Two weeks in Central Europe in March looks like this…
It’s always best to choose clothes that go with everything. I am bringing all neutral colors (you’ll notice that I’m a bit obsessed with rust-red at the moment).
(I bought this jacket specifically for this trip—it has all sorts of nifty pockets and the hood is awesome.)
Coming up: Gift ideas for couchsurfing hosts
Vienna’s travel soundtrack is up! I had so much fun making this one…there is so much amazing music history in this city.
Click on the picture above or listen here:
i’m creating city soundtracks for our trip that include both classical and modern music from each country…
czech out the prague soundtrack by clicking the picture of charles bridge!
Since my spring break adventure through central Europe is less than a month away, I thought I’d make a quick post about my preparations.
Our itinerary thus far includes Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Ljubljana, and Budapest. I’ve been to all of these places before, but I’m excited to share them with Patrick this time around.
Since we are planning on couchsurfing for the majority of our trip, I’ve started to send out some requests. It’s an odd balance to strike—one can’t send them out too early or else hosts just don’t know their schedule yet. And one can’t send them out too late or else hosts are already booked up. So far, we have a host for Prague—which is good, because it’s the first city we are visiting.
We are spending the money on a B&B in the alps for one night—it seemed too romantic to pass up. We’ll be spending the night in Obertraun, which is a little town on the other side of Hallstätter See from Hallstatt.
I also couldn’t resist doing a little networking while over there. I will be visiting several international schools while in Prague and Vienna. Though I love my current job with all my heart, my goal is to be teaching abroad in 2-5 years. I’m hoping that these school visits will give me a feel for the international school job market and help me out a couple of years down the road.
So now I have a question for you….as I’m making up rough itineraries for each city, I’m realizing that I’ve seen a lot of these major landmarks before. If you have an off-the-beaten path MUST-SEE for Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Ljubljana, or Budapest….leave it in my ask box!
Prague. Photo credit: Darby Sawchuk (http://dsphotographic.com)
Vienna. Photo credit: Michela Riva (http://michelariva.com)
Ljubljana. Photo credit: Flickr user tttske_C (https://www.flickr.com/people/tttske__c)
Budapest. Photo Credit: Ronja Soponen (https://www.flickr.com/people/99717995@N06)
well guys…my boyfriend and I just purchased two tickets to europe for march. it’s been over 2 years but I’M GOING BACK. eeeeeeeeee!
Hey there! Oh boy..where to begin.
Definitely start at the center of the city—Stephansdom. I know you’ve probably seen a million churches by now, but Stephansdom really is amazing. It was my favorite cathedral in Europe that I saw. The pedestrian area around Stephansdom is called Stephansplatz, and there are a lot of little cafes and such. There is a pedestrian street called Graben that is probably one of my favorites in Vienna.
In general, the streets to walk are the ones around Stephansdom. There is also a large street called the Ringstrasse which used to be the old city wall and surrounds the oldest part of the city. There are a lot of important buildings and museums on the Ringstrasse, and there is a Strassenbahn (streetcar) that circles it.
If you do nothing else in Vienna, definitely stop at one of the historical coffee houses. There is a little coffee house called Cafe Hawelka which is on a sidestreet of Graben called Dorotheergasse. It’s tiny and cramped and extremely famous, but not terribly expensive. Here is the place’s website: http://www.hawelka.at/cafe/de/.
If you’re up for it, try to catch an opera at the Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera House). It’s on the Ringstrasse. Standing-room tickets are less that 5 euro, and at that price you can leave at intermission if you’re bored. It’s worth it just to see the interior if nothing else. Look up how to do the standing room tickets on the internet—there’s a system and you’ll have to get there early.
As for transport—try to get a 3 or 5 day pass at one of the U-Bahn stations if you’re planning on getting around a lot. Otherwise just buy single-fare tickets. They’re sold at Tabac stores (normally located near stops), on the buses or Strassenbahns themselves, or in the U-Bahn stations for the subway. A lot of Vienna is walkable, especially if you’re staying in the city center.
