About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.

Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

A Cultural Meander Thru the Heart of Vienna

November 26, 2015 by  


I hadn’t been back to Vienna in over twenty years, so returning this past October was a real treat. First, I’m not in my twenties any more so knew I’d appreciate all the things that may have passed by me the first time around, like Vienna’s incredibly history, architecture, prevalence of classical music, and food. Great food btw – be sure to read my write-up on Vienna Restaurants and Food.

I stayed at The Guesthouse, which is a boutique luxury hotel in the heart of Vienna — it was about as central as you could get, and just around the corner from Hotel Sacher, which had it not been booked, I would have loved to wake up in old world style. I did in fact have lunch here and taste their infamous chocolate torte. Just around the corner is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which stands like a majestic empress controlling the city center.


Of course, if you’re into history and museums, Vienna has no shortage of either. It is not only the capital of Austria, but also one of its nine federal states. Unlike many large urban centers, half of Vienna is made up of grassland, parks, gardens and woods. “Urban Green” such as Stadtpark is joined by woods and Prater grassland and sections of Vienna Woods, vineyards, farmland and the wetlands run along the legendary Danube River. Prata Stern is a square in the Prata area of Vienna, which is a trendy area and fun to walk around. Nearby is an amusement park, a football stadium, a fairground and the most exclusive golf course, where you can also horseback ride. It’s very green, a bit like Central Park in that it’s large, running 6 square kilometers long.

Outside my hotel you’ll find horses in the main square, not far from St. Stephen’s Cathedral — it’s a great option if you’re not in the mood to walk and it doesn’t get much more romantic than seeing a historical European city in a carriage.

Since I didn’t have time to explore some of Vienna’s lesser known neighborhoods like I did in Berlin earlier this year (see my Berlin Neighborhoods write-up), I explored the foodie and cultural scene. It’s hard for me to miss a city market if there is one, and so I headed to Naschmarkt, Vienna’s most famous market and the nearby Freihausviertel area, which is a hip neighborhood, full of shops, art galleries and cafes. Below are some fruit and vegetables which line one side of the market, although you can find everything from oils and herbs to spices and wine.

Naschmarkt & the Foodie Scene

You can also get homemade Gluvine, which is a hot punch made with red wine, cinnamon and orange juice which was a welcome retreat on those brisk late Autumn days.

Also in the market is Umar Fish, which is run by Umar from Turkey, who has the most number of fish restaurants in the market. Also don’t miss sampling Kriecherllikor, which is a sweet traditional drink that is popular in Austria. The cafe below is not quite open for the evening…

Walking down a side street – Vienna, like most urban city centers in Europe has a lot of street art and graffiti.

A more modern urban scape of the city despite the fact that there are plenty of old world places to shop, dine and drink coffee or beer.

Below is the Gegenbauer Shop, which is known for their brewed beer and vinegar production. It was a fun place to visit since you could see the volume of oils and vinegars on-site and could even taste them. Flavors included asparagus, tomato, saffron, cucumber, elderberry, black currant, sour cherry, red pepper, fig and a host of others. Also known for his oils, he had fresh pumpkin oil on-site, which is famous in Austria. Others included chili, basil, fennel and sweet pepper to name a few.

Also in this neighborhood, you’ll find authentic coffee houses – caffeine only I learned after asking for a decaf since it was late afternoon.

We also hit Babette’s Spice & Books, which does cooking lessons and Blumenkraft, which is a hip flower store. Along the Danube, you can take boats up and down the river, another great way to see the city. The Generations Coffee House is also a great stop — housed at the bottom of an urban building with authentic brick walls, the idea is that grannies make baked goods and sell them in the cafe.

I loved the funkiness of this chain steak restaurant El Gaucho – there was one housed inside the Stilwerk Design Center, which had a funky inside and patio seating area.

A modern upscale restaurant in the same neighborhood, apparently always busy….

Mochi Restaurant is nearby on Prata Strasse (below), which is one of the best sushi restaurants in Vienna as is famous Georgian restaurant Ansari.  These are both mentioned in my Vienna Restaurants round-up.


Along the Danube Canal sits the Uniqa Tower Building, which is unique in the city. Not only do they do light shows every night, but there’s a cocktail bar, cinema, restaurant and historical education center for adults. You can also take a boat cruise up and down the Danube, which is another great way to see the city.

Fashion and style are not after thoughts to the Viennese — you see snippets of it throughout the city, whether that be at a top end designer’s shop or mall, the beautifully designed style of a cafe or a shop window.

On our city walk, we hit Stilwerk Design Center, which was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The building itself is only black, white or gray and the Sofitel sits on top of the building which includes its ever so trendy Das Loft cocktail bar. You can see a vibrantly-painted ceiling as you climb to the top of the design center; this art installation is from Swiss designer Piplotti Rist. (below) Each year, the Stilwerk Design Center hosts Vienna Design Week, which is a popular annual event for locals.

Nearby is Scheer.at, which is well known for their handmade shoes — 5 thousand euros is their starting mark to purchase a pair and it takes 6 months to make. There were other upscale designer shops located in the area, which we took a meander through, stopping to chat with the proprietors to learn about the masters behind the fashion.

Also worth noting is another district called Freihaus, just south of Nieumarkt, an interesting area to walk around. If you want to map out a walking route, more information about what can be found at www.Preihausviertel.at.


Art is an integral part of both old and new Viennese culture so much so that you can spend a couple of weeks alone if you have that much time just exploring museums, art galleries and exhibitions. Magnificent edifices, predominantly in baroque, historicism (Ringstrasse) and art nouveau styles extend throughout the city. The city has so much to offer, you can easily re-live the romance of a long-lost empire and you feel it by merely taking a long walk.

Vienna is known for its museums and art galleries. On the list of must visits include Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), which houses the world’s largest collection of Bruegel paintings. At the Belvedere, you can see numerous works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele and the Leopold Museum is also well known.

The Museums Quartier has 60,000 square meters of usable floor space on eight different levels, making it one of the ten largest cultural complexes in the world. Other Austrian artists work can be found throughout the city, including Klimt as mentioned above, Kokoschka, and Gerstl.

Close to the opera house, the Albertina houses the world’s largest collection of graphic art, spanning 60,000 drawings, millions of prints and an extensive collection of photographic and architectural material.

The Belvedere palaces and formal gardens make up one of Europe’s most attractive Baroque ensembles and Upper Belvedere is home to the world’s leading collection of Austrian Art.  The Sisi Museum at Hofburg Palace show Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) and her life, from personal belongings to other artifacts, including the dress she wore on the evening of her wedding, and the monarch’s parasol, fans and gloves.


