Sunday, July 31, 2005

reflections

So my last day in Vienna... I know you´re dying to know how I spent it so I will take you along for the ride with me.

We begin at the subway station, not a very romantic start, but I had to get you there right? It´s not like you can magically appear on the street. We wlk down the steet adn the front of the Nachsmarkt appears, but becuase it is Sunday, it is silent and desolate and the crowded yelling that permeates the area on everyother day is nothing more than a haunting in the stillness. We pass the Succession, rising like a golden dome above our heads. It is here that Klimt and Schiele decide to succeed from the current art movement and create something of their own. Walking further down we come to the Theatre Wien where the strains of a tenor can be heard breaking through a window and interrupting the mornings stillness. We turn and head back towards town, stopping in Schiller park to feed the pigeons who are trying desparately and comically to get the birdseed out of the feeder which was definitely not intended for pigeons. The tall imposing building that shadows the park is the academy of fine art, its stately pillars and monuments a testimony to the works inside. As we cross the street we enter the Burggarten, the Hapsburgs royal garden. There are already people lying in the grass and surrounding the small lake and fountains. Families push their strollers around the edge of the park past the butterfly house and the couples enjoying their coffes on the terrace. Crossing into the Palace you could get lost in Hapsburg. The strains of a cello and violin seem to coax you further and as we round the corner the young musicians come into sight. We´d like to stay and listen longer, but there is more to see and not enough time. We walk down Kohlmarkt, passed the tourist enjoying their pastries at Demels and onto the Graben, the most prestigious shopping street on what was once a Roman moat. Passed the plague column built to commemorate the survival St. Stephen´s Cathedral rises into the sky like a mother keeping watchful eye over her children. We turn into one of the many mazes of streets and weave our way through the narrow cobblestone until we reach the hoer markt and its roman ruins. Continuing we reach St. Maria am Gestade. Originally the church sat on the rivers edge and was frequented by fishermen. The gothic cathedral stretches itself towards the heavens and the carvings seem to climb as if to beat it there. Inside it is more light that you would expect adn the gilded frescoes add to the spectacle. The front is filled with light pouring in from the large stained glass windows. We will stay in here a moment more, to take in all the sights and feels. Leaving, we retrace our steps slightly so that we can got to Judenplatz, the old Jewish quarter. It is here Vienna has errected its holocaust memorial, a depiction of a house of books, symbolizing the drive for knowledge. back through Hoermarkt and down another tiny street, this time to Schoenlanterngasse, or beautiful lantern street. The colorful baroque houses look like something from a fairytale, especially with a story such as the one accompanying the basilisk house. It is here where there was a well with a basilisk living in it, poisoning the people. The basilisk was only able to be destoryed when a man climbed down with a mirror. As the beast gazed at itself in the mirror, it turned itself to stone. (You know, that´s a pretty good story...if I was a writer I´d try to incorporate that into a book....maybe with some kid in a wizarding school or something...hmmmmmmm). Twisting and turning through the streets we go back to the Hofburg Palace, this time crossing it and entering Neuberg, the newest part of the complex. We head through Maria Theresa Platz stopping shortly to get one last look at the Empress sitting between the oldest museums. Passing through the museum quartier we head up Mariahilferstrasse, its shops all closed for the day. The passersby continue to look in windows, content with merely walking and enjoying their stroll. And we are back again at the subway which is where I will leave you, enjoying the sights and sounds of a city which firmly stradle the line between the ancient and modern.

Favorite Parts of the trip:
Best Country: Austria
Best City: Salzburg
Best Museum: Belvedere, Vienna
Best Castle: Neuhwenstein, Germany
Best Palace: Schonbrunn, Vienna
Best Cathedral: This is kinda cheating but I made the list: The Spanish Synagogue, Prague
Best Traveling companion: Jon (brownie points for me!)
Best Food: Weiner Snitzel
Most Exotic Experience: Bratislava
Best Cafe: Cologne
Best Shopping: Prague!
Bravest Experience: Marion Bridge
Best Part of Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia
Best Part of Paris: Climbing to the top of the Eiffle tower
Best Part of Amsterdam: Anne Frank Museum
Best Part of Cologne: Cathedral, cafe at the base
Best Part of Vienna: EVERYTHING! But I really love Schonbrunn!
Best Part of Salzburg: Festung Hohensalzburg
Best Part of Bratislava: The well to forever
best part of Prague: The Jewish quarter
Best part of Munich: Surfer´s wave
Nicest People: Austrians!!!!!


Okay that´s it for me!!!! See you in the US!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

List

I realized last now there are 2 very important things I left off my list of things I miss:
1) Clean feet. Somehow, no matter how hard you scrub the dirt just won´t come off.....it doesn´t make sense but its true. My feet are disgusting looking. Now I´m not one of those people who believe feet are attractive in general and mine are no more or less so than others, but this is REdiculous. I fear I shall never be able to wear sandals again. I keep promising my tootsies a pedicure when they get home, but they seem determined to blister, peel, scab, and coat themselves in every surface I walk on. I have a sinking feeling they´re getting even with me for years of mistreatment.
2)My ring. I really don´t think this needs explanation, but thanks to Jenna for reminding me.

And on another note, I think there is a mass conspiracy who hordes important information away so that people traveling will get the full experience. I´m so over that! And in that vein I have compiled 2 useful lists for the traveler.
Things no one tells you about Europe
1)You have to pay to use the toilets....and the costs vary. With that in mind don´t go charging in and paying whatever they ask, if you´re able to shop around you may get a better deal. Most of the time the ones in train stations cost the most, but if you wait till you get on the train its free! Now I heard a rumor you´re not supposed to go when the train is not moving becuase it ends up on the tracks, but if they don´t want me to go on the tracks than maybe they shouldn´t charge for the bathroom (and guys, its cheaper to use the urinals than the stalls).
2)In Europe, no one drinks tap water....of course not! Not when they can charge you $3 for a glass of bottled water. And is there anything wrong with the tap water? No, Europe (and especially Austria) has some of the best filtration systems in the world.
3) Europeans must be the most dehydrated people in the world. (See above). Drinks here (other than beer and wine) are about 4 times smaller than in the US, twice as expensive and non refillable. A small glass of coke is $4, a small glass of juice is $6. And the only people who carry bottles of soda or water with them are the tourists....where are the rest of the people drinking? Is there some secret place they go and fill up when no one´s looking?
4) Pizza is a universal food. The Italians may claim credit, but you can find it ANYWHERE and quite often. There is a pizza stand about every 2 stores so anyone who complains about European food is a liar...they could always eat Pizza. I thought only Americans were crazy about the stuff....boy was I wrong.
5) One of the books I read said Europeans don´t eat corn, its considered food for livestock...The book lied. There is corn on almost every piece of pizza in this country.
6) The national food of Austria is ice cream. No joke, I´ve never seen so much ice cream consumed in my life. Remember how I told you how prevelant pizza is? Well ice cream dominates. And they eat it 24 hours a day, rain or shine, cold or hot (the weather not the ice cream- that´s always cold).
7) Ice coffee is coffee with ice cream in it. Actually this was a rather pleasant discovery.
8) While it may be okay to bring flip flops on your trip, I would highly advise against the $3 target ones..........
9) with the previous in mind I should note that any shoes you bring will pretty much not last the trip....especially if you only have 2 pairs and do a lot of walking....which you will. Except sneakers....sneakers will last you but they´re not real classy if you´re going for the European look.
10) Washing machines are waaaaaaaaaayyyy smaller here.
11) Drying machines are for really rich people. When you dry your clothes by hanging or laying it out they get real....crispy. Not sure why, but it seems to be a common problem.
12) I think kuchel wache is fabric softener, not detergent....not entirely sure though....
13) No matter how cute and summery you want to look DO NOT BRING WHITE CLOTHING. It´s white for about 30 minutes and then its various shades of yellow or brown that do not seem to go away....but this could be due to #12
14) The weather here is either unbearably hot or raining. No in between.
15) Stores close Saturdays at 5 and do not open till Monday morning...REALLY wish someone would have told me that one.
16) I don´t know why people talk about nude beaches...everywhere here is clothing optional...fountains, parks, gardens, rivers, pools............and "changing room" is an unknown concept.
17) Even with a railpass you often have to make a reservation for a train (this would have been nice to know before waiting 4 hours in a Paris train station)
18) Alcohol is way stronger here.
19) air conditioning is a foreign concept

