Up, up & away we must go!
What the robbers did not take!
In a few months it will 17 years since we came to live in Austria, but soon the time will come when we will have to leave the country, as my husband will be going into retirement. I think Austria was good to us, but we are now looking for other horizons, as we would like to escape from the long and cold winter months. The funny thing is that we will be returning to exactly the same place where we came from nearly two decades ago: the country Down Under!
I have moved many times in my life before, but it is never an easy thing to do! To start with, we have a couple of properties in Austria: a house in the country and a flat in the city of Graz.
The Pack house
We built our weekend house in the countryside soon after we arrived. It is situated at about 800 metres, near the village of Pack, on the shores of a lake, some 45 minutes away from Graz. The area is famous for its forests, mushrooms and wild berries. The lake is also well known for its trout fishing and sailing.
It is very nice in the Pack house, as there is good air and it is also very quiet, but being at 800 metres means that it can get very cold in the winter months. We can heat the place up for a week or ten days, but it is not easy to do. Traditionally we have always spent the Christmas and Easter school holidays there, as well as a couple of months in summer, but otherwise, the only one who goes there regularly is my husband, as he has a vegetable patch there, of which he is very proud and he harvests it every year.
There is no Internet connection there, so I think that is the reason why our children prefer not to go there for extended periods of time. The house is well equipped, but retiring there is not really an option for two reasons: the cold weather in winter and the fact that there are no other people around. So leaving Austria means that we will have to sell the Pack house, as there won’t be anybody with a car to look after it and we also need the money to buy a place where we would be retiring.
We first went to the Pack area just a few months after arriving in Graz and I knew what the area meant to my husband, as he had always told me about the holidays he used to spend there with his family when he was young. It was while having a holiday in the guest house that still stands near our house, that we first found out that there was a piece of land for sale and we were the ones who eventually bought it.
When we were ready, we looked for somebody who could build a typical wooden blockhouse and then somebody to be in charge of building it. We also had to find electricians, plumbers and people to look after the well, water, windows and shutters, although we were the ones who ended up doing the gardening ourselves.
We were also the ones to do most of the painting, tiling and wallpapering. We were also lucky to have my mother’s help when she came to visit us from Canada and she was also the one who made all the quilts that are displayed on the walls all over the house.
We also put stones around the area in front and that allowed us to have many parties there! To provide shade, my husband also built a pergola, which has a clear, plastic roof, so we can even use the area to sit outside even when it is raining.
Even plants have a story in the Pack house! There used to be a big tree just across from the entrance steps, but one day the farmer, who is our neighbour, just cut it off! That made me very upset, as the children had used it as tree house when they were small. My husband though was more concerned about whether he had done the right thing, as he reckoned the tree was in our property anyway.
Many years ago we transplanted some baby pine trees, which were growing under the big trees on the side of the driveway. Now, many years later, they have grown and are the ones standing in front of the house, providing privacy by obscuring the view of the house from the road.
There was also another pine tree, growing all twisted between some metal cables at the back of the house and we moved that one too. We planted it in front of the house and it is growing very straight now, to become our Christmas tree in the future perhaps, while providing some needed shade on hot summer days in the meantime.
Many years ago we also went with my mother to a garden centre to buy bushes and they have grown considerably since then. In summer we also like to add some colour to our garden, so we include different small flowering plants there.
Whether on walls, or shelves, the Pack house is full of handicrafts, be it quilts made by my mother in Canada, or embroidery I did myself from embroidery sets she sent me. What I enjoyed most were some embroidery with quilt patterns and I used to do them while sitting in the car, as we drove up to or down from the Pack!
There are also two embroideries in the dining room, which I got from a Burda magazine pattern and they are my favourite. They are big and were very involved to do, but I always thought that the oil, herbs, spices and mushrooms theme was very appropriate for our country house.
I was very glad that the robbers, who broke into the house a few years ago, did not have an eye for handicrafts, as they did not take anything and left them instead for us to keep on enjoying! Unfortunately, the big antique table and chairs, skiing gear, winter clothing, sheets and towels did not suffer the same fate, but maybe those people needed them more than we did.
We have a few shelves over our kachel oven and that is where we place the mementoes that we have brought from overseas trips, or that our many international visitors have given us. We have items from: Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, Dominican Republic, Japan, USA, South Africa, Italy, Iran and Venezuela.
In that house we also have our collection of big travel books and videos, which we watch on the laptop that we usually take along. My favourite is the one by Michael Palin as he travels around the world! Every time I watch those videos it is as if I was watching them for the first time, as I enjoy them every time!
What the robbers set aside to take at a later time perhaps, but did not, was a small wooden table and that is where we usually put together our jigsaw puzzles and we have quite a collection of completed ones already.
I don’t know why, but I seem to be more attached to the Pack house rather than the city flat. I guess the Pack house has been the source of much pride for us, but especially for my husband, as he was the one who did most of the work there: mowing the lawn every summer; building the wooden fence and doors at the entrance to the driveway; building the pergola and planting the bushes, bulbs and flowers every year. He has also been the one to religiously celebrate his birthday there every year, to which he traditionally invites all of his university assistants.
The Pack house is out in nature, all surrounded by pine forests, so the air is clean and it is also very quiet and relaxing there. In contrast, the city flat is very loud; as one can always hear the traffic, rubbish trucks, ambulances, motorcycles, etc. The air is also very polluted, as the city always exceeds the limits set by the European Union. The only measure that has been taken has been to reduce the speed limit on the highway to 100kph, which probably has no effect whatsoever anyway!
I don’t think we will get rid of the city flat, but we need to sell the Pack house, as otherwise we won’t be able to buy a retirement property when we move to Australia in a couple of years time. We have no idea how easy or difficult it will be to sell, but it hurts to have to do it. It is a pity that we can’t take the Pack house along with us to put it on a beach somewhere!
Our city flat was where my husband and his brother lived in when they were growing up and they inherited it when their mother passed away some years ago. It is well situated, just across from the main university, but it is still to early to tell whether our children will decide to study there or not.