Vienna boasts 50 theaters, including four opera houses and several stage musical theaters, numerous galleries, and renowned drama, music and dance festivals throughout the year. No other city has been home to so many composers of international renown, including Schubert, Strauss, Schoenberg, Berg, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms and Mahler.

It also has one of the world’s top orchestras — Vienna Symphony Orchestra. While I didn’t have a chance to see them, the Vienna Boys Choir is also globally known. You need to plan to get tickets weeks in advance, if not months in advance to be sure to get great access and views.

They also have a Life Ball and the Festival of Electronic Music, which is more appealing to those with a modern music taste.

I had a Vienna Card, which allows you to get into many of the sites and attractions. Check out www.vienna.info/en for an extensive database of events and many useful hints for your trip to Vienna. I also used a guide, which is useful if you have limited time. Art Historian Alexa Brauner does tours in English, Italian and German and you can inquire about her tour options at guide@alexabrauner.at.



Salzburgerland’s Mondsee Exudes Old Fashioned Austrian Charm

November 24, 2015 by  


Meet Mondsee, a village just outside Salzburg Austria in the Vöcklabruck District. As quaint as it is, the main reason it is known among tourists, particularly music lovers and romantics among you, is because of the town houses St. Michael’s Church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp married in the original movie, The Sound of Music. Located along Kirchengasse in the town’s central square, there are also beautiful trees throughout and surrounding the town. (below is taken within a five minute walk of the church).

Mondsee is located on the shore of the Lake Mondsee and is home to the historic medieval Mondsee Abbey. The cloister church was used for the site of the wedding — below.

The Abbey itself dates back to 748, and no I didn’t miss the number 1. It was founded by Odilo, Duke of Bavaria. The abbey tradition was that the first monks came from Monte Cassino in Italy. In 788, after the fall of Duke Tassilo III, Mondsee became an Imperial abbey and over the centuries acquired extensive property. Around 800, the Codex Millenarius, an illustrated Latin book of the Gospels was written at the abbey. In 831, King Louis the Pious gave the monastery to Regensburg Cathedral. What a fascinating history…

It was great to have the opportunity to circle around the church and take in her beauty, especially as it was one of the few clear blue skied days we had during our week in Salzburgerland. Ahhh yes, let her glory shine!

Inside the church, there was more to take in. The ornamental fine attention to detail throughout the church was astonishingly beautiful. This gothic former monastery is just as striking today as ever, as its two towers stretch 52 meters into the sky. Bear in mind that it was constructed in the 15th century under the direction of abbot Benedikt Eck and is the second biggest church in Upper Austria. Saint Wolfgang spent a year in Mondsee in 976 as Bishop of Ratisbon and founded the pilgrim church at the Wolfgangsee Lake.

The Sound of Music filming is why more than 200.000 people visit the church every year and still remains one of the most photographed churches around the world — that’s how popular the film was and the impact it had outside Austria. Pope John Paul II upgraded the church to a basilica in 2005 and four years later in 2009, the church reopened after a huge restoration which became Austria’s monument of the year. Below, you’ll get an idea of the rich colors inside the church.

Right outside the church in the main square, you can enter a courtyard that is almost as majestic in feeling as the basilica itself.

Once you leave the square, you’re faced with colorful buildings along a main drag which mostly house cafes, shops, and restaurants.

There’s also a market where you can buy fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses and homemade breads — the Austrian bread is so so delicious!

One of the most charming parts about the town is not just the church, although it is definitely worth visiting, Sound of Music fan or not, is the surrounding greenery (there’s a park in the town), as well as the authentic buildings and houses, which take you back in time to old world Austria. Mondsee is incredibly charming and a must visit, and of course, if you sign up for a tour of the main Sound of Music sites, you will likely visit it as part of your tour. If you’re there solo, then rent a car and head out of town.

Below are shots of the park (and from inside the park) taken on a late afternoon October day.

The Sound of Music 50th Anniversary was the primary reason I went to Salzburg this fall, so be sure to read my extensive write-ups that relate to it: The Sound of Music Sites for Romantics & Nature Lovers and Salzburg Celebrates The Sound of Music 50 Years Later. Also refer to the post on Salzburgerland, for History, Culture and Breathtaking Countryside.  I also wrote a Salzburg Food and Restaurant Guide for foodie lovers and about my experience at a traditional farm nearby in Faustenau.



Umbrella Making in Salzburg, a Lost Art

November 23, 2015 by  


There aren’t any signs for this umbrella making shop in the heart of old Salzburg and we wouldn’t have known about it had it not been for our private guide, which is the only way you can visit the family behind old fashioned, traditional umbrella making – a lost art if you will…

In a small alleyway in Salzburg’s main shopping area, the shop of Andreas Kirchtag, a Schirmerzeuger, or umbrella maker is located in a space above another shop. It’s not easy to find, so if you’re interested, inquire with a guide to make sure it’s on the agenda you sign up for when planning your agenda. Their shop is located upstairs on the second floor which you access via a small elevator down a small alleyway.

We learn that Kirchtag’s family has been hand-making umbrellas for 100 years and after we explore the process and the high quality materials they use, I realize that I never want to own a cheap umbrella bought from some known or unknown market again.  Take a look at the myriad of wood choices you have to choose from, and that’s just the beginning….

The handles and selection process is more complex than you might imagine….

SO many choices, so much to discover……the newer ones even fold, so you can put them in a backpack or briefcase. OKAY mobile warriors, how cool is that?

You can choose your own material too which makes the process that much more fun.

All the tools were there too so you could see what it took to produce a handmade umbrella with the finest of materials.

I loved the energy of this place — had I stayed for longer and had time to think about what and how I wanted to commission a personalized umbrella, I likely would have taken the plunge.

Below is a video I shot on-site so you can get a more textured idea of my experience in Salzburg. Two thumbs up — authentic and beautiful at its core!

Salzburg’s Historical Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains

November 22, 2015 by  


Let’s face it, who’s not drawn to water? It’s the number one source that keeps us alive and our bodies are made up of more water than anything else.  Inevitably, this is the reason we love oceans, lakes and fountains so much and are naturally drawn to natural sources of water.

Historical Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg Austria had water as a defining element in the design of the palace from the very beginning. The fountains and water jets can be enjoyed almost exactly the way they were intended 400 years ago – as entertainment for the archbishops – and still include secret and mystical grottos, water-powered figures and hidden jets of water around every corner. Outside, you can meander through the palace and take in the majestic nature of the Palace itself with its numerous fountains, all of which have “tricks” connected to them.

Hellbrunn is a veritable jewel with not just decadent fountains, but a spacious park that combines artificially landscaped park land and natural biotopes. The water games and trick fountains are a truly unique experience where you will constantly expect the unexpected as you go on a tour of the grounds, which we did by night, which adds mystery to the experience.