Things no one should have to tell you
1) Taxis are the most expensive form of travel, so if you´re going to take them don´t bitch about the price....there is public transportation avaiable everywhere.
2) If you know you´re going to be walking, wear comfortable shoes.
3) A castle is not a palace don´t try to compare them.
4) If you drink beer and then go bike riding I hardly think the bike company incurs liability when you do something as stupid as crash into a wall.
5) All the prices are in Euros, not US dollars
6) There is a pretty good chance the menus are not going to be in English
7) Europe has expensive food, but they have cheap food too...where do you think the Europeans eat?
8) more people speak english than you think......so maybe you shouldn´t talk about them right beside them.
9) When someone doesn´t speak english saying it louder doesn´t usually rectify the problem.
10) There´s a pretty good chance the chinese food in france isn´t going to live up to your expectations...that being said, any non national food (other than pizza) probably isn´t going to be as good as a national food.
11) Europe is full of museums and churches........
12) When you get into a smoking car on a train, there will probably be some people smoking.....and they´re allowed to...
13) Most people in Europe travel by train....its fast, easy, and convienient. If you don´t like trains, this is something to consider.
14) All train stations have lockers where you can leave your bags, so leave them there instead of carrying them around.

I may add to this later, but that´s it for now.

Friday, July 29, 2005

"It´s not fair that just becuase you´re lucky enough to be a quadraplegic you are allowed to take your own life"

Not much to say today. I took the opportunity to walk around the ring, which surrounds the inner city. Maybe not the best idea becuase it is 35 degrees here right now (That´s Celcius and I have no idea what that translates into in Farenheit but I think its somethink like 900 degrees - bonus points for anyone who can do the conversion for me). Anyway long sotry short - its hot here. It´s so hot (god this sounds like a set up for a joke) that people are rushing into buildings and standing in the foyers, just to cool down. Whole families. It´s pretty funny looking. All the trams and buses and subways are not airconditioned so I overheard one girl saying it felt like she was entering a clothes dryer (like what you dry clothes in). So basically I made it a garden sitting day. The gardens are probably what I will miss most about Vienna....okay maybe not, but it works with the entry for today so I´m taking creative license. The gardens are beautiful and a great place to sit and read or catch up on your journal entries. Turns out I was way behind on those so I´m glad I´ve been blogging. I said goodbye to Jocelyn and Beth today which felt soooo good after I left them. Not that I´ve been spending much time with them lately, but its getting so that every minute is aggrivating. Today Beth tried to tell me that almost no one in the US has visited NY and the entire state of Colorado has never been there..........then she tried to tell me that I only know people from California...........Umm I think this girl may live in her own private world. I never realized how picky I am with my friends so if you´re one of them you must be an amazing person and you should give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to an ice cream sundae cause I have determined I have strong dislike for most people. So that´s pretty much my day...nothing too exciting, but I feel as though I have definitely taken advantage of most things Vienna has to offer and now I´m just playing catch up with things I want to do before I leave. Tomorrow should be super exciting becuase I have shopping and packing on my list of things to do.

Me and my friend Mo

Yay last day of class!!!!! And I couldn´t be happier. And we ended on such a pleasant nite - assisted suicide and Euthanasia. So I decided what a way to wrap things up than with another trip to a cemetary. Let me explain a little further. The entire country of Austria is absolutely obsessed with Mozart and I have been following his shadow around the coutry so of course I couldn´t leave without visiting his grave. A brief bio for anyone who has failed to see the movie Amadeaus, and really if you have you should be ashamed of yourself because as I recall it was a very good movie.

Mo was born in Salzburg (ding ding ding point 1 of our tour) at a house which is now located on the main shopping street. His father was a musician who raised both of his children to be prodigies (there is a rumor that Mo´s sister was actually far better than him, but we all know the plight of an older sister).

Now we flash foward to Mo´s famous concert for the Hapsburgs at 6 years of age. We are in Vienna at Schonbrunn Palace (and if that doesn´t sound familiar shame on you becuase it has been mentioned twice before!). Here Mo played for the Empress and afterwards ran up and hugged her. So we now know he was either adorable or a complete brat.

A darling of the court Mo spent his time between traveling and living in another house in Salzburg on the other side of the river from where he was born. But sadly despite his status, Mo was a bit of a spendthrift and rarely had a penny to his name. And fame was beginning to take his toll. He renounced his citizenship and moved to Prague where he wrote Don Giovanni and dedicated it to the Czech people.

Perhaps thinking better of this decision (or missing his fame). Mo returned to Vienna. It was here he died penniless and was thrown into a paupers grave somewhere in St. Marx cemetary. After his death when he became real famous Austria kinda felt bad that they had mistreated him and decided to make him thier favorite son. Too little too late if you ask me. There are Mozart museums everywhere and you can´t turn a corner in Salzburg without seeing Mozart chocolate and Liquer. There is a monument erected in Zentral Friedhof with the rest of the composers even though Mo himself is located in a different cemetary. And the St. Marx is not nearly as nice. You can tell that´s where they stuck the poor becuase there are no elaborate masoleums or statues. Just headstones. Vienna created a nice monument and placed in approximately where someone thought maybe Mo might be buried, but since pauper´s graves are unmarked, no one´s really sure where he is. The monument stands in a kinda empty part of the graveyard which I think is creepy because you know it´s not really empty, there just aren´t headstones just lots of bodies beneath your feet and you don´t know where not to walk becuase they´re unmarked- ooooooooooo. But I made the trek and it was kind of like saying goodbye to my European trip. A nice ending.

After I went to the Nachsmarkt which is this huge farmers market that seems to go on forever. Half is all farmer´s markets and the other half is cafes. They do love their cafes here. Which is only ironic in that Starbucks seems pretty popular here too. Who´d have guessed?

