Our Family’s Sojourn in Vienna and Bratislava

Written by Yvonne Belen on .

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Our Family’s Sojourn in Vienna and Bratislava

Yvonne Belen

Before the 8th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation in Vienna, Austria from 13-16 August 2015, our family already plans to spend a few days in Vienna. Marjorie Abeya-Soaygan facilitates our stay with a host family and Dulce Uyaan-Lumanog volunteers to host us. And so we stay at Dulce’s apartment before and after the conference. While we are at Dulce’s apartment, she stays with her aunt, Nora Pimentel.

We are supposed to book a direct flight from Amsterdam to Vienna however, KLM is asking for EUR 40.00 for a check-in luggage of 23 kilos. My son, Chico Taguba, finds another carrier, Lufthansa, and we don’t have to pay for our check-in luggage. The only thing is--- it takes 30 minutes more to travel to Vienna with a two-hour stop-over in Munich. The airport at Munich is passenger-friendly with free coffee, tea or chocolate. Aside from the lounging seats available, they even have a library with comfortable chairs. From Munich, we arrive in Vienna at around 16:10 hours.


When we come out of the arrival area, Susan Strohmayer is smiling to welcome us. What a pleasant surprise. After some beso-beso, she tells us to wait for Marjorie and Darlene Peyes Geronilla, my niece on the maternal side. Meanwhile, Susan says she could bring our luggage to Dulce’s apartment. However, she would need two persons to accompany her and help carry the luggage to Dulce’s apartment. Cesar Taguba and Chico go with Susan while the rest of us travel with the public transport. After a few minutes, Marjorie and Darlene arrive. Another round of beso-beso.

“Welcome, welcome,” they all say.  

Darlene would accompany us (my sister, Maureen Loste; my daughter-in-law, Consie Lozano and grandson, Ilian; and me) to Dulce’s place.

While we are buying our tickets at the airport, I ask Darlene, “What is the cheapest rate for the public transport in Vienna?”

“A week card.”

If our plans were already clear when we arrived, it would have been cheaper to buy week card worth EUR 16.20. It’s valid from Monday through Sunday. The card allows one to hop in and hop out of trains, trams and buses within the city. For us from Holland, this is already cheap and also convenient. Anyway, we buy a one-way ticket to Floridsdorf. Later, we buy another ticket that would bring us to Pasistern and Reumenplatz. Darlene still has to know how to get to Dulce’s place and with her smartphone, she’s able to get instructions.  

When we arrive at Dulce’s place, dinner is ready with kare-kare, apritada (among other dishes) and dessert of ice cream. Marjorie says she and Dulce would have wanted to prepare our dinner. However, they’re occupied that day so they request Dulce’s friends to prepare the meals. It’s a welcome treat after our travel of 10 hours---door to door from our apartment to Dulce’s place.  


On the 11th of August, Maureen, Cesar and I go to Schonbrunn. We’re now on our own traveling with the Ubahn. I take the lead in getting to know how to reach Schonbrunn. After a few rides, we learn how the Ubahn works.

It’s 35 degree Celsius and Maureen says, “I came from a hot place (Manila) and here I am again in a hot place.”

At Schonbrunn, we see some empty benches under the trees and spend 30 minutes taking a nap. Later, we walk along the shade of the tall hedges until we reach the fountain. After a short stay, we walk back to the train station and go home. Meanwhile, Chico, Consie and Ilian spend the day in a swimming pool in a forest in Vienna.

The next day, Maureen and I plan to go to the Natural History Museum. However, with a temperature of 37 degree Celsius outside, we decide to stay home. Chico, Consie and Ilian spend another day swimming with Cesar joining them.

During our stay at the apartment, Marjorie and Dulce would drop by from time to time to ask how we are doing. “We’re all right. Thank you.”   

Donau and Tichy

August 13th is the first day of the conference and after breakfast, Dulce accompanies us to Hotel Ibis. We go with the public transport so as to make use of our week card. It’s still hot and each one is dragging a piece of luggage. It seems like we’re in Manila indeed. The conference lasts until lunch time of August 16th and we have a picnic by the banks of the Donau. Dulce joins us during the picnic and in going home, we take another route to the train station. We walk about a kilometer or two along the Donau until we reach a bridge where there are posters of Eurovision winners. We notice they have placed some sand and chairs on a part of the embankment so you imagine you are in the beach.  

