Monthly Archives: March 2013

Delight at efforts to build a new politics in Austria – ALDE encouragement for NEOS

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, Leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, has voiced his support for NEOS, Austria’s new Liberal Centrist Party.

The Party has formed a joint election platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF) and together they will compete in the General Election in September under the NEOS banner.


More about NEOS:

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Liberal Politics, Politics

Stronach closes in on the FPÖ in Austrian poll

For the first time since the launch of Team Stronach (TS) back in September 2012 the new Right of Centre party has moved into fourth place in a national opinion poll, overtaking the Greens, and is within touching distance of overhauling the Far-Right FPÖ.

The quarterly Austria Trends survey shows TS at their highest level in any poll at 15%, despite recent coverage of internal Party problems in Lower Austria and chaos in the run-up the Tirol State election where there are currently three competing TS party lists. The Austria Trends poll:

SPÖ: 26%, ÖVP: 23%, FPÖ: 18%, TS: 15%, Greens: 13%, BZÖ 2%, Others: 3%

The poll represents a big jump in support for TS in comparison to other recent polls. It reaffirms the ongoing decline in the FPÖ vote and the stagnation of the Green vote. My prediction that the FPÖ could fall to around 15% continues to look realistic.

Current average based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.0%, ÖVP: 23.6%, FPÖ 19.6%, Greens 13.4%, Team Stronach: 11.2%, BZÖ 1.8%, Others 3.4%

Percentage variation across last five polls:

SPÖ: 26%-28%, ÖVP: 22%-25%, FPÖ 18%-20%, Greens 13%-14%, Team Stronach: 9%-15%, BZÖ 1%-2%


Sources: Hajek/ATV 31-03-13
Karmasin/profil 23-03-13
Gallup/oe24 16-03-13
Karmasin/heute 15-03-13
Meinungsraum/NEWS 14-03-13


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In search of Dolphins off the coast of Muscat, Oman

We were warned more than once that there was a 10% chance that we would not see any dolphins and for a while it seemed our trip was destined to be part of that minority of boats that return with disappointed passengers.

Despite the caution our guide seemed optimistic as we set out from the harbour. The talk was of encountering our first dolphin(s) within 10 minutes – the trip was scheduled to last two hours. As we bounced across the waves everyone on the boat was scanning the sea and ignoring the rugged beauty of the Oman coast. In the distance could be seen the occasional small one person fishing boat and on the horizon cargo vessels and oil tankers.

The shout went up from one of the passengers and the boat was swiftly turned in the direction of the outstretched arm. The excitement rapidly dissipated as people realised the call had be a false alarm. Turning once more our boat sped across the water.

For another fifteen minutes we criss-crossed the choppy sea but with no sign of our quarry our guide pulled the boat up alongside one of the small fishing vessels and asked about sightings. It was clear that the fisherman had not recently seen dolphins in the area and as we once again began our search the guide turned to his mobile phone and began to contact other boats of sightings.

Fisherman 1

As we reached the hour mark things did not look good. Conversation with another fishing boat and additional calls on the mobile phone had failed to help us find our elusive quarry. Many of my fellow passengers had abandoned the vigil and I was beginning to share the growing mood on the boat, we were not going to see anything on this particular trip.

Fisherman 2

Suddenly the guide swung the boat around with purpose, there in the distance was another tourist boat, a fishing boat, gulls and most importantly the sea around them seemed to have a different pattern. Within moments our boat was rolling quietly on the waves whilst all around us were a pod of around 50 dolphins hunting (I’m definitively guessing on the number as the action was so fast it made counting difficult).

Dolphin 4

The next 30 minutes were wonderful. The chance to observe these magnificent mammals in their natural environment, it was an event will stay with me. Northern Oman has many sights and experience that make a visit worthwhile but its seas also offer much for the visitor.

Dolphins 1

Dolphin 2

Dolphin 3

On our way back we passed our holiday resort and also had a chance to take in the landscape of the coastline.  

Hotel 1





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It’s not every day you get your feet cleaned by fish!

