Sunday, November 22, 2009


According to the map we received from our hostel Vienna “was a cold, expensive, boring city for geriatrics and classical music weirdos alike.” I actually disagree, especially after visiting; I feel like Vienna has a very strong youth culture, it is not overloaded with old people or music enthusiasts (assuming by music enthusiast I specifically mean classical…modern music is huge in Vienna). I guess to be fair though, we did visit in the winter and I am sure the cold does keep the old people at bay somewhat, but from what I could tell Vienna was overflowing with youth.

After a bit of consternation and conflict hunting for our hostel we found it and settled in (first hostel ever that had a sink in it, huge luxury!!!). The man working the front desk recommended a Turkish restaurant around the corner so we spent our first hours in Vienna eating the most fantastic Turkish food. I still cannot really describe what we ate or how awesome it was, so just take my word for it: yum.

We woke bright and early the next morning and wandered up a major shopping street searching for the perfect boots. The then went on to investigate the Kunsthistorisches Museum: a place I have heard about frequently from my adorable Czech history teacher. I was sadly disappointed by their Vermeer room because by “room” they meant “one painting in a room filled with other artists that are similar to Vermeer but not.” I did enjoy picking out paintings that we had discussed in class though, such as Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings of men as fruits, vegetables, leaves and other such inanimate objects. Similarly to the gallery in Dresden though, it is easy to get overwhelmed by how many paintings there are and descriptions of each and every one. Personally I cannot handle more than one museum a day because of the energy drain they impose on me. After re-energizing we set out again (with a constant eye out for some boots).

We learned from and information center that the transportation tickets we had bought we useless as they would not come into effect until Monday, the day after we left. We replaced them easily enough with 24-hour tickets for the next day. We had a lovely traditional Austrian meal of Schnitzel and fries (well I did at least) at another restaurant near our hostel then tumbled into bed.

For our second morning we walked to the near-ish Schoenbrunn Schloss where many a Hapsburg has lived in the past. The castle was much more modern than the ones we have been seeing in Prague. It was probably built in the late 18th century at the latest…(ha watch me be sooo far off). The rooms inside are beautiful ornate. Naturally everything was roped off so we could not explore too far. It has housed such Hapsburgs as: Maria Theresa, Marie Antoinette, Franz Joseph and his not-so-adoring wife Sisi. Sisi was much beloved by the people, or at least is now. An entire wing of the palace is devoted to her in spite of the fact that she did not spend much time there; instead she preferred to hide from her adoring husband in France. Sisi did not appreciate being married off at the age of 15 to her cousin for political reasons. I understand that now this complaint is perfectly valid, but back then there was no marriage for love…it was all for political or monetary gain so her complaint then…not so valid. She was also incredibly anorexic and vain (her ankle-length hair took at least two hours of every day for her maids to manage). I am presenting Sisi in a very unfair light I am sure, especially compared to how lovingly the exhibits at the castle spoke of her. Honestly though I just see her as incredibly whiney and not at all like the Princess Di figure that she has been compared to. She was very beautiful and had an incredible wardrobe and to have a mother-in-law like Maria Theresa would have been a terrific strain on anyone.

We returned to the town center with our newly purchased and actually valid transportation passes then used them to ride the Ring tram around Vienna’s city center. Ring Tram: definitely a touristy thing to do. They do provide a nice audio tour though and it is kind of a nice way to see the city. From there we ventured over to Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel. From what I could tell from the dioramas inside the wheel was built before and survived both world wars. It was one of the highest in Europe but is now more than matched by London’s Eye. Still, another fun way to see the city.

Vienna is well-known for its Christmas markets which begin halfway through November. We very luckily happened to be in there for the opening weekend of the Christmas markets. There was a tree-lighting ceremony and booths loaded with all sorts of Viennese goodies from Christmas punch to handmade Christmas ornaments. We had dinner, drinks and dessert (cotton candy!!! I am such a small child…) at the market before wandering off.

After getting lost hunting for an interactive music museum recommended to us by the tourist information center we returned to our hostel.

A longer breakfast than intended left us running late for our bus we had to rush to the bus stop with no tourist gift purchases. Very sad, no shot glass for Ashley, but no matter. Roommates are going there soon.


After much wait on behalf of my adoring fans (I know you are few and far between) and much writers’ block on my part, here it is: my blog, updated.

We visited Dresden on a Buddy System trip so it was slightly different than many of our other adventures. Buddy System is one of the programs that many of the study abroad students at University of Economics are involved in. It seems to be run mostly by Czech students of the same university. In my experience so far, Buddy System trips are not the greatest; they are expensive and disorganized. And while the Buddy System students mean well I personally suggest avoiding Buddy System trips in the future.

Dresden was definitely an interesting place to visit though. It was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Europe during World War II. Germany has worked very hard to repair the damage done there with amazing results. Compared with the postcard photos taken in 1942 the city is almost unrecognizable from its haggard self. Almost everything has been rebuilt to its original if not better form and while many of the stone work was compromised in the bombing workers have made attempts to reuse as much of the original material as possible.

We met up with some fellow students of Prague Technical University at the train station, and after a two hour train ride we met up with some students form VSE’s German sister school. We left our bags in a room at the university and were told we were going on a city tour.

The city tour was run by students of the German university and rather than taking us on a traditional city tour (you know with a history of statues and such) they sent us on a scavenger hunt. Three teams of Prague study abroad students competed by running around Dresden and asking strangers (all Germans speak English by the way. Yay me for studying a language where almost everyone who speaks it can speak my language better) if they knew random facts about Dresden’s history. We piled eight people into a phone booth (a small child sat on my lap), made a ring of people holding hands around a statue of Martin Luther, and waltzed with strangers. While several people that I had come to Dresden with were upset with the tour I had actually learned a lot, mainly because my only job was read aloud from a packet of information containing some Dresden history.

We visited the Frauenkirche (literal translation: Ladies Church, intended translation: the Church of Our Lady) which is one of the buildings that has seen much reconstruction since the war, but could not go inside. We also went to a castle (which I sadly do not recall the name of as this trip was almost a month ago) and a synagogue.

That evening the German students attempted to take us out to a few bars and clubs (because they assume that is all students travelling want to do) but after a few drinks me and my friends returned to the hostel.

The next day, after an amazing hotel breakfast, we went to Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister (old masters). The main floor mostly contained more modern art: paintings of upside-down women, wooden statues of heads that looked like they had been hacked out with an ax. The second floor was overwhelmingly loaded with art dating back to the Renaissance. The gallery is best known for containing paintings of The Sistine Madonna by Raphael.

It was difficult to see all or even most of the paintings because there were so many. Each painting contained a short description about the story behind the painting so by the end everyone had been so overloaded with information we were all exhausted.

I think after the gallery we returned to the train station and back to Prague.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dear Public

Dear Public,
I appologize for my lack of correspondence. I have not been the good writer you deserve, my dear Public. Living in Europe has made me weary of new cities; to me they have all become one and the same. As the good writer I have pretended to be I ought to look deeper, find the story that I know exists. But instead I am lazy and I make excuses and for weeks I do not update and it is you who suffers, my poor Public. So again, I appologize to you and I endeavour to update more frequently. With all hopes and intentions I will report on my trip to Krakow (if not Vienna) within this coming week.
With all good intentions,