Thursday, May 01, 2008

It's not a tooomah.

You see, when Jason and I travel we enjoy adopting the local accent when we talk to one another but neither of us could really perfect our Austrian accent without quoting Ahhhhnold Szwartenghsejfhsorisjdfer. So we spent quite a lot of time saying "It's not a tooomah." and "Aaaa'll be back." Bet you're sorry you weren't traveling with us on this trip.

So. Wien. Vienna. (I still don't understand why names of cities and countries don't translate worldwide. Call me crazy, but if the Italians call it "Roma" or "Firenze", shouldn't we respect that instead of changing it to "Rome" or "Florence"?? Maybe I'm just a dreamer, but if Czechs call it "Praha", shouldn't the world just get behind that and call it "Praha" too? At what point along the way did someone decide that only Austrians and Germans should call it "Wien" and the rest of the world should say "Vienna"???)

This trip didn't exactly get started off on the right foot. Thanks to someone (who shall remain nameless) in this household who didn't properly check our flight departure time, we found ourselves at the bustop about two hours early. And folks, when you're talking about 5:00 am versus 7:00 am, those two hours make a HUGE difference. In my defense (so much for remaining nameless), getting to the airport two hours early is a much better mistake than two hours late. Still. EARLY. So very very early. Strike one.

When our plane touched down in Vienna, it was just starting to drizzle ever so slightly. Well, that's ok. We were expecting a little rain today. Cut to us getting off the CAT airport express train and walking to the station exit where a veritable tsunami awaited us. Not just regular rain either. Sideways rain. And itty bitty stinging rain. And big fat rain. All at once. So we waited. But after it subsided and resigned itself to regular old straight down rain, we got out of the hotel. Unfortunately, everything I saw in my first couple of hours in Vienna was half covered by the pink and beige tartan print of my umbrella. Strike two. Thankfully though, it finally stopped and the clouds parted to reveal blue sky and the sun even made an appearance. So we whipped out the camera and started taking photos of anything that didn't move. And in that vein...

Here are some uhhhh... buildings? Colourful buildings. Yes. That's it. Colourful buildings.

And a ummmm.... a church? I guess? But look at the blue sky!! Squeeee!

Just as dusk began to creep in, as if by miracle we rounded a corner and stood face-to-face with this ever so cosy-looking cafe. In we went.

How great are their chandeliers? Cutlery dangling amongst the crystal... Loves it.

Yay for beer. (Check out the photograph behind me. Yes, that's a woman's hiney.)

After plenty of beer, plenty of food and plenty of sleep, we were ready to hit the Naschmarkt. It's a crazy mixture of open air cafes, food stalls of every kind, random crap that all smells like Razzle Dazzle (only Erica will know what that means so for the rest of you, that's what we call hippie stuff that smells like patchouli), lots of junk and some antiques if you look hard. Basically if Borough Market and Portobello Road had a baby, it would be Naschmarkt.

Any place that has a shop called "Cheeseland" is fine by us. We got chunks of cheese and fresh squeezed juices and walked around the food stalls.

These tents are the junk/antiques section of the market.

Well, that's one way to get your message across. I never considered roof writing but I think that may be the best way to ask our neighbors across the street if they'll invite us over to play the Wii on their 500 bajillion inch high-def flat screen.

This is one of the Wagner apartments. Otto Wagner was a very famous Art Nouveau architect in Austria. Virtually every structure of importance was designed by either him or Adolph Loos. I guess they're kind of like the Austrian version of Sir Christopher Wren... The detail on this building is amazing. I highly recommend clicking on the photo to enlarge it so you can see.

I love the stark contrast between the two facades.

Next up was the Opera House. We didn't take any photos inside because frankly, the grandness of interiors like that never translate to photos. Plus, you know how I love a good archway and there were plenty of those outside.

The cupola of Peterskirche...

We loved how the light coming into the church highlighted this sculpture.

Okay. The clock museum. To be fair, our guide book made it sound like this fantastic little museum and it said that they keep all the clocks timed meticulously so if you're there at the top of any hour, they all start chiming at the same time and the whole building rings with the glorious sound. Yeah. Or it could be that a few clocks here and there emit a faint dinging sound. If you look closely in the mirror, you can see my disdain. Strike three.