The ‘Lustschloss’ was a pleasure palace built for staging festivities, for enjoyment and relaxation. Originally, this was a privilege reserved for the archbishops, although today it’s open to anyone who wishes to stroll around the park, enjoy the fountains and hidden water jets, or celebrate in the magnificent halls of the palace.

The Salzburg Prince-Bishop Markus Sittikus ordered the building of a summer residence at the foot of the naturally irrigated hill in Hellbrunn between 1612 and 1615. During this relatively short period, an architectural jewel was erected in the popular Italian style of the age. It is still considered one of the most splendid Renaissance buildings on the northern side of the Alps. Its purpose was to foster the enjoyment of life, to provide pleasurable distractions and entertainment.

Since March 2015, three rearranged rooms have been on show: the music chamber, the ‘Fasnacht’ room and the ‘Festival Hall’. They are first of a total of ten rooms that are to house the ‘Markus Sittikus – My view of the World’ exhibition over the next few years.

In addition to the tricks you’ll be surprised by from the fountains, the real magic for me came from spending time inside the rooms, which bring you back to another place and time — the ornamental artwork and attention to detail will wow you over.

In some rooms, the walls and ceilings are made of shells – in all cases, Greek Mythology is depicted as a way to tell a story. And, despite its 400 year age, the colors are still vivid and intoxicating, even when you visit the rooms that are almost cave-like, by night. The below shots were taken without flash when it was dark outside.

Outside, you’re faced with this lit up image at night as you walk along the path that takes you through the Palace gardens.

The Mystery of the Grottos

Imagine a time in jolly court society where there’s a flickering light of hundreds of candles and torches, carried by ghostly servants and posed in one of the five grottos: The Neptune Grotto, the Ruins Grotto, the Shell grotto, the Mirror Grotto and the Bird Call Grotto.

The Bird Call Grotto is where ten different bird calls are heard from several niches in the tuff coating in the walls. One would imitate these bird calls today with a simple tape-recording, but at the time, required a large room on the north side of the palace containing the entire mechanism of the eight water-pipes and three dry pipes to be effective; they used a vertical waterwheel driven by a jet of water from above. The wheel moves the bellows, which drives the wind into the sound-board of an organ works. These works are then driven by a turbine-like waterwheel mounted horizontally on the floor, which turns the pin roller four times each minute.

The pin roller carries eleven rows of pins for the eleven bird calls. Valves are opened by the pins when the roller turns, which then allows the pressurized air access to the pipes outside in the grotto. The air passes though lead pipes and the feet of the pipes, which are hidden in the grotto, are dipped into water containers. The water in the containers is always kept at the same height through an exactly regulated inflow and outflow and when the pipe responds, air flows out through the water resulting in bird calls that resemble the gurgling of water.

The original system of 1613 contained only the calls of three birds. The works of today are from Hradil, the fountain master. Parts of an old organ works by Sautner of circa 1830 still exist. At the fountains of the Neptune Grotto, its unnerving to see the Germaul, a tin, water-driven grimacing face, which rolls its eyes and pokes its tongue in disrespect at you. This gets a little eerie if you stare at it for too long…it feels just a little too “real.”

A first sample of the countless hidden jets and pipes happens at this grotto when you get a downpour with a rainbow! D. Gisberthi wrote in 1670: “One does not allow oneself to be insulted without joy and pleasure, and must nevertheless laugh despite the lack of politeness.” When one turns away from the palace to the north where the park becomes suddenly narrow, somewhat gloomy and almost intimate, there is a very different effect than the loud screams from the surprises you receive at every turn.

It wouldn’t be the Hellbrunn trick fountains if there were no cascading, needle-thin water jets, which following their absorbed rapture brings you back to reality when you least expect it. Another attraction when strolling among the trick fountains is the Midas Grotto, or Crown Grotto, in the middle of which a bursting jet of water raises a crown, and according to the pressure, holds it almost immovably at a particular height. It will startle you as you walk through, as the water jets inside this grotto begin to shoot from wall niches. Alas, more tricks for the taking when you experience the trick fountains, so expect to be surprised again and again.

Europe’s Oldest Outdoor Theatre

Markus Sittikus had the rock quarry in Hellbrunn transformed into what is now Europe’s oldest open-air theatre, subsequently known as the ‘Steintheater’. The Hellbrunn ‘Monatsschlösschen’, its real name being Waldems. Today, it is home to the Volkskundemuseum run by the Salzburg Museum, where exhibits include a whole collection of Salzburg’s most attractive ‘Tracht’ outfits for men and women. How cool is that?

Photo credit: www.commons.wikimedia.org.

The 5 Hellbrunn Water Automats

The automats are so interesting, I thought I’d include the history behind them in depth so you can put it into context. These five water automats on-site or rather five small grottos are arranged unspectacularly on a narrow path, as the so-called Royal Way shows, and depict small genre scenes from Greek mythology and the local artisan scene. The inherent technology remains completely hidden from the observer, one sees only small dolls, which carry out their movement to an infinitely uniform rhythm, which are delightful to watch and of a touching simplicity. The pumps that provide these technical works of wonder with water are hidden in a hill of tuff at the beginning of the path that is fringed by a narrow channel.

In the first grotto, the grinder, his wife and child are shown in his daily work. The grinding wheel is apparently turned by the woman who moves her upper body, head and arms. The grinder in the background to the left does not move. The child lying at the front on the ground spits water. In the next grotto we see the mythological scene in which Apollo flays Marsyas. Apollo can be turned on the axis of his right leg and he takes the right arm of Marsyas with him as he moves. Apollo’s right arm makes a cutting movement. Marsyas shakes his head in despair. Grotto number three accommodates the miller at his work. He does not move himself. The mill wheel in the background turns from left to right.

The flour, which appears to fl ow from the miller’s bucket on to the millstone is imitated by a white spiral of tin. It turns from above to below as an extension of the millstone axis. The lower part of the fl our imitation is turned independently. The clattering of the mill is created in the box below the millstone. In grotto four we see Perseus and Andromeda. In the middle of the background is Andromeda who is bound naked to the rock. The figure does not move. The dragon in the foreground moves from left right. When the dragon has reached the middle, Perseus emerges from the right raising a shield and sword.

The hero drops his shield and sword when reaching the dragon and both figures return to their respective starting point. The works in this grotto has the most complicated technology of all. The movement of the dragon is provided by the vertical well of a crown wheel, which is driven via a small cogwheel on the waterwheel well. A larger cogwheel on the waterwheel well drives a wheel, which raises the arms of Perseus via a lever and a wire and via an eccentric wheel simultaneously brings Perseus to emerge.

