“Ma’am, you need to be more respectful while walking in the countryside…this is private property.”

Spring break came to an end in Malta, a group of 3 islands just south of Sicily.

Cool stuff that happened:

1) getting picked up from the airport by a cute old man who drove taxi for ‘Hostel Malti’–getting off the plane and seeing my name written on a small sheet of white paper (similar to the movies) felt pretty freakin’ cool.

2) Meeting the best looking most and beautiful middle-aged man I’ve ever seen. He happened to be the owner of Hostel Malti–a refreshing sight after 15 days of travel.

3) Meeting 2 guys (Llyods and Patty) who were really interested in American politics.  “If you vote the wrong way, you vote the wrong way for the rest of the world,” Patty told me. #obamalover

4) having my first “English breakfast”–2 eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and toast. DELISH!

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5) misleading the group into an area labeled “private property”-2 gunshots was all it took to get us the hell out of there. I wished we had seen the sign prior to entering….

6) Colleen (a friend from Indiana studying at BOKU with me) tripping up the hostel stairs while carrying Jojo’s birthday cake and sacrificing her knee to spare the cake! One of those moments where I nearly peed myself I was laughing so hard.

7) Arriving to Porto Azzuro Apart Hotel on our final night in Malta only to be greeted by a man named David. I showed David my receipt confirming that I had paid a down payment. There was some confusion because David had no record of this. So, I gave David a little piece of chocolate to which he responded, “Come back in the morning.” I think to myself–this guy is smart. He only works the night shift. The AM staff was going to have to deal with the payment problem…the next morning, I head downstairs to pay. I tell her the room numbers and she tells me there is no money due. I look at her. Confusion again. Crap. Then she hands me an envelope–inside is a message form David that said, “Happy 21st Birthday! From the awesome desk attendant!” He let us stay for free! (Oh, and he casually wrote down his e-mail address. Is he looking for a thank you?)

Going into spring break, I told myself I was going to have one Piña colada. And I did….at the airport :/

And I lived happily ever after the grand, 20 day adventure! Cheers to one hell of a spring break

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Palermo, Siracusa and Catania!

Stop #4: Sicily

Highs:

  • clear blue skies and sunshine
  • running with Jojo and Rachael along the Mediterranean
  • Visiting the Catacombs! (freaky and I will probably never visit another one)
  • beach whaling it on the sand reading and getting sunburned
  • staying in an ADORABLE bed and breakfast
  • learning how to play euchre (a card game)
  • buying strawberries from the street vendor and dipping them in nutella–only to be washed down with a cup of coffee. YUM!
  • finding Fanta for 1 euro
  • hiking up Mt. Etna and seeing it explode!
  • buying a pair of cool earrings (intended for a gift, but..things have changed)
  • successfully creating the “fishtail” braid
  • dinner and desert with a live jazz band!

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Lows:

  • group travel tension (after 13 days together, patience was running low and crabbiness settled in)
  • paying 1. 60 euros for a shitty cup of coffee
  • feeling slightly guilty about sneaking a 5th person into the B&B while only paying for 4….Then my friend Colleen said, “Don’t worry, Annie, Europe owes us money.” (paying for toilets, ryan air fees, etc :)
  • annoying kids on public transport (I know they get bored, but the little girl reciting the alphabet in spanish over and over was putting herself in a ‘spanking highly likely’ zone)
  • the Italian man on the bus who had really well groomed eyebrows
  • waking up to the smell of fish (our hostel was located right next to the market….cool, but sick)

Sicily was incredible and definitely a place I would recommend to all my homies out there looking for a taste of Italy.

Ciao!

ps: HMFSO to my Canadian roommate, Rachael for those really vibrant pictures in the slideshow :)

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Holy shit. This is gorgeous.

City #3: Cinque Terre

After Firenze, we meandered Northwest and landed among the “5 hills.” In our travels up to Cinque Terre, everyone raved about it–the bar had been set.

One of the prettiest places I have ever seen. Check it out!

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Highs:

1) All day hike form Riomaggiore (the first hill) to Monterosso (the 5th and final hill). Normally, one can hike directly from the first city to the last city. A landslide-flood combination in October of 2011 tore up the middle city pretty badly. It reminded me of Hurricane Katrina–scattered debri, water lines on the top stories of buildings, faded signs. Only a few people died, but still a sad sight to see. Fortunately, things were on the upswing–I think this process was sped up in order to compensate for the rush of summer tourism.