Things I miss about the US:
Boba
Movie Theater popcorn
Free Refills on drinks (you know how we always make fun of Jon for getting those giant size drinks everywhere and then carrying it around with him? Turns out the boy is a genius. When I get home that´s me....everywhere. People are going to think I´m one of those crazy people who are afraid the world will end but the jokes on them - at least I can drink to my hearts content) (And if somebody loves me maybe they will bring me a giant drink when they pick me up from the airport)
Target
Washing Machines
Clothes I haven´t been wearing for 5 weeks
Friends
Family
Airconditioning
My cell phone - okay so I know I have it, but I really am being very good about not using it and I really miss talking to people. It´s so hard not calling everyone I know every time I get bored.
Radio/CD player (maybe I should just say music)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"The guy was so scary I almost crawled into bed with Jerry"

Well I had my first and probably last European haircut. I´ll divide it into 2 parts, the good and the bad.....
Good: My hair looks good
I have no more split ends
2 words: Scalp Massage
free coffee and water!!!! (Free water is the biggest thing- you can´t get free water anywhere, or if you can it´s supppper tiny adn warm - more on that later)
Costs the same as back home

Bad: She really didn´t want to go as short as I wanted to go, so most of you will be unable to tell I got a hair cut at all, which is fine for those of you who like my long hair - it´s still long. But really...what´s the point of getting a hair cut if you have to tell someone you got a hair cut.
Costs the same as back home
Had to go with Beth. Okay this is kinda funny and totally mean but I swear the guy took half an inch of hair off and then blew it dry so the ends flipped out instead of under and Beth F-L-I-P-P-E-D because 1) It was sooooooooooo short and 2) She would never be able to make it look that way herself and 3) She´s never spent more than $15 on a haircut before.........

After the haircut we met up with Jerry and Professor funtime and went to the Narrenturm. (Narren= crazy Turm= Tower). It was the first mental hospital in Europe built by Emperor Fraz Joseph in the 17/1800s. It´s completely circular and windows were only added during one especially cold winter becuase the cold air would be good for the crazy people. Honestly, if I was only a little crazy when I went in (Like now) I would be super crazy after staying there a short while. Now the tower is filled with research labs I think..... definitely not crazy people (well no one certifiable though the staff is a little gung ho about their jobs) and one of the floors has been turned into a kind of Ripley´s believe it or not of medical oddities. There´s a whole room of lungs in bottles- so now I have seen first hand what TB looks like and how they used to fill the cavities in the lung with wax - yummy. There are giants bones, and siamese twin skeletons and a portrait of a man with 2 penises who went around charging people to look (and after all if you had 2 penises wouldn´t you want to show everyone?). They even had the skin of a girl with fish skin disease which is where your skin gets so hard that instead of flaking off it cracks giving you slices all over your body like gills. Gross. Basically I got to see all these problems I can only hope my children will never have so i won´t have to trade them in.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"Kill me, I paid $1200 for this." - Jerry

Today in class we were put into groups so we could perform a skit about what happens when you go to the doctor in different countries. I guess this is the "comparative health law" I signed up for. Except it definitly turned into "who could spend the shortest time on the project and throw in a comment about kidneystones or herpes". Yeah....these Wake kids are kinda.....immature. Not that doing a skit really upped your maturity level any. We´re not in 4th grade!!! At least everyone was there today which was a major change. After class I grabbed lunch with Brian and Karen and then Karen took me to where she got her hair cut so I could make an appointment for a real live European haircut! Details tomorrow.

Then I went to Zentral Friedhof (Central Cemetary). I visited the graves of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss...exciting. The place is HUGE. I don´t think I´ve ever seen that many graves in my life. And its gorgeous! Trees, flowers, and instead of headstones, most graves have statuary (I spent a long time on spelling on that and it still looks wrong...I mean there were statutes instead of headstones)which is incredible. It didn´t feel creepy at all. More like a park. Honestly I wouldn´t mind living next to a beautiful place like that...except I am superstitous, and that would put me right near where the vampires rise.....so maybe I should draw the line at daytime visits. Visiting the cemetary gave me an idea though. I think people who are contemplating suicide should visit cemetaries. It really makes you appriciate life. Becuase as beautiful as they are they´re awful lonely and since I think most people who are suicidal feel alone in the world anyway they would see its not much better when your dead. And its definitely an end to your problems, but its an end to everything and when you see these rows and rows of graves it forces you to see that its really just an ending place. It´s nice to pass through, but you wouldn´t want to stay forever. Sorry about the rambling, but I was alone thinking a lot today.

After the cemetary I went to a little inn and had the famous tafelspitz for dinner. It´s boiled beef served with potatoes and what I can only guess is applesauce with horseradish mixed in (I put it on the beef cause I think that´s what you´re supposed to do). So I think I have now officially had every Vienese specialty. My favorite is Weiner Schnitzel, but honestly I´m sure there is nothing worse for your arteries/waistline/cholestoral than fried pork so I don´t think it will become a regular staple in the household.

The rest of the night was spent catching up on reading and taking notes (I know - BIG TIME NERD) so I can turn my book in tomorrow. Yup no test till September and I turn my book in tomorrow....smart prof. At least it will be an early bedtime for me!

Monday, July 25, 2005

"Who is Karl Splatz anyway?"

WARNING: THIS SECTION IS MEAN AND CATTY; IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY SUCH THINGS SKIP AHEAD.
You may have noticed I have been spending a lot of time with this Beth character. I believe it is time for an update of what we know about Beth. Beth hates: walking, swimming, anything active, museums, buffets, Chinese food, European food, castles, history, tours, trains, private compartments in trains, traveling, peppers, mayonaise, any music that isn´t country, art, theater, opera, ... I´m sure I´ll think of more later. Honestly, this girl is getting on my last nerve! She nonstop complains about everything is generally so negative you want to push her in the Danube...with weights on her feet. I´m not quite sure why she came to Europe...but its not the place for her.
EVERYONE CAN READ NOW
So I went off by myself yesterday which was a million times nicer and from now on THE way to go. I went to the KunstHalle Wien which was super cool because one of the exhibits was Theater of the Impossible with a whole room dedicated to Tadieuz Kantor! While this may not be exciting to you, some of us had to study this guy in class and it was cool seeing the things I studied and knowing that this must me a real respected guy and not some loony. There were all these exhibitions made by artists in Vienna so it was neat to see how the contemporary artist views his home. Then I went for a walk to Sigmund Freud´s apartment. It was neat...but tiny!!!! I guess people were smaller back then.....50 years ago...... I went back to my room to do reading and got a surprise visit from Jocelyn who invited me to another heuringer with them. SO we went....in the rain...and it was really a small local place, we were the only Americans there. And we sat drinking our wine while an accordian and guitar player serendaded us in the arbor. Not a bad day at all.

Munich

So let me divide this entry into three parts becuase I did three radically different things while in Munich. We begin with:

MUNICH
Munich is the heart of Bavarian Germany. Basically this means they are located in the south of Germany near the Bavarian Alps. Munich itself is famous for a number of reasons, their favorite being beer. Munich is where Oktoberfest began and to this day they pride themselves on their beer halls and beer gardens (there is one or the other located every 2 feet). Munich is also known as one of Hitler´s favorite places to meet and greet and there is much third reich history here. Upon arrival in Munich we headed out to see the town. Basically downtown Munich is just filled with shops and pedestrians. The buildings are old-ish but don´t look that way because they are filled with stores. We walked down to the Hauf Brau House which is the most famous beerhall in Munich. I think the beer is stronger here. We went back to the hostel and on the way Gary and Jerry decided they should run through a fountain. Then they hugged all of us dry people till we were all cold and wet. The next day Beth wanted to see the glockenspiel, Jocelyn wanted to eat and do a bike tour, and everything got crazy. Remember that shopping street I mentioned before? Well now it was jam packed with people and we were rushing through them to get to the clock before it started glockenspieling in 5 minutes. I think that started the trouble. That and apparently it doesn´t go every hour so it was all in vain. Since we only had an hour till the bike tour, I thought we should grab lunch, but Jocelyn wanted a sit down lunch so I grabbed a table at a cafe. Well the boys weren´t happy with the menu and Beth kept insisting we couldn´t eat in a hour and so I asked Jocelyn what she wanted to do since this was what she wanted and she started crying. That´s when I knew I was not going on the bike tour...I needed to get away from these crazies!!!! We ended up getting sausages at a stand...or rather they got sausages while I ran around looking for a table and holding it for them (really are thy children??? can´t they do things for themselves or be happy when someone takes care of it for them?). Then we split up and I was better and I got to enjoy Munich by myself. First I headed to the victualmarkt which is a farmers market - I do love farmers markets. Then I walked up these side streets passing churches and monuments till I came to a square. I wasn´t real sure what some of the buildings were, but I went into the theatkirche which is this gorgeous baroque church with all this carving inside. Most churches have stone carving, but in this, it was all white, so maybe marble? And it gave the whole church a real light feeling. Then I walked through the Burggarten and saw some more amaying buildings which I took pictures of even though I still don´t know what they were. Then it was off to the Englischer Garten which is like 1000 acres! Crazy. I started at the surfers bridge which was the neatest thing ever. There are surfers lined up with their boards on either side of the river taking turns riding back and forth on this continual wave under the bridge. Unbelievable. I walked through the gardens and saw a nude man running in the nude bathing portion of the garden...and it was not warm out! Then I went to the Chinese Tower which is the largest beer garden in the world. Since it was the middle of the day and I´m not an alcoholic (contrary to what you may have heard) I didn´t stick around there for long enough to find out if it lived up to its reputation. Then I met up with Gary who had decided not to take the bike tour either and we walked along the beautiful aqua river to where the Oktober fest is held. Right now its this empty field with skeletons of structures which will be beer halls come September. Guess what. Gary loves Great Hotels as much as I do and watched all the Passport to Europe series!!!! We met back up with group and there was more drama, Beth had crashed her bike into a cement wall and had a bruise and scratch on her leg. She wanted to go to the hospital......the girl wasn´t even bleeding. Instead we got her ice and headed to dinner at another beer hall. It was great being able to see everything, but after being in all the cities I had been in, I felt like Munich was no great shakes. It had pretty gardens and old buildings, but most cities here have that. The thing that sets Munich apart is the beer, which is really not a reason to go to place.

DACHAU
While in Munich we took a trip to Dachau, Hitler´s first concentration camp, about 15 minutes from Munich. I was getting nervous on the way there of how I would react. I did okay there. The place is like a big barren piece of land which helped in reaction. It´s so out there, in the middle of a forest and if it wasn´t for the autrocities commited there you may think "oh, what a nice place for a camp". You walk through this gate which reads "Work will set you free" which is creepy, but not as creepy as the picture of what the roof used to say "Freedom is earned through honesty, purity, piety, hard work, cleanliness, sobriety, and love for your father land." The references to freedom seem a cruel joke to those who were there.
There is a documentary in the old admissions building where people were checked in, stripped of their belongings and humanity, and given ill fitting clothes. That was almost the hardest part of the visit. Behind this building is the barracks, or prison cells where torture and punishment were carried out. The execution wall still stands. This is also where the daily pole hangings took place as men were hung from their arms tied behind their backs for an hour. In front of the administation building is the roll call area which is just this huge empty area where the entire camp was lined up morning and night. Behind this, separated by a poplar lined lane is where the bunks were. No bunks remain standing, but there are cement foundations stretching back where each stood. 2 bunks were recreated in the front and you can walk through and see how the bunks changed over time becoming less like beds and more like flat pieces of wood where bodies were pressed together in the overcrowded area. The 3rd bunk is where medical experiments were carried out. Across from it was the infirmary which grew larger and larger throughout the period. In the last bunkers were kept the most undesirables, and this is where the Jews were. Behind where all these bunkers stood were memorials and as I entered the Jewish memorial, there was a group reading in hebrew. Then they began singing the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah (the hope) It was moving. The last stop on the tour was the creamatoriums. This was the hardest. Seeing the ovens where thousands of bodies were burned gives you a sick feeling in your stomach and even though they were never used, I couldn´t go through the gas chamber.

FUSSEN
The last day in Munich Gary and I woke up early and headed to Fussen. Fuss is German for foot and we were on the train for 2 hours heading to the foot of the Alps. We were going to a magnificent castle built by King Ludwig II in 1869. It´s where Disney got the idea for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. And it was worth it. The train was packed with the entire continent of East Asia. Honestly, there could not have been a soul left in Seoul! Gary and I decided they must teach about this castle in school there or something. The town itself is quaint and romantic, I loved it. We took a bus from the station to the castle area and then another bus up to the castle.....up the side of the mountain to the castle. You pass through forests, and lakes and it must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. The bus dropped us off and we hiked to the Marian bridge which sounds great "breathtaking views of the castle from a bridge over a gorge and waterfall" They fail to tell you the bridge is this tiny little thing made of wooded boards over a 90,000 foot drop into the gorge. (that may be an exaggeration, but you are WAY high up with no support and no safety net). They also fail to tell you that there will be about 300 people on the bridge at one time jostling for a good view in the narrow space and that if any one walks, all the boards move on the bridge and if you look down you can see between the boards. One of the scariest things I´ve ever done. And we got confused as to which way to go and had to cross over it twice. After that we hiked to the castle which is gorgeous. Really, no words can describe, but I took lots of pictures. We went on a tour of the inside which was just magnificent. Ludwig was mad about Wagner so every room is covered in wall paintings depecting one of Wagner´s operas. And the wood carving everywhere!!!!! Ludwig died mysteriously (went missing for a few days and then turned up dead in a lake) so the castle was never finished. (The inside at least) but the few rooms that were done which we saw were crazy beautiful. It was so worth missing the 3:30 train back to Vienna. As it was we were running around trying to catch the bus down the mountain so we could catch the bus to the train station so we could catch the 3:00 bus to Munich so we could catch the 5:20 bus to Vienna. We made it. Whew!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yesterday we went and met with the Vienna bar association and went to a Vienna law firm. Basically we moved from one board room to the next. I guess "tours" mean something different in Austria. Not much was really learned except that a medium size law firm in Vienna means 4-5 lawyers and there is no lawyer under 30 becuase after getting their degree they must intern/work for 10 years before they can take the bar. Crazy. I guess I´m lucky!!!!!

I also learned that red bull is an Austrian corporation. Who´d have guessed???

I basically just walked around the city again today, although I didn´t have as much time as I would have liked becuase we had so much reading and yes, (pat on the back appropriate) I read it (well most of it). Met up for my second piece of Sacher Torte on this trip (which really means bites 5-8 becuase the thing is so rich). The Hotel Sacher for sure has the best torte. It´s a chocolate cake with choclate frosting and apricot jam between the layers. Yummy. I´ll bring some home.