Grotto number 5 shows the potter in his workshop, which contains the most delightful examples of his art and craft. The potter’s wheel turns from left to right. The potter’s right hand first makes a small upward movement, then both hands and the head make stronger upward movements, which indicates the typical throwing of a tall vessel. His head also moves. His right foot is moved by the wheel by means of a cog. Machine construction, a “divine” art The development of mechanism during the Renaissance goes back to the examination of writings of the Antiquity. (Archimedes, Aristotle, Pliny and Vitruvius).

Due to the great interest in natural science, which during the cinque cento not only encompassed the provision of drinking water and the building of baths, but was also dedicated much more to the love of life and intellectual challenge, which resulted in the most diverse air and water-driven automats, machines and organs.

The technical games became more and more intricate and what was fascinating was the realization of an effect of hidden origin. The art of machines appeared to be a “divine art”, similar to a crowning imitation of nature, even triumph over it, and finally achieved by the respective ruler.

Read my Salzburgerland overview, which includes the Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains as well as a host of other things you can experience in the region. For foodies, don’t miss my Salzburg Food and Restaurant Guide. Also refer to my Cultural Guide to Salzburg.


Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains

Fürstenweg 37 | 

5020 Salzburg Austria



A Nod to Silent Jamaica & its Morning Butterflies

November 18, 2015 by  


For the second night in a row, I hadn’t bolted the door. When I woke up, I had that dizzying feeling you get when you’ve passed through too many airports in a short period of time, wondering where you were and what day it was.

There wasn’t a sound to be heard except for a distant bird’s call that didn’t remotely sound familiar. I tried to put my attention on it so my mind didn’t race off into the land of thought, the ever land of thought that never seems to shut down. What hadn’t I done the day before that still needed my attention and all the things that so often steals precious time away from the serenity that this precious island had to offer.

I was on the very same Caribbean island that I read about for the first time when I was ten, and while I hadn’t heard of Reggae or the Blues yet, the novel painted such a rich picture that I knew the rhythm and beat by heart, so much so that I imagined drums on the ceiling of my bedroom and if anyone ever asked me, I would swear they were real, as if a helicopter dropped them by night and parachuted them away the moment daylight hit.

My imagination couldn’t have been more vivid at the time and dancing colors of multiple rainbows were part of the canvas of life I painted for myself each and every day; it was a beautiful innocent time where stormy grays and dark blacks didn’t exist, not even in my mind’s eye.

It was the start of my exploration of music and I so wanted to be the character in that mystery novel I can’t recall the name of, just so I could dance all night and write music all day. I wanted braids in my hair with bright purple ribbons and to see the sun set so far south of a coast I only knew as bitter and cold.

I had finally gotten to Jamaica and while I was far away from that ten year old self, I couldn’t help but wonder where the character in the book had lived and what they were doing now. After all, the character must have been based on someone’s experience a long long time ago and to this day, I’m convinced of it.

The story shaped my musical path and the kinds of destinations I gravitated to for so many years and while part of me longed to dance the night away with purple ribbons woven through soft brunette braids, this journey was to experience a different side of Jamaica….the silent side.

The breeze began to move the wooden shutters in the French doors of my room which led out onto a stone patio which faced a windy Atlantic sea. As they moved, I could see the flickering light of early morning, the sun so much brighter and warmer than what greeted me at home.

Still fatigued by a long year of travel and transition, my groggy state stumbled towards the flickering light and slowly opened the door I forgot to bolt and as I did, the wind grabbed it away from me, blowing it wide open and with it, the other side.

I stood there in my black knickers and turquoise sleeveless top with the lace v-neck top that barely showed a tan line from the day before feeling the warmth on my face, completely aware of how healing it felt. Wiping my eyes, I heard the silence within the silence as I suddenly noticed a flock of tiny little yellowish white butterflies dancing in the sky, eye level between me and the bushes in front of my cottage.

I smiled as wide as a child does every minute of the day. No more racing, I thought. No more activities, I begged. No more to-do’s, asks, demands and bills I wished. Just butterflies, the here and now butterflies before me that were as precious as an unaware newborn.

Like a newborn would, I watched them buzz around the sky as if it were the most magical fairy tale ever seen. I breathed in the sun, gazing from left to right, taking in the lush green tree to my right, the crashing waves up against the rocks ahead of me and the bright pink bourgainvillea flowers that lay scattered around the gardens. They were everywhere in Jamaica and I never grew tired of seeing them.

The beach area to my right and left was known as Treasure Beach in the St. Elizabeth Parrish, one of 14 on the island. It is called the “Bread Basket” of Jamaica in that it is most known for its farming and fishing, and provides 80% of the agriculture in Jamaica.

The grass and trees were lush and green for unlike the dry arid California that continued to face a drought, rain wasn’t a stranger to this land. The rains often hit during the afternoons in the Fall and so mornings were typically glorious, loaded with sunshine, happy birds and dancing butterflies.

Not in the mood to open a laptop or cell phone, I looked around the room for something to bring with me to the Adirondack chair on the patio since I was oh so not ready to face other people’s voices just yet. There were two fashion magazines on my bedside table and a Holy Bible underneath the night stand, something provided by the property.

I realized at that moment that I hadn’t picked up a bible in at least a couple of decades and so with a curious but wry smile on my face, I grabbed it and slowly made my way outside. While I do believe in God, I’m equally able to connect with atheists and agnostics for the simple reason that I believe that religion and religious dogma is the root of so much pain and destruction in the world, which has resulted in more division than unity.

I probably subscribe to more of a Buddhist’s view of the world than anything else perhaps and within that context, I now see the bible as a fascinating book with poetic writing that can provide masterful insights into the mind of mankind and the instincts that drive his or her ego.

I read a few passages from Matthew and while beautifully written, I felt they didn’t provide as much guidance to someone lost or in need as Pema Chodron or Ken Wilbur does, at least for me. Lost in pure reflection, I closed my eyes as I felt the sun quickly heat up as early morning made its journey to mid-morning. The sounds began to change, as simple as the pace of the wind and the waves which continued to crash upon the shore. Jamaica is the kind of place that makes it easy to believe in God or if you really can’t go there, then a Universe that will provide exactly what you need when your heart is open to receive.

As I opened my eyes, fearful if I didn’t my mind would start racing on all the things that made me a slave to life rather than me creating one, I saw once again the dancing butterflies buzzing around, unaware of time and likely unaware of thought itself.

I wanted to be that butterfly, full of so much energy and beauty, knowing that it brings the same pure smile to a baby as it would a 90 year old man, and even more importantly, for the same reason.

I wondered if butterflies knew that when they finally blossomed from their caterpillar state that they had such a short life to live and in that knowing, they focused on happiness and joy through the only ways they knew how…. by dancing lightly and freely through the air.