2) homeade gnocchi with pesto.

3) watching an Easter procession through the street with kids holding candles.

4) the crazy mixture of vegetation along the hiking trails: bamboo, pine trees, catci, palm trees. the whole lot of it.

5) first experience with a bidet (toilet that cleans your butt) HAHAHA, what an odd and refreshing experience-surprisingly pleasant!

6) running into a couple along a hiking trail from Western London. The woman had just retired from teaching. I asked her for advice she would give to an aspiring teacher. “Patience and passion.”

7) spending Easter sunday sitting on the Mediterranean sipping wine and sharing chocolate with friends. Wonderful, but my child heart missed the early morning easter basket search :)

8) Finding my roommate Rachael. We didn’t communicate so well as to where and when we were going to meet up…Jojo and I were sure we weren’t going to find her….BUT WE DID!

Lows:

1) a salty and chilly swim in the Mediterranean.

2) lots of cats

Favorite sound:

1) listening to the waves rush into the shore with so much momentum that the rocks mixed together to create a clanking noise as the water rolled back to sea.

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Pizza, pasta and gelato…What’s a girl to do?

City #2: FIRENZE (Florence)

In an effort to spare a few euros, we spent our last night in Rome in a bar rather than in a hostel. Now, one would think that roaming Rome for a night instead of getting sleep is a bad idea. It was a bad idea. Truth be told, we spent just as much at the bar as we would have had we paid for a hostel….Once we arrived to the train station (5am-ish) to catch our ride to Florence, we were exhausted. Sitting on the train, I decided to take off my wet jeans and sit in my running tights (comfortable for sleeping). So, I threw my jeans in the overhead compartment. Little did I know, that was my last encounter with my favorite pair of jeans (despite the hole in the crotch which formed as a result of a Gladiator re-enactment scene in the Colosseum–great pictures). The abrupt arrival in Florence had us scattering to gather our bags. In a daze, we roll off the train. After a few footsteps, I realize this tragedy. Meh, I leave em’ behind and hope someone has found them and put them to good use. #maymyfavoritejeansandfavoritebeltrestinpeace.

How was Florence? It was spectacular. It just felt right to be there. After dropping 9.95 euros on a new pair of jeans, I settled with apples and digestive cookies as my main meal….gelato on the side of course. A few highlights of Florence were:

  • climbing the Duomo (the main church in Florence, also called the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) for a bird’s eye view of the city,
  • walking up to a man standing outside of a private garden and asking him if we could have a look around (who knew speaking spanish with an italian would get my friends and i a free tour?),
  • losing 4 boxes of wine (turns out the ole’ [just hide it in the bush] doesn’t really work…),
  • paprika potato chips
  • Gusto’s pizza with Caitlin (a buddy from Madison), Jojo and Kate!
  • dancing to ‘Smoke on the Water’ in a random bar

Oh, mom–this one’s for you and Grandma Duff:

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“Spring break! No parents no rules. No showers no regrets!” (city #1)

Greetings loved ones! I’ts been a while, but I promise this one is worth the read!
I apologize for the gap between posts. I’ve been a pretty busy girl over the past few weeks and just got a solid 12 hours of sleep last night. I’m rested and ready to share :D From April 2nd to the 22nd, I was on spring break. Just as I was starting to jive with a semi-set schedule, my school-BOKU, (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences) gave its students a “holiday.” That’s right. No school, no homework, no real responsibility for 20 days! With that, my roommates and I decided to take on Italy, Sicily and Malta.
I’m going to break up my holiday into a few separate posts. Here’s to Roma! (March 31st-April 2nd)
First stop: ROME! My first April Fool’s Day spent outside the US-When in Rome, eh? After a 12-ish hour train ride from Vienna to Rome, we arrived feeling a bit restless and crabby. Rome was not my favorite place. The streets were smelly (a combination of urine and garbage). I don’t know if I can say this as a tourist, but there were too many tourists. Groups of 30 sporting matching caps all over the place. Guess it’s just the small-town girl in me #scandinaviaforever. Jojo (current roommate in Vienna/fellow Badger) and I started our tour of Rome at the Pantheon. Pretty cool. Some of the original ceiling remains. Lots of neat decorations because it was Psalm Sunday.

