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April 18th 2009
Published: April 18th 2009
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Schönbrunn Palace Schönbrunn Palace Schönbrunn Palace

gardens and the Palm house
Well I had quite the vacation! Bear with me, as this might be a long entry.

Kevin flew into Malaga on Thursday the 2nd of April and we spent the night in Malaga. Friday morning we flew from Malaga to Vienna. AirBerlin was the airline we flew on, and I could not say enough good things about them and their services!! But anyways... we arrived in Vienna around 4:30pm or so and took the CAT system, which is a more expensive government run subway that took us to the city center. They have a regular subway system, but they don't advertise it as they want to make more money. But I had to ask a few people for help trying to get to the other train station on the Western side of Vienna, but the ones I did ask were helpful in their broken English. We found our way to the Westbanhof train station and once again, I had to ask for some help finding the correct street for our hostel, but a cute little old man talked to me in German for about 2 minutes to give me directions, but thankfully he was pointing as well, so we found it. Our first hostel was nice, called the Do Stepp Inn. We checked in and walked around for a bit. The hostel said online it was in a great location, but I think it was referring to the train station, cuz there wasn't much around there in the way of tourist stuff. But we walked around, I was suprised at how clean it was! We had dinner at a cute pizza place, it was quite cheap. We got some wine to take to the hostel and went back. The hostel had a nice common room as well as a large, fully-equipped kitchen. We spent the evening in the hostel.
Saturday morning we woke up and took the metro to find the Schönbrunn palace. We found it on the metro, and set out. By the time we left Vienna, we were pros at the subway system. We got to the stop and walked out, and found ourselves at the entry to the beautiful gardens of the Schönbrunn palace. The Vienna Zoo is also located there. We got to see the Palm house which has lots of beautiful flowers in it. We walked through the park to get to the Palace itself. Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe. The Habsburgs resided here the better part of the year in numerous rooms for the large imperial family in addition to representational rooms. Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings.
We toured the Palace, which was quite amazing. We also played in the gardens and the labyrinth and walked all the way up to the "Gloriette" which is quite a stroll upwards but has beautiful views of the palace.
Since we were there during holy week, they had lots of Easter markets set up. Some in front of the Palace which were selling easter things as well as traditional Viennese foods and drinks. It was a lot of fun to look at.
We took the metro back to the main station and had a delicious lunch of goulash and dumplings and some amazing beer. I was in heaven!
Next we took the metro and found the beautiful gothic St. Steven's Cathedral. We walked around that area for a while, and then found our way to the Imperial Palace of the Hofburgs. It is huge! This is where the Gothic Imperial Chapel is, where the Vienna Boys' choir preforms every Sunday, which is supposed to be quite famous. We also saw the Spanish Riding school, which is extremely famous and is the only institution in the world where the classic equestrian skills (haute école) has been preserved and is still practiced in its original form. We also saw the St. Augustine Church, which was very neat inside, but freezing cold! They were having their own little easter market inside as well.
We took the metro back to our hostel and went to the store to buy some food to cook for dinner. I made us Vienna sausages and some other random Viennes foods we found. It was quite good though! We tried to find some bars to go to, since it was a Saturday night, but the area we were in wasn't very happening. We saw plenty of Prostitutes, and that really surprised me. But eventually we found a really cool bar with a great beer selection and awesome music posters on the wall. We ended up having a nice time.
Sunday morning we woke up and went to the Belvedere palace. Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), successful general and art connoisseur, had Belve-dere garden palace built by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt as his summer residence - at the time it was still outside the gates of the city. It houses Gustav Klimt's legendary painting “The Kiss” which can be seen all over Vienna on tourist things. It has 2 parts, the upper and lower, as well as large gardens. The weather was lovely this day, so we had great views. We then took the metro back to the Hoffburg palace and strolled around there for a while, had lunch, and just enjoyed the beautiful weather. We had dinner at a really good Italian restaurant. But because we weren't in a tourist area, the menu was only in German. Some of the words are like Spanish, so we could kind of figure it out, but we ended up getting delicious pasta, so it all worked out.

