Monday 8 December 2008

Vienna, Will You Wait for Me?

We ended up sleeping in again! As before, Maggie cooked us eggs, this time boiled! Unfortunately, I am apparently not skilled at deshelling eggs.

German tool to "scoop" out boiled eggs

Per Michelle's affinity for classical music, we headed to Zentralfriedhof cemetery. There, one can visit the graves of the greatest composers of all time - Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, etc. Or if one so chooses to be like Michelle, he or she can stand in front of their graves while listening to their songs on an IPOD. I chose to finish my journal writing in the church.

Ludwig van Beethoven's grave

1:08PM - I asked Michelle what time her flight was to which she responded "2:45PM!" Oh, geez.

We rush to the city center so she could take the CAT, Vienna's train that goes right to the airport in only sixteen minutes. Conveniently, certain airlines also allow you to check in there too. To my surprise later, Michelle actually jumped in a taxi as the next CAT wouldn't leave for another half an hour. Unfortunately, she never made it in time and had quite an adventure through Switzerland.

I went to buy a shotglass and the postcards that she was never able to pick up and luckily made it back to the CAT with eight minutes to spare. Oh, Vienna! Superb!

Vienna at sunset

Sunday 7 December 2008

Palaces Galore!

Michelle and I walked back to Schönbrunn Palace to take pictures in the Gardens. It was perhaps the prettiest hike as we made our way up to the Gloriette. Built in 1775, the Gloriette is dedicated as a monument that leads to peace.
Hiking up to the Gloriette

View of from the Schönbrunn Palace from the Gloriette

To warm ourselves up, we each had a lauch-speck nockerl! It's deliciously comprised of pasta, bacon, and leek.

Lauch-speck nockerl

At Stradt Park, we (along with a handful of other tourists) took pictures with Johann Strass himself! Well, with his statue at least!
Johann Strauss statue in Stradt Park

The Hofburg Palace was impressive with its multiple museums. It is comprised of The Silver Collection, the Sissi Museum, and the Imperial Apartments. Going with the Sissi Museum was a good choice as we received the opportunity to learn about the Princess's life. With quite a sad lifetime, Sissi originally loved her life, but was forced to live the royal life in which she soon hated. Her assassination was originally unintended; the assassin was waiting for someone else and when the latter canceled his trip, Sissi happened to be there as she was taking time for health relief - so sad!

The Hofburg Palace

As it was the holiday season, there was no better place we wanted to be than in the Viennese Christmas markets! We first went to the Museums Quartier Market and then back to Rathaus (third time woohoo!). According to one of our mutual friends, there was a famous ice skating rink we had to find. EVERY local we asked was befuddled and after following directions on a map, we ended up on a lonely backstreet...HMM...

Afterwards we headed off to a relaxing night at Loop Bar where we enjoyed the last night in Vienna. Can I plan my next return already?

Saturday 6 December 2008

Some International Flavor

The morning started off with Maggie making us breakfast - OVEREASY EGGS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN EUROPE! Finally!

My ideal breakfast - delicious!

Julia and I walked to the Floh market and found a real Vietnamese-owned restaurant! Exciting. The fruit was fresh and the finds were affordable. We soon headed off the the UN event that Minda told us about the night before.

There were so many countries and I ended up buying an origami swan and ball from a young Japanese girl. She was too cute! She had me sold as after I asked which one I should buy, she responded in the most adorable voice, "You can have them both or choose just one. " She was so excited that she ran happily behind the table after she made the sale! 3.50euros for paper, but so worth it for the good cause!

Buying origami from the Japanese booth

At the international food fair of the event, each country also provided some native food. After asking the price of some dumplings, I received seven pieces for 1euro. Meanwhile, a gentleman who approached received only two pieces for the same amount! Oh, geez.

Of course, at the USA booth, the native food was hot dogs! We walked over to the rummage sale where I bought a book on Casanova and then headed over to the Austrian booth where we met back up with Minda!

After taking some pictures by the river, we went to take a quick picture of the Danube Tower. As the tallest structure in Austria, it carries antennae of cell phones and radio stations.

Tallest building in Austria at 252 meters - The Danube Tower

Michelle finally called and we agreed to meet at the Schönbrunn Palace! The Gardens were quite like Versailles in which one could just walk for hours. How gorgeous it would be in the summertime! While randomly walking the Gardens, we found Michelle! We all decide to tour the Palace (I chose to go with the French-only speaking tour). The royal residence features the tastes and interests of the Habsburg monarchs.
In front of the Schönbrunn Palace!

The Christmas market outside provided nice gifts and tokens - we had to buy some Christmas cookies because one was shaped as a flying pig!