I was sitting next to one of the deep pools near the Moqal Cave not far from the source of the ever flowing spring water that feeds Wadi Bani Khalid. The fish, three different species I guessed, which live in abundance in theses pools, where swimming in and out of the shallows or feeding on the brown algae that covered the stones that sat just below the surface. I had read about this before I came, I’d just heard some other visitors talking about having done it – their friends sceptical of sharing the experience. I hesitated a moment longer but this was a long established tradition; it was likely that I would never return to this spot, it had to be done.



Having removed my socks I gently lower both feet into the fresh spring water. Briefly, but oh so briefly, the fish darted away from the disturbance. It was only a momentary response before I knew it I could feel the sensation of 30 to 40 small fish all attempting to remove the dry skin from my feet. Despite having prepared myself and even though the feeling was not unpleasant, the combination of unusual touch and the sight of black and brown fish swarming around my feet produced a knee-jerk reaction and my feet were hanging in the air. Steeling myself, I once again lowered each foot into the water, once again the fish darted away only to return and start to feed within an instance. This time I managed to keep my feet below the surface.



The pools near the source of the spring water that feed Wadi Bani Khalid also provides visitors with the opportunity to cool off with a swim and changing facilities are available. While I went off scrambling over the rocks with my camera, other members of the family dived into the pools. They reported the swim to have been both enjoyable and refreshing – and no the fish did not seek to clean their feet.


It’s a lovely area to visit and if, as we did, you arrive on a quiet day the walk from the car park is a short one and the area is quite tranquil. I understand that at weekends and particularly on public holidays the pools are so popular that the walk from the car would be significantly longer and the area bustles with people – especially those seeking to benefit from the services of the local feet cleaning denizens.






The cafe serves reasonable local dishes or a burger options but the steps up and the building itself were I felt a bit of a disappointment in such a beautiful setting, especially when efforts have been made enhance the areas attractiveness. Also be careful crossing the metal bridge which spans the small gap between the two nearby pools, one of the rails is coming loose.



For me the only disappointment on our visit to the area was the litter that could be found here and there amongst the rocks. It wasn’t excessive but it was still disappointing to see in such a lovely spot. My impression was that the cause was a mix of the tourists and locals (one of the villages on top of the cliff near the car park definitely has a problem with rubbish spilling over onto the side of the cliff). I mention these things as it’s been my experience here in Oman that a great deal of effort is made on maintaining public spaces.

However, the Wadi Bani Khalid gets a strong recommendation from me to all travelers visiting northern Oman. It’s not just the spring waters and the fish that makes the journey worthwhile; it’s also the journey to the Wadi from Muscat. Your road trip takes you through mountains dotted with Wadi’s which will first draw your attention. But gradually you begin to notice how the mountain landscape continually changes. It’s a journey in which you discover just how many different colours mountains and rocks come in from black and brown, through green, grey and blues, onward to white, red and yellows. The view changes continually, sometime it seems as barren as the moon, suddenly the rocks are dotted with clumps of green, within another kilometre small trees and more shrubs fight to cover the landscape.

Rather than taking the same route back from Wadi Bani Khalid its worth taking the road through the mountains to the coastal town of Sur and then follow the road along the coast back to Muscat.


A few more images of Wadi Bani Khalid:























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When chaos, crisis and failed leadership are good news – the continued decline of Austria’s Far-Right

From Kärnten to Vienna and on to the State elections in Tirol and Salzburg, the situation for Austria’s Far-Right FPÖ is currently of failure, leading to crisis, followed by failure and eventually…..well the General Election in September certainly isn’t looking good for them.

First wave hits

After the State elections catastrophe in Kärnten and failure in Lower Austria the FPÖ has faced a wave of bad press coverage portraying a Party in crisis, it image as winners destroyed by corruption and extremism, its leader unable to bring order to the chaos and infighting. The reality of decline was further enhanced by an opinion poll in Vienna, the Party’s last stronghold, showing their vote significantly in decline.

Second wave hits

The only good news for FPÖ leader HC Strache, when the first waves of disaster hit, was that he appears to have managed to overt a direct challenge to his leadership. But this glimmer of light was more than offset by his unsuccessful attempt to remove the leader of the FPÖ (and political rival) in Lower Austria and a failed move to quickly force the FPÖ’s sister party in Kärnten, the FPK, back into the FPÖ. The aftermath left him looking weak, vulnerable to future challenges, and still with an ongoing crisis in Kärnten.

