Sorry it's taken me so long to get around to writing this entry. Everytime I sit down at my computer with the intention of writing it, it just seems daunting and like too much to do in the time that I have to be writing it. The case is no different right now, but I figure if I at least get started then the next time I am at my computer, I will be able to finish. I've already written a nine page entry on Vienna in my journal, because that's how much there is to say about it! I'm just going to try and give a general overview of everything that we did while we were there.
I traveled with my friend Scott who is one of my closest friends in Amsterdam. At the same time that we were in Vienna though, some other girls from our program were also there, and I was staying at the same hostel as them (Scott stayed with a friend of his who is studying abroad in Vienna this semester). We had an 8:50am flight out of Amsterdam on Thursday morning, and so our weekend adventure started at around 7:00am when we met up at Scott's place to walk over to Central Station together and catch a train to the airport. Travel went very smoothly and our flight was incredibly fast so we landed in Vienna at our scheduled time despite leaving about 30 minutes late. After we landed we made our way to my hostel so I could check in and put my stuff down. After putting everything down we (now joined by Erika, Lena, Riley, and Amanda, who all go to USC and are on my program as well) made our way to Old Town just so that we could walk around and see the city a little bit. The first thing I noticed about Vienna is that all of the buildings are absolutely beautiful. I felt as though everywhere I turned I saw another architecturally stunning building. Apparently Vienna is quite famous for their coffee, so while in Old Town we went to get some delicious coffee, and we also stopped by Cafe Demel to pick up some royally famous cake. Scott and I shared a chocolate truffle cake, and it was delicious.
As all of us were pretty tired from traveling we decided to spend the night at the bar in our hostel instead of out painting the town red. We spent a few hours drinking and eating in the bar joined by Scott's friend Megan, and then eventually at around 1:00am we all decided to go to bed, making plans to meet up at 10am the next morning to start our first day of touring the city. All of us except for Scott were staying at the same hostel, but since the other 4 girls had booked their room together, they had their own room and I was in a different room with three guys from Australia. I had only briefly introduced myself to these guys earlier in the day, and they weren't in the room when I went to bed, but unfortunately they came back about an hour after I put my head down and they were completely trashed. They proceeded to wake me up by yelling my name very loudly and with a very long "u" sound.... "Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuth!" When it became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to pretend to be asleep, I sat up in bed and acknowledged that I was not asleep. They then proceeded to strip down to their underwear and make me take pictures of them posing in their underwear. One of them also began banging his head into the METAL lockers in the room. Basically they made complete fools of theirselves, but after about 15 minutes they realized how obnoxious they were being and went to bed... I didn't fall asleep for another hour, so it was not a good first night sleeping wise, but I guess that's what happens sometimes when you stay in youth hostels. On Friday morning I woke up and cleared out of the room before my lovely roomates regained consciousness.
My main reason for really wanting to visit Vienna over other European cities was because I wanted to get a chance to see the building that my grandfather lived in when he was growing up in Vienna. The entire weekend I found myself imagining what the city might have been like in the 1930's when my grandpa was here. On Friday morning the first place we visited was Weimarer Strasse 22, my grandpa's old address. I google mapped the location the night before and figured out what train to take. It ended up being only 2 metro stops from where Megan lived, so it was really easy to get to. I took a bunch of pictures of the outside of the building, but I didn't know the apartment number and even if I had, I don't think I would have been bold enough to actually ring the door bell and ask to go inside. At one point however, someone did leave the building and my friends and I caught the door and walked into the entrance hallway for a few minutes. It was really great to get to see the whole neighborhood, and I was strangely reminded of the upper west side. There are more pictures on facebook (link in the previous post) if you want to see more of what I'm talking about here.
After leaving Weimarer Strasse, we all made our way a short bus ride outside of Vienna into the mountains and vinyards surrounding the city. A bus took us to the top of some mountain, from which we could see the entire city of Vienna laid out in front of us. We snapped many pictures before retreating from the cold into a restaurant/hotel that was located on top of the mountain. Just about 5 minutes after we had taken our seats at the restaurant, it started to hail outside! Luckily we had looked at the weather forecast before leaving Amsterdam and so I had my winter coat and a hat and gloves to keep me warm, nevertheless, we were expecting snow, not hail. After some snacks we braved the cold again in order to take a short hike through the nearby vinyards and to experience some more spectacular views of Vienna, albeit at the expense of our warmth.
The rest of our day was spent at the Albertina Art Museum, which had a huge collection of famous artists from the last two-three centuries. And later that night we went to a restaurant called Centimenter VII which gets it's name because it usually serves food "by the centimeter."
We were joined by a bunch of Megan's roomates and friends that were visiting at the same time, so all together there were 12 of us out to dinner. We had the entire basement of the restaurant to ourselves. Our hosts ordered a "wagon" and a "sword" as the main course... There was no way to predict what was about to be served to us. Basically we were given a whole lot of meats, potatoes, pastas, etc. and the whole table served theirselves. It was quite the interesting dining experience, but after one plate I couldn't eat anymore because it was so filling.