Or, like the character in my Jamaican novel, did the butterfly not realize how short its life would be but simply decided to focus on painting a new canvas of life each and every day, one that would bring them and others around them pure joy?

For my Jamaican character, it was writing music and playing drums and for the Jamaican butterflies before my eyes on that beautiful morning, it was dancing through the sky as if thought didn’t exist and never would.

Perhaps my two Jamaican experiences would overlap after all, the fictional fairytale I had only known as a child and the real one that was as memorable and precious as the story, but rather than a life filled with music, it was also filled with silence. Both were equally perfect and both swept me away into a different land, where there was no time or space for thought, but only smiles, laughter and peace.

“The World Surrenders to a Silent Mind” – Lao Tzu

That’s what life is like when you’re truly present I reminded myself, whether it’s a storybook character or a butterfly or you shedding your own wings, ready to fly away.  I nodded in gratitude to the Jamaica before me, the silent one, the one full of soft ocean breezes, dancing butterflies and Caribbean trees. I raised my hand to the sky, as if holding a glass of wine to make a toast.

 “To Silence,” I said to the swarm of Jamaican-born butterflies, so unaware of the impact they had on me on one morning in their short lives. In return, they continued to dance before me as my smile got wider and wider. And then, I went back to that innocent and precious dream where butterflies, clouds, skies, fields of grass and music were all one.

Photo credit for butterfly dream image: www.photoshopcreative.co.uk. 

EMF Effects From Cell Phones, Wifi & More are REAL

November 16, 2015 by  


Recently, I wrote about products that help protect us from harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs) aimed towards our bodies.  Certainly many of you have heard that cell phones may be harmful when placed close to your head somewhere on a passing news report or morning talk show, but the segment is so short lived that you may pay attention for a moment or two, mention it to someone later and then move on with your daily lives. Unfortunately, the naysayer technologists will go to great lengths to prove that any report saying that they’re unsafe is unfounded and not reliable.

Photo credit: www.boldognapot.hu and http://media.portland.indymedia.org/.

And so it goes. It’s not unlike the absurd arguments that cigarette smokers had in the early days when negative data came out — after all, if you were a smoker at the time, you’d likely go to great lengths to prove that the literature isn’t legit just as my prolific technology user friends are doing today. One day this will change, but it will take time just as it took time for Austrian born Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis to prove that the higher rate of death for infants and mothers in upper class hospitals in the 1840′s were related to doctors not washing their hands between autopsies and delivering babies. Dr. Semmelweis proposed something radical at the time and was ostracized by the medical community.

Despite the fact that Vienna was at the center of education and science at that time just as Silicon Valley is at the center of technology today, doctors scoffed at the idea that this idea could be the reason for higher death and disease rates just as technologist and researchers are too eager to negate reports which uncover negative findings about EMFs today. Back then, just as today, is it that egos are too strong to allow for a new truth? While we live in a “free information world,” if well respected naysayers slam the idea (a potential new truth), no one will listen to the data, despite how much of it points to potential harm to the human body.

The above graphic shows the mechanism by which EMF causes DNA damage without the heating of cells. This mechanism was found in 17 different studies and is essentially a smoking-gun that shows EMF is dangerous at levels far below government safety standards (taken from EMFAnalysis.com)

What if the best and the brightest of our time (Google, Apple, most medical doctors, etc,) are missing something huge? Our entire technological economy is based on an assumption. This assumption is that pulsed-modulated microwave radiation is completely safe and all regulations are built upon the assumption that “if it doesn’t heat you, it can’t hurt you.”

History has shown us that innovators and leaders take chances by speaking up before the rest of the world is ready to admit it, never mind absorb what it means for their lives. This is particularly hard to do if you’re going head-to-head with major industries that have poured millions of dollars into a system, which includes technology manufacturers and utility companies at a minimal. After all, who wants to go after that shooting gun?

Naysayers aside, a growing number of people are speaking up, including the former of Microsoft Canada Frank Clegg who is now committing his life to raising awareness of EMFs and unsafe technology.

If I’m not one of the people who has had to leave their home from smart meter absorption effects or am not experiencing ringing in my ears when I am in a high wifi-area, why am I going through such great lengths to write this article? Friends in my world have become sick from EMFs and there’s no doubt, I notice increased edginess, loss of concentration and tingling of hands after using my cell phone for too long, not to mention how disconnected I feel to “what’s real” when technology is at the driver’s seat. Refer to an article I wrote 5 years ago called the Year of  Multiple Digital Personas, where technology was more than just an integral part of my life — it was my life.

In 2012, I wrote another piece entitled: Is Social Media Turning  You Into a Low Self Esteem Anxiety-Rich Freak? At that time, I pointed to a post on How Social Media Makes Romantic Relationship Thrive that ran along side another post on Mashable entitled Social Media Fuels Low Self Esteem & Anxiety, where I discovered a study about online behavior at the time. The controversy over the impact on social issues related to technology saturation and too much time online has been discussed on and offline for years and yet, venture capitalists continue to pour money into new products, often without thinking of the social implications or the impact on our health.

The latest explosion of the Internet of Things and connected object announcements may very well have been the cherry on the cake for me. I spent the last several years playing in that world — I launched the world’s first connected fork and the first publicly announced connected electric toothbrush, believing in their vision in that the more we know about our health from the data these objects can collect can surely only make us better decision makers on how to live. I still think that this collected data (that we should own and have the right to where it ends up) is a significant shift in medicine and healthcare not to mention the fact that it gives individuals a sense of power they’ve never had before. Big data is BIG and it’s changing the world as we’ve known it. This is a positive thing, however there are products that go too far, connecting us needlessly without a goal to heal or aid us, but simply provide data for data’s sake.

Photo source: drpawluk.com.

Given that I also review products as much as I launch them, the catalyst most likely occurred after CES this past year. As I walked past booth after booth in the Digital Healthcare section of the show, I realized how many non-technology companies were getting into the game and launching pendants, watches and bracelets all connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth. These “connected products” alert you the moment you get a text message from your son, boyfriend or wife. Even Guess watches have voice commands that communicate with your smart phone and I’ve been researching sleep products that measure the depth and quality of your sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea, but I also know that having technology in my bedroom adds to my stress and reduces the quality of sleep I get — whenever I get far away from the urban sprawl and stay in a disconnected inn surrounded by horses, nature and crackling brooks, I feel revitalized and renewed and giving my body a rest away from technology and its EMF emissions are an integral part of that.

