Travel Journal

Vienna, 9/21-9/24

(Sunday 26 September 2010) by Joanne Chang
9/21 - Train to Vienna
A taxi from my hotel to the main train station in Prague costs 250 kc, about $14. I got there for 18 kc ($1!) after an Amazing Race- worthy speed walk to the metro and a change of platforms (Prague metro is pretty cool btw, it's waaaay underground, via the fastest and longest escalator you've ever ridden). I left myself plenty of time to buy a ticket (Kris, the lessons of Barcelona-San Sebastian are not forgotten!) and I'm rolling through the countryside now, excited to see Lisa in Vienna in a few short hours.

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9/24 - Day 4 in Vienna
As soon as I arrived in Vienna I could feel a the cultural change -- what a difference from Prague. Compared to Prague, Vienna is like being at home. Words and sounds are more familiar, stores like Zara and H&M sit on every street block, buildings and squares are clean and shiny and grand. I experienced a bit of culture shock the first couple hours while sitting at the Museums Quartier with Lisa and Lara (Lisa's sister), surrounded by people laying across modern art fixtures, cafes lining the courtyard, and sounds of English conversations.
Hofburg, Vienna
Hofburg, Vienna


The U-Bahn (underground) is killer, and getting across town is a snap. I have officially abandoned my fear of public transportation. I am the Queen of Public Transportation! How can a city like San Francisco survive without this? Austrians are all about efficiency though. In the shoe store if you ask for a size, they first look it up on their mobile inventory device. Saves a trip to the back room if not in stock. Smart. The mani-pedi I got yesterday was the most meticulous mani-pedi of my life. They kind of skip the whole massage thing, but your nails never looked better. And I got my first ever bikini wax from an Austrian- Yugoslavian woman who had a heck of a time with me. Don't know about ever doing that again, but she tried very hard.
St. Stephens Cathedral, Vienna
St. Stephens Cathedral, Vienna


Vienna is a fine city. Clean and fashionable with beautiful museums and churches, large palaces and impressive government buildings. The standard of living is high and the city is fairly white and homogenous, with the exception being Naschmarkt - a Greek/Turkish market selling scarves and apparel but mostly the yummiest food I've had yet on this trip. Cases and cases of artichokes stuffed with sun dried tomato or creamy Greek cheeses and a walnut garnish; roasted aubergine with herbs and spices stuffed on top; peppers stuffed with various hard and creamy cheeses; prosciutto-wrapped cheese, figs stuffed with prosciutto and walnuts; olives of every size and color, plain or stuffed with peppers, garlic, cheese. Bowls and bowls of hummus, Greek yogurt, and the best falafel in town (dr. falafel, don't miss it). I went to town. Price-wise, it was a little tricky. The falafels and gyros were 3 euro, but a small container of mixed olives was 10 euro and the yummy stuffed artichokes and figs were a couple euro each. So, unless you fill up on falafel, eating there is not for the everyday traveler.

Gruner Veltliner on the other hand, is for the everyday traveler at 2 euros for a 1/8 l glass of Austria's delicious, mineral-rich, dry white wine. They also love wine spritzers here- wine with soda water. Beer is of course the drink of choice, and for food we're talking meat and potatoes. And cakes! Oooh, cake and coffee every afternoon. Every. Afternoon. We have six or seven cakes to go through during the wedding weekend.
Austrian cakes!
Austrian cakes!


Other than bouncing around Vienna sightseeing and helping Lisa with wedding stuff, and now chilling out at Villa Berging, a little organic farm in Neulengbach for the wedding, I've been spending less time alone and more time catching up with Lisa and her family and meeting Chris' family from Austria. Today is the wedding, tonight we celebrate, and tomorrow we celebrate some more. Then, off to Paris to meet George!

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I forgot to mention the mind-boggling collection of precious stones, gems, metals, minerals and meteors in the National History Museum. 5 enormous rooms lined with cases of the most beautiful rocks and stone formations you've ever seen. The SF Academy of Sciences gem room is a pittance compared to this. The precious gem exhibit in room IV is the largest on the European continent.
Natural History Museum, Vienna
Natural History Museum, Vienna


While I'm on topic, I might just tell you about a very blond moment I had, walking into the "Naturhistoriches Museum", past a statue of an elephant and a poster of the next exhibit on Darwin, paying 10 euros to get in, spending an hour mesmerized by the minerals and stones exhibit, before realizing I was not in the Art History Museum, an identical museum across the parkway, and the one I had intended to see. It was too funny and stupid for me to even laugh at myself. It wasn't until I looked at a map of the museum with dinosaurs over here, and birds over there, that I said "doh!" I don't know why I'm telling you this other than amusement. I'm really not this clueless about ... most things. :-)

  • Wish I was there too. by Mom


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