Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vienna -Take Two

Friday December 10, 2010

I was suppose to leave at 4:33 am for Vienna to meet my Hungary American friends that were arriving at 10am. I had to get up at 3am to finish packing and be out the door by 3:45 so that I could make my 4:33 am train.  It was suppose to take 4.5 hours to get to Vienna by train and I was excited to meet up with Team Eastern/Central Europe.  Here is where the story takes a turn.....

My first stop was a hole in the wall, small town (at least the train station was) Veseli n. Luznici.  According to my train info, I had 5 minutes to switch trains but unfortunately at 5am in a severe snow blizzard, that didn't happen.  The train worker told me the train I was suppose to get on, was pulling out of the station...UGH UGH UGH.  There was nice Czech lady train worker that told me I could catch the next train at 5:55 to a different station than I had planned, but at least it would get me to Vienna.

During my hour wait, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a rat, which ran OVER my foot.  I managed to get my camera out and catch a picture of the little culprit.  Not a good way to start my morning.

After getting on my next train, I arrived in Ceske Budejovice at 6:30 am and had to wait until 8:09 for my next train.  It was FREEZING in the train station so I huddled in the fetal position, hugging my knees, trying to stay warm.  I was then rudely shoved and told "no sleeping" (in English).  Apparently I looked like a homeless person or something....I was just trying NOT TO DIE of hypothermia.

Now I finally made it to my third train and on to my third station Ceske Velenice.  The train was actually warm and I thought about just staying on the train and not getting off.  But....the adventure CONTINUES.

 During all this time, I was in contact with my friend Emily (coming from Hungary) via text and I shared my delays with her and our meeting time was arranged for a later problem.  When I arrived in Ceske Velenice, I found out my train was going to be one hour late.....SOOOOO....I joined the rest of the passengers in the bar for a drink.....then we found out that the train was going to be two hours late.  So now I was not going to get into Vienna until 1:30....I was suppose to get in at 8:30 and now I was getting in at 1:30. My 4.5 hour train ride was turning into a 9+ hour train ride/experience.

I finally arrived in Vienna and texted Emily to find out where she and Franky were....unfortunately they didn't text back so I spent the next 3.5 hours walking around searching for them.  Vienna isn't small for those wondering.  Finally at 4pm I texted them that I was sitting at a cafe and within 5 minutes, Franky and Emily showed up at my location.  Apparently they were unable to text but they did receive texts.  I don't know why I didn't think of that earlier....could have saved myself a lot of walking.

After I met up with Emily and Franky, we went to Albertina and saw an amazing Picasso, Michelangelo and Kentridge exhibition.  Franky is an art teacher so it was very helpful to hear his opinion and interpretation of the art pieces.

We met up with Brock and Calan around 7 and then all met up at the hostel at 9 to meet up with Kent.  FINALLY Team Central/Eastern Europe was reunited.  It was great to have the 6 of us back together.  We hit up the Christmas Markets for some warm Pousch, wine, and pivo at a local pub near our hostel.  Our hostel wasn't 5 star by any means, but it suited our travelers needs.  We were in a 10 bunk bed room that was supplied by IKEA.  I don't think they knew how to screw in all the screws because any slight movement, a creaking sound could be heard.

Saturday we set off for Belvedere (museum) to see the exhibits.  Franky, Emily, and I explored the Upper Belvedere which showcased Klimt, Monet, and Renoir.  I have to say I was VERY MUCH in awe to be standing in front of The Kiss by Klimt.  I love that painting and to see the actual painting is a life experience I won't soon forget.  The Lower Belvedere showcased Modern Art and Rodin's sculptures.

Later that night we all met up again and had dinner at a restaurant called Centimeters.  We ordered the "Sword" meal....the dinner actually came on a sword.  There was sooo much food, that the six of us couldn't even finish the entire meal.  We did give it a gallant effort though.  After dinner we explored the Christmas Markets again.  At the end of the night we found a Mexican bar and enjoyed some Austrian alcohol and played some games.

It turned out to be a relatively early evening and in the morning we all went our separate ways back to our locations.  Everyone else left on early morning trains but I took the 10:30 train back to Tabor.  I even made every connection back to Tabor and got home around 3:30 pm.  I was glad to see everyone, but I was happy to be home, back in my own bed.....which I took a LONG nap in...seeing as I didn't get much sleep during the weekend.

Vienna is an amazing city and I highly recommend it to anyone.  There are so many sights to see from St. Stephensdome, Albertina, Parliament, Hofsburg, and Town Hall.

  By the way, for you James Bond fans, which I am, this Ferris Wheel was where they filmed parts of Living Daylights.....wahooooooo...can't believe I actually was at a place that was in a James Bond movie....

Vienna- Take One

Saturday December 4, 2010

I drove to Vienna from Tabor with my Czech friends Iva and Martin Saturday morning.  We left on this snowy morning and drove the 3.5 hours to Vienna.  We met Iva's sister and two of her friends at a flat that we would be staying at.  Lucka (Iva's sister) went to university in Vienna and a former professor/friend has an "extra" flat in Vienna that she offered us to stay at.  The flat was about 15 minutes outside the center city center and a perfect location to relax and enjoy the ambiance of Vienna.