Feel free to message again if you have more questions—I hope this helps! Have fun in Vienna, it’s a great place. =)
It’s been a while.
It’s shocking how easy it was to slide back into my American skin. I feel like Vienna Allison is a completely separate person from Ohio Allison. It becomes more and more apparent every day.
I am beginning to forget.
My friends are great, but I sense that they don’t want to hear about my trip anymore. And it’s understandable. They’ve heard about it for 4 months. But now I find that all I want to do is talk about it. It reminds me that it happened.
Taking German has helped immensely. Walking in the first day and hearing my professor talking to me in German was the best feeling—I hadn’t imagined everything. I could still understand another language. I have it every morning except for Thursday, and it is the best way to start the day. It really wakes up my brain.
I am also getting the opportunity to volunteer for an organization called Asian Services in Action, Inc. that provides citizenship and ESL classes in the area. My training session and first class is next Saturday, and I’m incredibly excited.
This semester started out fairly easy, but the farther we get into it, the more work is piling up. The more I want nothing more than to be doing things I am passionate about. Sometimes these things include music, but sometimes they don’t. I feel like I’m getting burnt out.
As much as I love B-W, I want to get out sometimes. I want to live off-campus, so that my life isn’t completely tied to school. I want other hobbies. I want a space that isn’t a tiny closet. I want free time.
^^ the map dorm strikes again.
I have been home for about a week now. And it’s not nearly as strange as I thought it would be. It’s slightly frightening how easy it is to slip into old habits. I have already begun to forget German. My German professor sent me an email (auf Deutsch) the other day and I really struggled to read it. I miss hearing it all around me every day. I miss reading it everywhere. I miss speaking it.
Vienna seems like a dream. I don’t think it’s really hit me that it’s over. Or that it even happened at all.
In some ways I don’t feel like I’ve changed at all. But when I step back, I know I have. In small ways. The way I view America. The way I choose to spend my time. The things I eat, surprisingly.
I want to share my experience with people, but I also don’t want to be that obnoxious girl who talks about her semester abroad all the time. I am still working out how I’m going to fit my semester abroad into my personality here in America. That’s really how I think of it. Two different personalities. I am trying to merge them.
I’m really not sure what’s going to become of this blog now that my semester in Vienna is over. Since I deleted my facebook, I’m thinking of keeping it around and updating every once in a while. I know that I won’t really have anything to write about, but I don’t want to just abandon it.
It’s good to be back home for Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m excited to go back to another semester at my favorite little liberal arts college near Cleveland.
Tschüss bis später.
First thing’s first: quick update on my life.
My family came in two weeks ago, and I have to say it was probably one of the most fun traveling experiences I’ve had here. I love traveling with my friends, and I love traveling by myself, but nothing compares to traveling with the Schumakers. We’ve been traveling together since I was very young, and the routine of packing and airports and rental cars has just been part of us for as long as I can remember. I’ve always found it amazing that some families can’t travel together, but I guess I should find it amazing that ours can. Yes, we get short with each other once in a while, but for the most part we all get along great and always manage to have an awesome time.
So I met up with the Schus in Prague, where we spent a few days, then I showed them around Vienna, and then we were off to Salzburg and the Salzkammergut. Ever since my first days of study abroad research, I’ve always wanted to go to the Salzkammergut, or “Lake District”. It’s an area near Salzburg that is just the start of the Alps, and has (as the name suggests) many lakes. I seriously have had dreams about this place. So obviously I was pretty excited to finally go there. We rented a car and stayed in a little town called Obertraun, which is on the same lake (Hallstättersee) as the semi-famous Hallstatt. We spend the next few days driving around the area—my favorite town was Traunkirchen, a little gem of a town stuck on this peninsula on this lake called Traunsee, which has huge mountains all around it. I can’t even pick my favorite lake that we saw—they all had their own character and feel.
