Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Getting Artsy in Austria, Messy in Munich, and Snowy in St Johann!

We got into Vienna, checked in (finally - credit card facilities!) and went for a walk down Mariahilferstrasse - the street we were staying on that is packed with shops. After reaching the Museumquartier, we headed back to Wombats (the swanky, near-new hostel we were staying in) and then to dinner at "Mozart's,"a restaurant around the corner known for its mammoth 5 euro schnitzels. And they were mightily impressive. I had "dumplings with egg and salad,"which was basically a weird omlette with a bowl of lettuce, but it wasn't half bad.

After dinner we went to the "Wombar"(they're full of tacky names at that hostel) for a few drinks, and then I took myself off to bed. It turned out that one of the girls in my room was about to start her Masters at U of I in Champaign. Small world.

After going for a nice run down towards the Summer Palace (no cobblestones!), I had breakfast (a kitchen - luxury!) and then met Lauren, Dave and Mel. We waited for two other girls Mel had befriended for a little while, but when they didn't turn up, we headed for the Belveder. It was a bit of a treck, but Lauren and I safely navigated us to the museum, which we wandered around for quite some time before finding the piece de resistance - Klimt's The Kiss. I was equally impressed by his unfinished works of 1918 (such as Adam & Eve), and the portraiture of Hanz [something!], also on display.

[the gardens of the Belveder]

We went for a walk around the gardens, then headed towards the Naschmarkt (fruit & veggie market), and the nearby Lonely Planet recommended Cafe Sperl for a well earned sit down, accompanied by Viennese iced coffee and apfelstrudel. Yum!

Once we were all highly caffeinated and sugared-up, we returned to the Naschmarkt for a bit of a look around. There were a lot of Asian fruits for sale, lots of Turkish breads and baklava, and lots of delicious-looking dips. Had it not been so hot, we might've bought some bits and pieces for a picnic.

From the Naschmarkt, we headed towards Stephansplatz, via the Opera House - an impressive structure - and then spent some time admiring St Stephan's Church. It was actually quite funny to see some break dancers busking in front of the church. Quite the contrast!

We walked back through the Museumsquartier on our way back to the hostel. The others went to get schnitzel burgers from a dodgy cafe up the road while I returned to good old cuppa soup for dinner.

At around 7pm, a group of us headed to the Summer Palace for the "Concert for Europe"- a free concert put on once a year by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra to coincide with the Vienna Festival. Such good timing!

[Lauren, Steph, Steve, Mel, Dave and Kim outside the Summer Palace]

We sat behind the stage on a nice, grassy hill, rather than stand in front on the rocky path. But at 9:10pm, we realised our mistake - we could hardly hear a thing! It must've looked so funny when masses of people started flowing down off the hill.

[before we realised our mistake...]

Though we missed a little of the performance, we did see most of the four sets performed. Though I recognised all of the songs played, I could only put names to two of them - the Flight of the Bumble Bee, and the goose bump-inducing song from Swan Lake. It was beautiful.

The following day, Mel and I took the u-bahn to the Ring Road and had a look at some of the buildings - the Maria Theresienplatz, the Parliament, City Hall and the university. We then took a tram down to Zentralfriedhof to see where Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms and Schubert are buried, along with a memorial to Mozart, who is buried elsewhere. It was a very nice (and huge) cemetary which, due to the headstones on sale across the road, is apparently still in use.

[Beethoven's grave]

[the memorial to Mozart]

[another Mozart memorial, near the Ring Road]

The afternoon was spent strolling up Mariahilferstrasse, popping into various chain stores and being good little consumerists. We were on a bit of a mission - to get Mel a new camera - and just before 6:30 (closing time), having gone into countless electronics and camera stonres, we were finally successful!

After yet another cuppa soup for dinner, I joined the others while they had yet more schnitzel burgers for dinner, and treated myself to a big piece of baklava. Not as tasty as some I've got on Coogee Bay Road, but full of sugary, honey-filled goodness nonetheless.

