We met early in the morning to begin our travels around Europe. We had to be at the airport by about 6:30 am, which, naturally we weren’t. Here’s an important tip to remember: Alt Tegel U-Bahn station is not the same as the Tegel Airport. You need to take a bus to get to the airport. I made that mistake, but fixed it quickly enough. It’s ridiculous that I even made the mistake in the first place because we were told a few times not to got there, so I clearly wasn’t listening. Some weren’t as lucky as I was and just barely made it to the group in time. I thought I was going to be late, but I found Paul and Roman also waiting for the bus to the airport, and when we hopped on, we found Thomas (our ‘chaperone’) as well. Not a problem.
Within a few hours we were in Vienna. I’ve visited Vienna before, but only for a quick weekend during a month-long stay in Salzburg. We had bus tour of the city, and our tour guide for Vienna was convinced our Germany would not be good enough to understand her, so she spoke extremely slow and in simple sentences. Even I, with barely two years of German, was pained by it. Throughout the day it wore off and she started picking up her pace, but it still could’ve been faster. We stayed at a hotel named after historical icon, Sisi, also known as Empress Elizabeth of Austria. The hotel had, not quite the funniest, but definitely the poorest photoshopped murals around.
Our first meal in Vienna was, appropriately so, Wiener Schnitzel. Here’s a quick German lesson for everyone: Vienna in German is “Wien”, so the name simply means the Schnitzel (breaded cutlet) is Vienna-style. What really caught me off guard was that we had our meal in the Wiener Prater, an old, huge, public park in the city. Specifically we were in the Wurstelprater, an amusement park section of the prater (pronounced prah-ter, not pray-ter). We all knew we’d be coming back there that night to explore and try some rides and fun houses.
And, as we had promised ourselves, we returned to the prater later that night. It was raining the tiniest bit, but it was off-and-on and seemed more like mist than rain most of the time. It wasn’t going to stop us. The first ride as few of us chose was called “Ecstasy”, and in retrospect that name should’ve told us to save it for later. It was wild. It was like the scramblers on acid. We spent the night wandering around, stopping here and there to get on a ride or jump into a fun house. We also did a few rounds of bumpers cars to make sure we covered all bases. My favorite ride was the flying swings. What set this flying swings ride (the Prater Tower) apart from the rest was its impressive height. 117m! That’s about 384 feet! It was great to look out over the city at night and see it all lit up. From above you could also see that there were tiny lights in the sidewalks below that looked like stars.
The next day we had some free time before meetins up again in the early afternoon. We decided to just kind of wander around the area. We found ourselves in the Museums Quarter and also fluttered by the National Library, Parliament Building, Opera house, and city hall. The last time I saw the Rathaus (city hall) was during the Wiener Festwochen, a music festival. This time we happened upon a horse show of sorts. We ended up climbing a bit of fence to see what was happening, but still couldn’t get too much of a view.
We met back up at our hotel around 1 and then it was off to the Schönbrunn Palace, of course. It used to be a summer residence for the Hapsburg monarchy. Now it is a museum of their ornateness. This was one of the places I was last time I was in Vienna, so I wasn’t too interested in listening to the guide this time…or taking pictures. We explored the ridiculously elaborate palace, as well as the gardens behind it. Not quite Versailles status, but still gave it a good run for its money.
We also stopped by the Hundertwasserhaus, an apartment building modeled after Austrian artist Fredensreich Hundertwasser (and Joseph Krawina as a co-author). I really enjoyed its style, but I’m sure many disagree with it or believe it to be an eyesore. They might change their minds in the future though; no one thought the Eiffel Tower was beautiful either.
As the sun started setting, we headed up to a mountain to get a look of Vienna from above. It’s always amazing to see a city from above, whether it be a mountain or a monument. Afterwards we went for dinner at the Heurigen Maly, a wine tavern whose specialty around this time of year was Strum. Sturm is basically a wine, but more fermented-ish, I guess. I was not a fan. I’ve had enough fermented beverages to last me a lifetime to be quite honest. The food was great though! A large platter of meat and potatoes for us to pick from.
One of my friends, Carol, is in the IES-Vienna program and I was super excited to visit her that night. I got to see the apartment type set up they do, in which five or six people will live together in an apartment with a few different bedrooms. I just relaxed with her and her friends for a little bit. We chatted about our current semester, remembered our past semesters of German and living down the hall from one another, and pined together for our small, absurd college and equally as odd, buffalo-crazed friends.
The next day we were up early and off to Budapest, Hungary!