Vienna Week 4

When we got back, we had a busy week with school as well as just trying to see as much as we could. That Monday was my actual birthday, and it was pretty nice. When I got to my first class, my classmates sang about three different German versions of Happy Birthday, at the same time. So in the middle is sounded like this to me, “mer mer ag phr u ALICIA!” It was great. After that Joni, Becca, Grace, and I went over to Billa (grocery store) to get some cheap lunch and then we went to Cafe Sacher and they were awesome enough to treat me to the most awesome birthday cake ever. We all tried Sacher Torte, which is a dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate on top and some orange custard stuff. And Becca and I tried an Einspaenner (black coffee with whipped cream) while Grace went with a Kleiner Brauner (sp?) and Joni tried the Melange. I thought it was really good, but maybe not worth the approximately $18 spent on just a coffee and cake. Thank you guys for treating me, you are awesome!

We also went to the Jewish synagogue near St. Stephens and learned more about the history of Jews in Austria. It was interesting to learn about all they had to go through (not just what they went through during WWII, but also the discrimination and pogroms they suffered since their arrival in the late 10th century). The synagogue we went to actually was not destroyed in the 1938 Pogrom (Kristalnacht, but you are not supposed to call it that anymore.) There were three main reasons for this. It is too close the St. Stephens and they did not want to risk damaging the symbol of Vienna. It is also attached to several other buildings, which would have been destroyed had they set the synagogue on fire. And the most important, and saddest reason, is that every Jew was filed in the synagogue, so it would be easier for the Nazis to find all of the Jews if they preserved the synagogue.

I also saw a car get towed, which sounds unimpressive except they have a miniature crane on the tow truck and they lift the car up and put it on the back of the truck. I have pictures (#becauseiamatourist). Later that night a group of us went out to dinner. I had Wiener Schnitzel again, and water. I know, old lady. But I was kind of over the whole ordering alcohol by then. And after we ate, we went to an ice cream place, where my teacher bought me ice cream. It was nummy. I had stuff called topfen (tasted kind of like cream cheese) and possibly hazelnut? I don’t remember the other flavor. Then I went home and worked on homework (I had an oral presentation for my German class that Wednesday, which I’ll go ahead and say Becca and I aced.)

The rest of the week’s activities included a trip to the Rome Museum (because Vienna was a military town on the border of the Roman empire, so there are ruins, most of which are buried below the ground.) It was a small museum, but very interesting, especially getting to walk through the ruins. We also saw some small tools they had compared to their modern day equivalents. My favorites were the safety pin and the key. There was also a lego roman town in the kid’s area, which some of our guys decided to play with. Very amusing. We also went to the Wiener Museum, which is a pretty broad overview of most of what we had already seen. There was military, history, art, and St. Stephens (but it was kind of cool to see the exhibit on the architecture plans). I felt like it was mostly a review, and so I did not pay special attention to a lot of it. Plus, I was tired and just about museumed out.

That night we went to the English movie theater nearby and watched Harry Potter 7.2 (Es endet alles!) The smell made me somewhat nostalgic and I kind of missed some of my coworkers, but the theater was totally different than what I am used to. All of the seats are pretty much at the same level (no stadium seating) and they were all significantly below the screen, so we had to look up at the screen. The chairs were low to the ground, but very nice and comfortable. I overall liked it, and the movie was pretty good. We also went out a couple of times that week to the Irish pub in the 1st district. And, I think this was much earlier in the culture class, but I know I forgot to put it in. We, at one point, visited the US Embassy. It was the most boring thing we did for the culture class. We sat in a room and there was a man who talked to us for 2 hours about how awesome the US Embassy is.

The weekend was much more interesting. We had our second free weekend in Vienna. That Friday I went shopping for a bit, because I needed some new flip flops, mine had developed a hole in the bottom. After that I met up with some friends and took a tour of the opera house. It was interesting. Most of it got damaged in WWII, but instead of rebuilding it back in it’s original architecture, about 70% of the opera house is built in the 1950s architecture. The parts which were not destroyed during the war, were gorgeous, and I was sad they did not try to rebuild it back to its original design. But it was really interesting because we got to go backstage and see that as well. After that Becca and I went to St. Augustine Church, where they keep the hearts of the deceased Hapsburg emperors and empresses. We did not get to see the heart chamber, but we did see the church, which was cool. Then we sort of chilled out and went to a cafe and got wine, coffee, and a pastry. It was nice to just sit around for a couple hours and talk. It is something missing from American restaurants and cafes.

