Monday, May 10, 2010


Because there were several Latvian holidays that conveniently lined-up at the end of April, the Richardsons decided to take a vacation to Austria!
We stayed with our "host family," longtime family friends Heidi and Wolfgang Roessler, in Vienna.  Here are some pictures of our first outdoor picnic at their home:
The Roesslers' two children, Bettina and Bernie, are both physicians in Vienna.  Bernie and his wife, Lucia, have a little boy named Moritz.  Bettina and her husband, Herbert, have three children: Josh, Jekab, and Emma.  They also have a trampoline!
Somehow we left Vienna without pictures of some Roessler extended family members, but here's Bettina hanging-out at her folks' house.
On Friday, April 30, we traveled downtown and, like tourists (it takes one to know one!) we took a horse-drawn carriage ride to check-out all the sights.  Heidi and Emma joined us, and Helmut was our driver.
Each of the ladies (those under the age of 9) got to ride "up-top" for a brief time!
Big fun...

Heidi and Emma left us to our own devices that afternoon, so we toured the Vienna Hofburg, residence of the Habsburg ruling family for over six centuries.  The location featured an extensive display of the Imperial Silver Collection, a museum exploring the life of Empress Elisabeth, and a tour of the 19 state and private rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.
The hand-held recordings were a big hit for the whole family, and we learned a LOT!  Of course, it helped to sit and take some time to digest the material...
The Richardsons tend to take a bit more time than the average museum-goer.  Afterward, we saw some street entertainers.
Next, we visited St. Stephan's Cathedral, including a nice elevator ride to the very top.  One of us was almost ill from vertigo, but we'll never reveal her identity!
Our next adventure was experiencing Vienna's public transportation system (subway, train, and bus) to get back to the Roessler's home.  With detailed written instructions from Heidi, we experienced no problems.

Saturday we traveled to Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the shadow of the Austrian Alps (  With historical artifacts dating back to 12,000 BCE, this is home to the first known salt mines in the world.
With Heidi, Jekab, and Emma, we traveled up a very steep lift on rails and put on some very stylish protective clothing, followed by a tour inside one of the mines.  It was really interesting learning about the importance of salt from a historical perspective, and this was a very interactive way to do it!
On Sunday, we traveled to the the ice caves at Dachstein (  After taking a long cable-car ride through the clouds towards the top of the mountain, we took a short hike to the entrance of the cave.

We learned how limestone is more easily influenced by water and ice than other types of rock, which is one of the main reasons these caves exist.  Spending time inside these natural structures certainly gives one a sense of something bigger than one's self!  Honestly, pictures don't do it justice, but here's one anyway.

We had a great weekend in the Alps!  On Monday, Leah joined Emma at her kindergarten class while Bill, Niki, and Sarah visited the "Haus der Musik" (  Monday afternoon Leah joined us as we visited the summer home of the Habsburgs, Schoenbrunn Palace (  While the palace itself was amazing, this site has the most incredible exterior, complete with numerous gardens, mazes, and pathways.
Monday evening we attended a performance by the "Schoenbrunn Palace Orchestra" performing music by Haydn, Mozart, and Strauss.  The concert was outstanding and we had a great time.

Tuesday we visited an apartment house designed by Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who had some very original ideas about bold colors, non-symmetrical forms, and environmentalism in his designs and artwork.
We then visited his museum ( and were impressed with his original ideas and use of color.

On Wednesday, Sarah joined Jekab at his school for a few hours while Leah attended kindergarten with Emma.
Bill attended a master class by Norwegian trumpeter Odd Lund at the University of Vienna and was reminded that the brass-playing world is incredibly small...
We left Vienna on Thursday, May 6, and made it back to Riga.  Our vacation was fantastic and action-packed with lots of great company.  Many thanks to the Roesslers and their family for a great time!