Some photos I stole from my amazingly talented brother Matt (check out his tumblr, shutterspeedstimulant.tumblr.com):
On Sunday we were off to Munich again (my third time there thus far) to see the lovely Mona Lisa. It was the first Sunday of Advent, and therefore the first Sunday of the Christkindlmarkt in Marienplatz…and therefore the city center was ridiculously crowded. Christkindlmarkts are always a good kind of crowded though. In Vienna, it’s practically the only time I see people smiling in public. Glühwein tends to help…
Last weekend was Josie’s birthday weekend, so we went all the way over to the tiny but mighty Voralberg—the westernmost Bundesland, or state, of Austria. The original plan was for us all the go skiing, but since I did not plan on skiing when I was packing for Vienna, I didn’t have anything to wear. So I let the rest of them ski while I walked around the tiny little town we were based in, called Tschagguns. Not much there except scenery overload, but I was perfectly content. The people there were nice, but I could not understand their German AT ALL. Fun fact: there are tons of dialects of German, and a lot of them can’t understand one another. Austrian German is very different from “German” German, and within Austria alone there are several dialects. People from Vienna oftentimes have trouble understanding those from Tirol or Voralberg. Some pictures from Tschagguns:
So down to business:
Tomorrow is my last real day in Vienna. I am leaving Saturday morning. I am undecided how I feel—I almost feel numb about my imminent departure. Tonight will be spent hanging out with the other study abroads one last time and planning my last day in this beautiful city. How do you say goodbye to Vienna in 24 hours? I’ve been so busy this week pulling everything together for my trip home that I haven’t really gotten a chance to do much else.
Things I will miss:
^^photo credit: Matt Schu
I’m saying goodbye to Vienna now, but I have decided I’m coming back. I don’t know when, but it’s going to happen.
I went to Munich last weekend in order to (a) visit Mona Lisa and (b) see the city when it wasn’t over-run with Oktober-festers. Festers. Yep. That sounds gross. But it’s strangely appropriate.
Munich was freezing cold. It was like the arctic zone. I’m pretty sure I started getting light-headed from the temperature at one point. All that aside, I really enjoyed myself.
On Friday, I got in around 10:30 am and Mona Lisa showed me around. I think I totally underestimated Munich. Last time I had a good time and all, but I think I really appreciated the city more this time around. It’s really beautiful, and I experienced way more character than I walked away with the first time. I love the huge Gothic churches and I also like the fact that the Rathaus is basically the middle of the city, whereas the Rathaus in Vienna is out on the Ringstrasse.
On Saturday, we woke up moderately late, but still managed to make it to the Deutsches-Museum (which unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of) and the English Garden just as it was about to get dark. One thing I really dislike about traveling in winter—shortened daylight hours. However—we got to see the English Garden (which is a HUGE city park—bigger than Central Park apparently) right at twilight, which was really beautiful.
That night we went to a club. Yes, a club. I think my favorite part of the evening was the 20 minute conversation I had with a guy…only in German. I spoke so much German on Saturday night! And it was good! Mona Lisa, on the other hand, was pretending to be from the States. And succeeding marvelously. By mimicking my terrible German accent, she had all the guys convinced that she came from a small town in Ohio and was studying abroad in Vienna.
Sunday, we slept until a shamefully late hour, watched guilty pleasure movies online, and then went to visit Mona Lisa’s grandmother. This woman is awesome. She is small and spunky and basically funded Mona Lisa’s trip to the US. And she made Apfelstrudel! Oh, and she speaks only German. It was definitely a brain workout, but I understood way more of what she said than I thought I would.
That’s one thing I think I like so much about learning and speaking German. It challenges me intellectually in a way that I’m not used to being challenged. It’s like the ultimate form of improvisation.
I’m currently listening to Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony…I’m taking a class on his life and finding it really interesting. I’m definitely feeling like the Hermione of the class though…I raise my hand for every question and no one else cares nearly that much.