The next day we went to the Prater, which is a famous amusement park. We rode the Riesenrad (the famous Ferris wheel which gives a nice view of the city). I mostly watched everyone else as they rode things, 1. because I am chicken, and 2. I didn’t have much money on me, and it was kind of expensive. But I did ride the bumper cars and I also rode what I call the swings of death. If you’ve ever been to a carnival, you are probably familiar with the swinging chairs that go around in a circle. Well, picture that only it goes up several stories while swinging you. It was unnerving when we went up or down, but once we were all the way up it wasn’t so bad. I overall enjoyed it.

That Sunday we decided to go to Catholic Mass in St. Stephens. It was pretty crowded, and there was a gated off part so that tourists could not come in and bother those in mass (which didn’t really work because the guy in front of me had his camera out taking pictures). It was nice, but I realized I did not know what to do because the whole thing was in German and I do not know the customs of Mass anyway. But it was an overall interesting experience, and such a beautiful place of worship. After that we spent the entire afternoon in the Schoenbrunn zoo, which is the first zoo, and it was huge. We pretty much got to see every animal you can think of. I did somehow miss the giraffes though. It’s layout was kind of weird. You don’t go in a straight line, and the paths all intersect at odd places, making it kind of hard to navigate. There was one exhibit which was kind of fun. It was for giant walking sticks. And for a minute we tried to find the walking stick, until we realized, almost all the branches in the exhibit were walking sticks. And towards the end, we came upon a playground, which had a kind of hammock thing close to the ground. So Grace and Becca took advantage of this and laid down on it. A few seconds later the cutest little boy comes up and starts swinging them back and forth, for 10 minutes. It was awesome.

Then after that everyone went their separate ways. I ended up eating at McDonalds because I had heard good things about it. It was better than ours, but I think I would have liked it better had I ordered an actual cheeseburger. But that was pretty much it for the day.

 

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I know, I haven’t finished my travel posts…

I still have a couple more posts to make (maybe about 4) about my abroad trip to Europe (2 have already been written).  Since school has started back I really haven’t thought much about posting them (because the pictures are on my other computer which I don’t really use at home).  Hopefully I will get those up soon, but in the meantime I want to talk a little about what the past couple of weeks have been like.

A couple of days after my classes started I found out that I no longer had to take Comp 1000, which may not sound very exciting, and who knows, maybe the class is okay.  But from what everyone who has taken it has said, this is not the case.  After about 5 people who have taken have said, “That class is terrible, get out if you can!” you can easily believe that said class probably does suck.  So what am I taking now?  World Games (PE)  Which the first week was not devoted to actual world games, but learning the different game types.   One of the games we ended up playing was four square.  It’s going to be an awesome semester.

At far as my other classes go, none of them look really hard necessarily, but a couple are annoying, mainly being German Business.  But that’s probably because I don’t care that much about business.  I love my Asian History and Philosophy of East and West classes right now.  They are really interesting and I feel like I am going to learn a lot from them.  We are reading The Republic right now for Philosophy, which I like but sometimes I can only read so much before my brain starts to hurt.

I’ve also been working a good bit, which just sort of makes my free time few and far between.  But I have been making the most of it.  I also have been really busy with JSO (Japanese Student Organization).  There was actually an IP picnic yesterday, so I swapped shifts with another girl and worked Saturday morning and actually had a Saturday night off!  After the picnic I went to a party and mingled.  It was fun and I got to meet a lot of new people.  Monday I will be doing karaoke for a friend’s birthday (she just turned 19).  So that’s pretty much been it for my time since school started back.

Salzburg

So we again got up super early to go to Salzburg by train, but this time it was only a couple hours. Most of the train ride, however, was a blur of frustration because we had to start on a presentation about an Austrian journalist and a couple of her articles. They were really hard to understand at first, because her writing style was almost stream of consciousness. Luckily one of our teachers was willing to help us out and so it went a bit better towards the end. I think we got there around noonish and went to our hotel (yes, this was a hotel, not a hostel!) I can’t tell you how awesome it was to have a bathroom in the actual room!

Anyway, after that we walked around the city. Salzburg is a pretty small place, maybe about the size of Auburn, only more compact. We walked through the Mirabell gardens and went to a fountain (which we are going to say was in the Sound of Music, even though no one was 100% sure of this at the time). We walked over a bridge into the heart of Salzburg and saw Mozart’s birth place (which we later went in and explored.) We saw yet another awesome church (typical of Europe as you might have guessed) as well as many more fountains. We also saw several more street performers and vendors, and one of my favorite things out on the street, a giant chess set with people actually playing.

