04 June 2013
“I have developed a love for McDonalds that I never thought was possible. Free Internet, free bathrooms, free water, and 1 Euro ice cream.”
Facebook Post 03 June 2013 23:30
Honestly, McDonalds has saved my life so many times on this trip with its free wifi. Last night we were able to find a McDonalds and surf its internet, drink its water, use its bathrooms, and eat some delicious ice cream until they kicked us out their doors at closing and we moved on to sleeping on the train station floors. It is kind of funny, the reason we always eat McDonalds ice cream is because it is the cheapest thing on the menu that can be purchased to access the “free” wifi. We have all eaten a lot of McDonald’s ice cream cones, let me tell you. As I thought about it, I never imagined I would be homeless, but for the past 4 weeks that is exactly what I have been. If the definition of homeless is waking up with no idea where you will sleep the next night…I am homeless.
The past 12 hours have been quite interesting. Just as we decide to head into Austria, the weather decides to flood out the entire country. Rail lines everywhere were shut down do to the intense flooding. We made our connection to Wien at 2am in the Villach, Austria train station and are just now arriving into Wien. Last night we experienced a night with half of our time sleeping in the train station and the other half sleeping in the night train seats. I take back what I said about always loving night trains… I do not love night trains when you have to sleep in the seats, it was free but I am dead tired because of it. We sat next to a girl from Madrid Spain who is studying in Salzburg Austria. She had been on the train since 5 when she left venice and was not going to get in until 10 or so the next morning to Salzburg. For a train ride that is supposed to take under 5 hours…that is a long, long time. The flooding here is crazy! Everyone is sleeping in the train stations, watching the news, and trying to figure out how they will get to their final destinations. There are more than 5 different regions in the country that have been affected by the flooding, and of course we decided to head directly in the direction of it all… It is early and we are tired but ever so stoked to be in Vienna. The skies are murky and grey, btu hopefully Mother Earth does not decide to downpour on this city next…in that instance we could be in trouble.
After searching high and low for the location of the picture that covers all our Eurail information such as our pass, train booklet, and map…we discovered that the building on them is in fact in Vienna. This is really one of the last “major” cities in Europe we will visit…well I guess we still have Munich and Bern…but over the past three weeks we have been to nearly EVERY major destination in Europe. It has been an incredible experience and as our last week draws to a close I can’t help but marvel at how much I have learned in my short stint of traveling. I have learned that geography does not separate people, we are more alike than you think. People should hold in to their rich culture because the world is becoming more and more globalized and culture and tradition like that are being lost. Individual cities are unique, but it is because mostly because of the people.
Vienna is an incredible city, and I made some of the best friends while I was there. Soren and his sister Samira were so gracious to take us into their place, show us around the city, make us delicious traditional food, and best of all tell us all about the crazy adventures they have been on. Last summer they mountain biked from Austria to Istanbul Turkey, through countries like Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. They slept on beaches, saw amazing things, and met life-long friends. It amazes me how close Soren and Samira are. They both love adventure, love the outdoors, and love to travel…everything that I love to do! If I lived in Vienna I know that we would be best friends. Soren’s next trip is to Morocco for three weeks at the end of the summer…can I just hop in your suitcase and join you?
We went all around Vienna today. We visited so many places and had the best tour guides who told us all the interesting facts of Vienna and most importantly, took us around to try the local foods.
Vienna is home to theater upon theater and Opera House upon Opera House. The second I saw the theater I knew that I just HAD to go to a play while I was in Vienna. I just couldn’t miss out on such an incredible experience. This theater is one of the most famous ones in Vienna, but every theater that we walked by was absolutely beautiful and magnificent…I love Vienna.
Chocolate cake comes from Vienna, did you know that? Just this little fact alone made me fall in love with the city. They call it Sacher Torte which means chocolate cake in English and it is really really different from thee chocolate cake we eat in America. It does not taste quite like German chocolate cake either, but it has the same dryer texture and darker taste of German chocolate cake. It is hard to describe, but it is really good and really gourmet. We tried the original Sacher Torte at the place where it was first created in Vienna and made later made famous throughout Austria and the world.