The thing mainly on my mind right now, though, is….the Schumakers are coming this Sunday! I am incredibly excited! Not only to see them, but to show them around. In addition to seeing Vienna, we’re going to Prague and Salzburg. And even though I’ve been both those places, I’m really happy to be going back. Plus I’ll have a basic orientation to the city that will be really helpful.
Pictures from Munich…pathetically few, but here they are.!
Oh, and an aside….I’d like to add another reason to my last post: 8. I peed for free every time in Slovenia. I don’t know if I got lucky every time or if the country really is that great.
I just got back from a solo trip to the beautiful country of Slovenia. It is now tied with Austria as my favorite country. Here are my slightly arbitrary and really generalized reasons why Slovenia is a winner.
1. Everyone is nice there. Okay, I should probably back up and say I was really only in Slovenia for 3 days. But every single person I interacted with—starting with the ticket-checker on the train in—was incredibly kind and patient. Oh, and they all speak English. And don’t look at me like I’m a complete idiot when I can barely manage to say “Sorry, I don’t speak Slovenian” in Slovenian.
2. It has a little of everything. Geography-wise, Slovenia has the Julian Alps, flat farmland with vineyards, and a little stretch of coastline. People-wise, it’s situated in the middle of Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary—so it’s a little of everything.
3. It’s not very touristy. Yes, I saw a few tourists. But I was not wading through crowds of Japanese people with huge cameras. It was awesome. The locals actually hang out in the city center—something that doesn’t necessarily happen in Vienna.
4. Slovenia is lousy with castles. No, I don’t mean lousy as in ‘bad’, I mean lousy as in ‘full of’. Apparently Slovenia has hundreds of castles. I only went to 2 while I was there…but still…2 castles in 3 days. Not too shabby.
5. They’re environmentally friendly. Like Vienna, Ljubljana has a city bike program (something which I employed many times during my stay). They also have about 5 different trash bins depending on the type of trash…organic, plastic, paper, etc. And they’re right on the street. Clearly marked. In Slovenian AND English.
6. Ljubljana. Ljubljana gets its own number. Where do I begin. I loved this city. It was awe-inspiring but still had the feeling of a small town. It’s built around a castle and a river. The “new” town square is joined to the “old” town square with a triple bridge. On either side of the canal-like river, there are cobbled streets lined with willow trees, streetlamps, and little cafes. The castle mentioned earlier is on a hill basically in the middle of the city that overlooks the whole basin that Ljubljana is built in. And Ljubljana is surrounded by mountains on all sides.
So we’ve got a narrow cobblestone streets. Check. A river. Check. Mountains. Check. And a CASTLE. Checkity check.
7. It’s gorgeous. My train back to Vienna went through the Julian Alps. It was absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any pictures…because it would have been out of a train window. But I can tell you to google image search the Soca Valley…because that’s where we went through. And it was amazing.
In that same vein, I went to Lake Bled on Saturday. It was kind of overcast, but still beautiful. Just look:
It’s really strange that I have to force myself to blog nowadays. As my life speeds up, I find it difficult to chronicle things as they happen….and then they just pile up. And then I become less and less motivated to write about them.
But here’s the update.
Even though my memory is foggy now, here are some thoughts:
1. London is far more amazing than I ever thought it would be. London wasn’t exactly on my lists of places to go when I was planned my semester abroad. It just never really appealed to me. I suppose I thought that since they spoke English there, it was basically like America except a little different, right? Wrong. London is such an awesome city. The sheer amount of significant events that have happened there and significant people that have lived there is mind boggling. All that aside, the vibe is just incredibly cool.