After that we took a trolley up to the Hohensalzburg Castle on the hill and took a tour. It was a pretty big place and there was a museum inside with a lot of interesting objects. But the reason why there was a fortress in Salzburg was because it used to be a very wealthy place. As the name suggests (Salz=salt) they used to mine salt in the town. And during the middle ages, since there were no refrigerators or freezers, salt was the best way to preserve food, so it was very important. So they built the fortress, which later became a castle, to protect the town. Oh, and there is an amazing view up there.

But it was not all awesome up there. Normally I would spin an epic yarn of how I bravely fought through fire or guns in order to rescue children or puppies from said assailants and somehow I was injured while carrying out this brave act. But no, I’ll be truthful this time. I’m a klutz, that’s all there is to this one. I was going down the stairs and I got to the very last one, and my ankle gave out (almost at a 90 degree angle) and I went down, landing on my other knee. It did not hurt at the time, but I knew it was going to hurt later. Still, on the way down, all I could think was, “shit I’m about to break my ankle. It’s really going to be hard to climb that mountain tomorrow in crutches!” It wasn’t broken, so that was good. But I did spend the rest of the trip gimping around while several people offered me piggy back rides (which for those of you who did, thank you! It really meant a lot how concerned everyone was!!)

After that we also climbed the tallest tower in the fortress and got to see a nice view of the city. Then we headed down and toured Mozart’s birth house and ate dinner. Then Becca and I decided to walk around Salzburg instead of going back to the hotel with everyone else. We found this nice little park by the river and it had several really neat things like an outdoor workout area as well as miniature golf. We sat at a bench for awhile and fed the duckers (which I’m not quite sure why my brain kept calling them duckers instead of ducks… I’m going to go with I was delusional with pain by that time) but my ankle was really starting to hurt, so we decided to head back. When we got back everyone was drinking and having a good time. I joined them for awhile, but didn’t drink anything so I went to bed kind of early.

The next day a handful of us got up early and took a trip to Hellbrunn, which is a castle famous for its fountains on the outskirts of the city. After venturing around Salzburg because we did not look at the bus route correctly and got off at the wrong place (and we had to walk to our connecting bus) we finally got there. It was a pretty place, and the fountains were really cool. What was not as cool was our tour guides determination to spray everyone with the trick fountains, but we all mostly avoided getting wet. We walked around the gardens for awhile after that, and found a replica of the Gazebo from the Sound of Music, and so we took fun pictures there and Scott gave everyone a riveting reprise of 16 (23) going on 17 (24). After that about half of the group went to the zoo while the other half went ahead on to the mountains. We stopped and ate lunch at the little imbiss at the base of the mountain and ended up heading up the mountain via cable car an hour later than planned.

Let me tell you, I was not going to be left behind due to my gimpy ankle (there was a 20 minute climb to the very top after the cable car, and it was a bit rocky). And of course, after I finally made it to the top, we all took pictures and sang, “The hills are aliiiiiiiive, with the sound of muuuuuuusic.” It took forever for me to climb back down, but Becca, Scott, and Grace stayed with me and our teacher waited for us at the bottom of the cable car. I also really appreciate that, even though I made us late for the Stiegl brewery (sorry guys). We got to try some more samples, and I ate a salad with fried cheese and cranberry dressing. When we went back to the hotel, almost everyone was pooped, but I had decided that I was going to celebrate my birthday early (because we had a busy week ahead of us anyway) and so about half of the group went out to a bar. We actually started out in downtown Salzburg, but we did not really find a good place to go, so we ended up at a bar down the street from out hotel.

It was really fun! I drank a good bit, but not too much. I did a bit of white girl dancing with Grace. We got some really naughty stickers from the bar tender. Trevor ended up giving Scott a piggy back ride, and Grace gave me one as well (which is kind of opposite of what you would think because Scott and I are much bigger than Grace and Trevor, but Grace assured me it would be fine, she does roller derby.) We also learned that Trevor has no sense of stranger danger when we went to another nearby bar and everyone in there looked like they came from a bad 70s stoner movie and were glaring at us. Becca “found” us some really pretty flowers, because she and mother nature are so close. I couldn’t unlock the door to our room. It was epic.

The next day, while about half of our group was on the Sound of Music tour, we decided to venture out on our own and see what we could do. First we went to the State Rooms, which was interesting. There was again, a lot of beautiful architecture. We also went to a famous cafe, and everyone ate lunch there (except for me because I did not feel very well). After that we got some ice cream and then went on a boat tour (which was the hottest boat in the world). It was relaxing. Afterward almost everyone went to another brewery, but I was feeling a bit antisocial at this point so I sort of just walked around until time to meet up at the train station. The ride back was mostly uneventful. Everyone in my car fell asleep at one point. I did some more reading and got really frustrated again, but I got it all read, so it was all okay in the end. Overall, it was a good trip and I feel like I saw everything I wanted in Salzburg.

