Austria

The hills be alive with the sound of musak, yo

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And then there we were, steaming through the countryside on our way to Salzburg. Our hostel was on the edge of town in what best could be described as the strip mall suburb- we were literally on top of a clothes shop, and the hostel/hotel looked like a converted movie theatre. It was slightly strange, but that’s ok.

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Salzburg is a beautiful city, made even more so by the sun shining. There is another great castle high above on a hill, so we trekked up there to take in the view of the beautiful mountains and river surrounding the city. I ate delicious things from a nearby bakery before the Christmas markets opened, and we tried our first gluwein (hot wine) of the trip. Yum!

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We were surrounded by reminders that the movie The Sound of Music was filmed here; we saw the fountain Maria dances around, although it was covered to protect it from the winter. We also visited the Mirabelle Gardens, where Julie Andrews and all those kids dance and sing about. The hostel showed The Sound of Music, and when in Rome… so we popped our local Austrian beers and sang along!

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The next day I had a pretzel for breakfast (seriously, my travel diet is appalling) and we meandered about the city before hitting a tour of a brewery called Steigl. I do love a good beer tour, especially when samples are involved. In this case one of Steigl’s most well known brews was an elderflower beer, which sounds weird but was 110% delicious. I can has more samples pls?

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The next day we were off to Vienna, but not before we sampled Austria’s most famous chocolate cake. For breakfast. Are you sensing a theme here yet? It truly was very good, and riding our sugar highs we boarded our train to Vienna.

Christmas in Vienna

Just a few days before Christmas and we once again find ourselves in ‘that’ part of town- near the bus station, near the sex shops, and near a strip mall. While this certainly wasn’t the part of Vienna people come to see, we managed to do our best in the days running up to Christmas in a hostel that, strangely, didn’t have a functional kitchen to cook in. Seems like a tad bit of an oversight.

However, Vienna’s markets more than made up for what our hostel lacked. We found delicious food the first night we were there, and continued to keep up our diets of gluwein and pretzels as the days moved on.

We saw tens of cathedrals, each one impressive and beautiful. St. Stephen’s accented the center of the city as we meandered through downtown, checking out the imperial palace and military grounds in addition to the Rathaus. The Hapsbergs built some seriously impressive things.

Christmas Eve dawned and with it a sense of childlike wonder, not because I’d be opening presents on this day, but because I was going to see the new Star Wars film. OH YEAH. Thankfully my travel companion has nerdy tendencies just like I do and we were both pretty excited about the new film. The opening credits rolled, and I spent the next couple of hours entirely captivated in this silly little story that I had grown up loving.

This, shallowly, may be my favorite part of Vienna (besides the cat cafe 🙂 )

We checked out the Schonnbrun Palace which was gorgeous and had an extensive park around it full of old buildings and sculptures and even a zoo. I ate weiner schnitzel for the first time (yum) and attended midnight mass, which was cold in the old cathedral. It was also fairly indecipherable to me, the non-Catholic and non-religious one… but again, when in Rome. I also realized as the service ended that I don’t know the words to the song Silent Night, in German or in English. Whooops!

Excerpts from my notebook from the next day reveal my true, tired feelings about my most recent brush with the more religious elements of society-

‘Religion is a crock of hooey, and the priests were wearing what looked like robe doilies. I would also petition the church to remember that I am not a human yoyo- up down up down up down … Nor is this a supernatural game of Bop It requiring me to Kneel it! Cross it! Stand! Sit! Peace be with you! Bop It!’

These are the things I think and I’d apologize, but I’m probably not going to change anytime soon.

My friend’s brother was on his way to meet us in Vienna after a few travel mishaps involving missed planes because of lost passports and a near miss in London, again with a misplaced passport. I get the feeling he is travel accident prone, and hearing his stories upon his safe arrival stressed me out to no end.

However, a nice helping of apple strudel and coffee set me back straight, and with our new travel companion in tow we returned to the Christmas market circuit and continued to eat. Always a good plan!

Worlds collided when two new arrivals to our hostel room walked in speaking Arabic, and upon realizing that my friend and I both also speak Arabic revealed that one of them knew a couple people we had studied abroad with in Jordan a few years ago. Small world!

Boxing Day was quiet and boring, so we spent part of it at the Natural History Museum which was pretty interesting. I’m a bit lost at museums/am likely to get lost in them without proper guidance. Later that evening we attempted to be social, which resulted in minor success and minor annoyance. The minor annoyance came in the form of the guys in our room who called my Arabic ‘cute’- I’m sorry, but two years of study and a year and a half of life in Jordan? I wouldn’t ever describe those moments or that learning curve as anything but entirely appalling at worst, and pretty amazing at best.

The second minor annoyances were a few other Americans (again, theme) who were teaching English in Spain. Fair play, I had my English teacher attempt once, too. These ones, however, seemed not to really appreciate the incredible honor it is to be able to work and live in another country, and preferred to bitch about how little they were getting paid (preaching to the choir) and how hard it was living in a small Spanish town.

Cry me a river, babies.

The night was salvaged by an excursion to a bar which served many, many different types of craft Austrian beer. In pitchers. If there’s anything that makes me happier than beer, it’s large quantities of beer!

Next stop: Prague.

 

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