Mel, Dave, Simon (teacher from Melbourne - surprise surprise), Steve (again from Melbourne) and I ended our nigth playing a rather competitive game of Rummy. We're such rebels!

Even though six people on the bus got last-minute accommodation in Salzburg, I was happy to continue on to Munich, where we arrived around an hour earlier than expected, at 2:30pm.

After sussing out where i needed to go to find my hostel (the Busabout hostel was ridiculously expensive), I agreed to meet Cass and Lauren at 4pm and headed off to the A&O City Hotel/Hostel. A sweaty half hour later, I'd finally lugged my backpack to the hostel, and having checked in (following a mild dispute with the stubbourn receptionist), I only had tiem to dump my bag before heading back to meet the others.

While were walked through the main street of Munich, searching for somewhere to have dinner, the skies opened and it poured with rain - and hail! - for a good 20 minutes before stopping just as abruptly as it had started.

After dinner we returned to the hostel - which yet again contained a bar - but at around 8:30 I decided I'd better head off. With a newly-withdrawn 500 euros in my backpack, I didn't want to be walking back to my hostel alone after dark.

I discovered that the A&O had a laundry (something the crabby receptionist had failed to mention), and after my clothes had finally dried at around midnight, I took myself off to bed.

I went for an early jog on Sunday, but wasn't exactly thrilled by it - I basically ran up and down the main roads for fear of getting lost, because my hostel wasn't on the downtown map (A&O "city," huh?). I'd agreed to meet a Canadian girl, Heather, at the other hostel at 10am because she'd told me that was when the free walking tour started. Turned out it started at 11am. I wasn't too fussed, though - I filled the hour with emails (sorting out my Italian course in Rome!) and the world's tastiest breakfast - a pretzel with butter and chives. I was so impressed, I had one each morning I was in Munich.

The tour put on by the hostel was great. The guide, a black Canadian who is part-German and obviously in love with Munich, was fantastic. Ozzy had all sorts of great methods for remembering dates and events, which meant by the end of the tour, I felt I'd actually learned something. The best parts of the tour were: the Glockenspiel's performance, seeing yet another pre-emptive statue (Bavaria overcoming Protestantism, built 10 years before the end of the Thirty Years War), the four buildings (or parts of buildings) that were left standing after WWII (and therefore realising everything else was less than 60 years old!), and the very subtle memorial for those who, during Hitler's reign over Munich, refused to conform and fake Nazi affiliation, and took a dangerous back-alley in order to avoid having to do the "heil Hitler"salute.

[one of four buildings left standing after WWII]

[the Glockenspiel, plus some scaffolding]

[the memorial to those who refused to conform]

[I thought Gemma might appreciate this - for the pampered pooches of Munich. Very cute.]

After the walking tour, I wandered around for a while, and became quite familiar with Hauptbahnhof Station as almost nothing else was open because it was a Sunday. I eventually returned to the Wombat's hostel to meet Lauren. She'd just been out to Dachau, so was fairly morose.

After sitting around the foyer of the hostel for a while, trying to work up the energy to go and get some dinner - and then wait yet again for it to stop hailing! - we went to a Thai restaurant around the corner. I ate the biggest plate of noodles I've ever seen. So good. Not Noodi or Thailand, but a nice change! I got stung, though, when I asked for a glass of water. 2.20 euros for fizzy water. Ugh. But it was inevitable - I think everyone on this trip has accidentally bought some fizzy water at some stage.

I returned to the hostel to find my 5am-wake-me-up-as-you're-getting-home roommates getting ready for bed. By 10:30, after reading for a little while and updating my diary, I was also ready for bed.

The next morning, after a lovely sleep-in while listening to the wind whip past the window, I showered and then realised that I would have to go out into that wind. It wasn't too bad until I was about two blocks from the hostel and it started raining. Wind + rain = hopeless umbrella. I took shelter in an internet cafe, called Mum and Dad, and then carried on to Wombat's. I took advantage of their sheltered courtyard and spent a few hours procrastinating and occasionally studying some Italian. I've forgotten so much!