Monday morning we took the tram to the other train station to take the train to Prague. It was about a 4 hour train ride and the views were lovely. We somehow got put into first class so it was a nice ride. We got to the train station in Prague, and started walking to find out hostel. We thought we were a little lost, but ended up finding our way to the hostel. It was more like apartments than a hostel, so we had to call someone to come check us in, but we got it all sorted out and got to our room. The building was really old, but quite pretty. The toilet was outside of our room, but it was still our own private bathroom. The hostel was situated right on Wenceslas Square, which is a main square. I absolutely loved Prague because you can walk the entire city, you don't really need public transportation to see everything. There were also Easter markets right outside of our hostel and in the Old Town Square selling delicious looking food and drinks.
We walked around for a bit and saw the Old Town Square, the Powder Tower, and walked towards Charles Bridge. We looked for the famous astronomical clock, but just missed it because we didn't know where it was. We had a great dinner at this restaurant called Buffalo Bills. The man who owns the hostel told us about a bar we should check out, so we did. It was near the university and he said we could possibly meet some people there. We didn't make friends with anyone, but we did have some great beer.
Tuesday morning we woke up and just happened to stumble upon a Starbucks which was HEAVEN for me = ] We found the clock first thing, which was as cool as it looks! Its right in the Old Town Square, but you just have to be looking the right way to find it. We made our way to Charles Bridge, which has some construction going on currently. It was neat, with lots of artesian vendors on the bridge, as well as artists and such. But I am not really sure why the Bridge is so famous, it didn't really knock my socks off. Haha.
We went into Lesser town and made our way to the Prague Castle. Its HUGE! We had to climb the steep hill to get there, but the views of Prague were well worth the trek. We saw the guards outside and went to the beautiful church, but the line to get in was unbelievable! But we checked the times, and they open at 5am! So we decided we would do that the next day. We walked past the Golden Lane and back to a vineyard that is at the top of the castle grounds. The views were amazing, and once again we had wonderful weather.
We walked back down the hill and had lunch at a great Czech restaurant that had a delicious menu of the day. We walked around for a bit and we finally found the Lennon Wall of Peace. Its a wall that people have been writing grafitti on since the 80's. It was really neat!!
We walked around the jewish quarter and saw the amazing cemetary. There are also 4 synogogues there. We went back to the same bar that night and had a good dinner and hung out some more.
Wednesday morning we woke up extra early so we could make it into the castle and St. Nicholas Cathedral. We didn't even have to show tickets when we entered because there were so few people there. The inside of the church was amazing. There was a 2,000lb silver casket in there also. It was neat. We toured the Story of Prague Castle museum, which was really neat and very interesting. It took us a while to do the whole tour. We next saw the Basillica of St. George and then to the Golden Lane. Dating from the 15th Century, this small street is lined by 11 historic houses, which exhibit medieval armoury and textiles, as well as selling tourist souvenirs. They has a lot of suits of armour that were really cool. We also got to go into the dungeon.
We walked around the park, stumbled upon the Brevnov Monastery, which was rebuilt several times due to a fire but also because of plundering and looting during the Hussite and the Thirty Years’ Wars. Its current Baroque appearance stems from the eighteenth century. We also walked to the St Agnes of Bohemia Convent. It is the oldest Gothic building and one of the most famous and significant convents in Bohemia. Now it’s the National Culture Heritage of the Czech Republic.
For dinner, we chose a nice restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. It was hands-down one of the best meals I have ever had. Kevin got some duck specialty that had been cooking all day in a huge pan with vegetables and other things. I had lamb that was perfectly cooked and plated beautifully with veggies and potatoes. We had great wine to go with, and the ambience of the restaurant was just phenomenal. It was a great way to end our stay in Prague.

Thursday morning we took a bus from Prague back to Vienna. We had to switch buses somewhere in the Czech Republic and soon after we were near the border of Austria and the Czech Republic, and the guards came onto our bus 2 different times looking at everyone's passports. It was strange. But we made it back to vienna, and found our other hostel. It was literally an apartment this time, in a seperate residential building. We walked around for a bit, had a nice dinner, and went to the grocery store. We strolled around the square for a bit, then showered and drank some delicious different beers. It was a nice relaxing time.
Friday morning we took the CAT back to the airport and flew from Vienna to Malaga. We took a bus from Malaga to Nerja, which is a beautiful beach city on the Costa del Sol. The bus let us off in the middle of no where, so we kind of had an unplesant hike to find our 4-Star hotel. We FINALLY found it, after asking several people. But at least we were in Spain now where I can actually communicate with people. We got all checked in, the hotel was really nice. Then we took a stroll to find some dinner and get some groceries because I didn't know if anything would be open on Saturday or Sunday since it was Easter weekend. We had dinner and just went back to the hotel room to relax because we were so exhausted from all the walking and stuff we did.
Saturday we got up and had breakfast at the hotel. It was so wonderful to have a hot, breakfast buffet, you have no idea how much I have missed it! haha. Then we walked to the Balcon de Europa, which is in the main part of Nerja. There were lots of tourists and lots of shops and restaurants. The weather was nice, but it was a bit too cold for the beach, which was a major bummer for us. We walked around until Siesta, but then went back to the hotel and had sandwhiches and tried to lay out at our beautiful rooftop pool, but it kept getting cloudy, so we retired inside. We went back out after siesta and just strolled around Nerja taking it all in, doing a little shopping as well. We had dinner at a great British restaurant, because there is a large population of British and German people that reside there year-round.
Sunday morning I knew there was a mass and procession for Easter, so we went to the Balcon where the procession was to be held. The procession was really neat, all of the people dressed up in the traditional clothing, which we might associate with the KKK. Infact their clothes are meant to depict the Nazareños, people from Nazareth. The religious fraternities and brotherhoods are responsable for carrying the statues and organising the penitents and musicians. The Nazareños follow the people who carry the floats bearing sculptures and models of biblical scenes. The people who carry the weight of the floats are called "costaleros" and are expected the carry these "thrones" with solemnity and grace. They use a small cushion, "costal" to protect themselves from getting sores from the wood rubbing against their skin during the long processions.

Monday morning we took the bus from Nerja to Granada, from there to Priego. It was so nice to just be back in a familiar place! We went out for drinks and tapas with my friends and teachers, which was really fun and Kevin got to experience the spanish "tapas." We also went to the Barbacoa one day so he could try the "Secreto" which is a special cut of mean from Iberian pigs, and it is just delicious!

We did some much sight-seeing in such a short time, I am STILL exhausted! But it was a great trip!



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