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Re(Wien)sited

Momma and I decided to spend a weekend in Vienna after considering many other European destinations. I would get a chance to revisit one of my favorite spots in the world and show my mom around, trying to get her to understand why I love Vienna so much. My mom and I arrived a little later than expected (only 40 minutes) due to a flight delay and yet our hotel had already given our room away. So at midnight they carted us over to the “nearest” hotel, which was actually a 20-minute cab ride away. We ended up in a part of town that I wasn’t familiar with, but Momma, always looking on the bright side, said what a wonderful opportunity it would be to get to know Vienna better. I am just bummed that I wasn’t able to see Diana, my ex-roommate, on the only day we would both be in town. 😩

Walking the Ring: Momma at Parliament

Needless to say, we didn’t get up to much on our first night in Vienna, but the next day we had big plans. We started out by walking the Ringstrasse, one of the first things I did when I arrived in Vienna over a year ago. Our first stop was the University to see the blank walls where Klimt’s famous paintings would have been. Nothing to report there. Then we continued along the ring to the Opera house stopping at all the famous buildings along the way. We even dropped by IKI for a quick hello. From there, we cut north to Stephansdom and may have done a little shopping along the way… By lunchtime we were hungry for some Wienerschnitzel and ate at the restaraurant near Ruprechtskirche. Best Wienerschnitzel I have ever had! It was so tender and delicious! After lunch I took Momma down to my old neighborhood. We revisited my dorm, grocery store, hang-out spots and my favorite ice cream parlor, Tichy. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but Vienna has these ice cream balls that are to die for. The Eismarillenknödel, a mouthful in more ways than one, is a ball of vanilla ice cream with an apricot mousse center rolled in shortbread cookie crumbs… Yeah, i know. Other varieties include the Himbeereisknödel (replace the apricot with raspberry and the shortbread with chocolate cookie crumbs), the Schneeball (replace cookies with crumbed, hard white marshmallow) and one for which I cannot remember the name, but that’s because it was coffee-flavored. Ick. Here’s a picture of three ice cream balls at Tichy. I wish I could replace the coffee ball with a Schneeball. Oh well!

Ice Cream Balls at Tichy

The next day we made sure to be up early so we could get our museum on. We took my beloved U-bahn to the Museums Quartier. First stop: The Leopold Museum. The Leopold is one of those places that makes you realize why you’re an art history major, or at least that’s what it did for me. I had been looking at countless fragmentary, dusty white corpses in Roman museums for months, which is all well and good. I love me some ancient Roman art, really I do. But the artworks I have been studying are creations of the state with a predetermined message independent of the artist’s agenda. It’s ancient propaganda. It’s fascinating. But I hadn’t seen anything so infused with emotion or so personal for a while. Schiele makes you feel what he felt. And I cried. So maybe this is why I am an art history major, not why you are.

At the Leopold with a Poster of Schiele

Next stop on the museum schedule was the modern art museum across the platz, which looks like a big, black, blocky scar in the MQ. One of the best parts of this museum is its video collection. There were some Nan June Paik, Richard Serra and William Wegman pieces. All lovely, but the pride and joy of the MUMOK is Andy Warhol, who appears as a glittery ghost in a double life-size poster inside the museum. Ick. I have never loved Warhol, but I gave him a fair chance and watched quite a few of his videos. Sad, I still don’t like him.

Mom & Me chilling on a MQ bench with MUMOK in the background

After the museums, we wandered over to the Burggarten and paid Mozart our respects while mowing down on some KĂ€sekrainer. Boy, do I love Austrian food! Lucky us, the Genussfest in Stadtpark happened the same weekend we visited! Recalling old memories of eating topfen on olive bread with Andrea, we strolled the paths through the park tasting, tasting, tasting. What else would you do at a taste fest? The weather was lovely, the food was delicious. 🙂 Since I was feeling a little nostalgic, I drug Momma to Hohermarkt for gelato. Even though I’ve had authentic gelato continuously for almost a year now, the gelateria am Hohermarkt still holds up.

