Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vienna Fun and Socialist Emergency Rooms!

Monday March 1st, 2010
We met Dr. Kecht in the morning to go to the European Union Vienna satellite building. We had a presentation from a lady that worked there and it was basic for all of us who are in European Union Economics and Politics because she presented on the basics which we already knew. We had E.U. Econ. and Politics homework to figure out what the Austrians do not like about being a part of the E.U. We found out that the passage of criminals from other countries has increased with the ever widening opening of the borders, and that they believe that they lost lots of money switching over to the Euro (even though the statistics say they did not). They also feel that employers can move their factories and companies out of the country more easily to the low wage countries like Romania. It is interesting because yearly 70% of Austrians say that being a part of the E.U. is a bad thing, yet 72% of Austrians say they would not like to leave the European Union. Just like the Austrians; to complain yet not want to solve it. It is like our German teacher says, “They complain to speak, but not to hear”. It really seems to be the Austrian mentality!
After the European Union building we walked to our next event as we passed Vienna’s town hall. We were so surprised because when we were walking up to it we found a huge outdoor ice rink with side ice paths! It was filled with teenagers, families and physical education school groups even! Surprisingly Dr. Kecht let us watch for a little bit - she is always basically making us jog to keep up with her to get to our destinations, as she is a “true” Austrian and always on time. I thought it was the coolest thing that the schools had brought out the students to learn how to go ice skating! Apparently, the town gives them a discount on the skating fee of course, and it is usual for P.E. class to be held outside of the school. Dr. Kecht was saying that every Austrian kid learns to ice skate, ski, and swim. And that a P.E. class will go to the mountains for a few days a year and go skiing for class. I know a lot of people back at home that would die for that! But the way they present P.E. in the school in a fun way, I do believe, really reflects in their culture as Austrians are ALWAYS doing physical activity. 
Our next stop was the Vienna Integration Office where we learned what Austria’s capital does to monitor and incorporate immigrants into Vienna. It was a surprisingly interesting presentation where we discovered that in order to become a citizen or live here with a “green card” equivalent, one must learn German. As it is the national language an immigrant will be tested after a certain amount of time to see if they have learned enough to stay. In order to help immigrants learn German the provence of Vienna gives them German class discount coupons every time they show up to a seminar about living in Austria. There is a set course of seminars that they are highly encouraged to attend, everything from educational systems to housing. The office gives them tips on how to get along with Austrians - don’t shy away from a dog lick, because Austrians love their dogs - and how to enroll for school and apply for a house. We were given gift bags from the office and I found out they had given us a copy of one of the booklets that is given during the education seminar. It is a booklet that has words and phrases translated in six common immigrant languages as well as English relating to things about school. The idea of it is that the teacher and parents can break the language barrier through this user friendly pre-translated booklet. It seems like a great resource! As the teacher to be, I thought this was really neat. :) We also talked about how much more accepting those in Vienna are of immigrants than other regions of Austria. 
After that we headed to the Nachmarkt again for lunch where I decided to get a small bag of random dried fruits and nuts that I had never seen before. Tracy, a classmate, and I split the snack bag I bought, a loaf of bread and hummus on the steps of the Succession. It was so wonderful watching people and feeling the heat of the sun! More of our group gathered on the steps and I ended up trying a green olive with a red chili pepper in it that Alex had traded me for some dried fruit. My mouth was on FIRE, but it was so delicious. lol. 
Dr. Kecht lead us to the metro where we traveled to the Schloss Schönbrunn Palace. It was impressively large, but it seems that the Europeans make every building huge. As we waited to get our tickets a man came up the boys in our group and started talking about how they should not have sex until they are married and that it would end in Hell if they did, of course all in German. The boys tried walking away, barely knowing what the man was saying and he followed them. lol. It was quite a sight from the sidelines, apparently they looked like big sinners. 
We received an audio tour through the inside of  Schloss Schönbrunn Palace and then we walked around the grounds. I would definitely never spend the money for getting inside the palace or the audio. It said nothing really, and the rooms were like every other palace. But we walked around the gardens behind the palace and it was beautiful even in the winter. I wish we could have seen it in the summer with the mazes of green shrubbery and flowers. A group of us decided to walk up the huge hill behind the palace that lead up to a beautiful building that is now a cafe. The walk was just like going through a perfect open park and the view was just breath taking. We found a huge fountain that was pretty on our way up and we found the beautiful cafe building with huge carved pillars.  At the top of the hill we met up with some other classmates and sat outside and talked. We sat and enjoyed the view and the sun while a few of them had beers.