At 2:30 the new load of Busabouters pulled in, and Dave, Mel, etc. filled me in on how much fun they'd had in Salzburg. Oh well - I still held out hope for St Johann being my Beautiful Austrian Alps Experience.

We sat around playing cards, then had a drink at the bar (such good German beer) before the others headed off on the Pub Crawl. Lauren and I went to the Hofbrauhaus instead, and in the dodgy weather (and my frozen, thonged feet), it seemed like the best idea. We ended up sitting at a table with four Americans - one of who'd just graduated from U of I. Small world yet again.

Those litre steins are crazy. How the bar maids in their lederhosen are able to carry six in each hand is beyond me. Lauren and I joked that while we were drinking so much carbohydrate-riddled beer and eating the World's Biggest Pretzel, we were also doing some weight training by lifting our steins each time we drank.

[Lauren and I with our giant steins]

[Lauren with her giant pretzel]

[Oom Pah Pah]

A long, whindy, cold walk, and I was back at my hostel. I may or may not have interrupted my roommates during a private little moment, and then at 2am awoke to the sounds of my other new roommates snogging. Bloody hostels!

I got up at 6:30, intending to walk to the hostel, but when I walked outside, all pack-ed up, it was miserable yet again, so I took a tram and was therefore very early for the bus.

As our bus ambled up the hill towards St Johann, the heavy rain started to look a little strange. Then we al realised it was snow!!! Though it was freezing cold when we got off the bus, everyone was too excited about the snow to really care. For some, it was the first time they'd ever seen it.

Once we'd all checked into Bunny's Pub (a hideously kitsch Aussie pub/hotel, all set up for the Austrian ski season), a few of us braved the cold and went to see a bit of the town. The big, yellow church in the middle of town looked a little too summery as the snow fell around it.

[the church, looking far more appropriate against a blue sky]

We were all so excited at the prospect of having a kitchen (and figured cooking would take up some time), we stocked up with all sorts of goodies at the grocery store before returning to Bunny's. After lunch, we all just sat around not doing very much. I practiced some Italian (I know nothing!), and just enjoyed being inside as the snow turned to slush and then to rain.

On Wednesday morning I went for a 20 minute run because it was just too cold. It seemed so wrong to be jogging in a singlet and shorts with snow on the mountains around me.

After breakfast, we all just sat around chatting until after Siesta (why southern Austria - where it was snowing - needs to nap in the afternoon is beyond me), and then went for another walk around town. Mel, Kim and Lou (who miraculously turned up having caught a train from Salzburg) went to do laundry, so I joined them as there was little else to do. Watching "The Simpsons" with German dubbing at the laundromat was pretty funny.

By the time I left the others at the laundry, the clouds had almost cleared, and the mountains were starting to appear. So pretty. I think I'm going to enjoy Switzerland if I liked St Johann so much.

I ummed and ahhed about buying a 40 euro rain jacket, but eventually talked myself out of it. It seems that every time it's a little chilly I go hunting for warm, bulky, impractical-coming-into-summer clothes.

Checking my email on the way back to Bunny's, I finally got confirmation on my Italian course so took myself back to the pub to study! I made myself write out all the verb rules (Italian verbs suck) before allowing myself to go and be sociable.

After dinner, a few of us, including our very cute little Italian guide, Irene, went down to the pub for a couple of drinks before bed.

Check out was 9am, so we were all up early, eating all our leftovers from the fridge (tortellini for breakfast anyone?) and then sat down in the pub, killing time until the bus arrived. Kim and Mel did a hurried parasail before our 11:30 daparture. It looked as if they had a great time - but practically had to run for the bus!

[the girls (Alicia, Hayley, me, Irene and Carina), waiting for Kim and Mel to land]

[Kim, returning to solid ground]

To come (soon!): Venice and Rome.


gemma said...

The Belveder... apfelstrudel... Vienna symphony... St Stephen's... You're bringing back too many good memories. I LOVED Vienna, it was my favourite European city. We went to see the symphony for 5 euros and the ballet for 3, and then had strudel and hot chocolate in quaint little cafes. Thanks for the reminder. Gosh I want to go back.

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