Saturday afternoon we went to a museum to see Frida Kahlo's art exhibit.  Luckily I had watched her movie so I had an understanding of her life, experiences, and inspirations for her artwork.  Without seeing the video, I don't know if I would have appreciated the exhibit as much.

After the exhibit, we enjoyed a traditional Austrian dinner and partook in the traditional holiday drink, Pousch.  It was ABSOLUTELY freezing in Vienna and I definitely was not dressed appropriately.  My hands were on the verge of hypothermia along with my legs, toes, and every other part of my body.  The hot Pousch definitely was a welcome support to slightly overcoming the deep freeze.

We were able to see many of the historic sights and take in the Christmas Markets.  They are definitely worth visiting and experiencing at least once in your life.  We don't have Christmas Markets like Europe does in Washington state (at least to this magnitude) so it was a new experience for me.

At Albertina

During my near freezing to death time, I was able to find warmth in a little bit of home :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snow in Tabor

For anyone that knows me, I LOVE THE SNOW!!!  I love the first snow, and I only love the snow that is white and beautiful.  I am not a fan of the dirty slush that the rain turns the snow into but I always look forward to the first snow of the year.  Tabor did not disappoint.  Right now I am sitting in my flat in Tabor, Czech Republic looking out my window to a winter wonderland.  This town takes on a whole new beauty when it is white.  I feel like a Queen living in medieval times with castles covered in white.  There is nothing really profound to report other than I am just so in love with my life right now.  I walk out my front door and find something new to marvel at every day.
      I met some neighbors today because everyone was out shoveling snow from their front porch.  I didn't see the need since it is still HEAVILY snowing and whatever I shovel away, will just come back, but when in Rome.....
      This blog post will be more of a pictorial of my town.  But....some snow facts.....we don't have snow days here.  EVERYONE still goes to school, no matter how much snow there is on the ground.  They don't have school buses here, most everyone walks to school so there are no snow delays or cancellation of school.
      The lake on the right is called, Jordan, and when it freezes people ice skate on it....I can't wait.  I have always wanted to do that.

Tabor at night with the Christmas lights

You see small children EVERYWHERE with their parents pulling them on their sleds...ahh to be a kid again.

Christmas lights are beautiful

These parents don't let the snow keep them inside, strollers are everywhere prepped for the weather and getting their daily walk.  There must be tons of strollers (or as they call them here, prams) everywhere.  I think American's are whimps because when it snows in Lake Stevens, everyone locks themselves inside.

This picture was taken on my walk home from school.  The weather man actually got it right when they said that there would be "heavy" snow today.
       This is the street that leads up to my flat.  The building on the left almost seems to disappear against the fallen snow.

This is the main church in the old town square.  The middle area would be an ideal place for the ultimate snow ball fight......hmmmmm.....

The picture on the right shows the main Christmas tree.  The lights are on continually and they definitely highlight the Christmas spirit.  All there needs to be is a group of Carolers singing Christmas songs and it would feel like I was in some European country...wait a minute....I AM!

I live on the third floor of this building with the pizzeria on the bottom floor.  I never have to worry about not having enough to eat in the winter because I can always go downstairs and have a warm, freshly made pizza.

Katerina's mom put a Christmas wreath on my door and there aren't any Scrooge's inside these walls

The picture on the right is taken from my balcony....I can see James Bond racing across the frozen roof tops....and if Santa came here (which he doesn't) he could park the reindeer at one house and cover many homes in one stop since all the homes are so close together....
 The girl on the right was walking when she stopped to look up, opened her mouth and tried to catch the falling snow flakes....priceless


I went with Romana on Tuesday to a theater in Tabor to see the Vanecek.  Not only did I get some see some dancing, I was able to learn some new customs of the Czech culture.  Children, when they are 15-16 years old, take dance lessons, like kids in the US would take drivers education (they do that here in the Czech Republic too).  I had to laugh at myself because I can't see 15/16 year boys in American wanting to learn the waltz but it is part of the growing up process here.
      They take dance lessons for 3 months, one lesson a week, and at the end of the 3 months the dance class puts on a ball so they can show all everything that they learned.  They danced the waltz, jive, bunny hop, parent/child dance and they teach them how to walk properly, have a conversation with someone....sounds like something in the American South.
     The girls dress in their fanciest ball gown and the boys are dressed in a tux and all boys must wear white gloves.

It was fun to see the kids dancing.  Of course, some should not seek a career as a professional ballroom dancer and some girls ended up with more bruises on their toes that they probably would have liked, but everyone looked very beautiful and proud to show off their dancing skills.  It was fun to watch some of the boys that you could just tell where counting the steps in their head and trying, but not succeeding, to lead their dance partner around the dance floor.

Bunny Hop