Went to a bar last night which was fun, but it was in the GHE-TO. Across from a gay erotic shop. yummy. Anyway I called it an early night becuase today we are off to Salzburg and then Munich. Should be fun, it´s my first and last group outing. I´ll let you know how it goes on Monday. Till then!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fairy tales

So yesterday we went to the Hospital for a tour. Actually it wasn´t so much a tour as sitting in a room and talking with an Austrian doctor, which was still pertty interesting but I think most of us would have liked to see a bed or something. Especially since in Austria the only reason people have private insurance is to upgrade their hospital rooms. In Austria (and most of Europe) healthcare is free (kinda). It is mandated by the state and everyone pays into sickness funds through their employment so whenever anything si wrong they´re covered. Yesterday we learned that this means doctors make only $3000 a month (that´s $36,000 a year). This also means Doctors tend to overexamine patients becuase they are required to do everything in thier power to make patients better. (so they x-ray and do blood tests on almost everyone who comes into the hospital). Many of the doctors work 40 hour weeks at the hospital and then have private practices to supplement their income so they can survive. That´s a lot of hours of work! And the Austrian system covers EVERYTHING, from sniffles, to prescriptions, to transplants. It even covers abortions and in vitro fertilization!

After the hospital we went to the Kunsthistoriche Museum which houses the royal family´s collection of ....stuff. They have more mummies and ancient Egyptian artifacts than I have ever seen before!!!! I don´t exactly understand why Austria has all this Egyptian stuff, but who am I to question. The museum also housed a great art museum with German, Italian, Flemish, and French artists.

We rounded the evening off by attending Rodger´s and Hammerstein´s Cinderella at the Rathouse. (Rathouse means city hall). They set up a huge screen and we sat and enjoyed the movie under the stars. It was the Julie Andrew´s version and it was in English!!!!! I miss English! It was a great way to end the day!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Prague

Prague was amazing. It is exactly what you think Europe looks like before you go to Europe. In reality Europe looks like New York, Chicago, or Montana (depending on where you are). Prague however looks as though someone put a cap over it in the 1500s and said "oh no, you´re not going anywhere." The city is divided into parts, old town, new town, lesser town. In the center of old town is the town square, complete with working glockenspiel (that´s clocktower for the uninitiated). The roofs of the buildings surround the square soar skyward with towers and horse drawn carriages cross back and forth across the cobble stones. It´s here that I met up with Beth and Jocelyn from the program and Jocelyn´s friend Becky. The girls took me on a tour of town beginning in the old town. We walked down "Paris Street" which is where all the designer stores are and the Czech celebrities live. Then we crossed over the People´s bridge into the lesser town. We walked along the river and had a view of the castle which the girls informed me was disappointing since the castle merely consists of a wall surrounding a cathedral. Still neither Paris nor Barcelona has a castle dating from the 1500s overlooking the town...it´s VERY European. I mean America has no castles except the one Hearst built and really if royalty doesn´t live there can it really be called a castle? After dinner we crossed back over on the Charles Bridge which is the most famous bridge in Prague. It´s lined with statues and artists. There was even a Bohemian Band playing on the bridge arch (I don´t know the real word for that thing). I had reserved tickets to see Don Giovanni (an opera written by Mozart in Prague for the Czech since he had renounced his citizenship and decided to become Czech) performed by marionettes (Prague has the oldest marionette theatre in the world). But when I went to pick up my tickets, the box office I had ordered from was closed so I didn´t get to see that which was a little disappointing. Instead I went to the girls hotel and we all got ready to go out. We went to a bar first and met Batman. Okay so he probably wasn´t really Batman, but he was in the batsuit. He was the Welsch guy who´s getting married in 2 weeks and him and all his friends were in Prague for his stag party. After we went to this 5 story dance club which was fun but hoootttt and there were all these weird people there. There was a group of teenage guys who were dancing with each other topless on a platform. There was this other guy who couldn´t seem to keep his pants on to save his life - every time we turned around he was in his briefs, and he kept pulling those down too.

The next morning I was on my own so I went to the Jewish quarter. It was amazing!!!! There are these synagogues that date from the 1500s and they´ve turned 5 of them into the Jewish museum which tells the history of the Jews in Bohemia. It was so meaningful to me to be in these buildings because I´d been going in and out of cathedrals this entire trip and had never been in a European Synagogue. My favorite was the Spanish Synagogue which was domed and covered in tile mosaic. There was another that was dedicated to all the Jews in Bohemia who were deported to concentration camps and the synagogue walls were just covered in names from ceiling to floor. Except one room which was dedicated to the art work of the children who had died in the Terezin camp. There was even a Jewish cemetary dating back to the 1400s. It wasn´t a beautiful as the Salzburg cemetary, but it had a lot more significance to me. I spent the rest of the day picking up gifts for people(Crystal and Amber are the big things here and everything was soooo gorgeous). I met up with Becky at the clock tower and was able to witness something VERY special. A window fell out of the tower! Metal and glass and everything. We don´t know what happened, but its sure to be a story for tour guides. We went to the Natural History Museum of Prague and learned all about Taiwan...... I´m an expert. We thought it was going to be the history of Prague, and I guess it was in a way....but it was like a small creepy version of the Smithsonian. They had skeletons that were curled up in boxes with dirt all over the place and rocks and minerals and stuffed animals which I guess is the history of Prague....but not really the history we were looking for. Overall it was wonderful there. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to get back.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bratislava

Okay, so its been a while since I´ve written, but I´ve been out late and up early, have developed some common ailment (not a sinus infection, but something green and icky) and honestly, most of the stuff I have done I´ve already done and have been experiencing again with Jon. Here´s the new stuff:

Monday Jon and I went to the Haus der Music which is a very hands on museum in Vienna which lets you experience how sound is formed and transmitted. It also has rooms dedicated to every composer that ever lived in Vienna which is almost all of them.

On Tuesday my class took a field trip to the Supreme Court where we met a supreme court justice and the president of the Supreme Court. Super neat-o. Jon hit it off with the Supreme Court Justice and the two exchanged business cards. Now I have a get-out-of-jail-free card in Austria.

Tuesday Jon and I went to the Kunsthaus and Hundertwasserhaus. Both were designed by the artist Hundertwasser. Basically he´s this hippy who liked to play with shapes and colors resulting in a combination of Picasso and Gaudi. His houses are all crazy shapes and colors with grass growing on the roof.

Tuesday we also went to the Prater. As you may know from watching the Third Man (I think basically I´ll see anything with Orson Wells in it) the Prater is a giant amusement park (Jon thinks its the best he´s ever been to). We ate dinner at this place where we split basically the entire rear section of a pig. Not to worry, I took pictures. The Prater is also doing this thing this summer where they show amusement park themed movies outside under the ferris wheel so we saw "Carnival of Souls" (Dad, you´ll love it). I felt like I was in Mystery Science Theater 3000 when I wasn´t hiding my head in Jon´s arm.

Wednesday my entire class took a field trip to Bratislava. Daniella´s mom met us at the train station and gave us postcards and information and then Daniella conducted a tour (or at least tried...appparently you have to have a special tour guide badge to conduct a tour and some woman with a badge told Daniella she was going to call the cops on us.) Bratislava was amazing! I´ve never been to Eastern Europe and it was totally different than I´d imagined. There was definitely the communist side with the mass produced housing, but the center of the town was so middle ages! The cobblestone narrow streets and the crumbling buildings with a castle overlooking the river. I could imagine the peasants gathering during market days as though it were happening in the present. It was much more village-y than Western Europe. And this is the capital city!

Thursday Jon and I went swimming in the Danube. Well Jon went swimming in the Danube, I slept on the shore. (Jon would like me to point out that we also ate the biggest weiner schnitzel ever). Then we went to the Museum of Modern Art which was free (every student´s dream) because there was a new exhibit opening. The new exhibit was great but the rest of the museum was not so great. Apparently modern art in Austria includes bondage, self mutilation, and taking pictures of people with food/intestines all over them.