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Second stop: Then, we ventured over to the Trevi Fountain. This was cool. It was packed, but we managed to find a place to throw in our loose change. The story goes something like toss in 1 coin=you’ll return to Rome, 2 coins=you’ll meet an Italian, and 3 coins=you’ll marry an Italian. Now, I threw in 3 coins. The funny thing about stereotypes is that there’s occasionally a little bit of truth under them-Italian men are in fact slimy. Simple. As a woman, I would normally appreciate the persistence–after all, I play hard to get. But the whistling, shouting and outward pig-ness did not sit well with me. Needless to say, I gave them a few words—there was no need for a translation :D. Fun fact about the Trevi: approximately 3,000 euro are thrown in each day-all of which is donated to charity.

Third stop: Just a normal statue, eh? Interestingly, all of the male statues in the city revealing their private areas were covered up once the church came to town.
Fourth stop: Giardino Del Quirinale: a park surrounded by orange trees. Sat and watched a really cool green bird for a while. I took a HUGE digger while walking through it. HAHAHAHAHA, it was hilarious. Similar to the fall of the model in the youtube video “Model takes a Tumble.” It is indeed 1 minute and 11 seconds of your life you’ll never get back, but if you haven’t laughed today, this will do it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0DZXeHgdUc.
 (just to the right of this statue is where I took a massive stumble)
(Jojo and the wonderful smelling lilacs)
(just in the center is the little green guy I was watching)
Fifth stop: Somehow my will power wilted and we ended up in a gelato shop! My goodness gracious, it was awesome. I had 1 scoop of Rasberry and 1 scoop of Nutella (which they eat in the same volume as I eat peanut butter back home–shout out to Dad cleaning off the table after a spaghetti dinner BUT not before sticking his knife in the peanut butter jar for a final lickin’) This was the first of MANY gelato stops while in Italy. No regrets.
(Jojo had it all over her face, just like a little kid)
Sixth stop: Dinner at Tony’s: a local favorite of Jojo’s friends who showed us around for the day. Ate delicious lasagna (enormous portion) served by Tony himself–a cute old man. He even gave us a complementary chunk of chocolate which was the perfect touch to my food baby.
After a long day of sight-seeing, we ventured back to our hostel anxious to change clothes and get to bed. Because the line in the ladies room was from Scandinavia to Milwaukee, we decided to do a quick change in the storage room. NBD. We were quick and successful–at least I thought we were until we went to the front desk to ask for an extra pillow. Jojo nudges me in the side. I look up. CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE WAS A SECURITY CAMERA IN THE LUGGAGE ROOM? Actually, Anne-duh, people leave their luggage there. We gave a free show. Whoops.
Seventh stop: The Colesseum was incredible. We had numerous photoshoots re-enacting battle scenes from the Gladiator. It felt so neat to be in a place so old. Much of the original rock actually remains. Aside from ripping my pants in the worst possible spot, it was a good day. (Don’t worry Ma, as I licensed sewer, I had no problems with the repair).
Eighth stop: The Roman Ruins was an area of really old rock architecture.
Ninth stop: The Vatican. I met up with a Madison buddy of mine, Nicole! Together, we caught up over a massive cone of gelato from Rome’s infamous “Old Bridge”  cafe. When in Rome, go there. Because the tour of the Vatican cost 20 euro, we skipped it. We did go into St. Peter’s Basilica–lots of ooh and ah moments there because the artist’s detail was unbelievable.
(prepping for Easter Sunday!)
(Nicole and me!)
(Jojo and me–pure happiness)
In an effort to save some cash, we spent our last night in Rome without a hostel. Went to 2 bars. Turns out, I didn’t save as much money as I thought I would have…The second bar killed it with the tuneage. Needless to say, Jojo, Kate and I were belting our little American hearts out when “Shook me all Night Long” came on.
I won’t go back to Rome, but I did enjoy it. The food was fantastic and my traveling buddies rocked.
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Scottish Shenanigans

