Vienna Wrap-up

The part of the my travels with Vienna as a home base is coming to a close, so I thought I would make a video to help remember all of the amazing experiences I have had so far. I would like to first thank Melissa for inviting me to come and stay with her family. Not only was she great at planning our trips and working out the details, but she was also a really fun friend to share every experience with. Also, I want to thank the Salzmann family for letting me stay at their house over the past month. It’s not easy having a guest in your house for such a long time, and they were always so nice and welcoming. My European adventure, however, is not over! Tomorrow, I leave for London and ultimately Bristol in England to visit my friend Peter, who I also met working at camp last summer. I’m looking forward to an amazing time, and I will update again in about a week with a bunch of new stories to share!

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Salzburg 2 – The City

Like I said, Salzburg was an amazing city. There are so many things to see, but we had to squeeze as much as we could into about a day and a half. Friday evening, we went to old town and went to Mozart’s birthplace, which has been turned into a museum. It was really interesting to not only see and learn about where he grew up, but also to see the actual instruments he played and some of the music he composed. As it turns out, Mozart is not the only aspect of the city that is musical. We were actually there for part of the Salzburg Music Festival, in which there are several performances. We even witnessed a showing of an opera below the fortress, which was pretty incredible – there were people everywhere and the opera was very good (not that I know anything about operas, but it seemed good to me!). After paragliding on Saturday, we went back into Salzburg and went up to the top of the fortress, which was amazing. I know it’s hard to compare the two, but I couldn’t help but notice the similarities and differences between Prague and Salzburg. Prague is obviously much bigger, but the uniqueness and the consistently old quality of the architecture really stuck out to me – there were no modern buildings in either city, at least not that I noticed. Also similar to Prague, Salzburg is extremely touristy, so it doesn’t really have it’s own distinct culture when it comes to the people – the culture is much more evident in the buildings and the history. One thing I liked better about Salzburg was the beauty surrounding the city. Every direction you look you see the Alps, which was seriously mesmerizing. That night, we ate dinner at the fortress, which as you can see in the picture in the video, was beautiful. And, despite the 40-minute wait for soup and then another 30 minutes for our meal, we had a great time relaxing in such a nice atmosphere. Sunday morning, we went back to old town and saw some of the sights from the Sound of Music. I think my mom and I watched that movie at least 1,000 times, so as I saw some of the places the scenes definitely came back to me. It was very cool to actually see in person those places I’d seen so many times on screen! Lastly, we visited St. Peter’s Graveyard, which must have been the most elaborate graveyard that I have ever seen. As you see in the pictures, each gravestone was very ornately decorated, and some even had their own area that was fenced off. All around I think I may have enjoyed Salzburg the most out of all the cities that we’ve visited – it had everything: beautiful scenery, rich culture, and paragliding. What could beat that?!

Salzburg 1 – Paragliding

This weekend, Melissa and I went to Salzburg, which was probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Not only did we do a lot of cultural activities and explore the city itself, but we also went to a town called Werfenweng to go paragliding. Now let me just say heights are not my favorite thing, but when Melissa suggested it, how could I say no?! A chance like this, especially in such a beautiful location surrounded by the Alps, was impossible to pass up. So, I did it, and we videotaped the entire morning. We were planning on taking a bus from our stop off the train to Werfenweng, but when we got there, we found out we had misunderstood the bus situation. Because we arrived so early, however, we decided we had time to walk to the starting point. We were told Werfenweng was just 5 km up the road – it felt like much further than 5 Km, and we were right! We just looked up on Google Maps how far it actually was, and it was 12.1 Km or 7.5 Miles with about 1500 ft increased elevation from start to finish. Needless to say, we were tired at the end! I think it was worth it, despite our sweaty shirts! The views were amazing and it was a great way to explore the area. The experience of paragliding itself was not nearly as scary as I had anticipated. I actually calmed down when we got to the top of the mountain, and any last jitters I had before take-off were immediately gone once we were in the air. The flight was incredible. The views of course were amazing. Also, the simple feelings of being that high in the air and so free at the same time were surreal. In the video above, he’s actually letting me steer us! The experience was amazing, something I will definitely never forget!