The naysayers will surely say that my increased level of distractions and a less peaceful sleep could be a million other things, including my busy schedule, but let’s look at the data. According to an article on the International Society for Electrosmog Research (IGEF) website, 2.5 mG is the generally accepted limit of ELF magnetic field exposure and yet electrical wiring errors in your bedroom or major power lines next to our homes can create much higher fields.

That combined with the increased proliferation of smart phone installation in our homes, cell phone use (some people even have two), modems and routers in our homes, microwaves, iPads, laptops and more, why is it that we can’t acknowledge that the compound interest effect of this excessive use of technology which emits EMFs regardless of their levels, won’t have a profound negative impact on our bodies and society as a whole?

Photo source from the film Take Back Your Power: http://takebackyourpower.net/

“Cell towers should not be within a mile and a half of humans, yet they’re deliberately placed on medical buildings within densely populated housing areas and on schools and recreation areas. It’s a living tragedy in slow motion.”!

~ Barry Trower, Physicist & Former Military Expert on Microwave Radiation 

Is the hard resistance because people are so addicted to devices that give them the brightest best eye candy they’ve ever seen, that they can’t give up the “crack effect” of checking a text message every few minutes regardless of what else they’re doing, like having a conversation with someone at dinner? Is it perhaps that it fulfills some inherent need they aren’t getting elsewhere in their life? Why people need to immediately check an alert that tells them someone just commented on a Facebook post at midnight is beyond me, but it I see it happen around me all the time.

This is a social effect that is proliferating our society, destroying the quality of real-time human interaction as we have always known it and this is running alongside the physical health impact. As more and more scientific reports come out and an increasingly number of people in and outside my circles are experiencing issues related to the increased levels of EMFs, it’s time we brought this conversation to a more serious level, just as people like Jeromy Johnson and Frank Clegg are doing in public and private forums around the world.

It’s clear that some people are more sensitive to electromagnetic fields than others. Even if you haven’t experienced an “issue,” don’t discount that other’s symptoms are real and don’t discount that the number of issues being reported are going up every day.

Photo source: emfnews.com.

Being smart about your health means knowing all the facts and it’s hard to ignore the alarming number of reports that suggest “caution and more investigation needed,” yet no grave alarm bells are going off….yet. Just as cigarette manufacturers poo-pooed the ill-effect of tobacco for years as did cigarette smokers, the strain from being saturated in technology waves will have its ill hey-day and likely sooner than you think.

In March, we finally saw a crack in the naysayer’s iron wall of resistance when respected New York Times reporter Nick Bolton wrote an article on the health concerns in wearable tech. It’s interesting but not surprising that an Editor’s Note was added shortly thereafter that included the following sentence: “Neither epidemiological nor laboratory studies have found reliable evidence of such risks, and there is no widely accepted theory as to how they might arise.” I perceived this as a “on second thought, don’t worry about this, false alarm”. Here’s Jeromy Johnson’s response to the article on EMF Analysis.com.

Geeks and non-believers may very well ask for proof that someone’s brain tumor is directly connected to cell phone overuse or that a report can somehow lay claim over a death. The urgent issue on the table RIGHT NOW however is a need for increased awareness, not just for those who proactively spend hours on Google getting the under-discussed facts. We shouldn’t expect that everyone will go under the hood to do the in-depth research necessary to be safe just as we shouldn’t expect people to know that potentially deadly chemicals are in the water they drink or the soil where their vegetables grow.

Information on how to protect ourselves and reduce these fields, keeping them as far away from our heads, hearts, breasts and other vital organs as possible, should be discussed more openly, including on broadcast news on a regular basis, not as a way to alarm the public at large, but as a way for all of us as a society to take the protective measures to keep us safe, especially our children. Let’s remember that there is a whole new generation who are getting exposed to an all-technology world as early as they leave their mother’s womb. Seeing a baby’s photo with a wifi-happy iPad lying on their stomach as they push buttons makes me shudder.

Photo credit from DDees.com.

As soon as I bring up the issue of EMF issues for cell phones in my Silicon Valley circles, the conversation always gets a little weird…..people suddenly start fidgeting and looking for any excuse at all to change the subject, as if I’m the party pooper aka the big elephant in the room they want to silence. After all, who wants to talk about the negative effect of cell phones when you know yourself that you just spent the last 5, 10, 15, 20, maybe 25 years using one, all without protective measures? Let’s face it – “it’s not a fun conversation.”

Photo source: consciousnourishment.org.

So, what do we actually know about EMFs and why should you really care? First, the safety guidelines meant to protect us are outdated, based on an idea from the 1950’s that as long as EMFs don’t heat you, they can’t possibly hurt you. FCC safety guidelines haven’t been updated in almost 20 years and rely upon this myth, however, much of the recent independent science shows this notion to be obsolete. Serious biological effects (things like DNA damage and infertility) are being found at levels far below the energy required to heat tissue. Listen to Frank Clegg in this video pointing out that the safety guidelines “are not even in the 21st century.”

The second reason to be concerned about pulsed digital microwave radiation is that our exposure has grown exponentially over the past ten years. Think about it: we have went from 2G to 3G to 4G, each with greater frequency modulation, which is a primary cause for biological effects. The ubiquity of smart phones the past seven years has also caused a massive increase in the number of cell towers in our neighborhoods. WiFi is now everywhere (including schools) and has become much more powerful. Some of the latest routers now have two powerful antennas – one for your home and one for the public. Yes, your home is now a public hotspot – essentially acting as a cell tower in your living room. Add in wireless baby monitors, cordless phones, smart meters,  driver-less cars, and we are creating a man-made electromagnetic soup that humanity has never experienced.

Any one of these technologies by itself with limited access may be safe. However, when combined with all the other frequencies, it’s no wonder that a growing number of people are experiencing health effects and international bodies of scientists are sounding the alarm.

“Electromagnetic pollution (EMF) may be the most significant form of

pollution human activity has produced in this century!”

~ Dr. Andrew Weil, Health Expert

Get informed, do some digging, don’t be afraid to ask hard questions and read between the lines….you know, the small print in the brochures that come with your cell phones. Be sure to read my Cruz case review and my write-up on a host of products which can help keep you safer.

Useful Resources:

  • Film entitled: “Resonance – Beings of Frequency”
  • Film entitled: “Take Back Your Power.”
  • EMF Analysis: www.emfanalysis.com, which also provides practical solutions that we all can utilize.
  • Less EMF: www.lessemf.com, a site that has a host of products you can buy to help shield you from the harmful effects.
  • My Product Write-up on products which are designed to offset some of the EMF emissions.
  • Diagnose-Funk out of Germany at www.diagnose-funk.org/.
  • International Society for Electrosmog Research: http://www.elektrosmog.com.