I love the cafe culture in Vienna. Some of the coffee houses are so grand. This is the interior of Cafe Central.

The Freyung Passage lined with little shops.

We threw down twenty euros for two drinks at the American Bar. Ridiculous. But it had to be done. (Geddit?? Because we're Americans? And this is the American Bar?? In Austria? Geddit?) It's the tiniest little place you've ever seen. Another of Adolf Loos's designs...

As this is the home of Mozart and Strauss, that night we had tickets to a performance that included a little opera, some ballet, and a small orchestra that played some well-known classical pieces. Sounds perfect, right? We'd had such good luck in Prague buying last minute tickets on the street. How can this go wrong? I'll tell you. I don't mean to sound pretentious or anything but this was basically classic performance arts for dummies. It was pretty bad. There were uncomfortable attempts at humour by the host and the whole thing just seemed so amateur. Strike four. (You thought we would have given up by strike three??)

But! Fear not! We soldier on. We had high hopes for today's activities. We had planned to get out of the city and take a river trip between Melk and Krems with a stopoff in Durnstein. Our concierge told us that perhaps we would be better off taking an organised tour on a bus because otherwise we might find it difficult to sort out train and boat schedules. I think both of us just stared at her with open mouths. Do we look like "organised bus tour" kind of people?? I think we'll take our chances with the trains, lady. We made it to Melk just fine.

This is a picture of some fancy Melk building. Church? Maybe. Town hall? Umm, ok? It's pretty and yellow and I like the stripey-ness of it? Yes. The stripey-ness of it.

And then. Then we walk up to the ticket office and ask for two boat tickets to Krems and is it okay if we hop off in Durnstein and hop back on later and we're so excited about our little boat trip and we just want to hop on and hop off and doesn't that all sound great and easy?!?! No. No you may not do any of that. Well, you can have a ticket on the boat but it's a "special" day and the boat isn't stopping in Durnstein but it's going to stop in Spitz and you can get off there and take a train to Durnstein if you want. Also, there is "Dixieland music" on the boat today for the special occassion. Great. I'm from the Southern United States and I came all the way to f-ing Austria to hear "When the Saints Go Marching In". Strike five.

And no, this isn't the Dixieland band. This is some Austrian heritage ensemble that played welcome music for the special day on the special boat that isn't stopping in Durnstein.

I do not often drink wine before 11:00 am but if ever there were a situation that called for it, this was it.

One thing I have to say about Austrians is that damn they sho' do like thier cigarettes. I think I may have inhaled enough second hand smoke to give me and my unborn childrens lung cancer. So I was terrified that other people were going to join our table and start puffing away and I hid the ashtray and made a non-smoking sign. Genius. Such is me.

Annoyed though I was at the annoying music and the smoke, the scenery was lovely.

We eventually did make it to Durnstein and it was too cute for words. So, no words. Just pictures...

We came upon the most random thing I have ever seen when we headed back to the train station - a Pez dispensing machine. It doesn't dispense dispensers - just the candies, but still! OMG! A Pez machine! Some of you may know by now that I used to collect Pez dispensers religiously and amassed quite a collection over the years. This would be the ultimate addition to my collection but I didn't want to end up in Austrian prison for grand theft Pez machine so I left it alone.

We managed to to time our train perfectly and we arrived back in Vienna with lots of daylight to spare. Take that, concierge lady!

So we went to take a couple of photos... This is the main cathedral in Vienna, Stephansdom. Unfortunately, it was half covered in scaffolding. Strike six. I swear Expedia has a hotline to whomever does scaffolding for all of Europe and tells them to get on it as soon as we book a city break.

The Anker Clock - not quite as impressive as Prague's clock, but astronomical nonetheless and very nice indeed.