 

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Vienna week 3

So after all of the drama in Prague, it was kind of nice to be back in Vienna. We started off the week by deciding that we would have a Euro day, in which we all would wear European clothes. It was fun, and some people looked really cute, while others were bordering ridiculous. My favorite would have to be Scott, who work a scarf and big red sun glasses with rolled up white shorts. That aside, we had a lot of fun things for our culture class. We first went to the Military Museum, which to me sounded really dull at first, but I actually really enjoyed it. Vienna, as you may or may not know, has been involved in several conflicts. There were the two Turkish sieges in 1529 and 1683, there were the Napoleonic wars, wars of Austrian and also Spanish Succession, the 30 and 7 years wars, and of course both World Wars. So as you might imagine, it was a huge museum with a lot of the development in military technology, as well as history.  A couple of interesting things we saw was a tent the Turks left behind after one of their sieges, all sorts of tanks, airplanes and cannons, but the most interesting thing was the exhibit on Franz Ferdinand, which if you don’t know, he was the archduke assassinated by a Serbian nationalist and that was what started WWI. Anyway, we saw the car he was shot in, the uniform he wore when he was shot, as well as his blood soaked shirt (which is only displayed occasionally, so it was a real treat getting to see it.)

The next place we visited was a Heuriger, which basically means we went to class to drink wine and eat Austrian food. I drank mostly white wine gespritzt (meaning there was carbonated water added to it) and I ate some sort of pork dish with potato salad. It was really tasty, and there is nothing like getting drunk for a class as well as watching your teachers get drunk as well. Yay culture! The next day we went to the Ottakringer Brewery, where we learned how beer was made from a guy named Fritz. And Fritz is probably what most people think of when they think of Austrians because he sounded a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Favorite Fritz quote, “Is that how you Americans like to party?” We apparently were not enthusiastic enough for that picture. We also got to try samples, my favorite being the red zwickle (sp?). After that we went to the Museums Quartier and lived it up. We met some cool people and played ninja, which I almost won, but I will admit, Jed deserved that victory because he fell on the ground during the previous round.

I feel like I’ve left something out that we did this week also, but I could be wrong. Well, if I remember I will leave a comment at the bottom. So for now I will end it here, because over the weekend we went to Salzburg, and that deserves an entry of its own, trust me.

 

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Praha

The train ride was long, about 4-5 hours, but the scenery was really pretty. There were rolling hills with corn or sunflower crops in places, and then dense woods in other places. Once we got into the Czech Republic though, things looked a little, for lack of a better word, Communist. There were several older abandoned warehouses and factories, and some of the train stations looked a bit rough around the edges. It made me second guess all of the hype I heard about Prague being really pretty. But not to worry, Prague was amazing. Of course my favorite things about the train ride were hilarious stories about number one snake Thailand and sharing all sorts of different snack foods.

We got there around 1ish I believe, and went to our hostel. And just so you can get an idea about how okay sex and nudity are in Europe, we were greeted by a giant painting of about 5 or so mostly naked women holding beer and standing/laying in somewhat suggestive poses. It wasn’t raunchy, but it definitely was not something one would see in America. That aside, this hostel was super sketch. To give an example, one of our teacher’s rooms got broken into and she was robbed. Not too much was stolen, just her cash (checkers as we called them) and her Austrian cell phone. The rooms were just “beds” and by beds I mean springs covered with thin sheets and placed precariously on a metal frame. We did get together in a room and partake in hostel yoga, meaning we laid on the beds and put our feet on the wall almost like we were sitting.

After that we did a city walk and saw some of the most important parts of Praha. It is a very beautiful city with a lot of old architecture, especially in the center. It also used to consist of several little towns which sort of merged, and it’s neat because the old gates are still standing where they used to have the towns separated. And not unlike Vienna, Prague also has a fancy old clock, only it is a much quicker show in Prague (which is good because the clock in Vienna takes almost 10 minutes to finish it’s show). The tower sits in a huge square, which at the time we went, had a music festival playing. Which is another thing I really liked about Prague, there was music and street performers everywhere. As one of the group said, it felt like Disney World. Along with that were artists, who were selling things on the street and on this really famous bridge with huge stone sculptures down both sides. We saw so much in Prague, I’m not even sure I can remember it all. But I’ll give it a shot: John Lennon’s wall, a lock bridge, some modern art sculptures, the Spanish quarters, and some churches.

