A Travellerspoint blog

Vienna


View RTW 2008 on jezems's travel map.

Vienna was a great city, lots of coffee houses and schnitzels. We visited another Cafe Central which was a favourite of Trotsky's and Lenin's while in exile; viewed the Schlob Schonbrunn, a royal palace; and wandered the streets. Vienna had a great atmosphere especially since the European World Cup was to be held there and heaps of construction work was being undertaken to prepare the city for the onslaught of 'soccer hooligans.' However, it wasn't all good as this meant that many streets and parks were closed or barricaded up but we still managed to get around.

We arrived on our first night with great dark storm clouds looming on the horizon, after I got us lost, Emily got us back on track after reading the map (I had a gut instinct it was that way though...). Once we found our hostel, another wombats like the one in Berlin (very professional), we set out to find some dinner at the place recommended by the super friendly bar maid. We were half way there when the heavens opened. This was a fantastic storm; thunder, lightning and big hail stones which kept us pinned for about 20minutes under a shop awning. When we made it to the restaurant (after a quick dash), sitting in the covered beer garden the storm struck again. In no time the weight of the hail was too much for the roof and the water started pouring down on the tables around us. Before we could get hit we quickly headed inside. This place was an experience simply for the service. The waiters were more interested in socialising via text message, with other waiters or smoking to be worried about serving us. While it meant it took ages to get the bill (a bit annoying) the attitude kind of summed up Vienna. A casual "we'll get there in the end".

One thing recommended by all the guide books was that we grab a coffee and the waiters would leave us alone to linger over it (again the lazy waiters). This would have been fine if the coffee was a little larger than a thimble. For the most part I was only able to linger for about two minutes and then was searching for a new one. Alas at 4 euro a pop we did not have that luxury. I am now starting to miss decent sized coffees! It's bound to become more interesting in Italy the land of the standing cafe. (I have since learned to handle the smaller servings but refuse to accept small gelato servings!:))

The first full day we walked all over Vienna (around 10km all up) including a detour past "Kunst haus wein". This was a museum built by the artist and environmentalist Friedenreich Hundertwasser which now houses his works (as he has died). This was a really fascinating place. There were no straight lines, even the floor was curved and he was passionate about incorporating houses and apartments back into the landscape. He had created some models of what it would look like, it's the kind of thing the town planners in Canberra might think was a good idea but then decide on another satellite city developed by the creators of the smurfs (the houses are all the same). He also designed a new Australian flag, with southern cross above Uluru. It was ok, but being a typical European who believes the world actually revolves around Europe, he thought the flag should be flown upside down. Australian is down under after all. Why not throw skippy and a shrimp on a barbie for good measure?

We also went to a restaurant called Centimetre which was so called because they sold bread by the centimetre, also an actual wheelbarrow of assorted fried food, amongst other staples like beer. We had the schnitzels (as it was all we could understand on the menu) and it was the greasiest meal we have had yet. We have by now accepted that a few pounds might be put on over the duration of this trip, most in western europe.

By the way we have also been cooking in hostels, the night before we made a pasta, don't want to leave the impression of us swanning around the restaurants of Europe every night (just every second).

On our last night, in need of an escape from the reality of stinky dorm living (a dorm mate was riding a across Europe and smelt like he hadn't stopped until he reached our dorm) we went to see latest instalment of Indiana Jones. It was great, just as corny and unbelievable as we remembered well worth the effort! Reinspired by this adventure we left the next day to continue our own, onwards to Hungry!

There seemed to be many statues of bullies beating skinny dudes around the place

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The artistic appartment block with no straight lines....

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That is a coffee...?

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The Palace was not really that exciting

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A nice garden we had lunch in, only found it while trying to navigate the labrynth of FAN Zones set up for the cup.

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I think She was asking him why he was wasting the water in the pot. Incidently this staute, perhaps a representation of how not to manage resources, was outside the Parliament... :)

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Posted by jezems 15:51 Archived in Austria

Innsbruck - Austria


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As we rode the train up into the alpine region the small villages with May Poles soon gave way to a snow capped mountain vista. It was quite surreal to see green fields flashing by and in the background massive picture postcard mountains looming over us. The houses seemed to be built at the very base of these steep mountains and in danger of being swept away in a slightest land slide. I was later assured that this was merely an optical illusion and that in fact there aren't that many landslides...

We had four days in Innsbruck and thanks to Cousin Heidi we had a free place to stay in her friend Wolfgang's house, which was actually being rented/lent out to his friends Marcus and Nicole at the same time. This place was right in the middle of town and had an old charm to it (Emily just called it old). Our adopted hosts (Marcus and Nicole) were really kind to us and made us a fantastic breakfast on our first day and then an Italian feast that night. This was followed by an adventure across town to a concert under the rail way that was interesting. Think bjork meets rage against the machine meets arcade fire (it was just like the three 2008 Big Day Out headliners were on the stage together, only they were tone deaf). The lead singer could sing but choose to whine and scream randomly. We were informed that she had in fact lead another band that were quite successful in America but were more mainstream, she quit to concentrate on her true passion, making horrible noise! You go girl!

We waited until the dusty haze that had blown over from the Sahara had cleared before going up to the local mountain peak. This was all very convenient (but obscenely expensive for tight budgets) done by a series of cable cars running smoothly and effortlessly over the heads of climbers that had started many hours earlier on their tracks to the peak. As we ascended the views were amazing and got better with altitude. Once at the top of the cable we climbed to highest point feeling the air becoming thinner and your effort increasing with each step. It's hard to capture the view in a picture but check out the couple below.

The remainder of our time was spent checking out central cafe and taking stock of our journey so far, hardly believing that at every street corner you're faced with a beautiful mountains in the background.