Today was Schonbrunn again, and since you´ve already read all abut it we can skip over that, except it has the best zoo in the world!!!! Tomorrow is Prague, look for an update Monday!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Salzburg

Jon and I just returned from Salzburg and it has earned its place as my favorite city IN THE WORLD! There was nothing about it I didn´t like. First of all, I have to tell most of you how much I love the Austrian people! They are the nicest people and so helpful and they have a great sense of humor. So basically I feel like that gives Salzburg a leg up because it is filled with Austrians (and tourists).

Jon and I began our Salzburg tour with the requisite cathedral visit. If you haven´t figured it out by now, every city in Europe has an amazing cathedral that must be visited. So we did. Maybe I should begin by describing Salzburg a little because many of you have never seen it. It sits on either bank of the river Salzach and lies beside the Alps. In fact, Salzburg is surrounded by wooded hills and forests. Jon says it is greener than Ireland. Its a city in a stretch of the word because you honestly feel as though you are back in a medieval village as you walk on narrow cobblestone streets in the pedestrian only left side of the river. This is also where all the stores, cathedrals and the castle is. The city itself is dedicated to its favorite son, Mozart who was born here. Everything is Mozart crazy. Apparently he was big on the chocolate/t-shirt/alcohol bandwagon.

Okay back to our tour. So after the cathedral Jon and I went to St. Peter´s cemetary. (I know most of you think I am probably on a death tour of Europe, but its just not true! Europe just happens to be filled with dead people and its quite difficult to avoid them) This cemetary is the most beautiful I have ever seen and I definitely want to be buried here. Hopefully there will be a plot available by the time I die (I know for sure there is one that would fit me, but I don´t quite know how to reserve it.) Otherwise I´m trying to figure out how to get in good with the families who have family plots. Every grave is a garden with potted flowers growing out of it. Something about life growing out of death strikes me as incredibly symbolic and I can think of no better way to spend eternity. We then went into the catacombs (no dead bodies) which is a medieval church built into the side of a cliff. It´s all rock so it would be like attending services in a cave which is kinda spooky but probably did wonders for the superstitous peasants!

After the catacombs came my absolute favorite - Hohensalzburg fortress. The largest remaining castle in Central Europe. Parts of the castle date from the 800s and others were updated in the 1100s and 1600s. The castle itself was built on Roman ruins. It was incredible to wander through the rooms which protected the town and imagine the days when knights protected the city from invaders. It´s incredibly well preserved and many artifacts remain. Aside from the amazing fact that you are standing in a medieval castle, there are spectacular views because the fortress was built on a mountain overlooking the town. We stayed there for hours!! Then we ate dinner at a restaurant up there which had the most incredible views. The couple behind us got engaged (we think, there were flowers, champagne, and he pulled out a ring..but they spoke in German and we don´t know if they have the same traditions as us sooooo we are almost positive they got engaged.) We also had Salzburg Nockerl, their famed dessert of egg whites and sugar. It was large enough to feed 8! It was really goood though, even though there was no way we could finish it. It tasted like a combination of egg whites and pancake.

Today we went to the Berchesgaden Salt Mines. We took a tour there crossing through Austria into Bavaria in Germany. We drove along this beautiful aqua green river until we reached the mines. Then we put on miner´s clothes (I felt like one of the seven dwarfs and tried to get the group into a rousing rendition of "hi ho hi ho", unsuccessfully). We rode a "train" deep into the mountain. Basically you stradle this bench mounted on a platform with wheels connected in a train. It was dark, cold, spooky, and very very neat. When you´re deep in the mine they take you into caverns as you learn about the mining process. Jon discovered that the walls were salt (he´s a smart boy) and began to rub his fingers against them and then lick his fingers (okay so maybe not so smart). To get deeper into the mines you slide down these wooden slides which is really scary because they´re so fast and the tour guide tells you right before he pushes you down "the worst thing you can do is break". To get to the last portion of the mine, you go across an underground lake on a raft. It was such a neat experience, and the best part was at the end they give you salt!! From the mine!!! (okay maybe that wasn´t the best part, but it was pretty cool). After we had lunch in the little Bavarian town of Berchesgaden before heading back to Salzburg. The weekend was incredible and Jon and I are already planning on returning!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Queen for a day

So today was my palace day. A-Maze-Ing. I know I´ve told most of you that I was born in the wrong era and really should have lived in the age where I could get married out of high school and stay home, cook, clean, and have someone take care of me? Well this is 10 times better! I should have been born when people lived in these fabulous "apartments" and had different ones for the summer and winter!

I started out at Hofburg Palace, their residence in Vienna. You begin with rooms of their silver/plates/table settings...the average "set" of plates centers around the number 96....96 plates, 120 soup bowls, etc. And they have about 20 sets for different occasions in gold, porcelin, cermaic, and silver. They have sets to travel, sets for wedding ceremonies, state dinners, etc. etc. I have 8 plates, 8 bowls, and numerous glasses - I guess I need to stock up. After that you attend the "Sisi" museum. Sisi is the nickname of the Empress Elisabeth and is highly romanticized and idolized here. Frankly, if I were Empress, I think I would not be called "Sisi"...sounds too much like a 4 year old. Anyway, she married her cousin who was emperor and deeply in love with her, had 4 children - 2 of whom died and then was murdered with a file while on one of her many reclusive trips abroad. They love her here. After seeing all her clothes, her workout room, her poetry, and clips from the 172 films about her you actually get to enter the apartments....amazing. Jon´s going to have to start making a lot more money to keep me in the style I would like to become accostomed to.

After my trip there it was time to head to Shonbrun, their "summer palace" which is the vastest piece of land EVER! The rooms are covered in silk, porcelin, laquer, wood, each room is more fabulous than the next and it goes on forever! Then the gardens in the back....it´s large enough where you could probably live there without anyone ever finding you....which I am thinking about. There are pools and gardens and statuary. Mazes, greenhouses, and even a zoo. There´s a huge monument at the end of the garden called the Glorrietta. To get there you have to climb a huge hill past 2 ponds, but once you reach the top you can see all of Vienna. I could definitely get used to that. Basically what I´m saying is I expect to come home to something similar so Mom and Dad you better get working on that thing YOU call a backyard ;-)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Class and other pointless diversions