March 7th-11th:
Anybody who is familiar with RyanAir (a cheap European airline frequented by nearing-debt student travelers) knows that nothing is ever easy when flying through them. Either your bag is too big (which it wasn’t this time), or they changed the time of your flight 24 hours before departure. I arrived to the airport 1.5 hours early (the Gary Marx in me) to ensure enough extra time EVEN if there were problems………..
  • all settled in waiting for the gate to open. eating my gummy bears, sippin on sprite and reading a book. slowly gather my things and stand in line. anxious my bag might exceed the measurements, the man tells me I forgot to get my boarding pass stamped. I look at him like wtf? He tells me to go back and get it. “Hurry!” Shit. I sprint through the airport all the way back to the airport entrance. ask the lady for a stamp. she tells me she’s closed. I look at her…… She stamps me. I sprint back. Go through security a 2nd time. run with all of my belongings in my arms and hope I make it. Frantically re-dressing my hot mess of a self, I hand over my ticket. They let me in. WOOFTA!
March 7th:
  • Wednesday: Kiaya met me at the airport. It was glorious! Chatting, laughing, eating pizza. Her castle/house/place where she has class/place where the professors live resembles something like a combination of Hogwarts and Pride and Prejudice. The view from her bedroom window, legit.
  • Sat through Kiaya’s lecture with her and wrote out a few postcards.
  • Later on at night, we went to an irish pub called Finnigans. great 2 man IRISH live band. requested sweet caroline. HIGH: they sang happy birthday to me. had a few shots at midnight to celebrate the night! 
(sippin on a Guiness)
(a shot of Ireland’s flag while in Scotland….ha!)
(Kiaya and me)
(an unhappy 21-year old)
March 8th:
  • Thursday: my 21st birthday!!!!!!!!! went for a walk around Kiaya’s campus. freaking beautiful. she’s studying in Dalkeith (about 20 miles south of Edinburgh) in a cozy forested area. the scenery reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. Checked into our hostel in Edinburgh. Pub crawl. 5 bars. free shot at every bar. sang karaoke, did a jager train…What’s a jager train? The bartender lines up a bunch of glasses filled with Red Bull. Then the shots of jager are balanced on the rims of the glasses beside each other. A randomly selected individual is then chosen to tip the first shot glass (which then creates a domino effect) and lands each shot into its respective glass. The jager train! Because it was my birthday, I got to do it :D
(I passed! I actually did get a bit nervous….lol)
(Kiaya’s gifts to me included: a birthday glass, birthday glasses, one light up pin, another beer pin and a birthday sash! #deckedoutinedinburgh)
(yours truly, Simon and Garfunkel, singing “Cecilia”)

  • ate pizza, wore all of my ridiculous 21 year old get up, and danced the night away. Though I’ve been able to legally drink here since I arrived, I was sure to celebrate as if I were back home. 
March 9th:
  • Friday: Did I sleep in the morning after my 21st birthday? Nope. Woke up to find Kiaya examining her tooth in the mirror. Part of it was missing. Yikes. Took a 9am train to Stirling. Saw a castle. Then trained it over to Linlithgow to see a palace. Neat history. Really windy. An early night in for Kiaya and me. 

Stirling Castle– It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.


(a view of Stirling)

 
(HAHAHAHAHAHA)
Parts of the castle have been restored to give people an idea of what it was really like:

And the Linlithgow Palace–one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries.

 


March 10th:
  • Saturday: Hiked Arthur’s Seat. Did a walking tour of the city. Sooo cool. Ate traditional Scottish food called Haggis: minced meat with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt mixed with stock. Traditionally, this mixture was encased in the stomach of a sheep and cooked for 3 hours. Sooooooooo good :) 
  • I then followed up the Haggis appetizer with a little taste of home….
  • Met up with Mary Shoemaker (a pal from Madison studying in Galway, Ireland for the semester)
  • Went to a bar called Three Sisters and watched a rugby game outside. Felt like I was back in Madison on a Badger saturday :) Ireland vs. Scotland. Fun atmosphere! People were waaaaaaaay into the game. There was even one drunk idiot who chanted U-S-A every time someone scored. Haha, thanks for representing, pal. Left our first hostel to check into a different one. The second hostel was SKETCH. A 73 stair-climb to get to the top. 

  • We were not given keys. Didn’t need them since there were no locks on the doors. Funny smells. Faded pillow cases and sheets. Slept like a baby, ha! Did a ghost tour. Edinburgh’s got some haunting history. Stories of witch trials, grave digging and fairies:
  •                                                 

Arthur’s Seat–the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park (a royal park where the King/Queen resides) described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.”