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Posted by jezems 14:11 Archived in Austria

Munich


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After Prague we spent two nights in Munich and had a ball sampling the local beers at the various beer gardens - our favourites Augustinerkeller and Hofbrauhaus, the latter was also a popular hang out of Adolf Hitler's. After the war the owners had to paint the ceiling twice to cover the swastikas that had adorned the place (after the first coat they were still obvious). The beer hall also had a big vomit trough in the men's bathroom. Vomiting is an acceptable way to keep the party going, just not in the beer house as it will cost you a cool fifty Euros. Another idea which seemed very civilised to me but not so much to Emily was that in the old days there were drains running under tables for those who felt the need for relief. Very medieval.

We did learn a bit about May Poles though. Apparently they are everywhere in Bavaria (we saw heaps on our next train ride) and if one gets stolen from a village then in order to get it back the village has to throw a big party for the thieves and it will be returned.
This tradition caused bit of a furore not so long ago as the Munich Airport's May pole went missing (yes the airport at Munich is also a brewery). Rightfully so they were a little concerned that a 10 meter tall pole could go missing from a "secure" airport and so approached the police in confidence to see if the matter could be sorted out quietly to avoid media scrutiny. The police flat rejected this proposal as they were the thieves! They promptly informed the airport that the only way to get it back was to throw a party and the media would help ensure it happened. So the May pole was returned and the police got their booze up. I'm not sure if the story is true but we also heard that the May poles are also Bavarian "pick up" poles, if a young lad fancies a local lass then he would head out to the forest and cut down the biggest straightest tree, remove its branches and then stick it in the front lawn of the object of his affection's house in the middle of the night. In the morning if she likes the cut of his pole she'll come out and dance around it. Then you can take her on a first date! Too bad if it the wrong sister!

We also did a walking tour of the city that basically consisted of Churches and Beer halls/Beer gardens with the odd unremarkable memorial to those that suffered in the war. It was an expensive and strangely prosperous place with all that beer drinking and leather short wearing going on. We left early in the morning to avoid blowing our budget on beer again :P

Juilet statue, put a flower in her arms to be lucky in love
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The Germans are so neat and tidy, this is a market stall
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A May Pole
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Emily excited as me to be in Hofbrauhaus
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Mmmmm leather pants...
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Posted by jezems 09:06 Archived in Germany Tagged disabilities

Czech Republic

What a journey!


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We left Krakow in a hurry as we had an 8.00am train to catch and half way to the station I realized I had left my ultraceticals cleanser at the hostel. I started cursing Prague – I had bought a brand new bottle for the trip and had convinced myself that it would last till Christmas when my mum could bring over further supplies. (Jeremy has failed to understand the gravity of this event).

Having been forced to buy a substandard cleanser called Bebe (its only saving grace is that it's manufactured by Johnson and Johnson) I jumped onto the train and started the journey from hell!

For those who haven't travelled on trains in Europe, let me explain the set up so you can truly feel our pain – you're put in a compartment with six seats and you're literally sitting on each other with little leg room and limited space for luggage. There is also a door to the compartment which Europeans seem to like closed so you literally feel like you're squeezed in like a can of sardines when the compartment is full.

We boarded the train and went in search of our seats and came upon a darkened compartment bearing our seat numbers and leeching the stench of stale alcohol and cigarettes. We found inside our compartment two drunken Poles who we hoped were at the end of a long night and would sleep through the rest of the journey. Unfortunately after we left the station and tried desperately to open a jammed window to release some excess alcohol vapour, for fear that a mobile call may spark an explosion, one of our companions un expectantly leant over and reached between Jez's legs to reclaim a can of beer, that was hidden under Jez' seat. His mate then cracked his own stubby and so the 7 hour binge began. These two drank non-stop for seven hours and by the end of the journey could barely stand upright - in fact one of them nearly fell on top of me as he was trying to grab his bag and instead hit his head on the window rest! They spoke only Polish and so luckily left us alone but they happily pestered the other passengers in our compartments with rambling stories that involved their mobile phones and its various ring tones or involved stroking people's faces. When they finally departed, the compartment took a communal sigh of relief (and enjoyed a fresh breathe of air).

Thankfully, things looked up once we exited the train station and we eventually found our hostel - Let's Go (get another guide book) gave us the wrong directions to our hostel sending us to the wrong side of the river! However, once we found our hostel I fell in love with the place, it was run by a pair of motherly czech ladies who made the most delicious dinners - czech goulash with potato dumplings yum!

Unfortunately, we weren't too keen on Prague itself, it has become too much of a tourist hot spot which made it really difficult to get around to see sights as you always ended up getting stuck in lines behind bus tours :( We think it's a small taste of the mayhem to come in Italy. That said Prague is a very beautiful city and we could see how it was a favourite of so many people. The old town with its cobbled streets and skyline of church steeples and palaces really made your realise you where in Europe. Once you get past the fact that it has been discovered by the mainstream and may have lost a little of its original cache it's a great city...

Emily and I also took a short trip out to a town called Kutna Hora. This town had a phillip morris cigarette factory (which was actually joined onto a massive church!?) but we were not there for smokes this town had a chapel decorated with bones (unrelated to phillip morris, but the result something with similar death counts). These bones were from the local victims of the plague. There were so many casualties and no room in the local cemetery that a "creative" monk decided the best thing to do with them would be to turn them into decorations. Personally I would have just built a new cemetery (in fact there was plenty of room over the back wall of the church. It wasn't so much fascinating as gruesome to see thousands of sculls stacked into pyramids and chandeliers made out of every bone in the body. It's hard to imagine what type of Christian mass would be held there. None the less it was interesting!

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This poor bloke was just hanging there and no one would help him
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Posted by jezems 09:01 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged backpacking

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