2. Even though they speak English there, I was still afraid to talk. Some of you may find this incredible, but I don’t talk that much in Vienna. With my friends, sure. But in public? No way. It’s embarrassing to be in a place where I don’t speak the language. It makes me feel like an idiot. So in planning my trip to London, I was really excited to go somewhere where they speak my language. I wouldn’t have to formulate in advance the simple sentence I would say to the waiter when they came to take my order. It would be like being an actual person again, and not a weird foreigner! Except I forgot one thing. Americans are still foreigners in England. And it’s obvious. It’s our accent. I’ve come to realize something—I hate American accents. When we’re trying to speak German we sound like idiots, when we’re trying to speak Spanish we sound like idiots, and even when we’re speaking our own language….we kind of sound like idiots.
3. I am jealous of Caroline’s school. So the reason I decided to go to London in the first place is because an old friend of mine from Marietta has been living and studying there for about 3 years now. I hadn’t seen Caroline in years, but she welcomed me and my two friends into her charming home with open arms. She is studying Fine Art at Goldsmiths (part of the University of London). We told her that if she had class on Friday and couldn’t show us around, that would be fine. She laughed and said something along the lines of, “Oh no, I don’t actually have classes.” We were stumped. She explained. As an art student at Goldsmiths, she basically gets her own studio space. She gets a private tutor that advises and guides her. She is only required to meet with said tutor a certain number of times per term. So basically the rest of the time, she is free to do what she wants. This is not to say that she and her peers just mess around all day. It just means that they are free to do the kind of projects they feel compelled to do. Imagine that, music majors. To actually have time to practice. It’s a novel concept. Which is why I’ve sort of been looking into grad school at Goldsmiths…they have an Ethnomusiciology program. Juuuust something to think about.
Enough words…here are some pictures.
Last weekend I took a really quick trip to the beautiful city of Graz. Since I had a class thing on Saturday, I got in late on Saturday night and came back early Monday morning.
Let’s make a list:
I just spent a week in Vienna by myself. It was Fall break. Everyone else went to Spain, but I was stuck in Vienna taking an intensive 5-day “Presentational Speaking” class. More on that later.
Pay close attention to the use of the word “stuck”. That’s how I felt on Monday when all of my friends left for the airport to have a fabulous week-long adventure in Spain. However, this week has produced some of my favorite moments of my study abroad experience thus far.
As you may or may not know, Vienna is famous for its Kaffeehauskultur—coffee-house culture. There are varying accounts of how coffee ended up in Vienna (something about the Turks, according to most guidebooks), but one thing is for sure—there is nothing more Viennese than a smoky, crowded coffee-house. One can find coffe-houses all over Vienna: small ones, spacious ones, old ones, new ones, ones with big fancy signs and ones hidden away in alleys. My favorite ones, of course, are the ones that haven’t changed since the day they were opened in 18-oh-whatever. These ones typically have absolutely no seating, slighty grumpy waiters dressed in suits, and ash trays on every tiny little table.
Since I was all on my own this week, I decided to make it my goal to try out as many of these coffee-houses as I could. As of today, I’ve had eine Melange (typical Viennese coffee) from 3 new cafes: Cafe Hawelka, Kaffee Alt Wien, and Cafe Sperl.
I never drank coffee much in the states….but I have at least one cup a day here. It’s just part of the life. And boy do they know a thing or two about presentation. I really do need to take a picture next time I go. Typically a cup of coffee is served on a little silver tray, in a cup with a saucer, along with a small glass of water, a little bowl of sugar cubes, and a tiny little coffee spoon for stirring. It’s just beautiful to behold.
So back to Presentational Speaking. It was only a week-long course, and it was about 5 hours a day of class. Since the professor’s email claimed we were going to have homework every night and a quiz every day, I was expecting the class to be pretty intensive. In fact, I was well-prepared for this. The textbook was short, so I actually skimmed the whole thing in advance. So I show up the first day….and I’m the only native English-speaker. This is all fine and dandy, but I honestly just felt bad. In addition to worrying about controlling their body and the content of their speeches, these people also had to worry about translating it into another language before it came out of their mouth. Granted, most of them were extremely fluent. But still! I found it quite admirable.