After our tour (which was about 3 hours), we went to a restaurant to try authentic Czech food. Naturally our first order of business was to order a beer, and I want to say the brand of the beer was Pilsner Urquell (but I could be really wrong on that because they only referred to it as Pilsner). It was very good and a bit more on the lighter side of what I usually drink. And the food we ordered was amazing. Of course we tried what everyone else had, so there was a big sampling of foods, which was good. My dish was beef in this brown sort of gravy with their special little dumplings made of bread and potato, with cranberries. Which I never would have thought to put cranberries one a dish like that, but the flavors worked very well together, and I was very satisfied. After that we went back to the hostel and sort of chilled out. There was a bit of drinking involved, but not too much because we had another tour at 9 the next morning.

So on Saturday we saw the Prage castle, which sits on top of a hill, so we also got a gorgeous view of the entire city. The only really bad thing was all of the tourists. And I’m usually alright with tourists (I was one myself), but these tourists were incredibly rude. The best instance to illustrate my point was on the bus ride to the castle. It was a packed bus and we were standing right up against the door, because that was the only place we could fit. So the bus stopped and my friends were trying to step out of the bus to let other people out, and this man pushed them into the door way and turns around and says, “stupid!” They handled the situation just fine, so it was not that big of a deal, but it got kind of irritating as the day went on and people were still really rude. That aside, the castle and the big church (St. Vitus Cathedral) we went into were beautiful. I can not even describe how ornate the church was (which is why I have pictures, my favorite being the one with the light shining down through the window.) Had I written this sooner, or bothered to take notes, I would be able to share more about the history of the castle, but I did not and I regret that slightly. We also were able to see the servant’s quarters, which later housed normal citizens, one notable person being Kafka. It was really interesting. They had rooms set up to represent, for example, a tailors house or a cooks house.

That afternoon we went to the market, which is where I bought most of my souvenirs. They sold almost everything you could imagine, but it was more inexpensive and I really liked the atmosphere. We went shopping at a couple other places, but we were starting to get tired and grumpy, so we headed back to the hostel and took a nap. That night we went to a bar, which was recommended to us by last year’s students, but we went to the one on the outskirts of the city as opposed to the one in the center of the city. So it was not really that happening, but it was fun. We took up two tables, but the tables had their own tap in the middle which kept up with your charges as you drank. It was pretty awesome. After that we went back to the hostel bar, and I tried a sip of Absinth (sp?) which was okay as long as it was in grapefruit juice, but a little too minty on its own. We also saw some crazy 13 year olds who stripped in the lobby and ran around on the streets half naked. Some of our group yelled at them to be quiet, and I could not help but to think, where are their parents and why are they acting like hooligans? I know, get off my lawn you crazy kids.

Our final day was spent looking at the Jewish quarter. Today it is one of the most expensive streets in Prague (meaning it has all the fancy places to shop), but it was once a ghetto. It was very interesting. We went into an old synagog, which was now a museum. We also learned a good deal about Judaism as a religion. We also went to the Jewish cemetery, which was one of the most awesome cemeteries I’ve been to, just because it looks like it was pulled straight from a horror movie. The stones are all packed together and uneven, there are ravens perched everywhere, the path is winding and shaded by several large trees. It was awesome. We also saw an old Spanish style synagog, which was very pretty. The saddest, but probably one of the best things we saw all day was the Jewish synagog, which was no longer in use for ceremonies, but rather dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. All of their names and dates of birth and death are painted on the walls. It was overwhelming how many names were on a wall, and how many walls of names there were. And upstairs there was a room dedicated to children of the the Holocaust. Before being taken to the Concentration camps, the Jews were confined to ghettos, and they secretly taught their children. In these secret schools the children drew pictures, some of what their life was like, others of the past, and the saddest were the ones of what they hoped for in the future. It was a very sobering moment in our trip, and I am very glad to have gone there.

After that we had several hours to blow. We went up to the top of the aforementioned clock tower and got a panoramic view of the city. After that the group sort of split up and went our separate ways for the afternoon. Becca and I ended up eating sausages for lunch in a park. Which, as it turned out, were very greasy. At one point, Becca bit into her sausage and grease shot out of the side and, because I was sitting right next to her, landed all over my lap. (Preemptive your mom). It was quite hilarious, because she did not even realize it at first, and I was too shocked to say anything. But the grease ended up coming out just fine in the wash, so it was all good. We also ate some ice cream, and this pastry which I don’t remember the name of, but it was good (and we saw them making them!) We also saw a sign for a hazelnut McFlurry, which I to this day, regret not trying because they didn’t have them back in Vienna. Then we went to a garden, which is on the UNESCO list, so it is really famous. There was a wedding rehearsal and pictures being taken there when we first arrived. There was also a string quartet, which really just made the garden even more beautiful. So we just chilled there for awhile before heading back to the hostel to leave.

