On Friday morning, Jessi and I showed up to our intensive Czech final exam, with sharpened pencils, review sheets, and…our suitcases. There was just a Czech final exam and a Czech history skills test that separated us from our weekend in Vienna. But, we didn't seem to be the only ones that thought of traveling to Vienna for the weekend. As the members of the class came in one by one, each person trailed a small rolling suitcase behind them. Where were they going? VIENNA!
Now that we have been in Europe for almost a month and as of Friday, we had completed our intensive Czech learning program, it was definitely time to start exploring all Europe has to offer. This past weekend, about 90 percent of CIEE decided to travel to Vienna. (Just so you can get an idea of how many people were going...in my classroom there were almost as many suitcases as students).
While everyone else decided to take the bus to Vienna, Jessi and I opted for the train. And by "opted for the train," I mean we decided to travel to Vienna last minute and the bus tickets were sold out so we had to go by train instead. So, after finishing our Czech exams, we grabbed our bags and headed to Hlavni Nadrazi, the main train station (hlavni - main, nadrazi - station), to begin our journey to Vienna.
Though neither of us have really traveled by train before, we were quickly able to figure out the signs (with the help of some sweet police men (policie in Czech)) and figure out where we needed to be.
When the train arrived, Jessi and I were so excited to see that we had gotten a pretty nice train (the seats were rather comfortable and we were able to get a whole area to ourselves and next to the window!). After an hour or so, we decided to explore the train for a bit and find the dining cart. Unfortunately, the dining cart didn't have much that sounded good so we went back to our original seats. Before we left, I knew I would get hungry and bought a can of peanuts and a cookies-and -cream candy bar. Thankfully, Jessi came slightly more prepared with PB&J sandwiches. So PB&J it was for dinner.
About five hours later, we had arrived!!! Just two tram rides, and we had successfully made it to the Wombats - Naschmarkt hostel in Vienna. It was a new experience of having to pick up my sheets from the front desk and make my own bed in my hostel room (something I usually don't have to do at the Hyatt or other hotels that I have stayed at in America).
For us, this was the perfect place to stay. It was in the center of town, the rooms were nice and all of our friends were staying there. (So if you were not an American or not on the CIEE program, I apologize for ruining your weekend because we definitely dominated that hostel on every floor in every area).
Once we arrived at the hostel, we only had a bit to relax before it was time to experience the Vienna nightlife. It didn't take long before we were dressed and ready to go.
We first went next door to the guys' room and hung out for a bit before we went to our main stop for the night: Ride Club. The club was awesome. It played great music, and everyone was dancin, and having a great time.
Saturday morning was quick to come, and by quick, I mean very quick. At about 7 a.m. we heard loud banging on our windows/door and guys shouting "wake up! wake up!" I guess the guys next door did not need much sleep and wanted to get their day started bright and early. The four of us in my room had a slightly different plan that included a 9:30 wake up. So, the boys finally went away, we fell back asleep and were ready to go when our alarms went off at our intended wake up time.
We were the perfect group to go sightseeing together. Though we all weren't exactly sure where we wanted to go or see, we all were eager to see/experience anything in Vienna and were ready for a day of exploring.
We started at a market that was right outside our hostel - Naschmarkt. There were all different types of olives, candies, pastries, and a lot of middle eastern food (i.e. falafel, pita, etc). We wanted to head to a museum and had already eaten breakfast, so we decided we would come back to the market later. (Unfortunately, we never made it back to the market because we were too busy having fun around town).
We went to the museum quarter where we saw an ad for a 60s exhibit at the MUMOK. We thought it sounded interesting, and since we were right by the art museum, we decided to go. The exhibit had some very different pieces than anything I had ever seen before. For example:
Overall, I thought the museum was great. A lot of the art we saw, I would never usually categorize it as art itself, but it was all very interesting and totally different from most art/usual paintings that I have seen in the past.
After the museum, we went to my favorite place on the trip - Schönbrunn Palace.
I thought it was so interesting to get to see and learn about a place where members of the royal family lived. And it was absolutely beautiful on the inside (I wish I had pictures to show you but I was not allowed to take any inside)
After this, we were ready for some lunch, and what would make for a better lunch than weinerschnitzel! From the start of the day, we knew we had to get some weinerschnitzel so we thought that now would be the perfect time. We had passed a stand earlier in the day that was selling weinerschnitzel but were not quite hungry yet, it was too cold to stand outside and eat, and we assumed there would be stands everywhere so when we were ready it would be no problem to find the traditional Austrian food. Well, we surely guessed wrong. We searched everywhere for weinerschnitzel, and it could not be found!