After the first day, I was convinced that everything was going to be relatively okay in the class. The professor seemed very nice and candid, and the general mood of the class was positive and friendly. It wasn’t until the second day that things started getting a little weird. During the hour-long break for lunch that we had in the middle of the day, a lot of the other students started complaining about the professor and the course in general. It was so odd. They seemed to think that there was far too much work required. It was all I could do to keep myself from saying something. We had about 40 pages of reading a night (in a really easy-reading textbook), and that was really about it. It was so easy just to skim the text and do well on the quizzes. But for some reason all these people could do was complain. Their negative energy infected the whole class.
This is the second of my classes at Webster that has been plagued by an overwhelming negative energy. The first was my art class. In both occasions, I found it completely unnecessary. The professors were both very nice, the workload was not ridiculous, and the course was not boring. And yet the students seemed utterly lifeless. Unwilling to put in the work needed to actually learn.
It’s really made me appreciate what a great learning environment that B-W is. In nearly all of my classes, I’m surrounded by people who truly care about what we’re learning—and although we may complain about the workload, we suck it up and do it, because we know that it’s important to our learning.
In stark contrast to my Art and Presentation Speaking classes, however, is my German class. It is absolutely fantastic. I started my second term of German today, and I genuinely missed coming to class last week. The environment is truly remarkable. It is by and large the best language class I’ve ever been in. I think the students’ attitude is a large part of it, but most of all I think it is our incredible professor Frau Posset. She is one of those teachers that doesn’t have to be an asshole to get things done. She is strict, but everyone still loves her. And she is one of the most open people I’ve ever met—always willing to stay after class to answer questions, even if it’s not about the course itself. She’s given us so many good tips about just living in Vienna. I feel very lucky to have started out my German learning path with such a professor.
In other news, I meet people here in Vienna in the strangest ways.
Example #1: When I first got to Europe, on my plane from Munich to Vienna, I was seated next to a guy about my age named Michael who spoke English. Since we were two of the only people on the whole plane NOT speaking German, we started up a conversation. Turns out he was coming to Vienna to visit his girlfriend, who was Austrian. We talked for the entirety of our flight about school, long-distance relationships, etc. He told me that he would be in Vienna for two weeks and that we should definitely meet up so that I could meet his girlfriend (who, by this time, I had heard plenty about). So eventually I met up with him and his girlfriend Bettina…Bettina and I became friends on facebook…and we have hung out a couple of times even though Michael is back in Pennsylvania.
Example #2: Josie has been involved in a social-networking site called dailybooth for quite a long time. For about 2 years now, she has been following this guy in his 20’s named Dai, who lives in Vienna. So naturally, upon coming to Vienna, she asked him if he’d like to meet for coffee. Since he was a scary man from the internet, a bunch of us went with her to meet him. Of course, he was in reality a lovely young man and afterward he and I became friends on facebook. Last week, I went to get coffee with him and some friends…one of which studies music (harp, specifically). She and I exchanged info and decided we should definitely go to some concerts together sometime. Last Sunday, I went to go see her perform a Schubert mass and then she invited me over to her house to have lunch with her mother and brother…and played harp for me a little! That night we ended up getting together again for drinks and meeting up with two Italian guys I met through couchsurfing….the way the world works now simply astounds me.
Next weekend I’m planning on going to Graz just for the day…it should be an interesting time. The Schumakers are coming in November! I am so excited to see them and show them around my beautiful city.
That’s all for now…but I promise a list of London reflections soon.
People don’t shower as much here. Public toilets aren’t free. Bags at grocery stores aren’t free. Water at restaurants isn’t free. The tampons don’t have applicators. Food doesn’t keep as long because there aren’t as many preservatives. Things aren’t open 24 hours, and nothing is open on Sundays. Absolutely everyone smokes. All the time. Everywhere.
And somehow it’s beginning to make sense.