carry on dancing

The Blue Danube Waltz,
The city of Strauss, a night
Of old melody.


I'm pretty sure that this is my new favourite city: it was full of gorgeous things everywhere. It was also comparatively much cleaner than places I've found myself on other weekends... Athens, for instance.

Okay, how did we start... we got in to Wien at about 08:00 on Saturday, then tried to check into our hostel. Yours truly had, in some kind of inconvenient date-telling time warp, booked the room for the following (i.e. wrong) night... so we asked very nicely about a room for the correct one. It was only 4euro more, and we got a private room instead of a dorm. The hostel was super nice, though: it was half hostel and half hotel (the Do Step Inn, in case you ever find yourself in Wien), and it was really clean, it included towels and linens, it had nice kitchen facilities and free internet. Not to mention that it was located right next to the Westbanhof in Wien, which is their big, international train station.

Anyway, we got a room and headed off to explore. Wien has a CityBike programme wherein one need only register for 1euro in order to use any of the bikes (located outside of every U-bahn (subway) station) for up to one hour, free of charge. After an hour, return the bike for 15 minutes and take another free hour! What a deal. :D So we did this to take a trip down to the Schönbrunn Palace and gardens, and the oldest zoo in the world. The gardens were massive... it took us 4 hours to get around what we saw, and what we saw was far less than half of what there was. One of the most ridiculously impressive bits of the park was the Gloriette, which sat atop a hill. From a distance, it looked like the Brandenburger Tor (see post on Berlin), but it was much farther away than we could have guessed. The scale of the thing!

More bike riding through gorgeous, old areas of the city followed. We saw the Hofburg, which was the "winter residence" of the Habsburg dynasty. It was awesome. And now the streets by it are lined with, predictably, stores like BVLGARI and Giorgio Armani. Oh, and shops for tourist junk. :)

There happened to be a market in a parking lot that we passed, so I picked up a nice party top. Probably not anywhere close to as fancy as something I'd need to get into a Viennese ball, but those are in the winter, anyway.

The next stop of note was the Republic of Kugelmugel. It is essentially a crazy man's own private nation. He started printing stamps of his own (infuriated by taxation) and was arrested, but instead of being thrown in prison he was pardoned by the President and permitted to set up his own republic in the middle of... an amusement park. Too bad he didn't seem to be around when we stopped by; I'd've bought a stamp for sure.

We ate some Wiener (in English: Viennese) cuisine: Wiener schnitzel! Haha. I guess schnitzel can be made from any meat (much to my relief), so I tried some made with chicken. And Austrian beer is pretty tasty, too.

We went out for the night with a group of other travelers from everywhere. There were some from Australia, some from Mexico, the US, Austria, and even Canada (this guy was particularly hilarious in his stereotypical lumberjack-plaid shirt and furry beard). They were a lot of fun.

The next day brought us to the Zentralfriedhof, where Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms, and other famous composers are buried. There are also sections of old Wiener presidents/rulers (one was labeled as a Burgermeister, which made me think fondly of one of my favourite movies), Buddhist philosophers, and a Jewish section. It was interesting how well-manicured most of the Friedhof was... excepting the aforementioned Jewish section. It was sadly overgrown. :( Probably this had something to do with the massive Catholic church in the centre.

Also we made a stop at the Blue Danube of song to take a look at the Danube Tower, and we were shocked to see a rescue of a drowing person during our brief visit there. A guy jumped into the river and was pulled under; under a minute later, there were firetrucks, police cars, a rescue helicopter, and scuba rescue teams to find him. I'd never seen scuba rescue teams. It was kind of scary... but they did find the kid and pull him out. I hope he's okay. A few seconds of decision can make a big impact.

Then... well, there was nothing else in particular that we wanted to see in Wien, so we took a brief trip to... Bratislava. That's in Slovakia, and under an hour from Wien. The language there is Czech, which is a far cry from anything I can speak (or even pronounce). Hardly anyone spoke any English, and they didn't seem to be accustomed to tourists. It wasn't as bad as it looked to be in Eurotrip (45 cents couldn't buy us a palace... *sigh*), but I did learn why we are kindly asked by some rail lines to refrain from using the WC while in the station. They didn't make any effort to disguise the fact that it simply, um, opens onto the tracks.

So that was the weekend. Well, that and another overnight train trip to make it back to Darmstadt just in time to get to work during which we were awakened by the Polizei for a passport check because Mathieu looked like a felon they were searching for. He had encountered a swastika charm on the train back from Bratislava, which he had fortunately dropped sometime in the interim. I wonder what would have happened if they'd found it on him...



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