I would love to say the way back was uneventful, but that was not the case at all. One the subway our group was split into two, each subgroup standing one the opposite side of the car. I was in the group at the front, but there was this man in the back group, who was trying to pick pocket everyone. He had his hand in one girl’s purse, but she caught him and he did not get anything from her. My roommate, however, was not so lucky. We got to the train station, and she realized her wallet was gone. Fortunately she only had about $12 worth of cash, but unfortunately, she lost all of her credit cards and id’s (but not her passport). So after getting that worked and almost missing the train, we got moved to first class because someone took our cars and refused to move. So at least that part of the trip back was good, heh heh. But despite the tourists, sketch hostels, and pick pockets, I really did like Praha a lot, and I will be going back there one day. (I rubbed a relief of some saint to ensure that.)

 

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Vienna week 2

So I did start talking about the next week in my last post. We did the art history museum, the funeral museum, and the Belvedere during the first part of that week. Oh well, it is not that important. But we also climbed to the top of St. Stephens and got a gorgeous view of the city. The only down side, spiral stairs all the way up, only wide enough for one person. So when people came down while you were going up, or visa verse, it was not fun. But totally worth it, once you get up there.

Something important that happened while we were here was the death of Otto, who was the son of the last emperor of Austria. He was 98 and it was a really big deal. He apparently worked hard for Austria during WWII and the Cold War trying to keep it, well, Austria. Anyway, his funeral was a big deal (a procession through the 1st district) but we could not go because we had gone to Salzburg that Saturday. I was reminded of this because we visited the Imperial Crypt, and saw important graves such as Maria Theresa and her husband, and Sisi, Franz Joseph, and their son Crown Prince Rudolf.

We also visited a Turkish Mosque for our class. As you may or may not know, Turkish immigrants have become a major part of European culture and politics. It’s hard not to walk past an imbiss and not see Turkish food. We learned about the basic tenants of Islam, and the prayer leader even recited some prayers for us (which almost sounded like songs). We then were able to eat legit Turkish food, and it was great. The rice was possibly some of the best rice I’ve ever eaten in my life. We also tried a sort of yogurt drink, which took a couple of sips to get used to, but was not too bad after that. Then my roommate and a hand full of people from the institute went out by the Donau and drank. It was pretty fun, and I was a bit tipsy, and we were SO CLOSE TO DER FLUSS!! One of our friends also was also quoted as saying, “Kann ich One for the U-Bahn haben?” It was a wild night, and the next day we had to get up early (smart decision, right?) and get on a train to Prague.

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Austria Week 1

My flight was only a couple of hours though, so when I got to the airport, I was still exhausted to say the least. But I thought that it would not be a long wait for the others to get to the airport (because we were car pulling a group of us to our host families). Alas, I was wrong. Once in the airport we had to wait two hours for the last two people to arrive. Had I not been so disoriented, I would have rather braved a train and gotten there sooner, but it was probably for the best that we took a van together because I was falling asleep waiting at the airport.

I was the last person dropped off for the day, because my family lives in the 14th district, which is kind of in the ‘burbs (even though it is still technically in Vienna). I met my host mom, who is a really sweet lady and made me left overs for lunch (some noodles that kind of reminded me of mac n’ cheese.) She told me where I could go get groceries, and since it was a Saturday, it was imperative that I went as soon as I finished eating because everything is closed on Sunday here (except for restaurants and some souvenir shops.) It was an interesting experience. I ended up walking down the wrong street until I got to a store similar to Aldi. And I forgot to bring bags so I ended up carrying everything almost a mile back, but it was okay. Then I slept, and I did not wake up until 7 the next morning. Not much happened on Sunday, other than I got lost going to the American Institute for orientation. But I eventually made it, then everyone went to the Donau Insel Fest, which is by the Danube (Donau in German). It was kind of like Big Spring Jam, with a bunch of stages with different genres of music, but it was really spread out and there were a lot of other different activities and shops. And after that I went back to meet my roommate and have dinner with my host family. It was nice, although I was a tad late… oops.