We decided we wanted to see the Neues Rathouse (New Townhall) at night since it's all lit up. So we take the U to the stop closest to it and as soon as we come up the stairs of the station, we hear loud chanting, not unlike the singing they do at football matches here. Then we get to street level and see tons of people in green shirts and green striped scarves. All carrying cans of cheap lager. Great. Angry mobs. Or boozed up mobs. All the same to me. Strike seven. Just what I was hoping for. And going against every fibre of my being, which was yelling at me to "Run! Run away! No! The other way! Get as far away from this as possible!", we walked right into it. Because some kind of rally was being held in the park right smack across the street from the townhall. But damned if I wasn't going to take my picture. We saw people peeing in bushes, throwing firecrackers, and engaging in all sorts of unsavory activities but I got my shot. (Well, as best I could from the fringes of the mob anyway...)

And some other building with a tram car in front of it. Didn't bother to look it up. Didn't really care. I just liked the color of the sky and the tram car really. And a section of the mob was headed our way, setting off firecrackers as they went. So, you know, I was kind of in a hurry to get the hell out.

We survived. We live to sightsee another day. Here's another Wagner creation, the Karlzplatz station entrance. Love the detail.

And Karlskirche, which we didn't bother to go in because at this point? I'm kind of cathedral'ed out. Meh.

But this. This made me laugh. Sculptor Henry Moore presented this gift to the city - back in the 80's I think it was? In response, the city said "Umm, thanks?" Native Austrian Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with this one.

This reminds me of something... I don't know what. I can't quite put my finger on it...

The Belvedere Palace - which now houses a large Gustav Klimt collection, which I would liked to have seen but it was such a gloriously beautiful and warm day that we couldn't bear to spend it inside, even for a minute.

Last on the tourist agenda was Prater. I never figured out if the park as a whole is called Prater or if it's just specifically the ferris wheel. Either way, ferris wheels = wheeeeeee!

We simply had to have ice cream for this. What's an amusement park on a warm (borderline hot) day without ice cream??

I took about a bajillion pictures of this thing. Ferris wheels are so... photographable, what with all the cables crossing and the steel wheel and the angles and whatnot.

I loved the little compartments - they were like little red barns.

It's like a study in geometry, except not. Because it's a ferris wheel! And if you recall, ferris wheel = wheeeeeee! Now that's math you can use.

And for the rest of the afternoon, we did nothing but trawl from cafe to cafe, sit at their outside tables and consume beverages of all sorts. Because it was an amazingly beautiful day. And remember when I said "borderline hot"? Well, borderline be gone because it got actually, officially hot. We Englanders don't even know what that means anymore. We haven't felt the feeling of hot since the summer of 2006. It was glorious. (Can someone remind me that I said this when I'm back in North Carolina next summer, baking like a potato in 100+ degree temperatures?)

I'll spare everyone the details of the final strike (that's number eight if you're counting) but suffice it to say that Austrian Air is now on my list. They bypassed "on notice" and flew straight into the "dead to me" category.

So what now, you ask? Well, tomorrow we fly to Sweden. Holy crap. Two new countries within a week. I'll try to do some live blogging since our hotel has free wireless. But no promises. I'm planning to be very busy getting a real Swedish massage in Sweden from a guy named Jens. Or whatever it is that Swedish guys are called...


Sara said...

yay vienna! (or wien, i hear you on the whole city renaming thing, wtf? even more complicated in switzerland where people in the same country refer to their cities differently).

my favorite thing to do there is sit in the cafe for hours on end eating :) did you see the republic of kugelmugel in the Prater?

my only disappointment is that my austrian husband totally can not do the proper arnold accent. rip off.

A Novelist said...

The pictures are gorgeous! I love that Pez machine! Glad you had a fun time. :)

Suze - Manchester UK said...

I can solve the opening mystery of the city names.. we don't use the originals (e.g. Praha) because we'd butcher them anyway to the point of disrepect. Pray-harrr anyone?? Weein'??
I found Wien a little underwhelming too - shame you didn't head to Salzburg and participate in some proper full on hard core naffness - the Sound of Music tour is not to be missed!

Steph said...

Have fun in Sweden. I'm so glad that I can live vicariously through you these days! :)


Juice Mag said...

Looks beautiful! I love BUSH GO HOME hahahaha :P