After a 30-minute hunt for Weinerschnitzel and my toes on the verge of being completely frozen, we went to the only open restaurant that we could find nearby (a Thai one) and called it a day. Though it was sad and somewhat depressing to have traveled to Vienna and end up eating Thai for lunch, I must say the Pad Thai was amazing. So, while we missed out on the Weinerschnitzel, I explained to my friends that for all we know we went to some world famous Thai restaurant in Vienna while everyone else enjoyed the typical Weinerschnitzel. Besides, we were still here for another 48 hours and by then we surely would have a chance to taste the Weinerschnitzel. After our very non-Austrian meal, we went back to the hostel for a much needed nap.
Now, I am usually a big believer in non-napping during the day. In the past, I have found that when it is time to wake up, I am just too groggy to do anything and end up staying in bed for the rest of the day. Besides, it's just such a waste of time, and I usually end up laying there for hours and never end up falling asleep even though I am tired (so it is just a stressful experience and a waste of the day hours). But, I guess I am different in Vienna. That nap was the best nap of my life! After a few hours in my cozy sleep sac (a thin sheet/sleeping bag), I was completely rejuvenated and ready to hit the clubs! But first, a sushi dinner.
I am not sure if my hostel happened to be in a very Asian area or if Asian food is a big thing in Vienna, but there were a ton of small, cute sushi restaurants near our hostel. Seeing that all four of us were big sushi fans, we decided sushi was a must for dinner and it was delicious!
We decided to try a new club this night. However, just a few minutes after checking our coats we all agreed to leave and go somewhere else. We ended up returning to Ride Club from the night before. I was a little disappointed to not get to try a new place, but in the end I had a great time again.
When I got home that night, I was exhausted and was so excited to get into bed. Just as I was almost asleep I heard a loud banging on my door. The idea of getting out of bed just sounded terrible, so I hoped the person would go away. They did not. I then thought that maybe it was one of my roommates and she had forgotten her key and was locked out. I crawled out of bed and opened the door. Well, it was certainly not my roommate. Rather, it was a guy from my program looking alive and ready to party. He peeked inside the dark hostel room and asked me "Oh, is there nothing going on in here?" To which I explained that we were all asleep and asked if there was anything that he needed. Well, I guess all he really needed was a bed to sleep in and a little southern hospitality. Lucky for him, we had two extra beds in the room, and I love guests and am from the south. I made a bed for him, got him some water, and then finally went to bed.
The next day (Sunday), we slept in a little bit later but were still ready to go before noon. The day before we had just eaten breakfast at the breakfast buffet at the hostel. So, on Sunday, we decided to venture out. The guys had mentioned that the best breakfast place was at the cafe at the Leopold Museum so we thought we'd try it out. And it was delicious.
After breakfast, our next stop was the Freud museum (which is his apartment). This was one of my least favorite sights, but it was still interesting to see, and I am glad that I went. On the way back to the metro station, there were some chances to take some very photo-worthy shots (I have yet to mention in this post just how beautiful Vienna was. I had my camera around my neck almost the entire time because I couldn't stop taking pictures. Here is just a taste of some of the pictures I took during the weekend...
Since it was almost time for lunch and we were getting hungry, it meant, the hunt for the Weinerschnitzel round 2 began. But again, it was nowhere to be found. Since Lizzy and Sami were on the bus going home (which left at 5:30), and the St. Stephen Cathedral and the famous cake at the cafe at Hotel Sacher were a must, we headed towards the Cathedral, with high hopes that we would pass a stand on the way there. Of course, we did not.
But, what we did find at St. Stephen was well worth it. I know before I had said the palace was my favorite, well this was right up there with that.
The Cathedral itself was amazing. But, that was not all that this spot had to offer. There is a tower, where at the top there is a view of Vienna. Of course, there is work that must be put in to reaching that magnificent view. That work....a 349 stair-staircase that winds up the tower around in a very dizzying and narrow passageway.
It is hard to see in the picture just how narrow and twirly the staircase is, but to give you an idea, it was hard to fit two people standing next to each other
At one point (about halfway) there is a slight break from the winding stairs and there is a platform area where you can look out at the city.
For those who are scared of heights, this would not be your idea of fun...good thing I am not and was just pretending for dramatic effect
For those that are taller (i.e. Sami) you can just look over the cement wall to see the city. But for the shorties like me, you get to peak through the cement wall...