(doesn’t look that steep, does it?)
(Almost thereeeeeeee……)
(Arthur’s Seat plank #marymarxthisisforyou)
(reaaaallllllllllllly windy at the top!)
March 11th:

Sunday: Went to a free art museum. Went to the Elephant Cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter!!!!!!!!

Felt so cool. I was happy to know that J.K and I have sat on the same toilet seat. Haha. She currently lives in Edinburgh! Walked around the city some more, then caught  a bus to the airport in Edinburgh. Arrived in Bratislava. Took a bus back to Vienna. Greeted by my roommates around 10:30 and laughing/sharing stories until the wee hours of the morning.

(Just too big.)


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“We’re not the richest, we’re the partiest!”

March 1, 2012
Today was a fantastic day. I slept in. I had a delicious cup of Julius Meinl coffee. (a Viennese based manufacturer and retailer of coffee) I met up with a friend from Madison, Jojo.  Ironically, she will be taking the place of my current roommate Lena, who is moving out tomorrow. The day’s high was touring the Ottakringer Brewery! The tour guide was a total hottie who made an excellent brewery guide.   Married. One of the reasons today was so great was because Ottakringer is my favorite beer.
Brewery History:
 
The tour began with the tour guide ranting off facts and figures about production/consumption/blah, blah, blah. Then he gets a chuckle from the group as he STRESSES, “We’re not the richest (referring to the brewery’s profit), we’re the partiest!” Translation: We’re not #1, but we sure do party hard.
The Ottakringer Brewery was started in 1837, owned and operated by a Jewish family.  The annexation of Vienna forced the Jewish owners to sell the brewery in 1937. Fortunately, the family who bought the brewery from the Jewish family continued brewing Ottakringer following the original recipe.  The 4 ingredients used in 1837 are the same ingredients used today: water, hops, malta and yeast. After a brief discussion of various hops used in the beer, we were taken to the tanks where beer is stored prior to leaving the brewery. One tank can hold 200,000 liters of beer. Is a person capable of drinking this amount of beer in their lifetime? Sure. This would require a person to drink 1 case (20 liters) every day (Monday-Saturday) and 2 cases on Sunday ["because it's Holy Day"-comical tour guide].  Repeat every week for 40 years. Potential idea for my bucket list? Eh, maybe when I turn 60.
Each one of these tanks holds 757082.4 gallons of beer!
Some other shtuff I learned:
  • (In Austrian terms) Sugar is like the wiener schnitzel for yeast.
  • Hops are like the spice of the beer.
  • Ottakringer is exported to Spain, Germany and Malta.
  • The brewery employs 200 people.
  • 3rd largest brewery in Vienna behind Stiegel and Heineken.
  • The only waste from the beer is the yeast, but it doesn’t go to waste.  It is re-used in future batches of beer.  The future: combine the yeast with biofuel to create energy used to power the plant.
  • Beer from the tap is better than the bottle/can because it’s not pasteurized.
  • Quality sample (taste testing)

varieties of malta used in the beer

They bottle/can 50,000 beers per hour.

After an hour of touring, it was time for taste testing, or as the tour guide called it, “quality testing.” Call it what you want, the best part of the tour had finally arrived. We were given a time limit to drink beer (30 minutes, maybe?) They served pretzels (warm, squishy and delicious). I tried 4 different beers. 1st: Ziegel Red, 2nd: Radler, 3rd: dark nasty beer, 4th: PUR (semi-dark beer, the bartender’s favorite. He’s got bad taste). The samples were huge.  I left with an Ottakringer glass for a souvenir :D

Not a bad start to a Thursday. I even met a fellow Badger on the tour. Wild, right?

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A breath of history at every corner.

After 2 weeks of intensive German class, our last session ended with Paul (our Lehrer) giving each of us a piece of chocolate. I’m going to miss him.  He wore classic rock t-shirts, blue suede shoes, and one of those smiles that made everyone else smile. I certainly won’t miss the homework,

Hausaufgaben (homework)

but I will miss the atmosphere of our cultured classroom: 2 Australians, 2 French, 1 Ethiopian, 1 Iraniain, 7 Americans, 1 Spaniard and 1 Finn. Starting with no knowledge at all, 40 hours of class later and I can greet, say how I’m feeling, conjugate a few verbs and most importantly ask, “Sprechen Sie English?” Haha just kidding, but it has been challenging to force myself speak in German. Surprisingly though, I find myself more than willing to speak Deutsch after a few beers ;) Speaking of beer, one of this week’s TO-DO’s is to visit the Ottakringer brewery.  It’s my favorite beer so far, and I can’t wait to spend Wednesday afternoon chillin’ and swillin’ with an Ottakringer.

