A Travellerspoint blog

Day 56, Vienna

sunny 23 °C

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We decided this morning we would really sleep in, we weren’t going anywhere by 1100. It felt amazing not to rush at all. Why is this the first time I’ve done this in 56 days?! We took our time getting breakfast ready, blogged and chatted with our roommates. We tided our dishes and our room. We left at 1130 for the city center. We walked and took lots of pictures ending up at a small-ish park around the outside of the ring. We enjoyed it for a while, meandering through it. We took our leave and walked through the center to Hotel Sacher. Now if you know anything of Vienna it just might be the Sacher torte. First created in the 1830’s and fought over ever since, this chocolate apricot cake is certainly something special. I was skeptical, as all good backpackers are, of just how good a 5 euro piece of cake could be. I am happy to report that this concoction delighted and pleased me. It may have been it’s extreme sweetness, or it’s chocolaty flavour I miss so much, but the cake reminded me fiercely of the cake I crave from my own kitchen at home. Even a 15 euro price tag for two coffees and a piece of cake didn’t deter me.
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Our next task proved not so simple. We wanted to get to Schonbrunn gardens. Not hard, two metro transfers and we should have been there. Instead it took 30 minutes longer than it should and I’m sorry to say it wore on my nerves. Need I tell everyone again how thankful I am I married my husband? He’s a saint (before 1700.) We arrived eventually and I’m so glad we went. This park was magnificent! Beautiful beyond belief. The palace had an understated elegance to it, none of the (respectfully) gaudy over the top decor of Versailles. It’s outstandingly beautiful and elegant. We put down our blanket, laid and listened to the birds, played with the bugs and watched the squirrels for the better part of an hour.
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Eventually we got up and explored the beautiful park some more. There were plenty of waterfalls and rose gardens, though we did miss out on some of it I’d say, with our conversation. Whenever we enter a large gardens it’s a bit like mentally entering a dreamland, we talk about our wishes and desires and dream about our lives like there is no tomorrow. It’s very interesting conversation that we get so into it’s hard to observe around you.
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We went home and picked up a sweater before we travelled to dinner. We took one tram, then another and finally a bus to get where we were going. Heurigen is an Austrian wine-tavern that allows only it’s own wine to be served. It also means that food can only be sold from a buffet and can only be open a certain time in the year. We had little knowledge of any of this. When we first arrived we stood in the door waiting for a hint of information, the only person that came was a man with Huntington's (still walking, I might add) who came to talk to us. Not wanting to be rude we chatted him up and then, what do you know, he started evangelizing to us! Are you kidding? We tried to leave quickly.
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to fast for us
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We sat down at a wooden bench in the inner garden courtyard. I went to find food and left Shane to order wine. When I came back 20 minutes later he was upset, not wanting to screw up my night and the restaurant being out of the “young wine” we were there for he didn’t know what to do. We ordered some other wine and dug in. The food was amazing, best Austrian food by far. We came to this place on recommendation of our hostess so there was not a tourist in sight! Score! As soon as we finished we left for home.
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When we arrived we saw that our apartment had filled right up. I tried to go to sleep at 2300 only to be woken up numerous times. Finally, at 0130 one of the roommates came in and started slamming things around, it jolted me from my sleep. He climbed into bed and the proceeded to snore as loudly as I’ve ever heard any human or animal snore. There would be no sleep for me. I got up at 0200 and tried to find the Canucks game on the computer, of course there was none, but we did see that by 0230 they were already down by 3 points. I picked up my blanket and pillow and went to sleep on the couch. There, eventually, I slept.
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Posted by s-a 08:33 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (4)

