trailer rather than an apartment. It’s so small you can’t even say cozy without being sarcastic.

Everything had its place and every place was packed with stuff. All the cupboards, shelves and cubby holes were full. Behind those cabinet doors is a set of Villeroy and Boch china for 8 people, with tea and coffee cups.

Tucked among the multiple silk flower arrangements was a full spice rack, two juicers and four sets of vinegar and oil bottle for the table. Also, that lime green apron (which I kept).

Entering the super pink bathroom...

This cute little elderly couple had vacationed here since the early 60’s and their mark was everywhere. Note the symbol on the door to the (super pink) bathroom. 🙂

Pink. With roses!

And the rose appliqués that the lady had done herself. I’m standing in the bath to take the picture, but you can’t see that there was awashing machine tucked under the sink at my feet. In such a small space you could easily descend into chaos. The previous mistress had placed about 20 self adhesive hooks stuck all over.

Living room: Before

When we arrived last year for the holidays, we had planned to start sorting the contents and tossing things right away. But with so many knick knacks on the walls and shelves we quickly realized that anything that was removed left a gaping hole in the decor. A glaringly obvious, annoying hole. So we left it all intact until this Fall when we could finally make arrangements for the work to begin once the season ended and the building emptied out.

Regretfully everything was in wonderful shape and the apartment had been lovingly maintained. It wasn’t our taste but the interior had a consistent “grandma style” that was carried throughout the apartment.  We’d already discovered that changing anything had a domino effect, so it was clear that we had to choose between keeping everything and not keeping anything.

We have sworn never to tell this sweet couple what we did next…

Ab in die Berge! Or, How We Went to the Alps to Change the World, One Tiny Ripple at a Time.

Two rebels are heading off soon to make trouble in the mountains and soak in a lot views like this one.

Photoshop-free, just crazy gorgeous.

This weekend is the annual meeting of apartment owners for our building in Austria, and now that we are officially one of them, we’re going over to start a revolution and probably make a few enemies among the silver set.

Build in the 1960’s the majority of those who own apartments in the building were young at that time and are… well, a little crotchety now. The house rules, posted in three languages at the door, are a riot.

It’s four pages of: No running. No noise. „Quiet Time“ is like 18 out 24 hours a day. It’s very detailed and ridiculous.

Obviously we – and a lot of other people who actually use the place (the grandkid generation of the owners) – do not hold themselves to the more restrictive ones. For the most part they are largely ignored, but they are still officially on the books, and we’d like to change that and shift the rules in favor of the coming generation.

Right after we signed on the apartment Oliver started making plans. We’re starting modest, but it’s still going to ruffle some feathers. The elderly do not like change and Germans do not like reducing rules, they prefer to add to them.

Hopefully we will prevail. In our favor is the fact that: a) we are going to be there to vote b) most of the others won’t bother to come, and c) collectively the family has three apartments and three votes.

And the crazy rules we’re attacking first? Well, they are:

Removing the swim cap requirement for people in the pool (this currently applies even to my brother-in-law, pictured below).

Note the bald head of the one on top and the annoyed expression of the one on the bottom.

Instituting a two-hour splash time between the hours of 4 and 6 pm for children and people of all ages. (Children under five, like my nephew above, are right now not even allowed in the pool, and any swimming that causes splashes is strictly forbidden.)

We also hope to buy a beer for the crazy fool who is suggesting to install broadband and WiFi. A kindred soul? Perhaps!

Man we are going to be making some waves. I fully expect at least one senior will try to spit on us. And if I’m lucky I’ll get a dirty foreigner comment. This round is to get our feet wet, next time around we’ll tackle the noise rules.

We’re off now to make the world a better place (at least for people like us).

Along with such selfless acts, we will try to balance that with wine, schnapps and things better imagined and left unmentioned.

Threadless t-shirts rock the Alps. Stay tuned.

Oh..and skiing of course! 🙂

Life List – Let’s Tackle a Big One First

To Do (in) Life List Item # 19. Own real estate


Our Christmas present came early this year.

A few months back when I started putting together my Life “To Do” List, I included this one almost as an after-thought. As an kid from a from a middle class American family, this step was just assumed. A lot has changed since I left California and now these predictions about our generation not achieving the same life style as our parents are really starting to hit home. I wasn’t as shocked as some at the outcome of last years’ crisis, in part because I’d already accepted that I had set myself back more than just a few years by moving abroad and starting over from scratch. But I still figured I was bound to get there someday.

Over here in Germany it’s also a bit different. The German version of “The Dream” is to build a house, plant a tree, have a stammtisch and sire a son. But also prominent is the idea that you might skip the whole home-ownership thing and rent your whole life. In fact, in the major cities it’s usually more expensive to own and live in your own home vs renting.

In our case, what has really stood between us and owning an apartment though has been the uncertainty of where we’ll be in 18 months. Financial issues aside, it just hasn’t seemed worth it to go to all that trouble for something we would have to turn around and sell in a few years.

The Carinthian mountains and valley, and the Slovenian and Italian Alps.

Then it finally dawned on us: We do know where we’ll be, at least twice a year, on vacation. In Austria, tucked away in Carinthia is an alp with a little local ski resort where Oliver’s family has been vacationing for over 35 years. Their small apartment, about a 3.5 hour drive from Munich, was our escape whenever we needed some roommate-free time alone. It was where he took me, straight from the airport, when I arrived for my first visit*.

There it is!

The idea finally occurred to us when we were listening to a friend, in a similar situation, who had just shelved house-hunting in favor of renting, choosing instead to invest in a vacation apartment. With his family growing (at last count, three kids), they were facing significantly increased travel costs just to take a weekend vacation. When they learned their favorite hotel was building bungalows, they jumped at the opportunity to buy one. The hotel would even rent and service the apartment when they weren’t there, allowing them to offset a lot of the costs.

That turned the lightbulb on over our heads. Continue reading