Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vienna (Part I)

Alright everyone, it's time to get crackin' on this travel break stuff. 

So... my trip began on a Monday morning... all was quiet in the house (because I took too long to wake up like normal...). There was an eerie dark cloud cover in the sky (which is common on about 90% of the days this time of year). It was uncomfortably chilly... (also very normal). I walked out of the house and the street was completely empty (as it always is). Eventually I made my way to DIS to print some final things for the journey and there was no one there... all the students were mysteriously gone... (at other places in Europe because the travel break had just started). 

I made my way to the train station after buying lunch and found out that the trains weren't running between Copenhagen and Germany because they were having to fix the rails (damn it). That meant that I would have to take a bus to the coast of Denmark and then get on a train and that it left at irregular times. Well turns out that a train was supposed to leave at 11:45 so I got to the station at 11:30 and then found out that for some reason the buses left at 11:15 (why not just leave when the train would have originally? Maybe that would have messed up the timing. Whatever.) and the next buses were not leaving until 3:00 PM. So that was a bummer and I got stuck in Copenhagen which turned into me walking around Central Station until I found a nice enough and not too crowed cafe where I could read. 

Eventually it was time to go back to Central Station and get on the buses so I did that and my journey really began. Well the buses took us to a train station on the coast of Denmark where we boarded a train. Then we were on the train for about 5 minutes and during this 5 minutes, the train drove onto a freaking ferry! Yeah, the train drove onto a ferry (I thought we would go over a bridge or something). Then us train riders were not allowed to stay on the train while the ferry was moving so we had to get out and go upstairs (and I was soooooo excited to finally be on a train). But then we reached Germany and I got to ride the train until Hamburg. I hung out in Hamburg and got some dinner then waited for my night train to Munich. Which involved sitting next to a drunk/mentally unstable man for an extended period of time. Finally though the train came and I was off. 

While on the train I made friends with a really nice German woman who was extremely thankful that I helped her lift her luggage ("Hey thanks a million for helping me with that luggage earlier! You're the best!" "Uh, yeah no problem..."). The train was not that full so I wasn't that uncomfortable sleeping (and the loungers are pretty nice anyways). 

Anyway, got to Munich the next morning and had missed my train to Vienna (cuz my night train was really late). So I was stuck in the Munich train station for quite some time so I went to a Starbucks so I could read. I was meeting a friend in Vienna so I texted her to tell her that I was going to be late and then she texted me that she was going to be late as well, and that she was arriving at 1:44PM (or something) which was the exact same time I was going to arrive... So texting ensued and it turned out she was also in Munich, in the same freaking Starbucks just around the corner of a wall. So we hung out and then caught our train to Vienna. So on the way there I just hung out and talked to her and observed the countryside of Southern Germany and Austria, which is really pretty by the way. We got to Vienna and bought some unlimited travel passes in the city for 3 days and then made our way to our hostel and checked in (which was about 15 minutes by metro from most of the sights).
I'll go ahead and explain the city a little bit right now just to give a general impression. Vienna is a historically very rich city. It is the home of the Habsburg rulers who were a very wealthy family that showed up in the 13th century and ruled the Austrian Empire until the end of WWI when it was dissolved and the Republic of Austria was established. During the rule of the Habsburgs, the head was often also elected the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. They were also great patrons of art and music which makes it little surprise that both Beethoven and Mozart come from Austria and spent time composing music in Vienna. Therefore there are many art exhibits and there are classical music concerts going on every night all over the city. Additionally, there are many opportunities to see remnants of the Habsburg dynasty in different parts of the city. The city has an astounding amount of public art just hanging out on many corners and between roads. Many buildings also feature baroque architecture and statues on the tops of the buildings (The Habsburgs were also great patrons of the arts). Often the ones that don't were either built fairly recently in history, or were hit by a bomb in WWII. Although, many of the buildings remain in their original splendor. I was just blown away by how easily you could just look up and see buildings with art and statues gracing them. Other than that the city is not very big so the locals are pretty chill in how they move around (and you can definitely get that feel when walking around). Things were also very expensive and when I was there it was crazy cold. Okay back to my explorations.

By the time we had done all this we of course wanted to start exploring the city so we first went to Karlskirche because there was a unique opportunity to take an elevator up into the main dome where you could get very close to the art. We did this and it was pretty neat. The art work had a lot of scenes but the main one was of this guy named Barromeo who was pleeding to God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost to save Vienna from the plague. This church was built much later but was dedicated to that event. I took a lot of pictures of all the art in the dome so you'll get to see those later. We then walked around Old Town some, nearby the Opera house (more on that later), until it was dark. We found a cheepish place (still pretty expensive) and got some Viennese schnitzel which is usually pork which is flattened and breaded and is a very Austrian dish.

We then went to the Haus der Musik which featured a lot of information about well... music... and sound (as it relates to music). It was also half price for students and opened late on Tuesday making it a great thing to do that first night in Vienna. Well the museum featured some Biology and Physics themed explanations on how we can hear sound and then there were some interactive things where you could learn about some different elements about sound like how sound bounces and how tones and pitch work. There were also some tools that you could use to manipulate your vocal range and mess around with stuff in that way. It was kind of interesting. Another floor was dedicated to the famous classical musicians from Austria (Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, and Mauler) and that was pretty interesting. The next floor had a lot of weird interactive things that I often times could not figure out and were mostly weird so that was not the most fun. Then there was an interactive conduct the Vienna Philharmonic where you waved a baton around and the orchestra would play (it did not work that well but was mildly entertaining). So that was the Haus der Musik. My friend and I give it mild reviews as the history stuff was pretty interesting but the interactive stuff was either kind of boring, weird, or didn't work that well (and occasionally cool).

We then passed the Opera House as we were heading back to the metro and there was a huge screen that was showing the current Opera. Apparently the opera house does that for free so if you want to see the Opera for free, you can just show up and watch it outside on the screen. It did not have any subtitles (which you can get inside the Opera House) so we did not stay that long. We then went back to our hostel for the night. Our plan was to visit the Opera house on another night when we could get inside and there was a more interesting Opera playing.

I'm going to go ahead and cut this post in half here because it is already pretty long. I will try and get the other half of Vienna out today though.


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