G'day! and welcome to my blog's new home. I'd like to say a big 'cheers mate' to Clay for building me such a fabulous new house.

Here you will find my articles and blogs from the sky documenting my aerial adventure across Australia, and sometimes - when I'm very lucky - around the world!

Lots of airyplanes, plenty of new shoes and hopefully many undiscovered places.

Blue skies,

Monday, April 2, 2012

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend

Munich airport is like the City of the Future; it's clean, efficient, modern and in fact, progressive. Why? Because it's there where I encountered the genius idea of The Sleeping Pod. For 15 Euros per hour, the weary traveller is invited to enter the sterile but o so welcome confines of the pod, to discover a bed - with linen - drinking water, controlled lighting and music, and an alarm system. Having set two alarms, I slept. Blissfully. Unaware that around me there were lives transpiring; people breaking up, travellers losing their luggage, families meeting for the first time in years...

At the boing of the alarm, I bolted out for my flight to Vienna. After five countries in two days, it was my final destination (for that night anyway). Tomorrow, I was to be the guest of Diamond aircraft, but tonight, I could sleep! First, I had to check in to my fabulous hotel, the Saroyen, where my room overlooked the Belvedere Palace. And then, to meet my cousin Jody for a schnitzel bigger than my head.

Vienna was exciting - stunningly beautiful and not nearly as expensive as Sydney. Jody and I went for the giant Weiner Schnitzel at an elegant old place on the Ringstrasse, the Austrian restaurant equivalent of Betty's tea rooms, where we had a fabulously camp waiter, whom Jody declared 'extremely un-Viennese'. Apparently, the waiters are nearly always rude and sullen in all Viennese restaurants, almost as a rite of passage. Unbelievably, people still smoke in Austrian restaurants; it's wierdly like going back in time. The portions, as everywhere I've been, are enormous, and I can't understand how they are not a nation of porkers (maybe it's all that smoking)...

At the Diamond factory, I was welcomed with a warm familiarity. Johan was delightful Liesel - the backbone of the company, and holder of a Pilot's Licence for over 50 years - was a glorious motherhen. Fritz, my pilot, who had ferried the DA42 I'd flown at Hawker to Sydney in six days, was a wonderfully sardonic man with an accent tones of the Dutch or Scandinavians, rather than Austrian (the type that sounds vaguely smutty and suggestive). I had an amazing flight over the snowy alps - the weather was cold and crisp - orbiting castles, and little railway stations perched on the top of mountains. In the late morning I was joined by Mr Takahashi-San, a very Japanese business man with a love of trains. The owner of aDA42, he invited me to Tokyo for a fly.

Upon our departure, Johan gave us gifts of wine, and Diamond related merchandise, and insisted on paying our cabs, as well as our lunch and numerous coffees and cakes. After bidding farewell to Takahashi San, and promising a visit to Tokyo, I headed to Wels on the super efficient bahnhof.

The Rotax day was exciting and exhausting - invited were over 300 guests from all over the world, including Paul Bertorelli - American aviation journalist extraordinaire. After the unveiling of their new injected engine, we toured the factory (for hours) in carefully organized small groups, passed from one section manager to the next with quartz like precision. I saw some fabulous examples of German control and organisation, and heard many times the expression "alles klar" prompting me to spin round expecting Herr Lipp and his band of young choir boys safely in his fist.

Here I met the marvelous Jonathan and Patricia from Medicine on the Move (www.medicineonthemove.org). That very day - the international day of women, apparently - it was announced that Patricia was the first female licensed Rotax mechanic. They were an amazing pair: Jonathon passionate and erudite; Patricia as beautiful as she is smart (and not to mention charming)...

The dinner was held in a Benedictine monastery, and Rotax had spared no expense. The food was fabulous, the drinks flowing (although I was very very good and had three glasses over five hours) and the entertainment quirky (an ex Miss Austria supermodel playing an electric violin to the sounds of digital euro trance). I sat next to the head of CASA for Slovenia (I have been granted a European flying Licence conversion any time) and a Rotax employee with a degree in psychology (he made me guess his degree and couldn't believe it when I got it first time). My small talk chip burnt out about 10.30 and I left with Jonathan and Patricia (with P being such a celeb, it took forty minutes to get from one end of the room to the other).

The very next morning, I departed for Venice from Wels by train. In Salzburg it's snowing and I'm whizzing past mountains and picture book 'willages' with wooden houses, all pointy roofs and window boxes, pine trees and little farms, filled with a strange homesickness, for this country of my mother (despite the fact I've only been here twice in my life). Even though I've only been here for a few days, I get the sense of the Austrians being an insular, strong headed people, not terribly inclined to 'ewolve' with the rest of the world. I suspect they may be A Nation of Taureans - comforted by food, mulled wine, slightly too warm rooms and the memories of times less pc....and that certainly strikes a chord with a me, the girl with one quarter Austrian blood....