Day 55, Vienna

semi-overcast 21 °C

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We had to wake up early again this morning, 0700 to get to church on time. Our roommates stirred a little as the alarm went off. We ate our cereal and said hi to the receptionist as she came on shift. We scampered out the door and down the street. We lined up for the Vienna Boys Choir at 0815 behind about 20 others. We waited and watched people for 55 minutes until they let us in. We ran up the stairs and to the back of the chapel. We had prime stops for viewing mass. We had to stand for our free spots. There was one woman however, who didn’t know what was going on. Five minutes before mass started she pushes her way to the front of the line “RANDAL!” she screams “WE’RE HERE FOR THE MASS, WE NEED A SEAT, I THINK I SEE ONE. RANDAL CAN WE GET THROUGH?” People start telling her and Randal they need to buy tickets to view the mass, she starts getting hysterical “WE’RE NOT TOURISTS, WE’RE HERE FOR THE MASS, THEY’RE JUST HERE TO TAKE PICTURES, THEY’RE ALL OFF A BUS!! RANDAL IT’S MASS, WE NEED TO GET THROUGH. OHHH, WE’RE GOING TO MISS IT!” It was a mess, eventually they left, but not before thoroughly disturbing the peace. One person fainted while while we watched and I had to body-check a girl who tried to steal my spot when we all moved aside. All and all it was worth it, we got the here the boys sing, which was beautiful.
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After church we got some cake and coffee. We may have paid a lot for it, but it was very good. Vienna is known for coffee and cake for good reason and our legs desperately needed to sit down after all that standing. Our next order of the day was to find some lunch to bring on our picnic. However, Sunday in Vienna means everything is closed, it took us a long time. We got on the metro and found a bakery and store open. we purchased a feast. Two more metro transfers later we were there. We went to Lainzer Tiergarten, a huge wildlife preserve in the southwest corner of Vienna. It was first started by Ferdinand the first in 1561 when he fenced in his hunting grounds. The park was huge and we managed to walk only a very small bit of it.
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We started by eating lunch in the playground area. A few beers and other delicious items. We walked uphill and down admiring a forest so different from our own, no evergreen trees anywhere! We happened upon a meadow. We walked inside it and sat down admiring the views and enjoying the sun on our backs. As we walked back to the path Shane noticed some wild strawberries. We never in a million years thought we would be foraging for wild strawberries! They are delicious, teeny-tinny little things and they were perfectly ripe for eating, we got so lucky. They taste nothing like a strawberry, instead they are floral and carry a wallop of sweet berry flavour to your mouth. Simply amazing.
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our first wild boar!
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We walked a few more kilometers and then walked on back. We got on the train and went home. We recharged for a few minutes and left again. This time we walked around town and then to St. Peter’s Church to listen to a free organ concert. The concert was nice and I’m glad we heard it. We walked the long way home and turned in for the night.
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Posted by s-a 10:19 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (2)

Day 54, Vienna

sunny 24 °C

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Luckily Shane’s alarm was on this morning, because sometime during the night I turned mine off. We ate our breakfast quick and, in my trying to be cool-ness, decided that 50 minutes would give us enough time to get to the train station. The actual tram rides total 15 minutes and if they were running on a weekday schedule they would have been fine. Instead the first tram didn’t come for 20 minutes and we scrambled to get to our train in time. We sat down 5 minutes before the train started moving and about 30 minutes after I started having a heart attack.
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The five hour train ride was quite quick because we wasted three hours of it watching tv. Sweet! We handled Vienna’s transit system like a pro, it only took us 20 minutes to get to our hostel. When we came in the door the hostess pointed to a double bed and asked if it was okay. A double bed? In a dorm room? Apparently. We are stoked of course, sleeping together is always better than apart. The hostel is so cool! It’s got about 12 people in it, but it’s spacious and funky and has a whole schwack of free stuff like vodka and q-tips! I might have to post pictures of this one. Anyway, the way our bed is positioned and elevated makes us feel like king and queen. We settled in quickly.
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For lunch we headed down the road to a pub that came recommended. We had samosas and sausage. It was very good, even if it wasn’t Austrian at all! We sampled our first Wieselburger bier, which turns out to be our favourite. On our way from lunch we stopped at a grocery store to pick up cereal, milk and apples. In our infinite wisdom (...our hostess told us so) we knew it was a public holiday on Monday. WHAT’S WITH ALL THE HOLIDAYS EUROPE!? IT SURE IS ANNOYING! Holidays mean everything is closed. Damn! We bought some beer to stick in the fridge. While we were checking our email I found our Carolynn and Tony had their baby! Congratulations! This news made my day.
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At 1600 we ventured towards town. Vienna is quite small, so we could walk to the palace and museums within 15 minutes. We hung out in some gardens and then had cake and coffee down the road. Even though the cake wasn’t prepared on site it was delicious. We followed the ringstrasse route in a semi circle. Along the way we gawked at the many statues all around Vienna. It’s a very clean and architecturally stunning city, there are no ugly buildings, which in our city experience is a first. Eventually we came upon Rathuas Park where a small carnival was happening. There were rides like merry-go-rounds, beer and plenty of fried foods. We sat on a bench watching children play pass on the ground and climb in the trees, we listened to the live bands for a while as we waited to grow hungrier.
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We headed in the direction of home a good while later, looking for a place to eat. We settled on a place that looked Austrian enough. It was far enough outside the tourist area to still have an authentic feel. The food was very good, I had a pork schnitzel and Shane had the classic boiled beef. We really enjoyed the food and the service was very good. We walked back home, took showers and fell fast asleep. (We didn’t even hear our roommates come home at 0300.)
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Posted by s-a 17:13 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (5)