Vienna

Vienna

This past weekend, Melissa and I did some tourist activities in Vienna. It was awesome to look at Vienna from that perspective, as I have been more or less taking Vienna in from the perspective of someone who lives here. Just going about my daily life in Vienna has really given me an interesting view of the culture. In some ways, the culture is much more relaxed. For example, it is pretty common to see a policeman driving around and holding a cigarette outside the window (and as a side point, a LOT more people smoke!). On the other hand, the culture is much stricter, especially in terms of rules. J walking is taken much more seriously, even though people still do it. I guess if I had to summarize based on my brief observations, it seems as though there aren’t as many rules here, but you are more strictly expected to abide by the rules that do exist. Also, just through walking around, reading signs, listening to conversations, and basic interactions, I have been picking up a little German. Hopefully I’ll get even better as the trip goes on!

Anyway, as for this past weekend, we went back to Schönbrunn palace, as Melissa had not yet been there. As it turns out, though, the area does not only consist of a palace, but also of a zoo (which is the oldest in Europe!), several gardens and just an overall beautiful landscape. The zoo had mostly the same animals as I would see in Cincinnati, but two main animals that stuck out in my mind were the Kuala Bear and the Panda Bear, both of which I had never seen (I don’t think!). I’ll probably get to see more Pandas in China, but it was still exciting for now!

On Sunday, we walked through downtown Vienna. I got to see the famous Opera House, and Karlskirche, which is a famous baroque-style church. My highlight of the day, though, was the Sacher Torta that is a very famous Austrian dessert. Apparently about 360,000 of these cakes are exported per year! It is chocolate cake with apricot fillings and whipped cream – really, really good! Other good food I tried this weekend was a Döner, a typical Austrian sandwich served out of a cart – also delicious! In the picture the above, I’m taking one of my first bites on the subway!

I’m excited to keep learning about Viennese and Austrian culture, both through observing and talking to people, and by looking at historic landmarks. This coming weekend we’re going to Munich, which should be very fun! Until next time, aufwiedersehen!

Dürnstein and Schönbrunn

Two days ago, Melissa woke me up bright and early, which was at first very unenjoyable but then I realized I was in Vienna and decided getting up wasn’t such a bad thing.  We then went to the gym and ran some errands. Melissa showed me how to use the public transportation system, which I’m going to need some practice to learn how to use it before I can do it on my own (I’m a slow study with these kind of things and run the risk of looking like a tourist, which is of course not a good thing!). For example, on the buses here you have to press a button to open the doors, which of course I will probably forget to do and just stand there staring at the bus while the passengers look at me wondering what I’m doing.  But I’m sure I’ll figure it out, eventually!

After we worked out, Melissa had a really busy day, so her family took me to Dürnstein, which was a town about an hour Northwest (I think) of Vienna. There, we first had a picnic, then went on a hike to the ruins of a castle with amazing views of the area, which was filled with vineyards.  The area truly was incredible, and very high up – so I, naturally, didn’t get close to any of the edges, but the family did, which I got some pretty great pictures of from my very safe, solid seat on a rock.

Yesterday, Melissa was also really busy so I explored the city with her cousin and his friend. We went to Schönbrunn, which is a beautiful castle about an hour by bus and subway from the house. We then went paddle boating and swimming in the Donau which was really nice, especially since the whether has been so hot (not quite as steamy as Cincinnati, but still up there!).  I have tons of pictures of all these events but I’m having trouble uploading them, but I’ll figure it out and hopefully get them uploaded soon!

We’re leaving on a bus for Prague in about three hours, which I’m really looking forward to but don’t know exactly what to expect – we’ll see!

Arrived in Vienna!

Arrived in Vienna!

After about 18 hours of travel I’ve finally gotten here, and it was not easy! From dealing with a thunderstorm in Cincinnati, to kicking a stubborn, old Polish man who didn’t speak English out of my seat on the plane, the journey itself was very interesting. I’ve learned that I look kind of Polish, so I’ve had several conversations in the last few days that were very one-sided, and I just smiled and nodded. But in summary, I’ve gotten here in one piece, I’m not too tired, and ready to explore!