As Michelle took a nap and Julia headed to her next adventure, I met back up with Minda at Rathaus Christmas market. He helped me try
Glühwein and punsch, two traditional German mixes for the holiday season! I decided to be daring as the hot chocolate punsch sounded delicious; however, I quickly learned that it was only for the tourist! A local worker quickly commented, "Punsch is punsch and hot chocolate is hot chocolate!" Haha, oops!

Glühwein and punsch!

We walked around Vienna and with its peacefulness, the city truly lights up! We saw Parliament and Hofburg Palace at night and I loved going on the short night tour with Minda.

After getting Michelle, the last stop of the night was Club Flex! It was located right by the river, resembling Club Showcase in Paris. Next door, the Flex Cafe served as a nice break from dancing as people can actually have conversations without yelling in each other's ears! Just another good day in Vienna!

Friday 5 December 2008

Vienna Waits for You...

It was the usual 4:30AM wake up call for the 7:15AM flight. Luckily, Jordan and Anne lived in the heart of Paris, so the Chatelet RER stop was just a short walk away. The check in process at CDG Airport was surprisingly smoother than other airport experiences; after utilizing the kiosk and going through security check, the check in was complete in only thirty-six minutes! Nice job, Air France!

Entrance to Chatelet RER at 5AM

With two and a half hours before Julia arrived, an exploration around the Westbahnhof train station was necessary. Vienna can actually remind one of Saigon, but much less dustier. It was a city, yet held a small town feel. Shops were locally owned with not many chains. English was barely spoken, but they were used to foreigners.

There was a sudden urge to get acrylic nails - if only they were less than 70euros! Make sure you make an appointment too!
Without a new set of nails, it was time for a durum kebab at Schnitzel Urfa Lezzet. Luckily there was an outlet to charge a phone and there was entertainment as the kebab guy had a crush on one of the customers.

Vienna hosts holidays lights EVERYWHERE in the city!

After Julia arrived, the next step consisted of jumping on Tram 5 to get to our CouchSurfing host, Margit! We conversed with her for a good hour about travel, CS, etc. Surprisingly, she was learning Chinese and spoke quite well with Julia!

First attraction was the Albertina. There was a 1-1.5 hour wait, but it was worth it to explore the museum and the new Van Gogh exhibit. With over one million master prints on top of more modern works, it was a sight to see! The Monet and Picasso were quite good as well (as expected).

Inside the Albertina

On the way to the Christmas market, I received a phone call from Michelle Chan at our university. She was so bored that Friday night that she decided to book a flight out to Vienna for Saturday! It worked out well because Julia would be leaving Saturday night, so Michelle could take her place as a CouchSurfer. We then walked to Rathus Park for the "Rathausplatz Christkindlmärkte" a.k.a. "Kris Kringle" Christmas market. The lights were absolutely stunning as City Hall counts down the days until Christmas.

Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkte! (City Hall's Christmas Market)

It was time for the Voice Mania Music Festival at the Odeon Theater! The international festival featured everything from pop to beatbox acapella-style. The show started with Vocaldente, a boy band-like acapella group which actually performed some 'NSYNC and Spice Girls! The crowd was a bit older (mostly senior citizens), so they didn't catch the boy band/Linkin' Park melody too much, but Julia and I loved it!

Vocaldente's boy band-style performance!

The older performers of Cantabile then had their turn - the best moment of the night came with audience participation. Singer: Let's have all the men yodel (deep yodeling)...All the ladies (gentle yodeling)...Let's make it more interesting now. All the ladies twenty through forty years old (light yodeling)...Hmm, sounds promising...All the women ages twenty through forty that don't have a boyfriend (silence)...Alright, let's move onto something else before I get angry! Hahaha.

With 2/5 of Vocaldente

Back home, we discovered that Margit and Nina had been drinking for two hours while waiting for us! We were able to catch the last tram by three minutes - whew! We headed out to Club Sass, where they allowed one person to go in and see if the club was good. Report back to the others: good potential!

After sitting in the lounge for a bit, we met Minda, a P.h.d. student from Lithuania. Soon after, we all hit the dance floor! After Nina went home, Julia took a nap in the club, Minda and I conversed about everything from culture to life, and Maggie kept on dancing! Haha, we soon left at 4:30AM.

The crew at Club Sass

After Facebooking the directions to Michelle, I climbed into bed at 5:30AM. I tried to get inside the comforter, but had issues, so had to wake Julia up. In her soporific state, she yelled, "You're not supposed to get in it!" Apparently, it was just a really fat pillow! Good times, Vienna!