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Published: September 21st 2009
The "main" cathedral.
This past weekend was used for international trips. A group of eight of us from OSU and Kansas went to Vienna. It was pretty interesting. Five of us took a bus to get there, which left at quarter after midnight and got us there at 5:15 in the morning. We left the dormitory at ten to get to the bus station. The way there was pretty uneventful, but I ran into issues once we got there. I didn’t print out my confirmation email (because I don’t have a printer…), but I copied down my reservation number and took that with me so I could prove that I had my reservation. That probably wasn’t a great idea. The girl checking tickets couldn’t find my number, so she told me to wait. Once everyone else got on the bus she came back and looked again, but still couldn’t find it. She ended up texting someone with my reservation code to see if they had a record of it (after I told her that the company took my money, so I’d very well better have a ticket to show for it). After a few minutes (during this time I’d like to point out that
Some of the graffiti.
I was trying to sign to the other girls on the bus that we were trying to work everything out…not very successful in that endeavor) the girl got a response saying that my reservation was for the next day. I have no idea why it was for Sunday, since when I booked the bus I did a search for Saturday, not Sunday. I had no idea what was going on. They asked me if I was going to the airport or city center in Vienna, but I couldn’t understand them so we had a pantomime airport going on for a while. I would have laughed if I hadn’t been tired and frustrated. I told them I was trying to get to the city center, and they let me on without a problem. For as easily as they let me on I was really unsure as to why we had such a problem before that.
On the bus I ended up sitting next to a Hindu woman who was very nice. I asked her if the seat next to her was free, then she asked if I was Czech because I had been speaking English. I explained to her
that I’m American and on a study-abroad trip. She commented on my difficulties getting on the bus, so I gave her a brief description of what happened and she said that her friend had been going with her, but cancelled at the last minute. She also told me that I was meant to go on this trip because things that are meant to be find a way to happen. I thought that was really nice of her. I also thought it was cool to see that she firmly believed that if it was meant to happen, it would (and did). I guess I kind of believe that too, to a lesser extent. I mean, in my experience things have a way of working out, so I never get too upset by things because if I want it bad enough I’ll find a way for it to work. And if it doesn’t, then that’s probably for the best. To get back to the bus trip: the woman and I talked a little bit (I never did catch her name), and I found out she was there with a group of people, all originally from South Africa on a trip to the
Nicest tack room EVER.
Technical University in Liberec. It was really interesting. Once we started out they played some movies, I know they played “Crash,” and “Kolya” but I didn’t catch much of them because I was trying to sleep (unsuccessfully: total sleep = 2 hours). I did manage to catch the end of Kolya, but it didn’t make much sense since I didn’t see the beginning.
We made two stops on the bus, one in some very small town, and once again in Brno. We were informed to stay on the bus at both stops. I’d tend to agree with that instruction, especially in Brno. We were there at 3:30 am, and there were all kinds of people walking around in the streets. Maybe we were just in a less-than-ideal part of town, but it looked like somewhere I really wouldn’t want to be past dark. I can’t really think of any cities that I’ve been in that it reminded me of. Maybe some of the sketchier parts of Columbus? Either way, it was a little unnerving (but that may also be because of the time of night, like I said). We finally got into Vienna at 5:15 in the morning.
The bus stop was just on the side of the road, so we were dropped off on a sideroad of the city. We spent two hours walking around the same four blocks trying to find the road we needed to get to our hostel (where we were supposed to meet the other three at 10:30). We finally went and asked directions at the train station, and they told us to take the metro. Once we got to the metro stop they told us to go to it was fairly easy to find the hostel. After a little more walking around, that is. The hostel was really nice, which was 100% not what I was expecting. I was thoroughly expecting to fear for my safety, but this was about three times nicer than the dorms we’re staying in, and the guy at the desk gave us two rooms all to ourselves, so it was very nice.
While waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, the five of us decided to study some Czech. And by “study some Czech” I mean pass out in the lobby of the hostel. I managed to stay awake and study until about nine, when we decided to go get breakfast. That was an interesting experience because there were only a few places open. We ended up going to McDonald’s. I think I’ve eaten more fast food in Europe than I have in the US in the past year. After breakfast we did a little bit of shopping around the hostel. The exchange rate from US dollars to Euros really isn’t favorable, so I didn’t buy anything. I think the Czech Republic has me spoiled with how cheap it is! We made it back to the hostel to meet the rest of our group, then spent the rest of the day walking around Vienna looking at various things. We went to a cathedral first and walked around it. I really don’t know what the name of it was. I’m realizing that the Czechs really help out when we go on excursions here in the Czech Republic, because without any real guides we were lost as to what things were.