Once the sun was starting to fade we traveled back to the metro station where Emily and I left the group to try and go to an opera. We found out that there was not a state opera that night but the lady told us that there was an opera going on at a different location. So we took the metro to where she told us and ended up in the dark in an incredibly sketch part of town! But the opera house (VolksOper Wein) was right outside the station and we found it perfectly. We paid 2 euros for standing tickets (yeah the one cheap thing in Austria!) and headed up to the play Antonia und der Reissteufel which was to start in two minutes. Great timing! We found our standing area and the play began. The audience was filled with little children with their parents or grandparents all dressed up. Apparently we had found a children’s opera, which was great to me because it was more of a musical. The opera was about a monster that locked children up and ate them because his heart was kept by some evil characters, and one of his prisoners escaped and tried to get back his heart to save the other kids. The costumes were amazing and the it was funny to even for me who did not understand all of the German. But I was proud, I figured out the plot by picking up on some German words. :) The costumes were so fun there were two people dressed as bats, the monster had a extra large foot, and the aunt wore crazy purple clothes! We ended up leaving before it was over, but it was a blast. 
Once we left, Emily and I headed to a cafe that we heard was wonderful behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Cafe Diaglas. We ate dessert instead of dinner (what had become a  tradition over these days to save money and enjoy the sweets!) and got a huge slice of a nutty, chocolaty, banana puffy cake. It was so rich I could not even finish it. The cafe was so adorable with the lowly lit red lamps and people around us reading from books or having private conversations over coffees. :) A very busy but great day. :)

Tuesday March 2nd, 2010
Our last day in Vienna was filled with a morning tour of the Austrian National Bank for the European Union Politics and Economics and Marketing classes. Definitely the most boring tour I have taken in my entire life! I thought it was going to be interesting but the guide barely spoke English and took us around glass cabinets that had a few coins here and a fish there and other examples of what had been used to barter. Maybe because I had already known about that made it boring. But, the presentation was painfully dull. The two highlights were seeing the money change over the decades, and the tools used today to make the Euro. An interesting thing that we were told was that the money that was printed before Austria was taken over by Hitler, was the same as the bill designs after Austria regained its independence. This was done to bring back a sense of familiarity and nationalism to the people. A cool idea I think, the only difference was the colors of the bills. 
We got to see some of the metal sheets that are used to print the bills, there are so many metal plates that are used to make one side of a bill we decided it definitely makes it harder to forfeit! It was awesome seeing the layers of the colors of printing on the bills in different stages, and the metallic stripe not on the bill yet. The best thing though, was the fact that we got to see examples of the modern way that they make the metal plates. They use to do it by hand, but now they have created a computer program where the artist draws the lines on a board and the computer records it. Then the computer has a program to engrave where the lines are to make the bills! We saw an example of a fictional bill with Gustav Klimt on it that was a really amazing design. 
We also found out that the reason for no one euro bills. Side note; it is so hard to talk using the word Euro, I always want to say Dollar! The bills wear out too quickly so they make them coins and they last longer; pretty clever. The other thing that was interesting to learn was that some other countries have the European Union’s factories produce their bills, like Singapore! I never imagined this. I just assumed that every country made its own money. But, apparently the costs of security and production are so high that it makes it rarer than we think! I never realized either how much producing your own money in a way gives a country more power. For example if the United States needs to produce more money to keep the country they simply can, but Liechtenstein cannot. That is huge! We learned all the interesting things in the last two minutes of the hour and a half tour of course! Dr. Kecht was so upset with the tour she was ranting about how she should have translated for him from the beginning. Lol she was so upset. After the tour we all got our bags and headed home on the train. :) 
Wednesday March 3rd, 2010
It was tough going to school today because being at home finally was really nice. We had had a super long weekend but it had been filled with learning and school. I feel like that is a lot of studying abroad. We see amazing things and it is “vacation” but it takes a lot out of you when you are trying to absorb so much new information 24/7 that sometimes it doesn’t feel like a vacation. 
We were learning something interesting today in Economics that I would have never thought of. Our professor informed us that the United States is working cleverly at paying off our debt to China even though we do not really see it. The United States has “100,000,000.00” loans it has to pay off to China, so in order to do so the National Reserve is slightly inflating the dollar on purpose so that we can pay off more of our debt. Because our bill has a number, it does not mean that the power of that dollar has to be a certain amount! Pretty clever. 