 Note: I am not a doctor, scientist, researcher or developer, so understand that this post is merely a raise for concern, a plea to a stronger and louder discussion about keeping technology safe. I am not making claims, not am I placing blame — I am simply writing about my experience and expressing my opinion based on what I’m seeing, reading and feeling.

Head to Vienna’s Hotel Sacher For Old World Luxury & Famous Chocolate Torte

November 14, 2015 by  


Welcome to Austrian luxury. Hotel Sacher, while it is known to be a exquisite property stay with locations in both Vienna and Salzburg, it is most known for its original Sacher-Torte, which they tout as the world’s most famous chocolate cake with a recipe that has remained a well-kept secret since 1832. More than 360,000 pieces are produced by hand every year and for more than 180 years they have been spread with apricot jam, iced and wrapped in exactly the same way. The Original Sacher-Torte tastes best with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream and a cup of Original Sacher coffee or tea. Yum!!

The rooms are lush, whether you go for a Junior Suite, a Deluxe Junior Suite or a what they refer to as the Doppelzimmer Double (first photo below). Hotel Sacher has an illustrious history and is known to be a bit of an institution in the heart of central Vienna. They have elegant belle époque influence inside their rooms, with 149 rooms and suites to choose from, all of which features modern amenities, cutting-edge technology and old world luxurious decor throughout.

Below, the Deluxe Junior Suite Daphne.

A junior suite.

Deliciousness extends beyond the decor and the history of course. The hotel has a number of different restaurants to choose from as well as its traditionally classic cafe, which is a great option for lunch and of course to order their famous cake and a cuppa coffee. Below are some of the options just so you can get an idea of its luxurious elegance and commitment to old world charm every step of the way. Meandering from room-to-room is a wonderful thing to do upon first arrival.

Sacher’s legendary Blaue Bar is the place to go for an aperitif, to meet friends before the opera, or have a drink after dinner. It is richly decorated with dark blue brocade walls, crystal chandeliers and lushly upholstered couches, creating a snug, cosy atmosphere that brings to mind the bohemian, intellectual Vienna of the early twentieth century.

 Restaurant Rote Bar offers Viennese specialities in an elegant and stylish restaurant where you can either sit in the black and white floor-tiled glass conservatory facing the Opera House or in the grand, dark red damask dining room with large oil paintings and crystal chandeliers. The windows of the conservatory are folded away in summer to make a large open terrace that is perfect for an al fresco lunch and sitting out on warm evenings. They also offer live piano music in the evenings to add to the warmth of the ambiance and overall decor.

Anna Sacher Restaurant, which is named after the legendary grande-dame of the hotel, the Anna Sacher Restaurant. Its style is decadent and luxurious, decorated with rich green walls and dark wood paneling with Lobmeyr crystal chandeliers and paintings by Anton Faistauer. The menu showcases traditional local ingredients with chef Werner Pichlmaier’s light, contemporary style. The restaurant also features a superb list of Austrian and international wines.

Sacher Cafe, which is more casual and where I had wine, tea and a delicious healthy lunch with the hotel’s head of marketing one afternoon. Café Sacher Vienna offers the perfect chance to sample a typical Viennese coffee-house atmosphere and – of course – to treat yourself to a slice of the legendary Original Sacher-Torte, pictured below. The Café Sacher, directly opposite the Opera House, is a popular meeting place in the center of Vienna. The windows of the conservatory fold away in the summer to make an open terrace that is the perfect place to soak up the sights and sounds of the city. Obviously we sat inside during my last visit since it was October and too cool to be outdoors.

You can go for a scrumptious fresh salad which you can get with your meat of choice, or a combo. I opted for both chicken and shrimp to keep it light and healthy.

OR, you can choose a more traditional Austrian dish – the below is the Eiernockerl, which is a seasonal specialty. It is made of little spaetzle with mushrooms and scrambled egg. Oh so delish!

Sacher’s classic chocolate cake, which you can also purchase to bring home with you as well – definitely recommended — a definite two thumbs up! For foodie lovers, be sure to read my Vienna Top Food Picks & Top Restaurants in Vienna post for inspiration.


Hotel Sacher

Philharmoniker Str.
4, 1010 | Wien, Austria

The Salzburg Food & Restaurant Guide

November 13, 2015 by  


Why is it that food always seems to taste better in Europe? Ever had that experience? I seem to have it every time I venture to Europe and fall upon casual hole in the walls that serve fresh delicious food at the oddest of times and in the oddest of places.  I was in Austria in October, and treated my palette in both Salzburg and Vienna - be sure to see my write-up on Vienna Restaurants and foodie delights. Salzburg, while not a global name in food, has some delicious options both inside the city center and on the outskirts, a region they refer to as SalzburgerLand, which couldn’t be more fitting.

I’ll start my recommendations with a Michelin star stand-out, a 20-30 minute drive outside Salzburg, an easy jaunt if you have a car, and well worth doing as its open for both lunch and dinner and is on The Sound of Music trail. In the little town of Werfen, brothers Karl and Rudolf Obauer offer delicious treats inside their elegant restaurant, which is also joined to a hotel on the main drag on Markt 46.

Obauer Restaurant

We started our decadent luncheon with Quail Egg with Balsamic Apple Jelly, Lamb Terrine, chicken with sesame and a Venison with cabbage terrine sampler. We paired this with the Weingut Hopler 2014 Pinot Blanc, which was perfectly balanced. The 2012 Pinot Noir from Weingur Hopler was also available which went perfectly with the Deer-Ragout. We finished with biscuit and sweet samplers as well as a Cold Blueberry Compote. I’ll let the photos do the bragging…

The restaurant also has the only MASTER Sommelier in Austria apparently, which we took full advantage of during our meal.

Stiegl’s Brauwelt for Pub Fare

A private Austrian brewery which has been around for more than 120 years is Stiegl’s Brauwelt in the heart of Salzburg. It was originally owned by the Kiener family and since 1990 Dr Heinrich Dieter Kiener (III.) has been in charge. Let’s face it, while there are some great Austrian wines, it’s more of a beer culture than it is a wine one. At Stiegl, they call their flagship product ‘Stiegl-Goldbräu’ a ‘Salzburg beer’.

The ’Salzburg beer’ is a class of its own, setting itself apart from Märzen beers, not least because of its golden colour. After an initial soft taste, the ‘Stiegl-Goldbräu’ develops its full taste on the tongue and is particularly palatable. The robust taste and the bitter-sweet notes are well-balanced and create a harmonious flavour.  Their master brewer Pöpperl brews in the old fashioned traditional way and it shows up in the quality of the beer. Stiegl’s top priority is the use of local raw materials and a respectful use of natural resources.