This week the crisis in Kärnten has deepened, and looks set to rumble on for some time to come, with:

  • Threats of the FPK splitting into two separate parties
  • Strache saying that he will consider ending co-operation with the FPK, with FPÖ then competing directly against them.
  •  The six FPK MPs in the State parliament splitting into two groups of 3. As club status requires 4 MP’s this means they will have no public funding and less influence in the parliament.

The effect of these splits, in one of the FPÖ’s former strongholds, could have a significant impact upon the Party come the general election for the Federal parliament in September.

The general decline in the FPÖ’s position and ongoing events in Kärnten are already having a knock on effect. The leader of the FPÖ in Tirol has called on the party to break now with the FPK. His group face their own State election in Tirol on the 28th April and polls are showing their vote down to around 8%. One week later the State of Salzburg will also hold its elections and the polls there show no sign of an FPÖ advance, despite both the SPÖ and ÖVP begin entangled in a government financial speculation scandal. In short the second wave looks likely to heap further chaos and crisis on the sinking FPÖ.

No Haider

Here’s an interesting article (in German but Google translate works well enough) in the Kurier looking at the weaknesses of the FPÖ’s Strache. It compares the late Jörg Haider and Heinz-Christian Strache – to summarise HC is no Haider.

Good News

So the good news from Austrian politics this week is that it’s all bad news for the FPÖ.


Related story: Austrian polls round-up

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

Austrian Red Wine – a few more recommendations

Some of my friends have introduced me to two more enjoyable wines in recent weeks. The first was a rather nice 2010 Merlot from the Winery of the Familie Hahn.

2013-03-16 17.57.50

The second introduction was also a 2010 but this time the Schüttenberg Zweigelt from Weingut Grassl whose vineyards are located in the Carnuntum area which is approximately halfway between Vienna and Bratislava.

2013-03-10 22.04.06

I’ll be looking to add these new friends to my wine rack next time I restock. Off course when it comes to buying my next batch of wines I’ll also be heading for another Winery in the Carnuntum area (it’s amongst my favourite in the whole country) that of Gerhard Pimpel .

If you do fancy taking a trip to the Carnuntum area it’s always a good plan to combine the wine with a little history of the area. In this case a visit to the archaeological reconstructions on the site of the Ancient Roman city of Carnuntum.

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Filed under Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food

Dust settles after State elections – Austrian polls round-up

The FPÖ (Far-Right) are just managing to keep their polls ratings out of the teens after the disasters of the State elections in Kärnten and Lower Austria. The movement in the polls is once more downwards and it would not be a surprise to see their ratings swinging between 17% and 21% in the coming weeks.

Team Stronach (TS) while still averaging below their initial launch result, back in September 2013, are now bouncing up to 13%. This upward movement may well be an indication that TS is about to make the much talked about inroads into the FPÖ share of the vote.

The ruling coalition, SPÖ (Social Democrats) and the ÖVP (conservatives), continue in first and second place respectively with enough support to secure a majority in the next parliament.

For the Austrian Greens (centre-left) the current crop of polls are in agreement 13% to 14%. They will be concerned that they have not managed to move their support above this level and that if the TS rise continues they may slip from fourth to fifth place in the polls. However, this weekend’s poll showing 16% support in Vienna (the second largest of Austria’s nine States) will cheer the Greens, as will the prospect of an advance in the coming State election in Salzburg where the Party is up 6.6% (to 14%) in a recent poll.

Current average based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.4%, ÖVP: 24.0%, FPÖ 20.2%, Greens 13.4%, Team Stronach: 10.4%, BZÖ 2.2%, Others 2.4%

Percentage variation across last five polls:

SPÖ: 26%-28%, ÖVP: 22%-25%, FPÖ 20%-21%, Greens 13%-14%, Team Stronach: 9%-13%, BZÖ 2%-3%



Sources: Gallup/oe24 16-03-13
Karmasin/heute 15-03-13
Meinungsraum/NEWS 14-03-13
Market/Standard 11-03-13
Gallup/oe24 07-03-13


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