Thursday March 4th, 2010
Today no classes as usual. I did a few errands and went to Bergita’s lovely lunch - her desserts are just sinfully wonderful! Always worth the 30 minute walk. After spending sometime studying in the afternoon, Emily and I decided to go to the grocery store right by our house called EuroSpar to get milk (which we haven’t had a glass of milk since hmm ... well the United States ... and the one time we tried drinking the milk in our host mom’s fridge it was so thick it was like drinking a cheese paste!) and some cookies, hoping for American Oreos maybe!? Walking down the spiral marble steps in our house I fell down eight steps and ended up passing out at the bottom of them. All I wanted was milk, was that really too much to ask? I woke to Emily, one of my roomies, saying my name and I wondered what I hit to make me pass out, at the time the adrenaline covered up the pain. :) So I felt just a bit out of it; but no pain. I decided I still wanted milk, and stubbornly and stupidly went with Emily to the grocery store where I spent a whole euro on the tiniest jug of milk and a delicious chocolate bar with raisins in it! I went back and ate it and then fell asleep. I woke up to Emily knocking on my door when she got back from her Austrian Cuisine class with a slice of Sachetorte cake she had baked! What a great waking up present. It is the famous Austrian desert, a chocolate cake with 9 eggs and an apricot jam between the layers. :) Thanks Em!
Friday March 5th, 2010
Well I decided that yes I have hurt my body; in particular my left shoulder. Last night it began to hurt, but this morning it really hurt! I was pretty sure that I had just heavily bruised my middle and upper back, but I planned on going to the Dr. just to make sure and to make a lot of people at home feel better. :) I had told my host mother at breakfast what had happened the day before not for sympathy but I thought she should know. It is always scary talking to this old lady cause you never know her reaction. I told her and she looked at me like, so. Like I had stubbed my toe, I felt like such an idiot even though it was a big deal. I worked to clarify if she did not understand, she apparently understood just perfectly and did not care. We really are just like tenants. Oh well. 
So after lunch our cook Bergita took me to the emergency room, because Phoebe nor Dr. Kecht were in and all of the doctors offices close at noon on Fridays. One thing about Austria, the Dr.s never seem to be open! Bergita was so wonderful because it is not her job to take me there but she did! We rode the bus and ended up right next to the hockey stadium (makes sense; an E.R. room by the hockey stadium). I would have never guessed it was a hospital in a million years. It is the most boring average building; good thing she brought me! She helped me fill out the German forms and waited with me a total of two hours through xrays and examinations. Oh, she is a blessing! The Dr. I saw spoke perfect English and was really nice, despite the way he examined my shoulder as he discovered new ways to make it hurt. I got what I believe is my first xray of a body part! The lady doing the xray was so cute, her English was not great but she put enough words together to ask me the name for “hair clip” lol. I found out that I did not break or chip anything but that the swelling and internal bruising were high. So Dr. Lang started to prescribe some pain killers until I asked the cost, because I had to pay for this visit upfront before submitting it to insurance, yah a beautiful 200 euros fee for later! He asked if I was studying in Austria and for how long, apparently since I am not just a tourist he felt it was ok to give me some cream and super power Aleve for free. Yeah playing the poor student; wait I wasn’t playing. I am the poor student! He asked what courses I was taking and I mentioned I was taking Economics and Politics, and somehow he came to the idea that I was going to be “President of America” someday so I had to promise to remember his name. Lol. Well after a very positive experience with socialist Emergency Rooms I had to run back to school for a photography class that had to be made up due to a cancelled class. Just one question; who reschedules a class for a Friday night? Anyhow, I got to make a few prints which is always fun, and then off to home after a super long day. A very chilly walk home too.
Saturday March 6th, 2010
I slept in and watched a movie on the internet, did homework and napped. With my back it was so hard to sit up and read or do typing. So, it was not a very productive day but nice to have some down time and see a movie. Especially since you can’t watch any movies here because none of them even have English subtitles. The internet is our only hope. :) It snowed heavily so it was great just to stay inside. When we went down for lunch - freshly baked homemade pretzels and sausages - our host mom was baffled how we could waste a day in our rooms and not go outside. Emily and I looked at each other like is this lady crazy?! Emily is coming down with bronchitis and has been coughing like crazy - even though Bea has yet to apparently notice, my injury and Jane has an old back injury that kicks up when it is cold and limits her comfort! Well silly us we should have been outside in the freezing cold today.
