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Published: June 20th 2008
We are in Vienna now. It is fantastic.
We arrived in the morning, and checked into the famed Wombats Hostel The Base in Vienna. It is great, but we have stayed in some nicer hostels this trip.
We decided that there was so much to see in Vienna that 5 nights was in order. Not to mention that Vienna was one of the host cities for this little tournament called the European Championships (Soccer for those living under a rock).
We wandered aroung the Ringstrasse, which is a ring road that was built on the site of the former wall of the city after it was torn down. There are some fantastic buildings off it including the neo-gothic Rathus, the Parliament and the Burg Theatre. It was difficult to appreciate them though because we couldn´t really get up close to them because the Vienna fan zone was set up there. The zone is where people who aren´t at the match can go and watch it. There are 8 giant tvs and many food and beer vendors. Just to give you a concept of the size of this place, it accommodated 70,000 people for the match between Croatia and Austria! We went to Gothic Cathedral named Stephansdom afterwards. It has a gorgeous interior, but we made the mistake of hiking up the tower. It is steep, the views are not stunning and we both got dizzy hiking up and down because of how tight the coil of stairs was! We then wandered over to two building designed by Hunderwassert. He was an artist who decided that architecture was his next thing. As a result, he has made two of the most interesting buildings in Vienna. The have false facades, multi-coloured windows, different types of plaserting and uneven floors. We watched a match at the fan zone with Johnny from West Virginia that night. Incidentally, we caught at least a match at the fan zone evry night, except for one, which I´ll explain later.
We day tripped to Bratislava the next day. We got to see the Lithuanian president arrive in his motorcade to have meetings with the Slovakian president and half of Bratislava's police, so that was entertaining. It was actually our second motorcade after one in Budapest. The city is mostly communist architecture, but there still is a gorgeous old town and a great castle. The most photographed thing in town isn´t actually the old town or the castle, but a statue called the Watcher. It is a bronze statue of a man coming out of a man hole in the middle of a street. We found him and snapped a photo. There are more random statues all over the old town. We retruned to Vienna, and went passed the Imperial Palace (the Hofburg) and it was awesome. Really big! We think we each want a house that size! We then headed to the Albertina art gallery, which had some temporary collections, including one on Paul Klee. The museum turned out to be a dissapointment in the end. But Kif didn't really mind he was excited for our evening activities, which were, the fan zone. But this time his beloved team Sweden were playing the defending champs Greece. Sweden won 2-0 and Kif was really happy.
We wandered around town on the Wednesday. We saw the baroque Karlskirche before wandering over to Prince Eugene of Savoy's "summer residence" at the Belvedere. If only we could all have summer residences like that. I must admit, I don't know what one would do with all of the 300 or so rooms! After that, it was the Art-Nouveau Secession Building which has a large laurelled golden dome on its roof. The Nachtmarket was next, but a bit of a let down because there wasn't really anything there when we were. That might have had something to do with the fact that we visited in the daytime ("nacht" means "night" in German)! We went over to the Museum Quarter next, which happens to be one of the largest art/cultural complexes in the world housing over 10 museums and halls. The Art History Museum was next. The Museum was massive, and a little exhausting, but there was an exhibit on Arcimbolo at the time so that was cool. The building itself is gorgeous, especially the interior, and they have the world´s most expensive coin there (it is a million dollar coin, weighing 100 kilos, and it was made by the Royal Canadian Mint)!!! Why did they make it...because they could! (yeah Canada!) Fanzone was the evening activity, just to change things up.
Another daytrip away from Vienna, but this time we stayed in the country. We headed west along the the Danube to the town of Melk. There is pretty much nothing there, with the exception of a massive Benedictine Monastery/Fortress. The complex towers over the town from its position on a hill. The complex was fantastic. It was incredible to actually see the wealth of the monastic sect as there was an incredible amount of gold adorning pretty much everything. The library was massive, and the spiral staircase down to the cathedral was great because the whole underside of it was painted and one could see the design continuing up 3 more stories. The cathedral itself was the most oppulent chruch that we had been into so far on the trip. There were gold and statues everywhere, and it was spectacular. It is still a working monastery, so we were actually there for some prayers.
