A lovely addition to the line up!
03.11.2010 - 03.14.2010
Vienna turned out to be a wonderful addition to our itinerary. We hadn’t planned on seeing much of Austria on this trip of ours. The people we hung out with in Madrid (besides the Turks) live in Austria. Jana (pronounced Yana) and Diego both go to school in Vienna. They said they’d be happy to show us around if we wound up in the area. During one of our planning sessions, Audrey and I discovered that we had an extra 20 days to play around with. We had gone through some of the cities faster than we expected and had some time to fill and extra train days to use up. Thanks to the inventions of Facebook and my Blackberry, we had kept in touch with our new friends.
We arrived in Vienna at 8am after that horrendous day getting out of Venice. Thankfully, our hostel was a short 5 minute walk from the train station so we hustled over there. Our rooms weren’t ready, but they had luggage storage so we were at least able to get rid of our packs. Since we arrived first thing in the morning, we had about four hours to kill. We took full advantage of their free internet and wasted about three of those hours researching things for our trip and working on the blog. It is in high demand now, you know We soon realized that we hadn’t eaten anything since the salami and cheese baguettes about 15 hours prior. We took off still bundled in our assorted layers of clothes in search of a meal and groceries (this new hostel had a guest kitchen). We hadn't figured out what was safe for us to order in the German language so, you can imagine our excitement when we saw signs pointing out the directions to McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. Don’t judge. Up until this point, we had been loyal to trying all the local foods. After the night/morning we had, we just wanted comfort food. Across the street from McD´s, I spot what looks like an Aldi sign…but is says Hofer. For those of you who don’t know, Aldi is a SUPER cheap grocery store chain. I told Aud we should check it out on the way back. After demolishing our cheeseburgers, we discovered that Hofer is in fact, the Austrian version of Aldi. We snagged €23 of groceries that provided breakfast and dinner for both of us, for three days. Told you…SUPER CHEAP.
We met up with Jana and Diego that evening in front of the Stephenplatz Church. For almost two hours, they walked us all over the city pointing out famous buildings including city hall, parliament, the main opera house, famous café’s, Museumquatier, and The Hofburg. We couldn't walk through the palace because there was a royal ball and celebration underway. This coincidentally, was the cause of the student protests going on at the same time. We got to see all the students, probably close to 1,000, marching through the streets trying to get into the first district of Vienna. The cops had barricades and road blocks anywhere they thought the students were heading. This giant mass of people split up into different groups to spread the cops thin. Jana and Diego were both getting texts from people inside the crowd as to where they were heading. We caught up with them a few times and got to witness them leading the Vienna Police on several wild goose chases. I'm not sure if the protests produced anything but it was pretty obvious that they succeeded at annoying the crap out of the police. After all the sightseeing and protesting, we went to an Irish pub to meet some of Jana's friends for a trivia game. We had a great time and headed back to the hostel a few hours later.
When got back to our room, our hostel mates were already asleep. Firm believers in “do unto others” , we got ready for bed with the lights off using our ipods as lights and speaking in a whisper. The next morning at 7am we awoke to the lights, loud voices, and unnecessarily loud sounds of two of our roommates....The Leslies. You must be wondering why we named them the Leslies. Contrary to what you might have assumed.....neither of them has the name Leslie. Have you seen the Hangover? Leslie Chow is the name of the naked Chinese man that leaps out of the trunk of a car. Starting to get it yet? Both of these middle aged gentlemen are in fact, Asian. One of them has a lisp and the other is a bit younger, so we tell them apart by calling them Lisping Leslie and Little Leslie.
We ignored their rudeness and fell back asleep. We decided that instead of sightseeing that day, we would have a rest day and do laundry. While Audrey was taking one of her very long, very hot showers, I fell asleep. I never nap, and she knows this. So being the fabulous travel partner that she is, let me sleep and went to pick up our laundry from down the street. Once again, my wonderful sleep was interrupted by the Leslies being inconsiderate and talking much louder than necessary. Except this time, I hear a third voice....Audrey's. Audrey being a narcolept is very protective of sleep, even if it's not hers. Very politely, she asks the Leslies to lower their voices because I was sleeping. Well, at this point, I was eavesdropping. But that’s beside the point. They say they don’t speak English and continue talking. At which point Aud being the smart lady that she is, gives them the universal sign for "shhhh". They, of course, pretend that they don't understand her and keep on about their business. So to demonstrate the difference in volume levels of the human voice, she talks to them in a normal tone, then lowers her voice to a whisper, then in a much louder tone similar to theirs says "Stop Yelling!" and points to my bed. By this point, it's all I could do to not burst into laughter and blow my cover. They again shrug their shoulders and carry on.