Still running high on nostalgia, we ate dinner at  Centimeter. Momma ate Schnitzel and I ordered HolzfĂ€llerknockerl. (No, I’m not just making up words.) Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my Tupperware and I had to leave the left-over goods on my plate destined for the trash can. Never again! That used to last me five meals for goodness sakes!

Radlers at Centimeter

The next morning I finally gave Sissi her due and visited her museum. She has some gorgeous dishes and dresses, but a sad life. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. She is famous in Austria, but very few Americans have ever heard of her. Shame. As a goodbye, Mom and I ate lunch on the Graben. Mmmmmm WĂŒrstel.

Mouth watering...

I will miss you Vienna, but rest assured; I’ll be back. Vienna is one of the best cities on the planet.

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Naxos/Paradise

We arrived in Naxos in the evening and made a plan to meet Diana at the town hall. Unfortunately, there are two town halls in Naxos and we both waited at a different one. When Diana “no-showed” Joey and I walked up to the famous Portara, which is the location of the ancient temple of Apollo. It was so beautiful in the sunset.

Joey at the Portara

Joey at the Portara

As we were walking back to our hotel, I heard the words “Hey guurrrlll” from a familiar voice. As luck would have it, Billy and Ben were staying at a hotel just down the street from ours. That night we all met up with Diana and her sister Livi and played backgammon and cards on the beach. At the end of the night, Joey and I went for a 4 am swim in the ocean and the water was still warm. The next day we spent a lot of time at the beach. In the evening Diana took us to the opening ceremony for the 31st International Guitar Competition of Naxos. Apparently the most famous duet in guitar right now opened the celebration with a concert. They were absolutely amazing; they played as if they were one. Afterwards we went out for a drink at the 4 Euro cocktail bar along the main drag in town.

Diana and I at St. George Beach

Diana and I at St. George Beach

The next day was the day of Diana’s performance in the guitar competition. Billy and Ben decided to drive us all there with the ATVs they had rented. Unfortunately there were six of us and only two ATVs. Since Diana had her guitar, her and Ben shared one ATV while the rest of us piled onto Billy’s. It was fun while it lasted, but we got caught and had to pay “damages”. We did, however, make it to the concert on time and Diana played beautifully. However, she didn’t make it into the finalists. As it turns out, the Greek student of the Greek competition coordinator one
 and he wasn’t even good. Put two and two together.
Joey fell asleep before we went out that night. We met some Greeks, bought ice cream and went to bed. I said goodbye to Billy, Ben and Livi that night because they would be taking the ferry back to Athens the next day.

Joey and I on the ATV

Joey and I on the ATV

The next morning Joey and I were feeling adventurous so we rented an ATV and I drove us all the way down the island to Kastraki beach. We found a little cave there and also went swimming. Then we drove farther south and found the remains of a resort abandoned half way through construction. We wandered about the rubble and climbed down to the beach. We found a secluded grotto and had the beach to ourselves. Then we took our ATV to a tavern for lunch. Our final stop before home was Aghios Prekopios, apparently the best beach on the island. The sand was certainly better than St. George Beach near our hotel, but it was more crowded and I much prefer St. George. In the evening we met up with Diana and her parents and had drinks with them.
On our final day on Naxos we had to spend a lot of time at a cafĂ© again due to the lack of luggage lockers and early check out times. Then we met up with Diana and went back to her hotel where her dad cut up watermelon that we ate on their balcony. Then we hopped in the beamer and drove Diana to the horse farm. Her parents scheduled a beach ride for her that evening. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to say goodbye because we had to leave for the ferry before Diana got back. We arrived in Athens late, late at night, slept in a hostel for just a few hours, then it was back on a plane headed to Tubingen.