So many of you are probably wondering...isn´t Kate supposed to be in class over there in Europe? Does she go or is she merely visiting Cathedrals? Well the answer to your question is I am definitely taking class. Right now it is the one detriment to my trip because it gets in the way of my sight seeing. The class is made up mostly of Wake Forest students, the second most populous group in class is the Austrian law students (or to be more correct the European students studying in Austrian since only two of them are actually Austrian)and then a small minority of American students who do not go to Wake Forest (me and Jocelyn). I know all this because the professor does an excellent job of reminding us daily by calling on using these descriptions and dividing us up into these groups. Class is divided into 3 parts, this week we are learning all about European and Austrian law, next week is all about the EU, and then we get into healthcare law.
The reading for the first day was all European History which was great cause I love that crap. The first day of class we went to the Austrian military museum. Now that´s kinda a funny thing, cause Austria is real proud of her military history and she tended to lose a lot of wars....a lot...and apparently the history they teach us in the US was TOTALLY wrong! Did you know Austria had nothing to do with WWI? Apparently (according to the tour guide)Everyone picked a partner and ganged up on Austria! Poor Austria. They WANTED to join the Allies, but they were the last kid picked in a kickball tournament (which makes sense because their military losses makes them akin to the fat kid who picked his nose in class). So they HAD to join with Germany. Poor poor Austria. And in WWII they didn´t WANT to join with Germany, but no one would come help them. So they were FORCED to vote to join Hitler and send ALL their men and boys into the Nazi army to help fight. They were so happy the Americans came....Poor poor poor Austria. Some of you may remember I described the movie "Troy" as analogous to WWII from the German´s point of view? Well I guess I should have said Austrian.
Right now we are learning about the history of European law and the structure of Austrian law. Its REAL dry. They don´t have case law in Austria so we´re learning theory without application. And there is no common law so everything is based on statutes. BLEH.
Last night we had our first social fieldtrip. We went to a Heuriger, which is a Viennese vineyard. Vienna is famous for these places (kinda like Napa). It was gorgeous!!! And they serve you wine and have a total Austrian buffet (FYI, they don´t put apples in pig´s mouths here..but the do make sure the head is staring at you as they cut it...very Lord of the Flies). It was nice to get to know the Austrian students better because I already have gotten to know the Wake Forest Students...even the cliquey clique who has either decided they like me and Jocelyn or just really don´t like the other group. Whatever the reasoning I now know everyone from Wake Forest and like them all. After a couple carafes of wine (they mix it with mineral water here because its soooooo strong) the Austrian students took us to a dance club. It was so much fun - they played all American music! However, it did not allow for much time for either sleeping or reading. SO now I am off to class to face the consequences!!

Monday, July 04, 2005

You gotta have friends

So this entry is about the people I´ve met so far. I´m not going to start at the beginning, but I will note I seem to be a crazy-person magnet. That being said I have met some really nice people here.

Ruth: Ruth has lived on my floor for 6 years now. She apparently likes it here. I think she grew up in Italy, but she definitley has a german accent when she speaks. She speaks english very well and is just the nicest person. We´re going to be jogging buddies. She´s getting her phd in genetics. Her favorite drink is Campari and orange juice. I think of her as my Austrian guidebook.

Lydia: I think Lydia might be a little crazy (last night at 11 pm she decided she wanted to go rollerblading....) She´s from Bosnia and has 1 1/2 years left before she gets her degree in translation. She´s learning English and loves me because she can understand everything I say. She loves cartoons and Bollywood and her favorite drink is this think strawberry vodka. Both Lydia and Ruth are catty and fun...my favorite qualities in friends.

Kevin: Kevin is from Iowa and according to Ruth "met Linda, they became 'good friends' and he has been living here for 6 months". He´s not overly friendly and Lydia and Ruth can´t understand a word he says. I only met him once, but giving him the benefit of the doubt...he is NOT a morning person. That being said, he leaves this week.

Jocelyn: Jocelyn is also living in Haus Doebling, but not on my floor. She´s doing the Wake Forest Program with me and is the only other American who´s not from Wake Forest. She´s lived in North Carolina her entire life and attends law school at UNC (I didn´t even know they had a law school, but apparently its way higher ranked than mine - suspicious). She´s sweet and nice and its nice having someone to commute with. She also seems to have similar fears as I do as she almost called off her trip too (Maybe everyone goes through that "what the hell am I doing" train of thought). Her favorite drink is a gin and tonic.

Brian and Karen: So far they have to be combined. Kinda "close knit" like that. Jocelyn and I think there´s nothing between them but Karen wouldn´t mind if there was.....They are both Wake Forest Students.

Charissa: Probably the nicest Wake Forest student I have met so far. She´s kinda quiet but very sweet. Right away she included Jocelyn and I in her group.

Jerry: REEEALLY tall Wake Forest student. he has a great sense of humor and is a part of the aforementioned group which continues with the next entry.

Gary: Honestly, if Jack McFarland were raised in Tampa and then went to law school, that would be Gary. He lived in NY for 2 years teaching and his greatest regret is that he did not get to see "Nude boys Singing" off broadway because he didn´t want to be "that guy" sitting in the front row or "that guy" in the back row with binoculars. Disneyworld is his favorite place on earth adn he´s amayed when he travels at how much everything looks like Disney!

Ryan: Wake Forest Student from Northern CA who went to Tufts undergrad....and all that entails. He reminds me of Judd Nelson in the Breakfast club. According to the group above he went to Nice and then stayed there....they think maybe he was ditched. I guess he´s not the most popular fellow in the class, but he certainly has a lot to say.

Patrick and Tom: My apologies to both these guys, but I met them at the same time and I don´t remember which is which. They both moved onto my floor yesterday. One (I think Patrick) is a Canadian medical student interning at a hospital this summer and the other (Tom) is a Polish electrical engineering student......and that´s pretty much it for them cause they didn´t want to stay up and talk with us.

Beth: Wake Forest Student who had almost the same flight problems as me, but getting to Vienna. She got here a day later than she was supposed to. She seems very nice though and I know I´ll be getting to know her better on the trip now that she´s slept.

Brian: Apparently he had flight problems too, got in last night and his luggage has yet to arrive. Poor Brian, I know how he feels. He´s living in Doebling too, so Jocelyn adn I will commute with him.

Kristi: Part of the cliquey clique of Wake Forest students so I don´t know her real well, but she did introduce herself so I do know her name.

Laney: See above

Daniella: Finishing her 4th year of law school at the University of Vienna. She is a Slovakian Jew from Bratislava. Her English is perfect and she couldn´t be nicer. I think she likes us Americans because she hung out with us all day. Poor Daniella has never been to America though everyone in her family has.

There are a host of other Wake Forest Students who I haven´t met yet because they are part of the cliquey clique, but I know how those circles get, especially since they´re all living in a one room apartment, so when they all start hating each other, they´ll be tripping over themselves to get to know me...who wouldn´t right?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Vienna

Sunday mornings in Vienna are silent. Even the escalators seem to move more slowly as if they too were afraid to disturb the hush that falls over the city. And yet, as I wandered through narrow, medieval cobbled streets I turned the corner and found where the Viennese spend their Sundays. A town square opened up before me, filled with families, friends, neighbors, laughing and talking. Whether they had just finished church or were merely using the square as an excuse to meet, I do not know, but their laughter and conversation filled the quiet air, resounding off the ancient bricks.

I have to admit, I do love Vienna, and if I had to spend a month anywhere, I´m glad it could be here. I feel as though there is a neverending list of things to see and places to go and I shall never accomplish it all. My first day here I traveled "The Ring," the street that surrounds the inner city. I got to know what was where and how to find my way around. I even got lost a few times, just to see what I could discover as I walked down narrow alleys and garden parks. When I felt as though I had a feel for the city I headed to the center - St. Stephan´s Cathedral. The Cathedral is the landmark of Vienna and all distances are measured from here. I toured the cathedral from top to bottom, taking an elevator up to the bell tower so I could get a magnificent view of the city. Then I headed down into the catacombs where the dead in Vienna were buried until 1767. There were so many bodies below the church, that at one point in time they had to dig up the bones so new bodies could be buried. The old bones were stacked like firewood one on top of the other and still remain. Looking at the bones which seem to go on forever made me realize how damaging Disney really is. As I looked at the bones I couldn´t help but think of "Pirates of the Carribean" and I don´t know how much the reality of the bones sunk in - these were not crafted by engineers, these were the actual bones of people who had died - some of the plague. There were so many bodies beneath the church that at one point in time they had to close the church because of the smell....yum. Beneath St. Stephan´s also lies the organs of the Hapsburgs, the rulers of Austria, and at one time Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. Their organs are kept in metal urns except for their hearts which are in Augustine Kirshe, a church which I was lucky enough to visit while someone was playing the organ. I say someone becuase there was no scheduled organ mass and I swear the woman´s backpack was beside the organ and she was wearing shorts and a t-shitr. But she was very good, so maybe she was supposed to be playing. The church was small, and located in the Hapsburg complex. While not as ornate as the Cathedral, it had beautiful chadeliers hanging all over the ceiling. Continuing our "death of the Hapsburgs" tour I went to Kaisergruf which is where the bodies of the Hapsburgs lie. Coffin after ornate coffin, row after row, room after room. The coffins were engraved (can you engrave metal?) with skulls, flowers, and depictions of the people inside. The more recent/famous are strewn with flowers. I was tempted to bring flowers myself adn pretend I was visiting relatives graves but I was afraid they´d be able to tell I wasn´t a Hapsburg and then be real offended so I didn´t - although the flowers here are glorious and I bought a bunch to brighten my room.