Sunday March 7th , 2010

Sunday it continued to snow a lot! We all slept in a bit and crammed to do lots of homework. My shoulder hurt even worse. So ,writing papers was a work, nap, work, nap process. 

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wonderful Week in Wein (Vienna!)

Monday February 22nd, 2010
Well it is amazing we have been in Austria for a whole month! None of us can believe it! It seems like yesterday that we just came. We all are looking at our list of places we want to go and the weekends are already filling up so quickly! Where did the semester go? We found out today that we will get buddies from the University of Salzburg in March when normal European universities begin. I am super excited because I feel like I have not really met any Austrians my age so far! Probably because they are all away at nice places over their break before school starts. :) 
Tuesday February 23rd, 2010
So the stereotypes in Salzburg are really interesting. It is funny because the longer you live here the more you see the different groups that parallel in America. The Russians are our Asians, they are the big tourist group. Although there are still a bunch of Asians that visit Salzburg the Austrians are most annoyed by the Russians. It is sad because the Russians make themselves such an obvious target by wearing their big fur coats. It always catches me off guard to see big fur coats and hats with leather gloves and heeled boots next to me at a cross walk. We don’t exactly have that in Kansas. lol.
The Turks are the Mexican population in America. They make everything run here by doing all of the jobs that the Austrians won’t do. The Turkish are the immigrant population. But overall I have come to discover that Salzburgers are snobbish anyway and I am pretty sure that they do not get along with any other country really well. Even with their “big brother” Germany they make lots of digs at Germans. Salzburgers say that the people from Austria’s capitol, Vienna are the most stuck up - so I wonder if it is really true or if it is the Salzburgers! Oh and it appears that Norwegians LOVE to wear anything that has their national flag on it, so it makes it so easy to find them. :) 
Wednesday February 24th, 2010
Things with our host mother have been getting continually more awkward and difficult. She does not really interact with us and I am pretty sure that we have only had two meals with her so far this semester, one being at her daughter’s birthday party. We have tried to talk to her in English (she knows it well) and even in German (fumbling our way through) but it has been unreceptive. But I have been so lucky to have two roommates that fill that family gap from Bea. It is frustrating tho because we were all expecting to live with a host family and with Bea we feel her attitude is to be our landlord and rake in 9,000 euros for hosting the three of us. But we are making the best of it and working on a sisterhood. :) It just makes you appreciate home even more! 
Thursday February 25th, 2010
I had no school today so I slept in and got a full 8 hours of sleep and headed off to lunch at school where Bergita had made an amazing mushroom, and turkey gravy that we put on top of rice! And then we had freshly cut fruit with her yummy vanilla ice cream on top of it! Yes, I love life! Then she gave me coffee and I had so much energy I had no idea what to do with myself so Emily and I went on a run on a path behind our house. It was fun exploring the trail that went past a beautiful big pink house, little cottages that look like camping cabins, a wooden church and the train tracks that I can hear and see out my window. We were running back along the path next to the train track, when all of a sudden we heard a train horn. We looked and discovered six boys sitting and talking in a maintenance train cart that had honked at us. Well I guess I can check that off my Europe to do list, be honked at by a train cart. lol.

Tonight Jane and I went to another of the Red Bull’s hockey playoff games. It was an impulse move this time because we only found out about the game that day because of all of the opposing team’s fans had flooded the Salzburg! When I had walked to school today I was crossing the bridge to school and a group of the opposing fans was behind me, with their flag as a cape and and many scarfs sporting their team all over their bodies and they were chanting. I broke down and was a bad wanna-be Austrian and smiled because I thought it was fun. They noticed and then started singing or yelling not quite sure which one, their team song. It was soo funny because this little old lady came up to them and was screaming at them and pointing her finger in their face yelling about Salzburg Redbulls. Lol. So great. 
We bought our tickets at the rink which cost us 15 euros because we bought them right before it started, but we decided to try standing this time. It was way better than the sitting seats because we were right against the glass and were among a lot of Austrians our age so that was fun. It was fun because the sitting seats had sparklers before the game this time inside the rink! The Redbulls played SO much better than the first game. They were tied with the opposing team (which we never discovered what it was) 2-2 until the end of the 3rd period! But with 6 minutes left the other team scored and the Redbulls completely gave up even though they could have one. It was SO frustrating, they were worse than a little kids team giving up! 