While relaxing in the dinning area of the hostel that evening, a very good looking German guy sits down with us. Neither one of us can remember his name, so we call him Hot German. Hot German is a real estate agent (and victim of a German pyramid scheme) who was in Vienna for some kind of educational seminar. Upon hearing that we hadn't really gone out much he says in his adorable German accent, "You will come with tonight, and we make party?" Aud and I were pretty much in a trance and nodded our heads in unison. Hot German and one of his seminar buddies both took lessons for Salsa Dancing earlier that day and wanted to try their skills. They took us to one of the hottest salsa clubs in Vienna, Floridita. Those of you who know my love of dancing, probably think that I was in heaven. Not quite. They didn’t tell us about the Cuban salsa club in advance, so you can imagine the torture I felt when we walked into the club and I was wearing jeans and sneakers. SNEAKERS!!!! Everyone around us was dressed in their best ensembles and changed into their fanciest heels at the door. I was having a panic attack. Audrey and I ended up only staying for a drink because of my hyperventilation and once Hot German saw the plethora of beautiful women in beautiful shoes, he avoided us like the plague almost immediately. Oh well! We were proud of ourselves for trying to be social.
The next day we went to see a place that Jana had recommended, the Schloss Schonbrun Palace and Zoo. It was a palace built for the girlfriend of one of the rulers of Austria. She loved exotic animals so much that when anyone visited, they would bring her a new animal. This is actually the world’s first documented zoo. Instead of paying to see the inside of another lavish palace, we opted to see the zoo. It’s a tradition in Audrey's family to go to the zoo on her mom's birthday. We were there two days before Jill's birthday and decided to honor that tradition. It was a great change of pace from the many churches and museums we've visited already. After Schonbrun, we went back to the Hofburg. The Hofburg is where Hitler announced the annexation of Austria to 200,000 people in 1938. I love the ancient Roman history of Italy. But to stand below the balcony where Hitler stood just over 70 years ago was something else.
Later that evening, met with Jana and Diego for some of the most amazing pistachio ice cream I've ever tasted and to say our farewells. We were heading out first thing the next morning. After enjoying our home cooked meal of pork chops, pasta, and steamed veggies, we did some final research on the stops of the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg. We were going to try to avoid spending money on "the official tour". By this point, it was about 10:30 PM. We still had to get ready for bed and pack our bags because we were getting up at 5 am. Upon entering the room, we discover that the Leslies were asleep. Muahahaha. We flipped on the lights and took our sweet time packing our bags and chit chatting. Oh, how the tables have turned! After about 20 minutes, Lisping Leslie jumps out of bed wearing some hideous gray long johns (they did no justice for his manhood), cursing us in another language and shut the lights off. Our mouths fell to the floor. This was a classic case of "you can dish it out, but you can't take it". I go and turn the lights on and say "Excuse me! We are not done with that. We will be done in a few minutes. You can deal with it." He gets up again, says in ENGLISH "no two minutes, done now" and shuts off the light. I reply with "Ohhhhhhh, that’s funny, you do speak English" and turn on the bathroom light as a compromise. We then set three different alarms to go off at 5 am. We didn't want to miss our train in the morning and getting the last jab into the Leslies was a plus
Aside from the altercation with our roommates (first in the entire trip so far), Vienna was a great time. It was a great recharge for our morale. We weren't in our normal "go, go, go" mode and caught up on some much needed rest. What I love most about the trip to Vienna is that it wasn't part of the original plans. It was added to the trip because of friends we made along the way. That right there is why I love to travel. The sightseeing is fantastic, but the people and characters you meet along the way is what keeps me going.
Cat (and Aud)