Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Weekend in the Country (of Austria)

    As you may recall, my last post was written (or published, rather) upon the eve of my departure for a weekend visiting my dear friend and fellow Californian Andrea, a Fulbrighter in Vienna, for Easter, to be followed by a day hopping around Salzburg with fellow Californian and Münchner Leigh. Okay, so I've been back for nearly a week, but hey, it's taken nearly that long to recover from such a fun weekend! I'll stop enticing you with hints about how fun it was and just get straight to the stories.

     Let's back up eight days. Dark and early last Friday morning (5:10 AM, to be precise), I awoke to the cheery sounds of dear Eric Clapton singing Wonderful Tonight (my phone has a limited amount of very random music from its previous owner), crawled out of bed and into the shower, and 50 minutes later was whisked away on the bus to meet my ride at a distant U-Bahn station, heavy backpack in tow. Just to be entirely accurate in setting the scene, it was pouring rain. Meeting my ride (a pleasant Slovakian man in his late-20s) went smoothly, and we set off, along with two fellow riders, to Vienna. Four hours (and several naps) later, we were deposited at the southernmost U-Bahn station on the Vienna public transport system, and an hour-long U-Bahn and Straßenbahn adventure later, I arrived at Andrea's beautiful apartment in the heart of the second district of Vienna.

    Let me tell you, as fun as traveling and seeing new places is, one of the best parts of traveling is when you can go to a place entirely new and be welcomed by a wonderful friend! It makes it seem so much more homey than wandering dismally around a strange city with a backpack and guidebook in tow.  Andrea's apartment is GORGEOUS, and I was welcomed with snacks and drinks and my own key for my stay.

    My decision to visit on Easter weekend meant that of course Andrea had a plethora of church choir rehearsals and services to attend, so before her first obligation we headed out for a short sightseeing tour, beginning with lunch at a super cute, friendly, and delicious cafe near Karlsplatz.

Beautiful friend!

The friendly waitress who took this insisted on clearing the table first so the picture would look nicer without our dishes on it. She was super cool.

     After a delicious lunch of salmon and potatoes (in Austrian dialect, literally earth-apples), we headed out to see the city (whilst walking conveniently in the direction of Andrea's church, which, you know, just happens to be the largest and famous-est cathedral in the whole city...NBD). Sadly the weather was less than ideal (read: cold and far wetter than is ordinarily enjoyable), but we pushed bravely onwards and wended our way through Karlsplatz, past the opera, and down Kärtnerstraße to Stephansplatz and the beautiful Stephansdom.


Stephansdom reflection in the glass windows of shop-across-the-street-whose-name-I-cannot-recall

Blurry interior of the cathedral

    I accompanied Andrea to her choir rehearsal and stayed to watch for twenty minutes or so, then headed out to see some of the city on my own. Armed with an eleven-year-old guidebook pilfered from the bookshelf in my room, I set off to see what I could, doing my best to follow a suggested walk around the inner city and planning to head over to walk along the Donau (Danube) for a bit before heading back to Andrea's apartment to sort out a (so I thought) small problem preventing me from withdrawing any money.

Pestsäule (plague pillar) built by Emperor Leopold I when the plague struck in city in 1679 

View of the City Hall across the park

Yes, at concerts in Vienna there are flying ballerinas (note upper right corner)

Oh hey there, Maria Theresa

Austrian parliament

I love you Munich, but Vienna's Rathaus may sort of have the edge on yours

Martenitsi! Friendly piece of Bulgaria in Vienna

Votivkirche, built in celebration of a failed assassination attempt


Monument to honorable German soldiers

Hey there Danube!

Pretty blue and beautiful


When I walked down an island path only to find this at the dead end...I wasn't brave enough to jump across

Gorgeous church that came out of nowhere upon crossing the river (mainly because I was heading west when I'd thought I was heading east...)

     At around 8 PM, tired and starving (the banking hiccup sent me about my day with a whopping 50 cents in my pocket), I walked back to Andrea's apartment and sat down to call the bank and sort out the issue, which I assumed was a standard I-hadn't-used-my-debit-card-in-four-months-and-they'd-forgotten-I-was-in-Europe problem, generally easy enough to sort out.

     However, ten minutes with a bank representative later, I realized the problem was more complex than I'd thought. It appears there had been a security issue with somewhere I'd used my card and the bank had, ever so helpfully, shut down the card altogether. "Don't worry," said the helpful bank representative, "a new card should be arriving at your residence sometime soon." This very helpful and reassuring to someone currently about 6000 miles away from her "residence."  I tried further to extract a PIN number so I could use my credit card (most places don't accept credit cards in Europe, and if they do, they generally require a PIN number), and was told, also helpfully, that it was a security issue to give out numbers over the phone so they would mail said PIN number to my residence. It was about then I realized I was effectively without ANY money in a foreign city. I panicked for a couple hours until Andrea came home and kindly made me some delicious (American!) macaroni and cheese, then we called my parents, who kindly and almost immediately deposited money in Andrea's bank account for her to withdraw for me. So thankfully, all's well that ends well. If it had come down to it, at least I had purchased my train ticket to Salzburg online and in advance, so I could have at least gotten home, but it would have been a rough three days without ANY food. I'm just so thankful it happened staying with a friend, not alone somewhere! 