We are leaving for our five day school Vienna field trip tomorrow morning, so there is some packing that still needs to be done!
Friday February 26th, 2010
Our morning was an early on as we left the house at 6 am to walk to Mirabellplatz where we met our charter bus. It was a good brisk morning walk to the bus with our travel backpacks! We left on the bus to Mauthaus concentration and death camp that is a few hours away from Salzburg. We all slept the whole way there. We woke up when we started to drive up a windy, forested road in our big bus, ending on a plateau where we saw the concentration camp walls and the town below.
We received a walking tour by a guy who was doing his civil service time at the historic department of the camp doing tours. (In Austria after all boys leave what is about equivalent to high school they must serve one year in the military or in a community service type of position for the state.) He started the tour by showing us the memorials that each country had set up honoring those who had passed away. The weather was so bitter cold and snowing we all were freezing! But it added to the somber mood of the place and it was very fitting. We started to talk about how we could never image how cold the prisoners would have been in the winters wearing paper thin clothes, and working in the outdoors, when they were starving to death. 
Mauthaus was one of the first massive concentration complexes in Nazi Germany and one of the last to be liberated, by the Americans. It was considered a Grade III camp meaning that the conditions were the toughest, as they worked most people to death. It is located just outside of Linz in Upper Austria. The majority of prisoners were from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia minorities and also Spanish Democrats. I was surprised that there were a lot of Spaniards in the camp. 
We walked down the path until he stopped in front of the granite quarry. He told us about the over 300 steps that led down to the quarry and how each step ranged from one to three feet tall! Apparently, the workers would have to carry 100 + pounds of granite blocks on their backs up these steps! We learned that at times the prisoners would have to line up in front of the cliff, due to officer orders, once they made it up the steps and be responsible for pushing the prisoner in front of them off the cliff to their death! So horrible. Just looking out over the quarry we could see all of the quaint little farm houses sitting across the way. If we could see them then they had to be able to see what was going on in this quarry. I don’t know how people could say they did not know. The tour guide told us that the man who ran the camp gave his son 40 prisoners when he turned 16 that he could kill. What kind of birthday gift is that? What do you say “Thanks Dad for letting me take 40 innocent lives!?” Ugh. 
We then visited the shower room. After reading so many books growing up about concentration and death camps it was so chilling walking into the first room where they shaved the hair from their bodies. You just had this vivid image of fear and disgrace that overwhelmed you. Then we went into the shower room, which made me break down for the first of many times on this tour. We discovered that each person had to be under one of the shower spout so that they were completely covered with water. But what is so horrible about it is that the officers found their fun in turning the temperature to scalding hot then freezing cold and each person had to stand directly under that! Apparently, but not surprisingly people died in the showers from the stress and shock of the whole experience. 
Then we headed over to the barracks where we saw the type of bunks they had for the prisoners. In each “bed” of the bunk an average of four people would sleep in one, but the beds had lips on the sides and were the size of a coffin. I don’t know how four people could ever fit into something that small, but I guess when everyone is starving to death their bodies are much smaller. Those who did not get a bed slept on the floor where they created a pattern of head to toe, toe to head across the whole floor! He also showed us the high security barrack where they put all of the religious and social leaders so that they could not gain support for rebellious actions by the common people. 
Then we visited the gas chamber. *If you don’t want to hear details skip this paragraph. We went to the back side of one of the barracks and down these steps into the basement. The steps just gave you the chills because you knew that people walked down these to their death. Thousands of people died down there. We came into the first entry way where apparently “X”s were put on the chests of people who had golden teeth, then all of the prisoners were walked into a room that looked like a shower room with shower heads and everything. They were told they were being rewarded with a special shower time, yet no water came from the spouts, only a non-detectable gas came from a crack in the wall in the room. The showers do in fact work and were used only to clean up the blood left from the gassing. I totally lost it in this room and the next. How could people deceive others like this? I could just image people’s brothers, mothers, and grandparents being put in there. The next room was the room where Nazi’s did their “creative” deaths. Here they had a wall where a curtain hung behind a spot where the Nazi’s told the prisoner to stand “to get their picture taken”. But really while the prisoner stood there, there was a small gun above them that shot them. Another one had to deal with having the prisoners think that they were able to do a play but they ended up being killed, I can’t remember in which way - my brain wanted to shut off. It was really a game for the Nazi’s ... these were not humans, not even animals ... to them. We saw the place where they burned the bodies. This one is one of the few places where the flame actually touched the body - that is illegal now a days. They started burning them one at a time then in batches of up to six. The officers told the family members that were in the camps that they could BUY the mixed ashes of one of their family members that had died. First they have no money to buy anything, why tease something that horrible in front of them when there is no way they could get it, and second BUY the ashes of your loved one from their murderer!? I don’t know about people. Next to that room was saw the original granite Dr. table where they took out the golden teeth from the dead people’s mouths. So emotionally exhausting, yet I think so necessary for people to see. 