On our return to town, we thought we'd change things up a little. Instead of going to the fanzone, we thought we'd head out to the stadium where Austria would play Poland later that night. It was incredible wandering around and seeing the sea of red and white everywhere. We obviously wanted to get inside the stadium to watch the match, but we thought that it would be even harder to get into than the Bayern Munich game was earlier on in the trip. I mean, this was one of the host nations playing in the capital! We walked around the stadium once, and then went back the way we came towards one of the entrances because we thought we'd try our luck. Peter spotted 4 Polish people holding four tickets and immediatly went up to them to ask about the chance of buying them. They were well under what we were willing to pay, so we bought them. How did they have 4 extra tickets though? Apperently the had 4 "sick" friends who couldn't make it. How could anyone be too sick to go see a Euro game live? So we were becoming worried that they might be fake. We had heard about fake tickets circling around the Sweden-Russia game. We got through the first security check (sweet), then the tickets were looked at by a worker, and then the moment of truth... where we scanned our tickets at the entrance to the seated area. We scanned our ticket...and the gate opened (even sweeter!!)! Kif and Peter had purchased tickets to Austria vs. Poland at the Euros 2008!!! The stadium was incredible! There were 51,000+ fans in there, all dressed up in their national colours (red and white). Kif and Peter bought netural Austria-poland scarves with the date of the game on them. The fans were all singing different songs too. It wasn't like back home thought when the songs are "Go Go". They were long and complex songs, and everyone knew them. Each country had 5 or so different ones. For example, if you caught the game and saw all the Austrian fans jumping and singing they were singing "If you're not jumping, you must be Polish.". As a result, the atmosphere was electric. Oh, we forgot to mention where our seats were. When going up the staircase into the stadium we asked a ticket lady. "Oh just turn left, 2nd row of seats, and turn right."
Right? That would be towards the pitch, not up to the nose-bleeds which we were expecting. What? We got to the row of seats and asked again: "Oh just down to the front and you're on the aisle"
Yes the front, as in FRONT ROW! They were on the 18 yard box...in the front row. That's right, we had bought front row tickets!!! (beyond sweet!!) The match itself was a 1-1 draw, but it was absolutly fantastic being in there and a once in a lifetime experience! Austria scored in the 93 minute on a penatly shot. (sorry for no pictures, we'll try to get some more up).
After all that excitement, we brought it down a notch the next day. We met up with some friends from our hostel (Kourtney, Jack, Lauren and Daniel, and headed off to Schonnbrunn Palace. Another summer home, this time it was for the Hapsburg royal family. It was slightly larger than the Belvedere, 1400 rooms in total, but was quite expensive so none of us went it. Instead, we wandered around the expansive grounds, seeing some really great fountains. It was extremely cold and windy, so much so that little Lauren had borrowed Peter's coat (and was absolutely swimming in it)! The gardens were so big they even had a zoo in it! Daniel and Kif wanted to go in but it was cold so as a result of the temperatures, we went off to Cafe Cetral to have some coffee and apple strudel. The cafe was where Franz Kafka and Karl Marx used to go back in the day so it was quite historic. The apple strudel was pretty good too! We split up, and some of us went to the Adidas section of the fanzone where you could participate in drills and then play 5 on 5 on a small pitch they had set up. Kif and Peter jumped at the chance. We were not particularly good at the drills, but we won our 5 on 5 match 5-4 so that made up for our previous failures (kif scored the winner)! It was funny because our team consisted of 2 canadians (us), 2 germans, and a polish guy versus 3 englishmen and 2 austrians, very international indeed! We all met up back at the hostel and went to a restaurant to have Weiner Schnitzel (basically pork that has been pounded flat and breaded). We each ordered one, not realizing that one portion meant two portions and that each portion was approximatly the size of a small car! We all struggled through it and we didn't actually leave any meat on our plates (mainly because Peter helped some people finish theirs off. Four people to be exact)! The waiter was hilaious, we had a random conversation with an obviosuly intoxicated fellow diner and we even had a picture taken of us. We taped the picture up on the wall when we left so now we are all enshrined in the annals of histroy at Schnitzelwirt in Vienna! Once again, fanzone was afterwards, as well as the bar back at the hostel. Vienna is now both Kif's and Peter's favourtie large city on the trip.
We will see if Berlin can change this.
What we learned in Vienna:
-In Bratislava, $1.87 will get you half an apple, a handful of grapes and a small drink, but that is only if the cashier gives you a discount...
-Polish people are awesome!
-The atmosphere in a Euro match is more incredible than a Canucks playoff game, the fireworks at English Bay and a BC Lions Grey Cup Parade combined!!!
-Every house should have at least 300 rooms.
-Lapops that have 7-inch screens are difficult to type on.
-Fan zones rule
-There are no Got Melk? t-shirts in Melk so Kif dibsed the idea and is hoping to make a small fortune of it
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