One day before German class last week, my friend Colleen and I decided to take a walk to the Schonnbrun Palace.  The Schonnbrun Palace was originally built as the summer residence of the royal Habsburg family during Imperial times.   It was also the place of meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev  in 1961. Apart from the buildings, the area was sort of ugly.  With Spring just around the corner, I plan to return as the palace is known for its vast display of flower gardens.

Everybody was feeding the black squirrels (they had weird cat ears)

 

close up of the palace!

Later in the week, we hit the town for some good ole’ ice skating.  IT was AWESOME.  Though my skates were slightly small and strongly resembled what storm troopers wear, I had an awesome time.  We were near the City Hall (also called The Rathaus.  It’s a building in in the center of the city which serves as the seat of both the mayor and city council.  Directly in front of the hall was where we skated on a man-made series of ice canals.  It reminded me of the cars carpet Jack, Joe, Mary and I had as kids where the streets wound around each other to form one heck of a good time. There were lights, music (Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, (Australian hip-hop according to my Australian friend, Olivia), hot chocolate, and a range of skating abilities.  I convinced two of my French friends (who had never been ice skating) to give it a whirl.  Haha, like I can skate that well myself ? We held hands, and Astrid told me numerous times to slow down.  I couldn’t.  The weather was perfect—sweatshirt, jeans, ponytail. I was on an ice-skating high.

The Rathaus

First roommate picture! (Canadians Brianne and Rachel)

It was so neat. There were roundabouts, twists, turns and patrol people.

I came close to falling numerous times. That was only because I was too busy singing and dancing.

Friday morning was tough.  I wanted to skip the “Welcome Days” program, but I dragged myself out of bed to meet up with the group. Glad I did. BOKU’s campus is split into two campuses.  After a tour of the first part of campus on the previous day (they sent us on a campus treasure hunt….lame), we spent the following morning touring the serious science stuff. I signed up for the tour of the Food Biotechnology lab—Naturally, because it was the only one of the options with the word ‘food’ in the title. We soon arrived at the coolest machine, the machine where they brew Schnapps and beer.  Can you say, samples?!

This Willy Wonka looking machine delivers fresh batches of Schnapps daily!

Schnapps of all flavors (kiwi, radish, apple) and beer!

Oh, and no high heels in the laboratory, please.

Time to get touristy:  Feeling a bit buzzed from the samples, I was filled with excitement for the city tour. Not even the “Tourists are Terrorists” spray-painted décor on the side of an old building could bring my mood down.  Our tour guide was great, a little peppy blonde woman. She told us the history of every building we saw:

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral, (the building discoloration you see is the result of the weathering limestone.  According to the tour guide, it   is a continuous, and costy battle to restore what has been worn away)

The Coat of Arms while Archduke Rudolf was the ruler of Austria.

Just below the foot of this statue, there is a canon stuck in the wall from World War II.

  • the Spanish Riding School, (shares a wall bordering the Hofburg Palace which has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history: the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the current President.  It also served as the Habsburg’s winter residence.

The Spanish Riding School is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses. The horses are born different shades of grey, and turn white once they mature. Only once they turn white can they perform. Not only is it a center for classical dressage ("the highest expression of horse training"), the headquarters is a tourist attraction in Vienna that offers public performances as well as permitting public viewing of some training sessions. The presentation builds on four centuries of experience and tradition in classical dressage. The leading horses and riders of the school also periodically tour and perform worldwide.

  • the Roman Ruins,

Roman Ruins

  • a famous coffeeshop,

"This is where the intellectuals drink coffee." (lady tour guide)

  • the best place to get a Schnitzel (which originated in Italy!),

  • a balcony from where Hitler spoke to Austria about the Third Reich,

A warm Viennese welcome for Adolf Hitler in 1936. (It gave me the shivers to know that I was so close to where Hitler once stood.)

  • Mozart’s apartment,

Mozart was born in Salzburg, but this is where he lived while in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer. Oh, and he was a big spender.