The largest escape of prisoners was 500 people. They escaped into the town where some people had realized that this was not a normal criminal camp for murders and rapists etc and took them in. But the Nazi’s went on a mission to kill every escape and anyone who helped them. Out of 500 only 5-12 of the prisoners lived to truly escape.
It is so odd to think that this happened only a bit over a fifty years ago. When you study it in school it is abstract, and in the history book only a few pages away from Lincoln, so you think it is so in the past. But really it just happened a bit ago and things like this still happen today in other places.  
After we all somberly got back onto the bus we drove along the Danube seeing the apricot and grape orchards in the winter until we reached Melk Monastery. The monastery is basically a palace! It was where the royalty would stay during their travels to their final destinations. It was built in the 900’s! We started out tour through an exhibit of the different time periods of history of the monastery. It was really cool because each room had a distinct theme one was lit with green lights and another had all four walls with mirrors! They told us about their prize jewel; called the Melk Cross that they say has a piece of wood from the cross Christ was crucified on. It is locked away in a safe and only taken out a few times a year. Then we visited the dancing room that had beautiful frescos (ceiling paintings) and marble (even though most of it is stucco because it cost less). We learned how to identify the real marble because it is darker and that the doorway was the only place where real marble was located. If you stand in the middle of the room the ceiling is paint so that the flat roof looks arched. It is neat because once you stand in the corner you can see the allusion of painting. My favorite thing was that there were two cut outs of the wall near the ceiling that showed into the joining room’s top room. This is where the orchestra would have played - the fresco even continued into this room! Then we walked on the balcony to the library and we say a breath taking view of Melk - it was such a classic view of an Austrian village. :) Walking into the library I felt that I had walked into Bell’s library from the “Beauty and the Beast”! The smell of the antique books, the marble spiral staircase, and the golden bound books to the ceiling was SO cool, not to mention there was also a fresco there. Then we visited the prize of Melk Monastery - their full sized chapel. It was filled with marble (really stucco probably), elaborate gold icons of Mary and many scenes from the Bible. There is even a dome within it that is over 200 feet tall! Very impressive, one of the most highly decorated chapels I have been to. The gardens are suppose to be some of the most beautiful in Austria in the summer, too bad they were frozen!
We hoped on the bus again this time to reach our final destination of Vienna (Wien in German). We crossed the Danube to Vienna and I thought we were coming into what I would imagine New York would look like, it is such a huge city! We found our hostel, ate dinner there (which was very icky, fried fish and cold yellow potatoes) and then we met Dr. Kecht a Viennese who is our Understanding Austria teacher for a walking tour to get ourselves acquainted with the town. Beginning at 6 pm! We were not very excited but once we reached the city center we were all so happy because Vienna is SO beautiful at night! I think it is actually my favorite time in that town. The town hall (that looks like a cathedral) and all of the government buildings are lit up, and the street artists are so fun on the main street. We saw everything from spray paint can artists to full out opera singers! We wandered around a bit and then went to the famous Aieda’s cafe by St. Stephen’s Cathedral where Emily and I split a desert that was like a big vanilla marshmallow with a pie crust outside. It was so yummy and 50% off because we got there at 7:30, a half hour before they closed! And of course a cappuccino. We sat at a little table and watched everyone outside. Aieda’s has so much character, it has a 70’s diner feel and the ladies wear pink dresses. A must to visit if you go there. :) 
Saturday February 27th, 2010
Today we had a walking tour around Vienna ... a 3 hour walking tour. I am definitely getting better at endurance walking, because a walking tour means a slight jog for all of us Americans. :) We saw the State Opera house, the controversial modern art entrance to the Modern Art Museum that does not go with the classic Vienna architecture, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We saw the Mother Theresa statue which was impressively large. St. Stephen’s Cathedral was ranked the number one thing that Austrians identify Austria with. Personally I thought it was a little anti-climatic but it just did not seem to have any visual things that makes it special from other big cathedrals. Dr. Kecht would kill me if she heard me say that. It has emotional ties to Austrians because it was built after a defeat of the Turks and every provence of the country donated money to help rebuild it after WWII. My favorite thing hands down is the roof tho! It does not fit at all, it has a African or Native American geometric pattern on it that is green and yellow! Inside the neatest thing was that on the railing up to the stand where the pope gives his sermon there are reptiles signifying evil and at the top there is a dog sculpture barking at them - scaring away evil. Yeah lizards, turtles, and dogs in a church! haha. Yah I know it has a deeper meaning but I thought it was cool. Also it is one of the oldest churches where the architect gave himself credit, he sculpted himself into the stone below the priests stand. Yet he did not put his name on it just his face, and we know it was him because he is holding architect tools. Yup that is all you need to really know about it. lol. 