The next day was my first day of classes. My first was from 9-11 and my second was from 3-5, which leaves a pretty significant gap in my afternoons. We just sort of wandered around (after registering and becoming temporary Austrians). Then we went on a city walk with our instructor, and she showed us about 10 different significant places in the 1st district. The highlights were the statue commemorating the Holocaust, the Roman ruins, a church from the middle ages, and the famous clock. But unfortunately, I could not take pictures because my camera batteries would not charge at the time. This also means that I can not recollect everything in the proper order, so I’m not sure if I did anything after class or not. I do remember that we stopped for ice cream at our teacher’s favorite place. I got hazelnut and pistachio, and it was the best ice cream I think I’ve ever eaten.

And, since I can not really remember on what days I did things, I’ll just do a short week’s recap here instead of a daily blow by blow. We saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral (which is the symbol of Vienna and one of the most gorgeous churches I’ve ever seen). The history is kind of interesting, as is the architecture, which changes as you move through the church. It was originally Romanesque, but was redone in early Gothic in the back part, and late Gothic in the front part. We went to the Folk Art museum, and got to see how people back then lived, which was kind of cool. Becca and I went up to Schoenbrunn (summer palace of the Hapsburg’s) and went up to a nice pavilion overlooking the city. It was one of the most relaxing things I have done so far. There was a party being held up there and they had a jazz band playing. It was just the start of dusk and the sun was casting a faint glow on the city. We just stayed up there until around 8:45, which was fine except the grounds closed at 9, so when we got down to the front the gates were closed. Thanks to a nice gentleman and his lady, we hopped a fence and went through the kitchen of some restaurant (very sketch, I know) and made it out. We went to the art history museum, and I decided that I really like the painter Peter Bruegel. Our instructor was amazing though (we only had her lecture for three excursions, so she was not our regular teacher). We went to the National Library, which reminded me of Beauty and the Beast and the grand library the Beast gave Belle. We also went to the Belvedere (the palace of Eugene of Savory who was an important general who defeated the Turks in 1683 and is now an art museum). We saw works by Gustav Klimt (his most famous painting being The Kiss) and Egon Schiele. You might know Klimt from his painting “The Kiss”, but we saw many of his other works as well. We also went to the Funeral Museum, and had possibly the creepiest tour guide ever. He closed with, now wouldn’t you like to die in Vienna? But there is an interesting connection with the Viennese and death. I think I’m actually venturing into the next week’s excursions, because I actually have pictures of these…

Over the weekend I sort of walked around Vienna (I didn’t really have a way to get in touch with most people) and did homework (at least on Friday). Saturday I took a tour of St. Micheal’s Crypt, which actually has the perfect conditions for preserving bodies, so there are several mummies down there. It was all in German, but when I didn’t understand, one of the German teachers was there to help. But I probably understood 75% of what she was saying, even though it was very fast Viennese dialect. After that we went to a street food place and got a Kebap sandwich (kind of like a Turkish version of a gyro on a bun). It was delicious. Then we went to the Central Cemetery and saw the graves of some famous people, as well as memorials to Mozart. It was really cool, but I did not really know a lot of the people our tour guide was talking about. And my German was exhausted (the tour was in German) so I didn’t catch everything she was talking about. On Sunday I walked around some more, and ended up going to St. Charles Church and going to the top to look at the dome and see a view of the city. But it was raining so it was not a great view, but still fun. I do not think I did too much more aside from that. Everything is kind of jumbled of that week due to the lack of camera, will to write things down, and sleep.

I do want to add as a side note, I was strangely taken aback the entire week when people would speak German to me. Why? My brain is stupid and tends to think that everything should be in English. I got over my initial expectation of English quickly, and I imagine when I go back to the states, I will expect German for about a week. Oh well, maybe my brain will get the hang of life eventually.

 

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Ireland (part 1)

So it’s been at least five weeks since I have updated on here, probably more since I really haven’t had much to write about other than boring preparations for studying abroad. But I’ve been in Europe for over a month now, and really there’s no excuse other than I have been living it up (or doing homework) as opposed to sitting at a computer to type a blog. Pretty good trade off, if I say so myself. Anyway, however briefly, I do want to record some of the more awesome things I have done.

I was supposed to leave the US on the 19th (of June) and get to Ireland on the 20th. However, there was a slight change in plans, which actually worked out for the better. The two friends, who I was meeting in Dublin, were flying out of Chicago, and due to some bad storms, their plane was delayed for several hours. This would I have meant I would have had to stay some 8 or 9 hours by myself in a strange city and not fall asleep in the process. I was a little bit panicked by this, to be perfectly honest. As luck would have it, they overbooked the plane by two seats and asked if anyone was willing to give up their seat. I was a bit hesitant at first, but then decided to do it because I did not really want to be alone in Dublin. So they put this other Irish lady and me up in a nice hotel, paid for our transportation to and from the airport as well as our food, gave us some delta dollars, and the best part, bumped us up to first class. Despite how awesome it sounds (and was) there were some issues, and I am really thankful for the lady who also gave up her seat, because she knew what to do to take care of the situation. And let me just say, if you ever have the opportunity to give up you seat, do it, but wait a couple of minutes for the offer to go up. First class was awesome. I got to lay my seat all the way back (and it had a foot rest) and I ate salmon with ice cream for dessert. I feel like it was totally worth waiting all day in the airport, but I did really feel out of place as the handful of older men haggled over each others sleeping medication.