    Problem solved, we went to sleep. The next day dawned again rather disagreeably, weather-wise, and after promising to meet Andrea at the end of her rehearsal (oh the joys a musician experiences during Easter weekend!), I set off to experience the joys of the Naschmarkt, Vienna's huge open-air market, spanning almost a kilometer-long stretch down the center of one of the busiest streets. The sheer amount of people in a famous European city on a holiday weekend made it more of a slog than anything, but I got to see all the cool food and goods for sale, and even picked up a 5 euro "cashmere" (yeah right) scarf for my pains.  Afterwards I meandered back down to meet Andrea, stopping to see the opera house on the way. We headed out for nourishment at the same cafe as the day before, this time drinking the most amazing chai latte I have ever had in my entire life x 23498274583. Like, seriously. If you are planning on visiting Vienna, please call me or Andrea so we can tell you how to find this latte. 

Viennese opera!

Terrifying look on my face due to trying to center that. Taken outside of the apartment where Mozart wrote Figaro, by the way, but wasn't much to look at.

   After a flurry of rain forced us back to Andrea's for a lazy afternoon of haircuts, pasta, and Modern Family, Andrea headed out for her evening rehearsal and service, and I lazed around for awhile, then headed out to watch the Easter Vigil service Andrea was singing in at the cathedral. To keep that explanation brief, I do not think there is ever an excuse for a three-hour service, but it was pretty nice regardless. And I got holy water thrown at me by a cardinal, so I feel like it was a win. The first portion of the service was all conducted by candlelight (a cathedral full of several thousand people all with candles is a fairly impressive sight, even if that coupled with occasionally scary organ music and huge chandeliers does feel slightly like something out of a horror movie), and at the end when the cardinal gave the various versions of "Christ is risen" in several different languages, I was just about the only person to give the English answer, but I did it! We headed home sleepily in the wee hours of Easter morning.

    Much too early the next morning alarms went off, and we headed off in our respective directions: Andrea to more church and I to the train station to catch my train to Salzburg to meet Leigh.  After a hurried U-Bahn ride I arrived at the main train station far too early (the way I like it; I treat train travel like plane flights, time-wise) and settled into my cozy seat with my chocolate croissant, hoping to manage to nap the 2 hours and 45 minutes to Salzburg. But alas, 'twas not to be. Though I had intentionally chosen a seat in a "quiet" compartment, a tourist family from Italy? Greece? Spain? chose to ignore the fairly-easy-to-understand icon all over the compartment of a finger on lips (is that fairly universal or is it just me?) and let their four-year-old child talk at the tops of its lungs, scream, cry, howl, and run maniacally up and down the aisles. THE ENTIRE TRIP. I was less than pleased. But regardless, I arrived promptly at 11 in the train station in Salzburg, amid flurries of snow that had been slowly coating the ground throughout the train ride.

     Leigh and I met up without a hitch and walked into the city to catch a late Easter mass at the Salzburg Cathedral, randomly hearing a guest high school choir from Pennsylvania sing for the service. (Bogoroditsye Devo for communion on Easter? Is that really a good choice?) I'm getting pretty good at faking my way through a German Catholic church service. We ventured out into the snow for a while, walking through a beautiful snowy little graveyard and visiting a couple churches, and then the cold got the better of us and we headed into a little Indian/Austrian/Italian restaurant (the same Andrea and I visited in November, as a matter of fact), and holed up there for the next three hours or so.

Altar at the Salzburger Dom

Snowy fortress

Süß little snow graveyard

Pretty little city

    We met up with an old friend of Leigh's at the restaurant and spent the rest of the day together, doing what true Europeans do when the weather's bad. Stay inside and drink cappuccinos. After a brief excursion up a hill to see the city from above, we headed into a comfy little cafe for cappuccinos and Kaiserschmarrn (delicious Bavarian funnel cake-like concoction with raisins, nuts, applesauce, powdered sugar, und so weiter). From there we ventured briefly into the nearby gardens of Schloss Mirabell, famous for being where the Do-Re-Mi scene of Sound of Music was filmed! 

Do mi mi, mi so so, re fa fa, la ti ti! 

    After that we headed to a incredibly smokey but small and friendly Belgian bar to meet another of Leigh's friends, and we stayed and socialized for an hour and a half or so before Leigh and I headed back through the cold to the train station to catch the last train back to Munich that night. 

    And there you have my adventurous Austrian weekend! Though I'll be the first to admit my views of cheap plane travel in Europe were completely false, I'm slowly learning there are ways to get around it. Total transportation costs to and from Vienna and Salzburg: 49 Euros. Win! 

    And now here I am back in Munich, enjoying a full week behind me of rain (and a full week ahead as well). Oh spring, where have you gone? Nothing much new to report except to look forward to a weekend retreat with my choir in the Black Forest, coming up in a couple more weekends. In the meantime, a happy easter to you all!   

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to come to Munich!! You made my weekend and I can't wait to see you again. Oh, and I love your blog. Never stop writing :) xxxx