Mozart Kugeln is the most famous desert among tourists in Vienna. So of course Soren and Samira being the wonderful people that they are, did not want us to miss out on this experience and bought us a whole bag of these delicious chocolate balls. Mozart lived in Vienna and performed many of his musical productions there. In fact, Vienna was and is home to numerous composers because theater and opera play such an important role in everyday life. Down the main avenue in Vienna you will mind the Mozart museum, Vivaldi’s home, and a store dedicated to selling clothing and other items from The Sound of Music. Vienna is a city full of artistic talent, especially music and theater.
We visited a variety of churches, of course that is what you do in Europe, and they were all splendid. I honestly do not think I could get sick of walking into a million churches…each one is so different and it is incredible to hear the stories about how each one came about. Usually these churches not only served as a place of worship, but also as a house of comfort and refuge for thousands of people who were in distress. One of the churches we visited was the Stephansdom cathedral, a very famous church in the center of Austria. Soren said this wasn’t typical, but when we entered there were numerous colored curtains over the windows creating a beautiful color display on all the walls and ceiling.
Both Germany and Austria are famous for the L….. horses that are so perfectly trained and groomed to appear in shows and ceremonies throughout the countries. Although these are not the traditional horses, Austria is also famous for horse drawn carriages such as this prancing around there streets. They even have lanes like they do for cars and bikes for these carriages…I guess they would be called “horse lanes”?
In nearly every city we have been to we have met members of the church, visited the Institute, or ran into the missionaries. They are always very surprised when they hear us speaking English and realize we are from America and from BYU. We have been very blessed to meet such great people on our trip who have taken such good care of us. Thank you to anyone and everyone to whom this applies!
For lunch Soren and D….. took us to a famous cafe that the locals love to go to for the best Wiener Snitzel in town. Wiener Snitzel is a type of breaded pork that originated in Vienna. It is a traditional food to Vienna and of course they couldn’t let us leave town without trying it. It was quite good!
This is the building on our train ticket that we have been searching high and low to find. The funny thing is that the building is a breakfast house outside the palace. It doesn’t even have that musch significance… I guess they chose it because it was pretty.
Schonbrunn palace is one of the most beautiful areas in Vienna. It is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens, mazes and fountains. Soren told me that this is the place where a lot of students will come to enjoy the sun, read, or study. That is the place I would go for sure because it was absolutely beautiful!
Irrgarten and Labyrinth. Just outside of the Schonbrunn Palace, there is an area of the park that was made into three labyrinths or mazes for people to enter and never find their way out again. I guess they do not want people leaving their palace grounds. Also near to the Labyrinths is the Tiergarten is the oldest zoo in the world. We didn’t have the chance to go inside the zoo, but I heard the noises from the animals in the world’s oldest zoo…does that count?
At the end of our wonderful tour Soren directed us to the theater in which they suggested we watch the most popular play at the moment in Vienna, Elizabeth. Elizabeth, known as Sisi to local Austrians, was a famous ruler in Austria’s royal past. She did some great and not so great things for the country, but continues to be honored today. Although the musical was in German, it was absolutely incredible and one of my favorite experiences on this trip.
The weather has continued to downpour in Austria. I have been collecting the newspapers just to prove how crazy this really is. Trains are shut down, buses are connecting routes around the flooding, and as a result people are stealing the steel cables from the unused railways because it is such a valuable commodity. Let me tell you, I have never experienced something quite like this in my entire life in the states. We are on our way to Munich now, and should be arriving around 10:30 this morning…we will see how close to that time we actually arrive. Our route takes us on several detours around the flooded areas. Those connecting to Salzburg have to get of the train and bus into the city…hopefully avoiding the flooded streets and highways. The pictures in the local newspapers have shown entire homes and businesses underwater, debris such as floating cars, people traveling around in canoes and kayaks, and manmade dams out of everything imaginable to hold the water back.
Both Soren and Samira have these awesome leather bags from a friend of theres who makes them in Guatemala. They are some of the most sturdy and unique bags I have ever seen, and I plan on getting one as soon as I possibly can! Soren already put me in touch with Mario, the one with the connections. It is kind of funny that I go all the way to Europe and the only thing I purchase is a leather bag made in Guatemala…
Thank you Soren and Samira for a wonderful day in Vienna!