After 2 hours of touring, I was hunngrrrrrryyyyy.  For an appetizer, I bought a few roasted chestnuts. Surprisingly good, but a bit chewy—they tasted like bland sweet potatoes. Then, my friend Andrea came in with the win! “Want to go to a Pakistani place where you can eat as much as you want and pay as much as you want?” “Um, yeah!” This was definitely one of those “off-the-map” places.  The place was packed.  This confirmed my “This is a gem of a spot” thought.  I still have no idea what I ate, but it was delicious.  There was bread, a potato dish, vegetables, a curry-esque meat dish, rice pudding, and something that looked like mashed potatoes but tasted like a brownie.  I paid 5 euro and wore a grin for the rest of the day.

Friday night was spent in a Viennese restaurant with all of the other international exchange students. Free food and a free drink. It was perfect for my little social butterfly soul. After ditching the game they forced on us to get to know eachother, I went to the bar, bought a beer, and met other students who were also not so into the 12 year-old game.  New friends and a night well spent!

Saturday morning a few of us decided to head to Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) for the day.  After paying 14 euro for a round-trip train ticket (great deal!), we were in Bratislava one hour later.  Though none of us spoke Slovak, we managed our way into town.  We didn’t do any tours.  We just wandered.  It was perfect.  We ventured to lunch off the main street, a massive-stair climb to a castle, and a trip to the local Billa grocery store for Bratislava’s finest beer and chocolate.   Again, the weather cooperated wonderfully.  We caught a glimpse of the setting sun before heading to a pub for dinner.  Not the kindest waiter, but the social commradery among our group made up for that :D.

  • Bratislava


Prost to Pilsner!

smoked wurst and bean soup!

great end to a day trip.

What’s up for the next week?

  • Brewery tour
  • Hike on Saturday
  • First week of class
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The first week in review

DAY 1:

After a brief dash to Poland, we arrived to our destination.  Greeted by frigid air and a bitter wind, I was pumped to finally be in Österreich.  Patrick and I got all of our luggage.  Huge relief. Because we were about 15 km south of our hostel, we had to take a bus from the airport to the subway station. First in line and anxious to step into the heated bus, the driver opened the door and I darted back to find a seat.  I took off my backpack and let out a sigh.  “We’ve made it,” I think to myself.  Suddenly, the bus driver starts yelling in German.  It’s directed towards me.  I leave my seat and walk towards the front of the bus. “Shit,” I mutter under my breath.  Though he speaks in German jargon, I need no translation. I had forgotten to pay.  While the driver continued to multi-task yelping at me and angrily reassuring the anxious people waiting to get on the bus, I fumbled through my purse and found 7 euro.  Once I paid, he continued to bark.  About what I have no idea.  Confused, I continue to stand there.  He’s looks at me like I’m a felon.  Finally, a kind woman in line says, “You can take your seat.” And the story gets better………the couple in front of Patrick and I make out the entire ride.  Not just a peck on the cheek.  A full-on jaw-dropping scene of kissing, laughter, touching–the whole lot of it.  Yuck. (That’s normal in Europe, apparently…)

After a rather horrifying first few steps on Austrian soil, Patrick and I are greeted by Julia and her boyfriend Danny.  Basically, a friend of a friend put me in touch with Julia who currently lives and is studying in Wien.  At first sight, it looked as though Julia had a dog in her purse.  She sure did.  His name is Whiskey.  In Austria, if you want to bring your dog with you (literally anywhere), go ahead. Without asking questions, Julia and Danny kindly accompanied us to our hostel.

Hostel Ruthensteiner

We arrived in Wien on Friday (2/10/12) night.  Because we couldn’t move into our university housing until Monday morning, we bunked up here for the weekend.  It was nothing like what I had imagined in my head.  In my mind, I pictured a dirty, spider-ridden, leaky-faucet, dark shack.  It was the complete opposite! It was warm, cozy, and full of international travelers.  There was a bar (ladies night special every night :), guitars and a piano, a kitchen, chess boards, and cheap breakfast with a surprisingly descent cup of coffee.

Our room!

Patrick and I stayed in a room with 2 Australian girls, 1 Australian guy, and 1 Swedish girl.