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Relaxing in Southern Germany

Flowers and Buildings along the Neckar River in TĂŒbingen

Flowers and Buildings along the Neckar River in TĂŒbingen

I had a little trouble getting to TĂŒbingen. After that scorchingly hot afternoon in Berlin, there was a lightening storm that delayed my flight. Luckily I arrived in Stuttgart just minutes before the last S-Bahn and train to TĂŒbingen. Joey met me at the airport and we made it back to his dorm by 2:30 am. Joey had school the next day so I spent a lot of my time sleeping off my Berlin exhaustion. In the evening I explored the city. I saw the castle, the river, the Rathaus, the island and the H&M. 🙂

The next day Joey and I walked from his dorm to the city center. We visited the main church and then bought some ice cream to eat by the Neckar river. They have these boats that you can only find here in TĂŒbingen; they’re called Stocherkahn and they kind of remind me of the gondalas in Venice. The boat driver, if you will, uses a big stick to push the boat along the water. We saw people barbequing sausages for a leisurely summer dinner on a Stocherkahn as well as people practicing for the Stocherkahn race.

Stocherkahn Boat Race

Stocherkahn Boat Race

Afterwards we met up with his friend Ben to have a beer and a pretzel at the Bier Garten by the river. We then decided to be a bit adventurous with dinner and bought the ingredients to make pho at home. DISASTER. It tasted nothing like pho and was a bit hard to eat. Thank god Ben had chips and pretzels for us to munch on. After dinner we all met up with Lindsay and her Swedish boyfriend in the park and then we went to a bar for drinks. Then it was off to bed!

The next morning we had a lazy day trying to save up on sleep before heading to Greece. We did hop on the train to the next town over, Reutlingen, to buy some shorts for Joey to wear in Greece. We were mildly successful. Now we’re going to try to get some shut eye before heading to the airport at 3:30 am. Ahhhhhh, not looking forward to it.

The main thing that I learned during my time in Southern Germany: There are some differences between Austrian German and German German. I have trouble understanding and at times I sound like a fool.

Joey inside of my Authentic German Pretzel

Joey inside of my Authentic German Pretzel

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Hallie ist nach Wien gekommen.

So, Hallie arrived in the evening on Thursday and we started off with a bang by going to Cafe Sacher for a slice of Vienna’s famous Sacher torte. Apparently it’s her dad’s favorite kind of cake, so we took many pictures so as to make him jealous. Then Bobby, Billy, Andrea and I took Hallie on a short tour of the first district of Vienna. First we walked to Stephansplatz where we watched a street performer and then went inside the church for a bit. Then we walked through the Graben, a pedestrian street in Vienna, to the Hofburg where I showed Hallie the ancient Roman ruins beneath the city. Then we made our way to the Ringstraße, seeing the twin museums, parliament and the Rathaus. That night we had a sleepover in Billy and Joseph’s room. We pushed their beds together and watched The Sound of Music. Well, everyone else watched The Sound of Music. I fell asleep within ten minutes as usual.

The next morning Billy, Hallie and I woke up and met up with Sarah and Andrew at Schloss Schönbrunn, the summer palace of the old monarchs. We did the tour of the palace rooms, but it was nearly as impressive as I thought it would be. We also walked through the beautful grounds and gardens.

Sarah, Hallie, Andrew, Billy and I by the fountain at Schönbrunn

Sarah, Hallie, Andrew, Billy and I by the fountain at Schönbrunn

After our long tour of the palace Hallie and I got ready to go to the ballet. No trip to Vienna is complete without seeing a show at the opera house. So, Hallie and I ran to get a KĂ€sekrainer, a sausage filled with cheese, and then met Sarah in the line to see Tschaikovsky’s Anna Karenina ballet. It was more modern and experimental than the last ballet I saw at the opera house, but it was beautiful! I think I like ballet more than opera, but I’ll have one more chance to test that. Our class is going to the opera together in two weeks. After the opera Andrew met up with us in the Museums Quartier and we all shared a bottle of wine until it starting raining and we went to Cafe Leopold to stay warm and dry.

The next morning I worked on homework while Hallie went to the Kunsthistoriches Museum. Andrea and I met up with her in the afternoon and took her on another small tour of the 1st district, which included a stop at Hoher Markt for some ice cream shaped like spaghetti.

