This wasn’t our first time in Austria. In fact, we had just been there earlier this year. That time we were on a road trip that started in England, took us through a multitude of European countries, with major stops in Cologne, Budapest, Sofia, San Marino, and Milan before returning. Along the way, we spent the night in Salzburg, the first time there for both of us. Beautiful, both the city and surrounding view. Other than Mozart, nothing else to add. What a delight then to now be heading to a famous and historic spa town frequented by Austrian emperors of old just 45 minutes away.
For this house sit, we definitely changed the game a little bit, trading one dog in Normandy for four cats in a stunning town in west Austria with the most spectacular views. We went from rural to town living, from open fields to litter boxes, from the odd bark to a chorus of meows.
I grew up with a cat, Bella, so know what they can be like and was a little apprehensive. Blair never did so he was excited. Whether he was feeding (it seemed constantly) hungry Matthew’s voracious appetite, stroking gentle and aged Philip who had been unwell before we got there, playing with loving Jane and her toys, or putting a hand out for Milli when she jumped on the bed at 6 in the morning to say “it’s time”, he seemed busy all day (and we won’t talk about sorting out the “little accident” that one of the four forgot to own up to). While his job was to make sure all their needs were catered for, mine, on this trip, was to make sure all of ours were. It’s easy to forget to feed yourself when you are trying to figure out what each cat will or will not eat that day, or chasing them around trying to snap photos for the daily email updates to their mother.
Unless surrounded by multiple cats at the same time, you tend to forget how different their personalities really can be. Some are shy, some noisy, some bossy, and some just really can’t be bothered! But with all their differences you can bet on one thing. When it comes to getting what they want they certainly know how to work as a team. Looking back now as I write this, some scenes must have been amusing.
The early morning routine started like this. First, Philip would open the door to our room. Yes, you read that right. Philip had learned to open any door with a handle (note to self: remember to deadbolt the front door). Then, Milli and Jane would enter. They would each pick one of us to pounce on. Milli tended to walk back and forth over your body with a couple of meows. Jane would just whip out her claws. Then, just for good measure, they would switch humans to make sure we were equitably treated. Finally, Matthew would... well, mostly just sit and watch all of this go down. In the end, you had no choice but to wake up prepare their breakfast and let them out for their daily explorations. It really was the most intricate alarm clock I have ever owned.
The evening ritual was its own affair. I can remember walking up and down the public steps outside the house, and round and round the large garden, making “kissing” sounds trying to entice Milli back in with treats for bedtime. And would she come? Well…. eventually. But who knows what the neighbors made of these two tall, strange foreigners wandering around at dusk calling out her name.
Cats 1 - Humans 0.
If you ever get a chance to visit Bad Ischl in Austria, go. With two rivers that join in the center of the town (one of which you can swim in), wonderful waterfront cafés (not to mention the cakes and pastries inside), and a spectacular backdrop, it’s what I think of as classic old town Austria. We walked, and explored, and walked some more during the daytime knowing that, being in a relatively small town on this trip, we could nip home to check up the Fabulous Four (and, naturally, deal with Matthew’s multiple food requests).
For some of our longer excursions, we were able to visit the nearby lakes, with stunning small towns nestled on the shoreline. Some of the places we made it to were Hallstatt on Lake Hallstatt - a definite tourist destination - and St. Wolfgang which was a quiet and beautiful retreat on the edge of the water. Austria just really is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
This second house sitting experience of ours could not have been more different than the first, and yet it was another great adventure. Where and what next?
Update 9/7/2016: It is with heavy hearts we say that the story of our time in Austria has been punctuated by sad news. It has been a few weeks since we left and two members of the beloved feline family have passed away. This blog post is dedicated to Philip and Matthew. They are missed.
The Roaming Blog
From Europe to Asia. From cities to villages. From mansions to cottages. Follow us on our journey as we celebrate a new type of travel - House Sitting. Learn how to start you house sitting career, tips for making the most of your travel, and the tricks for being the best house sitter you can be.
RSS for Chrome - Get the extension here if using Chrome web browser.