Just a few more stairs to go and then you get to see this...
Vienna from above
Vienna from above
Vienna from above
At the top of the tower, it opened up into a small room that had windows on each side so you could get a view of Vienna from every direction.
After the tower, we made one more attempt to find Weinerschnitzel on our way to Hotel Sacher for cake. Again, we were unsuccessful, but we did come close. On our way, we found a Weiner Wald, which did in fact have a Weinerschnitzel on the menu.
But, we were running out of time, it was a nice sit down meal, and we were sure that we had to pass a Weinerschnitzel stand sometime soon because we were in a touristy area (for some reason we did not and why not...I honestly have no idea where they are hiding all their Weinerschnitzel in this country). So we ditched the Weinerschnitzel and went for famous cake.
We all went with the Original-Sacher torte (the most famous one)
The cake was rich, chocolaty, and delicious. Do I think it was good enough to be considered famous and the best cake ever? Probably not. But, I am also not the best person to judge this because I would take a simple chocolate chip cookie any day over a super rich, fancy dessert.
After dessert, it was time for Lizzy and Sami to go catch the bus and for me and Jessi to find that Weinerschnitzel! Alas, we came upon a stand that had the word "Weiner" on the menu and Jessi marched up to the stand...
We were not sure exactly what we were getting, but as we stood there in anticipation we felt successful in our search because whatever it was at least we could say we had some form of weiner in Vienna.
Well when the food item was handed to us...it turns out this was nothing at all similar to the Weinerschnitzel we were looking for...
After a video chat session with my mom, I learned that "Weiner" just means from Vienna like Dallasite means from Dallas. So our Weinerschnitzel was no Weinerschnitzel at all, just a hot dog. But on the bright side, at least it was a hot dog from Vienna. And we were content with that.
We walked around and planned on shopping for a bit. But, everywhere we went the stores were closed. We also searched for a bakery shop to try the pastries my mom has raved about for years (she studied abroad in Vienna), but those could not be found either. I began to question whether my mom had actually studied abroad in Vienna, as I found hardly anything that she has talked so much about.
We didn't have much time left until our 6:30 train, so we stopped for one last touristy photo...
And then we were on our way to the train station.
There are 2-3 train stations in Vienna. On the way up, Jessi and I arrived at Wien Mielding and that is where our train home departed from as well. We had directions for getting to the hostel from the train station, so we decided to follow the instructions backwards to get back to Wien Mielding. We started off on the right foot after successfully taking one metro to get to the next metro. On the second metro, a guy saw that we were confused and told us the station was the next stop. So, we got off.
The station was quite a pleasant surprise! Here, all the shops were open and there were bakeries selling all sorts of pastries everywhere! With just about 30 minutes until our train left, we went and got some pastries and pizza for the train. Just as we were about to sit down and enjoy our food, we thought it would be a good idea to check where our train was leaving from. We looked at the board and could not find our train listed anywhere. There was just about 20 minutes until our train left and we could not figure out why it was not on the boards yet. We began searching everywhere for someone who spoke English or a ticket counter for help.
It was when we reached the top floor and I saw a sign that showed flight departures and arrivals, I nervously tapped Jessi and explained that we were at the wrong station. I had remembered when I was booking the train tickets that the trains all go to one station (Wien Mielding), but there is one train that continues to a different station (which also has an airport in it).
Knowing that we had 15 minutes until the 6:30 train was leaving, with our backpacks on our backs, a pastry in one hand, and pizza in our mouths, we began sprinting and giggling throughout the station to find our way back to the metro. (I wish I could have captured this moment either on film or camera but there just was no time and my camera was deep down in my backpack). We looked absolutely absurd.
We were filled with joy when we did make it to the right train station and the train had not even arrived yet.
As we waited for the train to come, we remembered how a guy in our class said that he wanted to show up to the bus right before it left to make it interesting, and of course everyone laughed at him...well he may not have had the chance to have that experience, but we certainly did and he was right, it was most definitely a great experience that made the whole trip more interesting.
When I got to my seat on the train, I pulled out the pasty I had ordered. My mom had told me about her favorite pastry in Vienna and I had really hoped to try it. Unfortunately, when I was ordering I could not find it listed anywhere. So I chose a pastry with a nut filling...as it turns out this was my mom's favorite pastry and just was listed as something different. (Funny how with all these pastries before me I ended up choosing the "best" one even without her help - mother like daughter perhaps?) Well anyway, even if I tried, I don't think the weekend could not have ended anymore perfectly.