Monday, May 12, 2008

Vienna Adventures

Hi all,
I got home from Vienna last night and was completely exhausted. However, after catching up on some sleep (and homework), I'm ready to impart my tale of Vienna.

Panda Hostel
So, as Eric was the one who schemed up a trip to Vienna the weekend I was at the theater retreat, he was the one to make the hostel arrangements. We got into Vienna around 9:30 and successfully found our way to the Panda Hostel. Our keys had been left pinned to a bulletin board outside the room, and there was no staff in sight - although it was full of helpful signs... This would become a common theme. We let ourselves in, went to the correct room, and found a note attached to the ladder leading to our bed - yes, a ladder leading to our bed...as in a lofted singular. This was slightly awkward, to say the least. It was a full-sized bed, but not the kind of story you particularly want to tell your significant other about. Seriously peeved, but with no staff to discuss this issue with, we decided to go out and eat dinner. Striking off in a random direction, Eric joked that a sign with red neon lights in the distance was the "red light district" - he was wrong, however, as it was actually on the street just around the corner that we walked on to. After about 6 blocks, we abandoned the well-lit streets in hopes of finding a cafe or restaurant tucked behind them. Finally, as we had almost made a full circle (well, square...) we found ourselves outside "Pizzeria Casanova". It looked a little dodgy at first, but as we walked by and noticed a Catholic priest eating inside, we decided to chance it. The rest of the night passed inconsequentially, except I (well, Eric) discovered that I now sleep talk in German...

Friday in Vienna
The next morning we got up at 8, because the staff is only around from 8-10 (with a 10-2, unobserved, lock-out time) to settle our bill - cash only- and ask if we could get separate beds. Unfortunately they were booked full for the rest of our trip, and we already knew there were no other hostels available. So we set off to explore Vienna. We stopped at a bakery, where I ate my first man-pastry. I still don't understand it...
Next we wandered around and found the National Library and then the Natural Museum of History...so that's where some of the pics are from.
Next we wandered through Mozart's Garden (well, it had a statue of him, at any rate) and were immediately approached by a be-wigged man. He sold us tickets to the Vienna Mozart Orchestra...and Eric was ridiculously excited. More excited than he gets about American Ketchup, and that's saying something...
The tickets were a little steep at 19 euros, but Eric swore left and right that we had to. We also impressed the costumed guy that we knew German...apparently most Americans who visit/live in Vienna don't know any. The rest of the afternoon was mostly spent at the Schoenbrunner palace. It was the summer seat of the Hapsburg empire, starting with Maria Theresa. We checked out the EXTENSIVE grounds (including the fountain with the cute ducks) and wandered through the labyrinth and mazes. Apparently the world's oldest Zoo is there, but we didn't check that out. We did, however, make the very steep hike up the hill with a monument overlooking the palace, but didn't spend the euros to go up on top of it.
The Vienna Mozart Orchestra tickets were for that evening...and it was absolutely terrific!
The concert was held in the Golden Room, which is rumored to have the best acoustics in the world. Our seats were up in the balcony behind/directly besides the orchestra, but as there were lots of empty seats, we moved down to the corner directly behind them. At one point my burning eyes reminded me that blinking was mandatory...I was that enraptured. The high-light for me was the soloist who played two sections from The Magic Flute...he was truly amazing.
I didn't take any pictures of the costumed actors playing (I was too busy listening), but there are a few photos of the empty stage.

Saturday
We woke up relatively late on Saturday, rushing out the door before lock-out. We wandered through a few of the large parks (I was hoping to find the nameless cemetery for the drowned that was featured in the film Before Sunrise.
video
..but it wasn't in our guidebook and we never managed to stumble across it) and then headed back to the palace. We took the Imperial Tour (the shortest) and wandered through about 30 rooms, about 2/3 of the palace. It was gorgeous, and the Hapsburg have an incredibly interesting and tragic history. Afterwards we tried to get standing room tickets for Carmen - but they were sold out within 5 minutes - much to Eric's non-dismay. So we went to the "Volkstheater" instead. If you ever have the chance to see "Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald" (Tales from the Vienna Woods)...don't. If I were to categorize it in one word, Disturbing would be it. Afterwards, we met up with an Australian named Shane, who we'd met the night before briefly. He went with us to pick up pizza for dinner and he decided he'd come with us to see the Vienna Boy's Choir at mass the next morning.

Adventures with Shane
The guidebook said to be at the Hofburg Chapel by 8 am for the 9:15 mass if we wanted free standing room. However, we decided to leave at 8, and were actually all out the door by 7:45. After shortly stopping for breakfast and asking for directions, we successfully found the chapel. We decided to chance the standing room, and were soon in line. Directly behind us was a group of UCLA medical students who had just finished their rotations and were graduating and going on to their residencies within the next few weeks. Eric drifted off and discovered a couple from the Netherlands who were very impressed with his German, and reminded him "You are the Future". For some reason, we found this funny.
We stood in the main aisle of the church, halfway to the front. At first we thought we'd been misinformed, as the choir that lumbered in had the median age of 30 for it's members. Soon, however, the small orchestra above us began to play and we were rewarded with the sweet voices of the Vienna Boys Choir. The whole mass was quite a shock for Shane, as he 1. Didn't know German and 2. Is Anglican. The mass was about Pentecost and tradition, although they threw a lot of Latin in there as well. At the end of the mass, they brought the choir down...and here's a quick video clip...

video
After mass, Eric caught sight of the man who played the father figure in the play from the night before. We found this hysterical.

After mass, we went to the Donau park (but first made photo history at the Natural Science Museum...in photos...). We wandered around and ate at a restaurant in it for lunch. Eric caught sight of the mini-golf sign...and so of course we had to go. It was quite possibly the most ghetto course I've ever seen. It was also quite a challenge...
video
Ok...last movie...I promise...

Afterwards we got some ice cream and then parted ways, as Shane had 5 hours of Sigfried to sit through that evening. We went to the Danube Island (Between the Danube, New Danube and Old Danube), which was pretty much a theme park.

Going Home
We made our 4:40 train with ease and both napped on the way home. Claudia met us at the station and they came to my place to pick up Eric's bike. My back ached from my heavy backpack (we were thoughtless - we could've left them in a locker...sigh), my feet were worn to stubs and I was incredibly hungry. I tried calling my mom for mother's day, but it took about 5 tries to connect to the calling card hub, and another 3 to make it to my parent's voice mail. Due to the heavy operating load, the message was incomprehensible. But it was the thought that mattered, right?

Anyhow, I hope all is well in the land of free toilets and cool whip,
Steph

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