The next big place we went were to the Habsburg Catacombs. For all of you that slept through European History (don’t worry Mrs. Spitz I didn’t sleep through it - that is the only way I am passing Understanding Austria!) the Habsburgs had  empire all over Europe that was centralized in Austria - Hungary. They were highly Catholic and reigned for a really long time! So we went and visited their catacombs and saw the elaborate coffins of Maria Theresa (who was the first  female empress of the Austrian Habsburgs and the “Mother of Austria”) and we saw lots of Ferdinad’s catacombs, like over 20. I can’t remember which Ferdinad belongs to what historical story so I took a picture of all of them and once I figure out which ones are the ones I know about I will delete the other pictures! :) There were sculptures that had lace over faces on the catacombs - amazing! 
Then we continued to walk around the town. We saw the Jewish memorial where a synagog was built and later burnt during the time of WWII. The memorial is a basic looking concrete rectangle building that is very large with a door that does not open. One of the boys in our group was not paying attention to what our guide was saying and was like “Is this an air conditioning unit?” We all looked at him uh oh. Once he knew what it was he was like. “Well great I am going to Hell. It is final.” He felt so bad. lol. Oh Jon. One of the buildings within the square had a plaque where Jesus was begin baptized and had a saying “Like the water that washed away our sins, the flame relieved us of from or disease” referring to the fire of the synagog and the Jewish population. So horrible! And of course the Christians have now posted a sign on the other side of the square saying that they are sorry for the sign. Cause you know that a sign fixes everything. Oh people. 
For lunch we visited the famous Nactmarkt which is a long street of open markets. You can find so many different cultural foods and fresh fruits and veggies! We ate gyros and a coconut-pistachio sweet treat! I could eat an entire pan of those sweets! Great lunch, we ate it on the steps on the side of a street. We then went to the Succession where modern artists like Gustav Klimt had met and created their artist group. There inside there is Gustav Klimt’s “The Beethoven Frienze” which is in pretty much every art history book I have had. Gustav Klimt is one of the biggest prides of Austria, he is known for his images of women, sometimes in nudes and abstractly depicted, and the use of great colors! I love his artwork and was so excited to see this piece! 
We bought our ticket for 5 euros and headed down the steps on the side of the building like the lady told us but we thought we had walked into the wrong place because when we walked in there was low colored lighting in the hallway with racy pictures of women and a hot tub. Ok we will try the other side of the building. Opps. We go down those stairs on the other side and things look normal until we walk in and see into the first room ... a stripping pole, couches, and a bar. Hmm. ok. We keep walking because we are determined to find this painting because we paid 5 euros to find it! We find colorful rooms with mattresses in them and parts of the walls cut out. They even had Klimt prints in them and beaded doors lol. Thank heavens we found it during the day and not the night! We walked to the other side and found the hot tub again but stairs were next to it down. Do we dare go down another floor? An older man asks us if we want to go into the hot tub, choice made get away and see if this darn painting is in the basement! It was after all! We walked in and it was such a disappointment because it was on the top of the side walls and there was low mood lighting (for the mattress surrounded by fake trees in the middle) so we could not really see it. Just look at in the textbooks. It was funny though because there was a little kids play house right next to the mattress with the trees separating it. Odd. lol. Well we definitely had an adventure! 