We got into Wien at 7:30. By 8:45, we were kickin’ it back in a bar.  Oh yeah, and I ordered my own drinks because the drinking age is 18! Yay for being 21 (kind of)! The name of the bar was the “Travel Shack.” After a round of pancake shots, I had my first Austrian beer called “Zipfer.” Suddenly, I felt like I was back in Madison.  If PBR has a twin, Zipfer is it.  It went down too smooth. Perhaps going to a bar is not the best solution for jet-lag.

Prost!

Patrick and I made friends too.  Ironically, it turns out they were the 2 Australian girls we ended up sharing a room with.

The girl with the painted face. It was her birthday!

Then we got a special treat.  Our Austrian friends, Julia and Danny, treated us to a round of “Hammer.”  It’s simple.  There is a stump in the corner of the bar.  You then go up to the bartender and ask for nails.  Gather up a group of people and get at it.  Each person takes a nail and pounds it in just enough so that it is stable.  Then each person takes a turn to hit their nail with the hammer.  Whoever hammers their nail into the stump first, WINS! Riveting, right? It was fun :D  As the picture shows, it is a game which requires a great deal of concentration.

It was a lot more difficult than you would think.....

Oh, and Whiskey plays foosball.  (Fun fact: The concept of foosball was conceived after Harold Searles Thornton had been to a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. football match in 1921.  He wanted to provide a game that replicated football that could be played at home. The inspiration came from a box of matches: by laying the matches across the box he had formed the basis of his game.)

Whiskey the wild dog

DAY 2:

We spent our second day bumming around Wien with our friends Danny and Rick. After a brief run in with a Kim Kardashian look-alike, we sat down for lunch and I had my first wiener schnitzel! Fun fact: (Although the traditional Wiener schnitzel is made of veal, it is now often made of pork.  It was gooooood!

       

Kim: High ponytail and glossy/puffy black jacket.

Delicious!

Hesitant to bring my favorite pairs of shoes with me because they are “not fashionable” according to many, it just so happened that we walked past this store:

Shout-out to all of you Crocs haters

On our way back to our hostel, we stumbled along this big guy.  Here, churches are everywhere, and the architecture is insanely beautiful.

 

Later on that night, we met up with Julia, Danny and their friends.  They were having a UW-Madison reunite party because 3 of them studied as Badgers for one semester.  We played flip-cup! Those familiar with flip-cup know that it is played with red SOLO cups.  Unfortunately, there are no red SOLO cups in Wien.  Alas, Julia created her own! Though the cup was smaller, lighter and not red, I still managed to perform like a champion.

RED SOLO CUP?

The crew.

Me: What cute shot glasses! Julia: They're for eggs. Me: Ohh....

Did I mention that you can drink in public here?

No need to chug beer here. Simply, take it with you!

DAY 4:

I arrived to my apartment for the semester.  Currently, I have one roommate. Her name is Lena, and she is from Greece.  (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, anybody??!) We haven’t spent too much time together thus far, but we did spend one night swapping stories of American politics and Greek finances over a cup of tea.

My room is way too nice.  The view isn’t all that great, but it is equipped with just about everything.  It is definitely a nicer living space, a place that is too expensive for my liking, but this is where I’ve been placed. I have a tv, but all of the channels are in German. Ha! Check out my pad:

 And the kitchen:

And the toilet room:

A pretty darn efficient toilet: 2 different flush settings.

There is yet a different room where I shower:

It has INSANE water pressure. Not so much a good thing.

DAY 5: Happy Valentine’s Day! As I was checking out for lunch, the woman behind the counter gave me a pretty flower. All the girls who went through the line got one. Made my day :D

DAYS 6-9:

I am currently in an intensive German course.  It’s 4 hours each day. It fries my brain, but I’m really enjoying it.  Plus, my teacher looks like John Locke:

Paul, my German teacher.

………and he wore a Green Day t-shirt to class. Oh, and his wife’s ring tone on his phone is a barking dog….When asked why, he said, “I look at the more humorous side of it.” Whatever you say, doc. Haha, it’s been a good time and I’ve made a few new friends along the way.  I haven’t had much time to sight-see and explore as my nights have been filled with German homework, registering for classes, trying to find grocery stores, and navigating the public transportation system. I’m particularly looking forward to this Friday night when our German class will be going out for a beer with John, oh I mean Paul.

Ciao!

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Not too many words for this one.

Let's just be thankful that he was walking on the sidewalk and not driving a car. (downtown Warsaw)

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