After spending two days in Budapest we went to Vienna, Austria. We came off the train and started the long walk to our hotel. We had a map from the tourist office, but it was definitely too big and too detailed. It was hard to see anything with so much information trying to be jammed on the page. We started off in the correct direction (Jeff always travels with a compass) in relatively high spirits.
I don’t know if it was being in the heat all day, or being antsy after a 3.5 hour train ride, or Jeff’s slightly annoying jesting, but I soon got cranky in our search for the hotel. He insisted we follow the compass, I insisted we look at the map, and while we were “debating,” thunder clouds rolled in. We got caught in the downpour, which didn’t help my mood but I really enjoy lightning storms and we had an umbrella so I quickly calmed down. We found our hotel pretty soon after, and then enjoyed a nice meal before turning in for he night.
The hotel was right next to Vienna’s Stadtpark, so in the morning we went to the park and sat in the grass and watched a raven harass a crane (what is with these East European ravens?), and we saw a wild turtle!
From there we just walked towards the pretty building we could see the top of from our hotel room. Which turned out to be Stephansdom, which basically means Stephan’s Cathedral. It is a gothic cathedral built in 1137, but it has been under various reconstructions and restoration since then. During World War II, the cathedral was ordered to be left in ashes and ruins by retreating German forces, but his order was disregarded by the troops meant to do it and the church was left unharmed. Much later, a fire was carried by the wind onto the roof, which burned and collapsed. Luckily, many treasures were saved from the burning because of brick reinforcements, but a lot of reconstruction was required. The church is located in Stephansplatz and is tightly surrounded by buildings, which made taking pictures somewhat difficult. At one point I was lying on the ground so I could fit it all in one frame.
During World War II, Adolf Hitler made a speech from Hedenplatz, where the statue below sits. Austria belonged to Germany, and Vienna was no longer the capitol, but Berlin was. With the aid of soviet, British, and American troops, Austria was seized from Germany, and Vienna was reinstituted as the capital.
We enjoyed the rest of the evening sitting at a place called Stadtstrand, which means city beach. It was a man-made beach put on one of the city’s canals, with beach chairs and a view of the city. There was a few stands selling drinks and Jeff and I watched the sunset sipping on mango daiquiris. The canal has two levels, an upper level that is where cars drive, and then a pedestrian lower level with a 20 ft sidewalk. On the sidewalk are various bar stands, and it was at one of these that we met a friendly local. He took us to some more of the local hangouts, showing us neat bars that only a local would know. I didn’t bring my camera on these adventures because the flash is broken, making night photos way to much effort.
The next day we went to some more buildings that we had missed the day before. Jeff had a bit of a headache, so we spent plenty of time lounging in parks and sipping cold drinks. We did slowly make our way to the Votivkirche though, which is apparently one of the most important neo-gothic architecture sites in the world. It has a very interesting creation story, which is not based on religion surprisingly. One day, Emperor Franz Joseph was walking with the Count Maximilian O’Donnell, when the Emperor was stabbed in the neck by a Hungarian national. Joseph survived due to his clothing having a high collar with sturdy fabric, and the Count subdued the Hungarian with his sabre, and the help of the local butcher who witnessed the event. The Count was rewarded and the butcher was given nobility ranking. The Hungarian was trialed and sentenced to death. After the attack the Emperor’s brother called for donations to build a church on the site of the attack, as a votive offering for the rescue of his brother and a “monument of patriotism.”
We were reaching the end of the day, and we had a night train to catch back to Zürich. On our way to our hotel to get our bags, we passed the apartment that Mozart used to live in, which is right near Stephansdom.
We walked the couple of miles to the train station, relatively satisfied from our four day vacation. Part of me thinks we should of seen more the cites, but I’m also really happy to of just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. On the way to the station, we grabbed a slice of pizza. Actually, we were herded into the pizza place by the workers, in a friendly but still forceful way. Anyway, as we were sitting there, two of the workers came out and were just happily saying “kangaroo! aussie! you, kangaroo!” and we were confused until we figured out that they thought we were Australian from a patch on my bag. After we told them we weren’t Australian, they decided that we must be British, for some reason. We left it at that and they called us Kangaroo for the rest of the meal, just for funsies. One of the tourist slogans in Vienna was “there are no kangaroos in Austria,” which I think is why they were so excited.
We had a rough night home on the train, neither Jeff or I could sleep. When I got home, I quickly ran to the post office. The day before we left, the mail man tried to deliver me a letter from Basel, that needed to be signed for, but since I didn’t answer the door to sign for it, I couldn’t get it until 5 days later after the trip. I thought the anticipation would ruin the trip, but it didn’t really. Part of me thought that even the Swiss weren’t cruel enough to make you sign for a rejection letter, but I didn’t let myself get too excited none the less. Anyway, as most of you know, the letter was a letter of acceptance, which was the perfect cherry atop my vacation sundae.