The first night I also took in the theater, which when visiting Vienna is a must! I saw The Merry Widow at the Volksoper. This was also a good choice because the Viennese consider it theirs. Franz Lehar wrote it in Vienna and it premiered here. The operretta is also a Viennese creation. Ther performance was wonderful and even with my limited German I was able to follow along (it helped that the scene titles were in English). I don´t know if this is an Austrian thing or peculiar to this show, but between acts there was a man dressed as some mythical forest creature...perhaps a fawn? who interacted with the audience and ran back and forth on stage. During the second act he even came out into the audience...while we were watching. It was definitly on the strange side.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Welcome to Europe

Alright, so I´m here! Actually I´ve been here for a full week, but now I actually have internet so I can keep everyone up to date. This entry promises to be long, but there´s a lot for me to fill you in on! Let´s start at the beginning:
The Flight
I should have started to worry when my plane couldn´t make it from LA to NY without incident. I mean these are the two largest hubs in the US and planes fly back and forth all the time. But according to American Airlines, the weather was so bad in NY no planes could land. So we landed in Pittsburgh....just to refuel. When we were done refueling the pilot told us we were going to be allowed to land in NY so we headed down the runway. When we reached the end, the pilot told us that he was wrong and we would be waiting here until NY told us we could land. 2 hours later.....we took off. While we were in the air the pilot told us we were again unable to land so we would have to circle a while till they let us land. 10 minutes later he told us we were allowed to land. We landed at 7pm.......we were supposed to get there at 4pm...my flight to Dublin was at 6pm..... American said they couldn´t do anything and sent me to Aer Lingus. It was around this time I began to realize ours was the only flight affected by the weather and no other planes had even been delayed. They were landing and taking off like it was an airport or something. Aer Lingus said the next flight they had was the next day at 6pm......putting me a whole day behind. They said they would try to get me on standby for the 10pm flight, but it wouldn´t really matter because they only had one flight to Barcelona from Dublin and I would still have to wait another day to catch it. I managed to get on the 10pm plane, but while they were checking me in they mentioned that they hadn´t received my luggage yet...which was peculiar since shouldn´t it have been on the plane with me??? I figured I´d worry about it later and got on the plane. When I landed in Dublin I went straight to the Aer Lingus counter to see what they could do for me. The nice man rushed me over to the Iberia Air counter and helped me get on standby for the plane that was leaving in an hour. So I arrived in Barcelona at 4pm....6 hours later than planned and without any luggage. I filed a claim and they promised to get me my luggage the next day.

Barcelona
I wish I could have seen more of the city! Becuase my time was cut short there was very little I did. We walked along Las Ramblas - a huge pedestrian walkway which led to the Boqueria- a huge farmers market. I ate Paella and it was very beautiful there. It was also nice to sleep in a bed. I visited the Sagrada Familiam, which is Gaudi´s cathedral. They´ve been working on it for hundreds of years and its still not done, but its absolutely breathtaking. Oh I guess I should mention here that I still don´t have my luggage and have been wearing the same clothes for 3 days. I called the luggage people and gave them my address in Paris and we took the night train from Barcelona to Paris.

Paris
We arrived in Paris in the morning and first thing headed to the Eiffel Tower. We climbed allllll the way to the top, well the guys did, I stopped just below the top cause I swear the thing was swaying! I was proud that we didn´t take the elevator though cause its way more of an accomplishment to take the stairs. We walked down the Champs Elysee and looked in the stores. We found another farmers market and we took a tour of the city on a bus. That evening my luggage arrived and I was the happiest girl in the world. It takes very little to please me. In my fresh clothes we headed to the Seine for a night cruise. Basically we were in it for the boatride cause you couldn´t hear anything the tour guide said, but the buildings and the Eiffel Tower were all lit up like Christmas. I guess Paris is pushing real hard for the Olympics.
The next day we went to the Louvre, which I´d done, but we went to Napolean´s apartment inside which I hadn´t. It was amazing! So many elaborate and inticrate and I can´t even think of the words. Shanish and I decided to look into having my wedding there. he´s going to call Chirac. After the Louvre (and my crepe lunch) we went to Notre Dame and were just in time to catch the organ! After we headed to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur and once again climbed all the stairs till we reached it. I think we had the perfect amount of time in France, I don´t know what else we would have done had we stayed longer. We got up in the morning to take the train to Amsterdam only to find we needed reservations and the next train we could take was at 3. So we waited 4 hours in the train station. It wasn´t very fun.

Amsterdam
We headed straight to our hostel to drop off our stuff and then to a coffeeshop. That´s right a real live Amsterdam coffee shop known for selling harder stuff than coffee. And yes, I did have some, but 24 years of never smoking anything meant pretty much I spent my time there coughing and not feeling much of anything. And after we headed to the red light district, which frankly was disappointing. Sure there were sex shops, but there are sex shops everywhere. And yes, there were girls in windows, but they were all wearing clothes so I didn´t think it was that big a deal. The next day we went to the Anne Frank Haus which was such a great experience. I had read the book and imagined the place, but to see it was almost unreal. It was bigger than I thought, difficult to imagine how no one could have known it was there. 2 stories and an attic "hidden". Frankly, I think it was bigger than my apartment. After we headed to the Dam or the central cathedral which is beautiful and surrounded by shopping. There must have been 3 H&Ms on the same block! I was in Heaven. We also learned our lesson in Paris and went to the train station and waited for and hour and a half so we could make reservations to leave the next day.

Cologne
My first day by myself. I took the train to Cologne and wandered around the streets. I looked at all the old churches and walked along the river. Then I headed to the Dom which is the cathedral Cologne is known for. I wandered around the inside and then headed out and to the Museum of modern art. Now, I´m not a big fan of modern art, but Jon is and it made me feel close to him to go to this museum he would have loved. They had real live famous art too by Pollock, Magritte, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and even Picasso so I did enjoy it. That and it was empty. There really is something so nice about wandering around an empty museum, like you own it. I had a coffee in a cafe in the shadow of the Dom and people watched till it was time to catch my train. And for those of you who were worried, I did buy the one and only Cologne from Cologne. How could a shopper possibly pass that up??? (Oh and there were a coupld H&Ms there that I just had to go into- but after being deprived for 24 years can you blame me?)

Okay so this is getting ridiculously long and you´re pretty much caught up. More on Vienna tomorrow