It was fitting that we started with massive sized soft homemade pretzels with our beer upon arrival. They also served classic appetizers on a tray during a pre-dinner gathering we had in the lobby area, as the pub was closed down for our private party of 75 or so people, 50 of which were journalists in from around the world.

Cheese platter and other appetizers below. While we had fish, meat and soup here, the biggest reason to come here is for the authentic Austrian pub ambiance and the fabulous beer, of which Stiegl offers Stiegl Pale Ale, Stiegl-Schwarzbier, Original Stieglbock, Ruprecht Glühbier and Stiegl-Herbst-Gold.

Dinner…I went for the fish, which I did NOT pair with one of their deliciously brewed beers, but with a white Austrian wine.

Pastries, Sweets & Market Delights

It goes without saying that Austria boasts a wide range of delicious chocolate and sweet offerings, from homemade Artisan chocolate to pastries. Below is a sample of some of the discoveries I made on my journey through Salzburg’s streets and their extensive market, which is open daily.

Chocolate, Cheese and Meats in the Market

The fruit and vegetables at the market are so incredibly fresh, despite the fact that it was not the peak of summer.

Candy and Chocolate Shops

Common Pastries and Sweets for Dessert after a meal, including the famous Strudel of course

Stiftskeller St. Peter – a Mozart Dinner Concert

At Stiftskeller St. Peter, an old abbey in Salzburg, you can experience Mozart throughout a 3 course dinner, with wine and champagne. This candlelit dinner is prepared according to traditional recipes from Mozart’s era.

The most popular compositions of W. A. Mozart are performed in candlelight by local musicians in historical costumes including two opera singers and musicians performing “A little night melody” as well as with arias and duets from operas “Don Giovanni”, “Le Nozze di Figaro” and “The Magic Flute”.

I found the ever so polite staff folding napkins on my way out and so I couldn’t resist a shot.

The traditional dining rooms where you can dine at other times.

Dinner was quite traditional.  On the menu that evening was clear beef soup with semolina dumplings or with sliced pancakes to start, Panfried char-filet of fish from the local lake with pearl-barley and potato veggies and spinach topped with froth of Stiegl-Grapefruitradler, or a fried chicken breast (corn-fed of course) on cream-cheese mash, artichokes and beans. The evening finished with a Brauwelt special chocolate dessert with raspberry ice cream.

Below is a snippet of video I shot of the opera performances at the dinner. BRAVO!!

The Kulisse Salzburg Festival Halls

We had a unique evening at a private affair at the historical Kulisse Salzburg where, after a cocktail reception and a Sound of Music evening to celebrate the musical’s 50 year anniversary (be sure to read our coverage of the 50th festivities and tours we took), we had a buffet dinner with live music in a private room sectioned off for the actors, the musicians, press and VIPs.

Culinary delights were souped up (and dished out) of personal chef Johanna Raudaschl of the Von Trapp family. How appropriate is that? After the traditional buffet of pastas and meats and traditional Austrian appetizers, the desserts came out, including of course, the Strudel.  Take a look at some of these scrumptious pastries and breads – these alone should make you want to hop on the plane and visit Austria, at least for those with a serious sweet tooth.

K+K Restaurant  

K+K Restaurant is in the heart of old Salzburg, where most of the cultural and historical sites can be found. We grabbed a leisurely lunch at this traditional restaurant just off the main square, apparently long known for its delicious cuisine and beautifully adorned individual dining rooms with classic old lamps, drapes and carpets.

It is located in a protected historic townhouse building that dates back to the Middle Ages and sits on the heals of  the Salzburg Cathedral and Mozart Square in am Waagplatz. Eight sophisticated, small parlours spread over four storeys compose a unique architectural ensemble and give the restaurant building its distinct character.

In the attractive vaulted ceilinged S’Gwölb Restaurant on the ground floor, a diverse variety of delicious international and local Austrian cuisine is served. The 2nd and 3rd floors of our Salzburg restaurant feature beautiful, traditional, wood-panelled Salzburg parlours, where you can enjoy refined creations of international and Austrian fish and meat specialities. They have an extensive wine selection as well although some in our group were keen to try the Apple-elder juice at lunch.

The menu is very traditionally Austrian in that old world kinda way. For example, they had Smoked Goose breast with apple-celery salad and rose-hip cream, Sheep’s cheese terrine on lamb’s lettuce salad with pumpkin pesto (YUM and so perfect for October), Beef or Venison Carpaccio, cream of Venison Soup (below), Goulash of Deer (also below), Fillet of hare on savory cream with croquettes and pumpkin cabbage, Deer steak and the Saddle of Venison on balsamic lentils with potato gnocchi and spinach souffle. Have a look…..



Like Werfen, the village of Faistenau is around a 30-40 minute drive outside Salzburg, but an easy drive if you have a car and if you want to taste all of what Salzburgerland has to offer, it’s important to step outside the city center. Here at this traditional organic farm – Oberhinteregghoff, you’re suddenly faced with a lovely classic setting in rural Faistenau, which boasts stunning views, views of the wet and green countryside and farm life.

Here, you get an opportunity to bake homemade bread with the husband-wife team and eat a traditional lunch with them afterwards. There’s time to take in the farm itself, learn about the history and what they produce, from homemade jams, jellies, honeys, spices and herbal remedies. Below is the plate of bread that a dozen or so of us made over the course of the afternoon.

We had fried schnitzel for lunch with potatoes and beans, as well as fresh salad and Austrian wine. They also had lovely organic hot tea which they served in old fashioned tea cups, all of which added to this yesteryear experience in rural Salzburgerland.

The treasured farm table set up for our group — it felt like we were experiencing Thanksgiving early but without the turkey and ham.

They also had a number of their homemade items for sale in their shop, which was part of the farmhouse kitchen – jams, teas, olive oil, spirits, herbs, honey and more.

I absolutely loved the old kitchen — behind the counter and the dining room itself. Ahhh yes, homemade bread and Austrian cheese from local cows in the countryside.

Hellbrunn Restaurant @ Hellbrunn Palace

This historical and quirky palace is known for its fountains and the “tricks” the fountains plays on you when you least expect it. They also rent the place out for special occasions like weddings and corporate events. They even have an in-house Rolls Royce which brings you to the restaurant Hellbrunn to experience an unforgettable romantic evening in a charming setting. I wrote a separate piece on the Palace and the Fountains since it warranted it (there’s so much history and culture to take in here), so be sure to read my Hellbrunn Fountains post.

As for the restaurant and the culinary treats? There are a few restaurants to choose from, however their focus is on larger events and hosted parties, as it’s a lovely place to host an event. Private diners can equally enjoy in its luxurious decadence and history. For a taste of what to expect on your plate, have a look below — bear in mind that we had a set menu rather than ordering off a standard menu.

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