Day 53, Prague

sunny 21 °C

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a chandelier made from every bone in the body
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We slept in this morning and hurried to catch the 1000 train to Kunta Hora. We scarfed our breakfast and caught the tram. When our train arrived we scampered on board. The cabin soon filled up and suddenly we were sitting with a family, amongst others. We chatted them up for a while, they were from Spain, close to San Sebastian where we had been. They had a really cute little girl and her grandpa was traveling with them. The family was quite out going and easy to talk to. When our train got to Kutna Hora we helped them find our connection train to another station. This is where we said good-bye.
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We turned to the right and set in for our walk. We arrived 3km later at Sedlec Ossuary. This is a church decorated with the bones of over 40 000 skeletons. It was very cool. The story says that head of the monastery in Sedlec was sent to the Holy Land and returned with a pocketful of soil. He sprinkled it on the cemetery and people flocked here to die. During the plague thousands and thousands were buried here. Eventually they decided to built a church in the center of the cemetery and a few hundred years later the displaced bones were used as decoration. It has been this way now since 1870. We loved it! It was a very cool place to see.
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We walked back to the old town in Kutna Hora. After quite some time, passing an impromptu market, we found the place we had in mind for lunch. We drank out 20 crown beer quickly. The food was amazing! Lard dumplings and fritters stuffed with prunes! We even tried to Czech crepes, yum! The last thing we wanted to see before we left was St Barbara’s Cathedral. This place was beautiful. It has lots of flying buttresses and peaked roofs. St Barbara is the patron saint of the miners and so there are murals on the walls dating back to the 15th century! There were confessional pews and choir benches from the 1600s!! (We touched them...don’t tell)
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We wandered back down to the train station to catch a train to the main train station. Waiting on the main platform was actually quite nice, there wasn’t that much traffic, the wind was rustling and the birds singing. The train back to Prague seemed a lot shorter, but that may have been because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. We grabbed some sausage while we transfered trams, dinner for 1.6 euros. We spent the next few hours planning out our next move and packing once again.
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Posted by s-a 15:59 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (3)

Day 52, Prague

overcast 22 °C

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that guy in the middle plays the trumpet on every hour
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We started the morning headed to Prague Castle. We needed to get some food on the way however, so we stopped at a market for some strawberries. Of course what is a picnic without carbs? So we detoured at a bakery where we bought some bread and couldn’t resist the trdelnik they had spinning. It is dough wrapped around a metal bar and spun over an open flame until cooked. It’s doused in sugar and cinnamon and piping hot when you eat it. Delicious!
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We walked over Charles Bridge with thousands of other tourists just like ourselves. We heard a few bands play and saw awful people (cough...ameri...cough...cans...excuse me) take pictures of the homeless people groveling with their faces down. Charles Bridge has over 30 statues, which although they have been systematically replaced by replicas since 1965, still look very old. The plaque of one statue in particular is very shiny and well polished in one spot. This is on the statue of St. John of Nepomuk who was thrown off the bridge for not telling what the Queen told during Confession. Touching this is supposed to be good luck, but we didn’t know this. It’s full of vendors and those people who do caricatures and portraits. There was also a group of children(presumably from an art class) scattered around the bridge doing sketches of the bridge and other nearby buildings We walked to the other side and caught a tram to the top of the hill. From here we bought tickets for the Palace.
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First we saw the enormous St. Vitus Cathedral. It’s huge and loud but we still enjoyed it. We then ate our lunch and went back for round two with the school groups. We toured the small part of the palace we were allowed to see. Here, in Prague’s history, there are a lot of true stories about people throwing other people out windows. They even have name for it, defenestration. Now this may exist other places but we’ve first heard about it here. The word was even made up after the event that took place in Prague. One of the stories we heard happened in a room we were allowed into in the palace. Kinda cool! There is a painting done of the defenestration in the palace and it’s the same room we were standing in! We could even see where the men fell (not to their deaths mind you, they landed in a pile of manure and survived, which means of course that it was an act of god and they were protected by angels...insert eye roll here.)
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We ventured down the Golden Lane, where the many of the castle’s servants once lived. In later days these incredibly small ‘homes’ were rented out until as late as the 1950’s. It was historical but clearly quite romanticized. Cool anyway. The upper floors are where they have a display of early guns, swords, gun-swords and amour on display, which Shane nearly fainted over. Lastly we ventured into the prison where you could see the torture devices used during a person’s imprisonment. Prison wasn’t just prison then, it was brutal, savage and disgusting.
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the middle two center windows are where they chucked them out
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shield gun!
It took a long time to find some, (that wasn’t priced at 90 crowns a piece!) but our hunt for medovnik (honey cake) was successful! We ate it at a bakery across the street from our room for 25 crowns, or 1 euro. And it was delicious! Once again I am sad to know that I’ll never be able to make it and probably never taste it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try!!
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just about died he was so happy!
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There is a underpass close to our place that has two flights of stairs to cross. This has proved to be an issue for many people. The first day we were here Shane carried an old ladies' bags up the stairs so she would manage better with her cane and this day he helped carry a baby stroller down one flight and up another. What an awesome guy I married! We went home and showered before heading out again. We took the tram across the river, to eat dinner at a brewery. The food proved to be very good and the beer even better!
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After dinner we took the tram to Charles Bridge. A few people told us that the bridge at night would have hardly anyone one it. I would beg to differ! There were nearly as many people on it after dark as in the morning! We enjoyed some more music as we cross over to the other side. That was it for our night and for the time we would spend in Prague.
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Posted by s-a 22:18 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (4)

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