Check out this website to see an article about the Succession and their swing club. haha. 
We headed back to our hostel because we were all exhausted! Emily and I slept for a few hours and woke up and ran to try and wait in line for standing tickets for the State Opera (only 2 euros!). We had overslept so we were not in time to wait in line meeting 1.5 hours before to getting standing tickets. But it was all good because Vienna is so wonderful at night so we found this really great male Opera singer on the street and listened to him for free. :) Then Emily and I searched for a place for dinner. Everything was basically closed because it was after 8 pm (the night life on a Saturday is definitely much less than a Friday) so we ended up finding a hotel restaurant on a side alley where we ate overpriced Italian dinner. We listened to a group playing jazz on our way to the hostel. It was so great it made me think of the “Frog Prince” that I had just watched with Emily. :) 
Sunday February 28th, 2010
This morning we woke up early to go to the Vienna Boy’s Choir! We all headed to the Hofburg where the boys performed and got there about a half hour to wait in line to get in. We found out that you can buy sitting tickets with a reservation for 5 euros, but we lucked out and were early enough to get in for free, because they let in enough people to fill the standing area in the back. Definitely get there more than a half hour before it begins and wait in line because you might not make it in otherwise, unless you do the ticket. We lucked out and not many people bought tickets so we were allowed to sit in seats, even though it was a pushing party to get a seat (odd we are in a church and fighting over seats...). The sermon was in German so it gave me plenty time to think and unfortunately come to these conclusions (while of course watching the interesting Catholic service): 
  1. Either it is a big honor to be a Priest in the same chapel as the Viennese Boy’s Choir or 
  2. It is a joke because nobody comes to see your sermons, they just come to see the Boy’s Choir. Nobody speaks German, we are all American, Asian and Spanish tourists so we don’t even know what the sermon is about. He could be talking about Little Red Riding Hood for all we know. 
  3. Does the Priest make it a big show just because we are tourists, and does he know that he sermon is pointless?
  4. It is funny because you can see that some of the attendants know the whole sermon is a joke by their facial expressions. 
The Boy’s Choir was really impressive - it sounded like an adult choir! They sang above where we sat so when they came down at the end of the service to sing (for all the tourists!) I could not believe how small they were. It is so awesome these little kids can sing like this. I just could not imagine being in a boy’s choir and then having your voice change and having to start over! 
After the Boy’s Choir this girl Tracy (Yes, everyone confuses us as the same person! We both have dark hair too, so it is hopeless) and Emily and I headed off to visit the Leopold Museum! We saw an exhibit by Schiele another well known Austrian artist, and a super fun exhibit put on by UNICEF of toys that children make from 3rd world countries out of things they find. These children were so detailed, and creative! It was so neat, they even made helicopters from wire! Then the highlight of the museum was seeing Gustav Klimt’s beautiful “Life and Death”! Yeah! It was so amazing to see this painting the colors and patterns just consume you! 
We then got lunch at a cute little cafe across from the Belevedre Museum. We walked onto the property of Eugene of Savoy (he was French but for some reason decided to be the head of the Habsburg’s military for 3 rulers). I absolutely love his palace inside and out, probably one of my favorite places in Austria for sure! :) We got inside and the first thing we saw was the painting of Napoleon on the white horse! We couldn’t believe that we were actually seeing the painting that is printed in pretty much every history textbook ever made! One of the girls we were with was just so in awe she kept going back to it! It was beautiful, but my favorite hands down was “The Kiss” by Klimt! It was simply the most extraordinary thing ever. The colors were beautiful and it was a lot bigger than I had thought it would be, so we could see his patterns really well! Ahhh. Definitely a highlight of Europe so far. The museum was the best art museum I have ever been to. There were so many styles of art that it was always refreshing and there was seriously a wall that had Monet, next to Renoir, next to Klimt! How can it get better? We then headed off through the gardens that look like they came out of “Alice in Wonderland” to the second part of his palace where an exhibit about his life was on display. This was so so, but the day was a wild success! 
I rushed back to do a interview for the Blue Key honorary on campus back at home over skype. Of course at the hostel the internet was only in the common room where the t.v. was on with the gold medal olympic game of U.S.A vs. Canada hockey game was on. There was a serious debate over what to focus on. The interview ended just in time for me to watch the overtime of the amazingly matched teams, and sadly we lost. But I was SO happy to see hockey on t.v. again!