Monday, March 10, 2008

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not dropped off the face of the earth.

This is, as a matter of fact, where I was last week. Well, only for a couple of days which doesn't completely account for my blogging absence, but I am assuming that I will be forgiven so long as I return to the straight and narrow path of semi-regular correspondence.
"You sitting on a street corner for a couple of days? That sounds miserable," you might observe.
Well, I wasn't always on that street corner. The picture is merely intended to prove the fact that I was in Vienna last week. That large and rather ornate building is the Vienna State Opera House. The reason that there are not more pictures is that my computer is too old to handle the task of uploading more than one photo at a time, so I will have to verbally describe the sights and experiences of last week.
On Sunday (the 3rd, was it?), Sabine, Felix, and I all packed into the 5 seater Opel-that is a brand of car that we don't usually see much of stateside- and headed several hours south to Heidelberg. Sabine had a conference during the day so Felix and I were free to explore Wiesloch and Heidelberg for the three days. So every morning we would bundle up, I would fight Felix into the baby runner, and we would set off for the big city. Everyone that I have talked to in Germany has told me that the castle in Heidelberg is a must-see. It's 1/2 ruined, 1/2 renovated in the last century, and is amazing. Quite large, and situated on the hill overlooking the city, der Schloss has become rather legendary. In the days of Goethe it was already famous, and even Mark Twain visited and wrote about its beauty. The old downtown of the city was also charming with the typical cathedrals and architecture that have not yet ceased to stun me with their beauty. After three very cold and partly rainy days, Sabine and Felix dropped me off at the airport on their way north, and I caught a flight to Bratislava.
Arriving in Bratislava safe and sound, I took the shuttle bus 1 1/2 hours to Vienna and despite the fact that my cell phone slipped into a coma, managed to find my way to the apartment of my host family's cousin, with whom I was staying. The next morning I commenced my foot tour of downtown Vienna. Based on the recommendations of my host, I spent most of the day just wandering around the ring circle (downtown old city Vienna). It was amazing. Every time I turned the corner I was facing some new and beautiful building, or some statue of a famous person (I'm telling you, Vienna has a ridiculous number of statues), or a cafe. The first day I went to HausderMusik (a music and Vienna Philharmonic museum), a cafe, found the most incredible antique bookstores that made me drool as I got to hold a copy of Tacitus which was printed in 1799, sat in a cafe, and in the evening I got a ground floor standing place for the Opera. This was such an enchanting experience that I decided to return the next evening to see La Boheme.
After my 2 1/2 days I left Vienna with the feeling that I had barely scratched the surface of what that marvelous city has to show me, and headed back to Bratislava to catch my flight back to Bremen. By the way, Slovakia is rather a wasteland, in my opinion. Compared to the opulence of Wien, it seemed dirty and dumpy for the entire five minutes that the shuttle was in the downtown area. I have hear reports that Bratislava has vastly improved in recent years, but beyond getting to see the Danube, I was unimpressed. I will, for the time being, stick with Austria.
So there you have it. I am still alive and kicking. There are plenty of other things that I have to say, but this post has already run far too long, so I will simply have to blog in a more timely manner this week. Servus!


teal! said...

from what I recall, Bratislava wasn't terribly lovely, but it wasn't hideous either. It does not have the advantage that Vienna does, of having once been an imperial city, besides the fact that it has only recently become a capital. It also has the misfortune to belong to what was once an eastern block country, and has the requisite "socialist housing estates" (panelaky) to prove it.

When I visited there, we went up to the castle and could see, across the Danube, the panelaky filling almost the entire horizon. It was a rather desolate sight.

Good job navigating international travel without a cell phone! It sounds like you had a lovely time in vienna (hhmmm.... what did you eat? i' m curious!)

Melanie said...

Statues. Everywhere!

That was what impressed Sarah & I when we were travelling around England. The Europeans have a lot of history, and they like to commemorate it.

Boston is the littlest bit like that: Brian and I are amused at all the intersections that are memorials to war heroes.

Anonymous said...

Is that who all those people are? War heros!

Susan M.

Valerie said...

Teal- in my personal opinion, Bratislava was not quite the armpit of Europe that I have seen so far but close... maybe the knee-pit. Especially as I had come fresh from Vienna, but the Danube was nice. My general impression of the city was varied shades of gray. I ate Sacher Torte, no Schnitzel (we eat it here so it's not that special), and several cups of Viennese coffee.
Oh, and I think I met some famous American who was there "on business" from NY with her husband because she wore sunglasses in the cafe on a cloudy day, didn't speak a word of German, and seemed rather suspicious and rich. I'd like to think so, at least.
Mel- Yeah everywhere. It became comical. I can't wait to visit Boston.