The next day we were back to touring, but first we allowed ourselves to sleep in until 11am. We met up at about one and made our way over to the Naschmarkt, which is an outdoor market that sells tons of different foods that all looked absolutely delicious. These dragon fruits were just one of the many food items on display. They also sold warm spiced wine that we all made sure to try, especially since it was just about freezing during the time that we were there. It only got colder as the day went on, and it also started to rain. The cold and the rain was not a good combination, so we tried to avoid being outside as much as possible. But unfortunately the trams were not agreeing with us this day because they kept getting re-routed and making us walk further than we should have had to in order to get to the places we wanted to go. Our next stop after the Naschmarkt was Belvedere Palace which is also an art museum. The building was beautiful as are most all buildings in Vienna and the collection included a bunch of Gustav Klimt pieces that were really awesome.
That night we decided to take advantage of cheap standing room tickets at the Opera and so we paid 2 Euros to go see the opera Arabella at the National Opera House. None of us are really big opera buffs, and it was a 3 hour long show, so we showed up a little bit late and only watched the second half. Unfortunately in the area we were standing none of the monitors were displaying the words in English... It was all in German, and since none of us had ever been to the opera before, we didn't know that all we had to do was press a button to see the English, so we didn't really understand most of the plot, but it was still fun to watch and to listen to. It made me think of all the vocal majors at Oberlin... I wonder if they'll ever end up somewhere like Vienna. I'm sure some of them will. After the opera we went to the most expensive night club I've ever gone to in my life. It cost 13 Euro just to get in and then the cheapest drink on the menu was over 3 Euro... It was NOT my kind of place, nor Scott or Megan's, but our friends were enjoying it, so we made the most of it and even snuck in some of our own sodas from the street vendor outside. The music was good, but it definitely wasn't worht the amount of money that it cost to get in.
The next day was our last day of touring, and it also happened to be the first snow fall of the year for Vienna. I woke up at around 9:30 and left my hostel to find myself covered in fluffy white snow flakes as I walked the one block to the metro station. It was extremely beautiful, despite how wet and cold it made me, and it was definitely really different from the weather I've been expereincing in Amsterdam. In comparison to Oberlin, Amsterdam weather is actually quite nice. It's been in the 40's lately, and it's not supposed to get all that much colder in the time that I'm here. It sucks when it rains and I still have to bike everywhere, but otherwise it's been quite pleasant. But back to Vienna. It was our last day touring the city so we decided to go to the Schonbrunn Palace, which is where the seat of the Habsburg Empire was located. We got a guided audio tour of the palace which took us through the main offices, dining rooms, bed rooms, and other important rooms of the royal family. Schonbrunn Palace is a beautiful building, made even more beautiful by the fact that it was covered with fresh white snow at the time we were there.
After the palace, we went back to Megan's apartment to cook ourselves dinner, and then Megan, Scott, and I went to see the National Orchestra (again, only 6 Euro for standing room). The orchestra was playing Tchaikovsky and it was really cool to get to go see it. Again, it made me think about all the Con students at Oberlin and how this must be what they aspire to. After the orchestra we went back to Megan's apartment to hang out for a while until Scott and I had to make our way to the airport. Our flight wasn't until 6:30am, but because of the public transport schedules we had to take the last train that night and sleep in the airport. Unfortunately we ended up missing the last train because of a mishap with reading the German train schedules, and we ended up taking a cab and getting to the airport at around 2am. We spent the night on a cold marble floor, until 4:30am when we were allowed to check in and go through security. Everytime I sat down in the time between when we checked in and when we boarded the plane, I fell fast asleep and Scott would have to wake me up everytime we had to move somewhere else. When I finally sat down on the plane, I again fell asleep immediately and preceeded to stay asleep until we touched down two hours later in Amsterdam... It was a great flight.
Well, that's all for my Vienna post, finally! This past week I've been pretty lazy, just going to classes and relaxing. Last night my friends and I went out to a club that was playing "steaming soul" and 60's and 70's hits, so that was pretty fun. Then today we went to Foam, the photography museum in Amsterdam, which is probably my favorite museum that I've been to in the city. After going to Foam, Natalie, Mike, and I left our bikes by the museum and just walked around the city for a few hours. I think since we are always on our bikes and are always riding toward set destinations we don't really look around at the wonderful city that we live in as much as we really should. So it was nice this afternoon to be off our bikes and just exploring and appreciating the place that we live.
My time here feels like it is closely approaching it's end. I leave this city in exactly 5 weeks from today, but before that happens I will be getting visits from Shari, Michelle, my dad, and my mom, so there is much to look forward to. Unfortunately, also in those 5 weeks I will have to write two 15 page papers, and take two final exams, but that will all come and go easily... I hope.
Until next time, feel free to email me or just comment and say hi.