Hallie enjoying Spaghetti Ice Cream

Hallie enjoying Spaghetti Ice Cream

In the evening Sarah came over to my dorm and she, Andrea and I made a traditional Austrian meal for Hallie. I prepared LeberkĂ€se, a meatloaf kind of thing, with Semmel or rolls, and KĂ€sespĂ€ztle, cheese on egg noodles. Sarah made Sommersalat again. It was so delicious! Then we all hopped on the Straßenbahn and headed to Baden to spend our evening at the Roman baths. It was so relaxing. My favorite part was the steam rooms. They each had different scents such as Eucalyptus. We were so relaxed until the kicked us out. We ended the evening with a girly sleepover and we watched Beauty and the Beast. I love that movie.

On Sunday morning we had plans to head out of the city to Wachau valley, but we opted to stay in Vienna so that Hallie could get the full experience. How could she leave without seeing artwork by Klimt and Schiele?! So, we headed straight for the Leopold Museum, which is now officially my favorite museum in Vienna. It is dedicated to art around the turn of the century, which I love. We saw so many works by Schiele and he is also now one of my favorite artists. My favorite drawing was titled Mother and Daughter. After the Leopold we enjoyed a meal at a cafe in the Museums Quartier. We soaked up some sun and listened to good song after good song played by the DJ for “Sounds of Summer in the MQ”. Our favorite song was by Sister Nancy. After lunch we went to the Belvedere so Hallie could see Gustav Klimt’s Kiss before she left Vienna. For dinner we went to our favorite restaurant, Centimeter, for some a very Austrian meal.

This morning Hallie packed up her stuff and I took her to the train station. It was so nice having a friend come and visit. I feel so loved. Thanks Hallie. Now I have to try and get as much homework done as possible before my friend from Northern Ireland, Andrew, arrives in Vienna and I get to be tour guide all over again!

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A Couchsurfing Weekend

Friday night my friend Doris invited me to her house Saturday morning for homemade pancakes. When Andrea and I showed up the next morning, it was a bit of a couchsurfing get-together! My friend Meghan was there and Doris had a couple friends over as well as three couchsurfers staying with her at the time. Doris and friends made amazing chocolate chip pancakes from scratch and everyone that came brought different toppings. We had all kinds of fruit and jam and sweets, including real Canadian maple syrup from the two couchsurfers from Canada.

After our late breakfast we all headed to Brunnenmarkt, the Turkish vegetable market in the 16th district. I was especially excited about this because we are each assigned a different district to present for our Cultural Studies class coming up in June and I was assigned to the 16th! I was able to take quite a few pictures and start my project.

Couchsurfers bike through Wachau

Couchsurfers bike through Wachau

That day Doris, Meghan and the couch surfer from Virginia, Hannah Love, convinced me to come on a bike ride with them the next day. I was a little apprehensive because I have never been very good on a bike, but I said yes anyway. I woke up early Sunday morning to meet the group of twenty or so couchsurfers at Florisdorf station. We were all from different backgrounds; there were people from Australia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Turkey and the USA. We then took the train to the Wachau region and got our rental bikes. Dominik, who grew up in Krems, led our bike tour. We biked down one side of the river and then back up the other, visiting the towns of DĂŒrnstein, St. Michael, Spitz, Mautern, Stein and the city of Krems. One of my favorite parts was riding along the river directly across from DĂŒrnstein. The picture above shows all of us posing in front of DĂŒrnstein and you can see the ruins that I hiked to on our class’s field trip to the Wachau last month. It was tough getting back on a bike, but I’m glad I did it. Now I feel comfortable enough to rent the city bikes in Vienna (as long as I stay away from cars).

Biking through Wachau

Biking through Wachau

After we returned our bikes, Dominik led us on a walking tour of Krems. First we rested our bike-weary legs in the park and then filled our bellies with some ice cream. Then Dominik took us up a hill in Krems to overlook the Wachau valley. It was beautiful. After the train ride home, Doris, Hannah, Jai the Australian and I went to Vienna’s famous ice cream shop on Reumannplatz called Tichy. There we tried a wonderful dessert called Eismarillenknödl. It is apricot mousse made from the apricots grown in the Wachau region surrounded by vanilla ice cream and rolled in cookie crumbs. OH MY GOD. I have been back to try the raspberry and snowball flavors as well.

It was a wonderful weekend where I met a lot of people and I can’t wait for more couchsurfing events!

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