After the cathedral we wanted to find the Palace, so we set off around the city. We spent a good several hours looking for it, only to find on Sunday that it was a block away from the cathedral. Although our wandering around the city did lead to some fun discoveries, like a Ferrari dealership, the US Consulate, another very pretty cathedral, some interesting graffiti (I’m developing a nice little collection of graffiti photos), and a beautiful fountain in honor of the Red Army liberating Vienna in WWII. I thought that was a little different because in the US we’ve mostly been led to believe that the communists (and by and large Russia as a whole) were loathsome people, yet here’s a monument to them in the city. It was nice to have a different perspective on that.
We went back to the hostel I think around seven. Sam, Heather, and I decided we wanted to see the city at night, so we went back out at nine to wander some more and take pictures. It was beautiful to see the city all lit up. We found one building with lights all over it that changed colors, so it looked something like a giant lava lamp, only much cooler. The building was close to the river, so we walked down by it for a while. There was a really nice little walkway along the water, and we found a pub with live music outside. It was really nice. There was a lot of graffiti on the walls along the riverbank, a lot of it was really interesting and pretty well done. We came back up off of the river and wandered around a bit, eventually finding our way back to the fountain. That was probably the highlight of the night because it was illuminated with color-changing lights. We sat and watched it for a good ten minutes. After that we decided to try to find the palace again. It took us a while, but we eventually got to the general area of the palace but at that point it was around 11:15. The metro stopped running at 12:30, and we didn’t know where the stop was, (and I was really about ready to fall asleep on the spot…two hours of sleep in roughly 42 hours is really not conducive to wandering around European cities all night) so we headed back and went to bed.
Sunday involved a bit less walking. We set out around 10:30 with no real agenda other than touring the Spanish Riding School at two. I should make a note that I was beyond excited to see the School since I’m a horse person and my grandmother took me to watch the Lipizzaners perform for my birthday several years ago (I also skipped school to see them way back in first grade). There wasn’t a whole lot that happened during the day before that. We went and saw Belvedere Castle (chateau? I’m really not sure), which had stunningly beautiful gardens. It also had sphinx statues, which I was very happy about since I really enjoy seeing old mythological symbols (I also found a water fountain that was a basilisk…very cool). Then we headed back toward the city center to find a bakery that Sam had been wanting to visit. Once we found it we realized it was roughly 300 yards from the palace and the Spanish Riding School. So we had spent all of yesterday wandering around Vienna trying to find the palace that was in reality only a few blocks away from where we had started.
I’d say my favorite part of visiting Vienna was touring the Spanish Riding School. Our tour guide spoke very good English, and started out by telling us that there were two rules: Don’t touch the horses (makes sense), and it is not allowed to take pictures unless he isn’t looking. It was pretty funny, and he ended up being fine with us taking pictures as long as we weren’t too blatant about it. I thought it was nice that he found the picture ban somewhat ridiculous (really…why shouldn’t we be allowed? Are people going to steal training secrets from one photo?). We toured the barn first and saw some of the horses. The guide told us that the main “star” stallions were in the mountains for the summer, so the horses we were seeing were still in training and weren’t the best the stud had to offer. The stable itself was gorgeous. I have a few photos of it, but they really don’t do it justice. It holds 72 horses, all of which were stallions (I think it’s interesting to note that these horses were all perfectly fine with being stabled next to one another, even as studs). After seeing the horses we went into the tack room. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tack room more perfectly organized. They had everyday and training bridles on the wall, then two sets of saddles for each horse (everyday/training and performance), then a glass case on the other wall with the bridles used for performances. I was just getting ready to ask if they use different bits with different horses when the guide started explaining their training methods. He told us they just use a cavesson first, without a bit, then as the training progresses they use a plain, broken snaffle, then the horse moves on to a curb bit, and in the final stages of training/performance, the horses have double bridles with both a curb and snaffle. He went on to explain that a double bridle is the best way to convey precise signals to the horse, and in my experience it takes a lot of skill to use properly (it’s very easy to frustrate a horse with a double bridle). Following our view of the tack room we went to the Winter Riding School, which is the indoor ring. But I can’t really just refer to it as the “indoor ring” because this was quite possibly the prettiest thing I’d seen in Vienna. There are crystal chandeliers, and three levels of seating around the actual riding surface, with very ornate Baroque decorations on the walls and ceiling. It was fantastic.
We didn’t do much after the tour; the girls taking the bus back left straight away so they could find their bus stop. I was taking the train back with Sam, Heather, and Jason because the bus was full when I went to book my seat. I decided that I like the train better than the bus - there was more room, I could stand up, and we ended up with our own compartment, so I didn’t have to sit with people I didn’t know. The train ride back was nice. I saw a lot of wind farms with huge turbines.
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