After I finally got to Dublin, my friends were there to pick me up and I dropped my suitcase off and we went back to the hostel. But I did not really have time to sleep because as soon as we got there and I got my stuff settled, we left for a walking city tour. We saw their old city hall (which is now used for ceremonies and special events), Dublin castle, we saw a couple of nice parks (each with their own special history), we saw where Jonathon Swift was born (no, he is not Taylor Swift’s father), we saw Christ’s Cathedral, Haye Penny Bridge, which is also a lock bridge (where lovers write their names on a lock and put it on the bridge and throw away the key). We also saw Trinity College and Parliament. So it was a very extensive walking tour, and I felt like I was going to die at the end (not because I’m that lazy, just because I was jet lagged). I did enjoy getting to see as much of Dublin as I did. Then most of what I did was sleep. I woke up around 9 (and it was still light outside) and Becca and I went and got some fish and chips, which were really good even though the place we went to was really sketch. Pretty uneventful after that.

The next day we took a bus trip out to Galway, which is a smaller Irish town on the west coast. We got up pretty early to meet our bus tour at around 7, and we ate the best scones of our lives at some nearby bakery. There isn’t really much to say about the bus ride, other than the roads are so narrow and winding that even I was feeling a bit off color by the time we got there, and I don’t even usually experience motion sickness. But the first thing we got to do was visit a family farm and feed some teenage sheep. Then we went for a short hike up the Burren (which are the rocky hills Ireland is known for). There were rocks everywhere, despite the fact that all of those fences in Ireland are built from these rocks. The view was amazing, you could see all of the countryside and even a rain storm (which are very common in Ireland) off in the distance. We laid down in the grass and just listened. All I could hear was the wind blowing in the distance, and it was the most relaxing feeling ever. Words can not do enough to capture the essence of the moment. After eating some homemade apple pie we journeyed onward to the Cliffs of Moher (which were also used in the sixth  Harry Potter movie). They were super windy, but they were gorgeous. I forget exactly how high the cliffs are, but there was quite an impressive drop. And the main office there looked like the teletubbie head quarters. It was very neat though. It was essentially built into the side of a hill. After that we drove past a couple of castles and saw one of the oldest grave cites, which was kind of cool. We ate at a local restaurant, and Becca and Joni had some Guinness stew, while I had some sort of seafood chowder. Both were delicious. We decided to stay the night in Galway and stayed at a Hostel. We mostly walked around Galway the rest of the evening and later that night ended up at a pub named Taaffes. That was probably one of my favorite experiences so far. It was a really local place, and it was packed. Luckily we had gotten there early enough to find a seat, so it wasn’t an issue. There was an actual Irish band playing, and people were dancing the traditional Irish dance. I got to drink a couple pints of Guinness from tap, and Becca met a German guy, who we talked to for most of the night. The next morning we walked around, looked at several churches, ate at Taaffes (which they also had really good sandwiches), and saw at least half a dozen street performers. (One of the many things I really like about Europe in general). We caught a bus back at 7 p.m. and got back to Dublin at about 9.

We were all kind of ill tempered and tired at that point, so we did not do a whole lot. The next day was rainy and cold, but we checked out of our hostel and walked around Dublin, toured a few churches, did some shopping, and relaxed back at the cafe near the hostel until it was time to get on the bus to the airport. We did try this thing at the cafe, mine was chocolate “pudding” and Becca got caramel. It was not actually pudding, but a small cake with a really rich and thin frosting on top. It was, as most of the food I have tried here is, awesome. We got to the airport and finally jumped through all of those hoops and boarded the plane. It was pretty uneventful after that. We had to stay the night in the airport in London (because we had an overnight layover which left at 7 the next morning). We tried to do some sleeping in shifts, but that was really hard for two reasons. 1) those chairs were not made to be slept in. And 2) there were these two drunk German girls screaming and running around the airport with baggage trolleys and yelling random insults in German to people. Aside from that, the flight to Vienna was nice, and I was so tired I actually slept.

 

 

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