We take the train and when we reach Reumanplatz, we decide to have ice cream at Tichy. Quite crowded with most tables occupied. Even with the “busyness” though, Chico and Consie are able to get a table for six. Our mouths water as we see all the offers in the menu card. Each one chooses what to order and I have Tichy’s  specialty, Marilen (something like this.) There are three scoops on an oval plate. The ice cream has an apricot filling and tastes like sabayon. Verrukelijk (they say in Dutch, which means “very delicious.”)

Salzburg and Salzkamergut

The day after the conference, we leave with the bus for Salzburg at 6:30 in the morning. With bread that Marjorie bought for everyone’s breakfast, she also gives us sandwiches (her compliments.) She and Virginia Magalgalit prepare the sandwiches in the early morning.  The weather is uncooperative. It’s drizzling and cloudy. In some places along the way though, it’s dry. It’s still drizzling when we reach Salzburg. The driver drops us at a bus stop, opposite of which is a store that’s selling umbrellas. What a coincidence. The store owner must have been happy it’s showering. Some of us buy umbrellas. Alice Cuyob gives Maureen an umbrella; Marjorie gives me an umbrella. We only have three hours going around the city. The guide shows us some places where “Sound of Music” was filmed.

Afterwards, we proceed to Salzkamergut and to the salt mine cave. The tour inside the cave revolves around the life of the Archbishop of Salzburg. I could relate the story however, it’s better for the reader to visit the salt mine cave to know how it ends. An experience I’ll remember in the cave is going down with the slide. There are two slides. The first slide is a no-no for me. I’m scared. For the second slide, I tell myself, “It’s now or never.” So, I just do it. It isn’t scary after all.      

Apple Strudel and Ukoy

Glenn Amora invites us for dinner on August 18th.  We spend the day going around Vienna so, we go to Schonbrunn again in the morning. This time, our family is with my cousin, Lydia Peyes Amongan-Soliba and  Darlene. More picture-taking at Schonbrunn. Maureen and I stay at one place while Darlene accompanies Lydia going around. Cesar, Chico, Consie and Ilian go to the top of Schonbrunn. In the early afternoon, they go to Stephanplatz. When in Rome do (and eat) as the Romans do. And since we’re in Vienna, Lydia, Darlene, Maureen and I go to the Museumquartier to look for the Viennese specialty---apple strudel.

At the student café, the lady at the counter says, “All finished.”

Fortunately, they have some for sale at another café. Aside from apple strudel, we also order cheesecake. After we have our fill of these goodies, we take a leisurely walk along Mariahilfstrasse. Darlene says Hotel Ibis is at the end of the street. I didn’t realize it’s a long road with a high-end shopping center. We even see an ice cream parlor selling vegetarian ice cream. What’s that? I must taste that ice cream---some other time.

When we arrive at Glenn and Mia’s place at around 6:30 in the evening, table is ready. Wow! Mia has cooked several Filipino dishes. I go for the ukoy (fried small shrimps dipped in a batter of flour and eggs) and pinakbet Tagalog style. I must have eaten five or six pieces of the ukoy!

We keep on saying, “Masarap, masarap” (Delicious, delicious.)

Mia replies, “Salamat po. Kumain pa po kayo.” (Thank you. Please have some more.)

After dinner, Glenn shows me how the ICBE website works. We view the visitors and many are from the USA and China.

He says, “You could also post the pictures.”

“It’s too much for me to learn. I better stick to posting the text only.”

Meanwhile, we request Glenn to help us book our bus trip to Bratislava for the next day. A return trip costs EUR 13.00 per person. Cheap. We invite Darlene to join us and be our guide as she has been to the place before.    


And so, we go with the bus to Bratislava on August 19th. With our family and Maureen, we are joined by Lydia, Darlene, Marites Dinayugan-Reiter and her son, Kevin. Our bus leaves at 10.30 a.m. and after an hour, we are ready for lunch in Bratislava. We walk from the bus station to the old city center and along the way, we see a restaurant, “Original Slavic Restaurant.”

