Seventeen weeks. That’s how long I have in this beautiful city. This is my fifth week living in Vienna, Austria and I can’t believe my journey is almost a third over! Last week was spent exploring Europe. I attended the week-long trip hosted by IES Abroad in addition to my own weekend excursion. I visited five different cities in three different countries! I got back from my trip on Sunday evening and started my regular-term courses on Monday! After having such a prolonged summer, getting back into the classroom feels right.
I fully recommend that future IES Abroad Vienna students attend the World Heritage Tour hosted by IES Abroad. In attending, I was able to visit cities I might have never toured otherwise. Our first destination was by far my favorite! Hallstatt is a small Austrian village located on Lake Hallstatt and is surrounded by mountains. The beautiful boat ride we took to the village was one I will never forget. The charming 16th century Alpine architecture made the village look movie-esque. It is one of the most scenic places I have ever visited.
After having a traditional Austrian meal in Hallstatt, we had time to freely roam the village. We visited the small shops lining the main road and historical sites of interest (the Beinhaus of Hallstatt was fascinating). After taking time to explore the village, we regrouped at the edge of the village. We then took a steep railcar to Hallstatt’s salt mine. After a short hike and suiting up in ~fashionable~ mining outfits, we entered the mine in a single file line. The underground cinema and largest European underground slide won me over. I never expected myself to enjoy a salt mine so much.
Our next top was to Salzburg: Home of The Sound of Music and Mozart (and Mozart themed everything)! Salzburg was much larger than I expected but was still easy to navigate. The mix of historic and modern art in the streets was my favorite thing about the city. I sang on the “Do-Re-Mi” stairs and ate a pretzel on the terrace of Stiegl, a brewery that dates back to 1492. Although we had two days in Salszburg, I never had time to explore the “new Salzburg.” I kept being drawn back to the old city. In addition to touring the new city, I am ever to return to Salzburg, I would like to (1) go on an official Sound of Music tour (2) have a coffee at Café Tomaselli and (3) visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress. The cold weather and constantly traveling had gotten to me by the time we left Salzburg. Two friends accompanied me on the search for an apothecary the morning we left for Prague. I would have been miserable the next couple of days without getting cough drops. We made it back to the bus and started towards our next destination: Cesky Krumlov.
If you love Cesky Krumlov, you might want to look away from this paragraph. In short, I was not impressed with the city. Although it is extremely historic (the settlement dates back to 1240!), I couldn’t help but feel like it was also very touristy. It was as if there were more tourists than locals. The city was aesthetically pleasing but I felt cheated by the painted “brick” design and obvious tourist traps. I felt bad for Marie Terezie, the lonely bear that lives in the moat around the Cesky Krumlov castle.
Our final stop on the World Heritage Tour was Prague! Oh, Prague. Where do I begin?! Our first day there was spent doing a walking tour of the city. I could have spent all day at the Prague Castle alone. Other than the constant fear of being pickpocketed (many people wore their backpacks backwards in order to counter this problem), the city seemed relaxed. The costumed grim reaper and Aladdin in the main square lightened the mood set by the beautiful and dark Gothic architecture of the city. I visited the castle, the historic Jewish quarter (would highly recommend!!), and the John Lennon Wall. I shopped for a marionette, decorated a freshly baked gingerbread cookie, and tried Czech food for the first time. On our final evening, we took a dinner cruise down the Vltava. On the top deck of the boat, my friends and I watched the sunset and listened to “Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana, a song composed about the beautiful river we were sailing on. It was the perfect ending to my trip.
Friday morning, I went rogue! (Just kidding—my plans to leave the tour early were totally approved by the IES Abroad team beforehand.) Another student on the World Heritage Trip and I parted ways from the IES Abroad group and headed to the airport. We arrived in Paris, France two hours later! Paris was everything I wanted it to be and more. The Eiffel Tower was just as grand and beautiful as it appears in pictures. I will forever hold onto the happy memory of eating a crepe as the Eiffel Tower sparkled above me. The Louvre was overwhelming and wonderful. The sound and sight of mass at Notre Dame was breathtaking. Paris was arguably the best weekend getaway I have ever made.
Coming home (to Wien) after spending an entire week traveling was great. Come Monday morning, I was more than ready for my classes to begin. I love how my classes are taking advantage of city around us. It’s a major part of the beauty of studying abroad. Instead of always being in the classroom, in two of my courses one of our meetings for the week is a field trip to a location in the city. I appreciate the ability we have to visit these places and artifacts instead of just reading about them. This weekend will be one of the first I have spent in Vienna! I’m excited to (finally) have a chance to sleep in and spend more time in the city I came here for.