“Hmm. Let’s go for some food that’s original Slavic.”

Everyone agrees and we occupy the empty seats outside the restaurant. Most of us order garlic soup. We’re served a big piece of bread with a hole inside containing the garlic soup.  Lekker (delicious in Dutch).

Afterwards, we walk through the old city with Darlene showing us the way. We pass by more restaurants and walk up, up, up. Walking along the main road, we see a sign, “Best coffee in town.” My coffee-drinking companions would like to taste the coffee. There are muffins too so others have a bite. Marites takes care of the bill. We climb to the hilltop and reach Hrad Castle. More picture-taking. We just go around and decide not to enter. A visit to the castle could be for another time. We walk down and I notice the Baroque architecture in many of the buildings. We plan to have dinner early since we’re leaving with the 7:00 o’clock night bus. Darlene asks a souvenir vendor where we could taste Slavic food.

“Flagship,” she says.

And so we look for “Flagship.” It’s a large restaurant, which used to be a church building and later, becomes a theater. There are many students having dinner. Darlene says it's because they are entitled to a discount. The restaurant also serves garlic soup and it’s about two euro cheaper than at the restaurant where we had lunch. After dinner, we walk to the station where we wait for our bus to Vienna. Bratislava is a place where you experience the components of a place: history, art, cuisine and landscape.

During the trip to Bratislava, Kevin, 9, and Ilian, 5,  become friends. Although Kevin speaks German and Ilian speaks Dutch, they are playing and talking to each other. I wonder if they understand each one another. Even if they don’t, they’re in their children’s world and I suppose many things are possible.  

Barbeque and Ampalaya 

On August 20th, we (our family, Maureen, Lydia, Marites, Kevin and Darlene) have lunch at Susan and Pepe Strohmayer’s place. They serve pork barbecue, vegetables and other dishes. After lunch, Susan invites us to visit their garden. Oh my! The first plant that strikes me is the ampalaya (bitter melon) plant. It’s my first time to see this plant in Europe. I see many fruits and they’re ready to be harvested. They also have a lot of shoots. I wish I could bring home some so I could mix it with boiled munggo (mung beans.)

 In Susan’s garden that Pepe takes care of, they also have eggplant, paprika, squash, fennel, two or three varieties of tomatoes, rucola and lolla rossa lettuce. Lydia requests for two ampalaya fruits. She would take it home with her to Germany. Marites brings along some mangold (a.k.a. as chard or Swiss chard.) Susan gets two ampalaya fruits and we harvest lettuce, rucola and tomatoes. For dinner, Maureen prepares ampalaya sautéed with beaten eggs. We all savor this dish, especially since ampalaya has just been harvested from the garden. We also prepare a salad of lolla rossa, rucola and tomatoes. It’s the first time Maureen tastes rucola and she likes it.

Kevin and Ilian meet again at Susan and Pepe’s place. They start to play, seemingly continuing from where they left off yesterday. When we leave, they still play in the bus until we reach Kagran. We ride in the same train. They get off at Pasistern and we proceed to Reumanplatz.     


We depart for Holland in the afternoon of August 21. In  the morning, Dulce brings a box filled with 20 pieces each of hopiang munggo and hopiang baboy. Her aunt, Nora Pimentel, makes the hopia. Later, I receive a text from Marjorie saying she’s unable to see us off and has ordered the hopia for our baon. Susan again offers to bring our luggage to the airport and comes at around 9.30 in the morning. Cesar and Chico go with her. Dulce accompanies us and we take the public transport. After we have settled at the airport and after beso-beso, we all say goodbye.

I would like to thank Marjorie, Dulce, Susan and Pepe, Darlene, Glenn (with Mia and children), Marites and Kevin, and Nora Pimentel for their hospitality. You have all made our family sojourn in Vienna and Bratislava a memorable one. YB

About the Author

Yvonne Belen is a Bontok Igorot from Bontoc. Mountain Province, Philippines. She is a teacher and physician, and has practiced her professions in the Philippines. Presently living in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, she takes care of her grandchildren from time to time. She also devotes her time to activities of Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE). One such activity is taking care of postings of the ICBE website:www.icbe.eu

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