The hills are alive, With the sound of music With songs they have sung. For a thousand years…
Sup from Austria! (Oh and by the way, I am aware that the use of the Sound of Music lyrics would work a lot better if I was actually in Salzburg but as I can´t fit that in I have decided Vienna is close enough. Austria is Austria after all :P)
Okay so I was up early this morning to take the train from Praha Holesovice to Vienna. I can actually pronounce Holesovice like a proper Czech now so that is what 10 days in Prague will do to you. My initial pronunciation on my arrival led to Justin laughing hysterically. It was an easy train journey but it was also a weird one in a few ways. Firstly I was riding the same tracks I had ridden quite a few times as the train to and from Brno and Kutna Hora is the same track…I was just going a little further. Also it was weird that at no point did someone ask to look at my passport. I understand the whole EU thing but generally they still check and there is a requirement that I input my passport number when booking the ticket. The final weird part was that südbahnhof (the station I arrived at) is in a really weird position. You cross the water and enter Vienna. There is a stop just in Vienna but it wasn´t my stop. You then see most of the city fly by and then you start seeing farmland (well farmland and wind turbines but mainly farmland). Finally the train turns around a bit (like a semi circle) and heads back in to the city. It is a weird and somewhat nervous trip as you question Should I have got off before? Do they know I am still on here? Especially as we were now an hour over our estimated time of arrival perople got a little worried and everybody did that I am just going to check other people are on the train look out of their harry potter compartment. To put it in to Melbourne terms it is like the arriving in Melbourne by train, going through the city, arriving in Taralgon and then eventually turning around and stopping in at Huntingdale Station. Anyway, in the end I arrived and quickly found myself checking in.
My hostel looks pretty cool. It is the Hostel Ruthenburg and it has lovely garden areas. Is on appearance really clean and has pretty much all you could ask for at a hostel. The 10 euros deposit for the key is a little much though, but it just means I wont waste that money in Vienna.
As the weather was beautiful sunshine, with a few ominous clouds of the alleged thunderstorms, I hit the ground running and found my way (with the use of a WAY TOO complicated map) in to the city centre which is about a 10 minute metro journey. The metro comes up at St Stephens Cathedral so I took a quick detour from my plan to attack the tourist office to head inside. It is a big imposing grey stone church. Its exterior is marred by refurbishments (as is everything in Europe) but inside again is a beautiful space. There is a tower and a crypt that I left for another day but I had a good look through the spacious interior (hell it was free to enter so why not eh?). It is a lot grey-er than most churches I have seen but that may sound bad but I think it was great. It just relied on other things beside extensive colour to develop its beauty. Much like the rose coloured marble church of yesterday that lacked stained glass windows.
After raiding the tourist office of all the maps and guides and buying my unlimited public transport ticket I decided that as the weather was still good I would just explore the city on foot. There were the options of trams and buses that do a similar loop but I like the adventure, when I just get in to a city, of just wandering, getting lost and finding those unique things you wouldn’t necessarily find. A point on the tourist office though I am finding that the new Information Centres in cities are always largely unhelpful. The older ones are full of brouchures and maps that you can grab and carry around with you but the new ones with their sleak design and raft of computer screens generally expect you just to look to the website and the people behind the desk seem to do the job of a trained chimp (knowing nothing themselves and just offering to look it up for you). It is a sad indictment on the modernisation of things I think.
Okay so what did I see on my walk around? Well I saw most of the main buildings – Hoffburg Palace, National Museum, Parliament, City Hall, State Opera House, etc, etc. I also walked through some of the gorgeous parks (okay Christ I am trying to use other words but without a theasarus and under time limitations due to internet cafe use it is hard!). There were plenty of fountains and statues that you could discover and it really was an awesome walk through the town.
I was thinking though that Vienna is a beautiful city and so is Prague but there is a big difference. It took me a while to put my finger on it as they are both very european but I eventually think I cracked the case. Vienna is very coherent in its design and archetecuture. Prague has a variety of buildings of all different styles and ages and it is definitely proud of this eclectic mix. Vienna, on the other hand, seems to have (from my limited viewing) a more thematic trend to all the grand buildings. I am pretty sure this relates back to the fact that they were all built during a similar time period by a similar royal dynasty…but I suppose that is something to find out during my next 3 days.
What is certain though is that both Prague and Vienna are amazingly impressive cities visually. Different styles, both done well.
P.S Can anybody tell me why the europeans use the Comma and Full Stop in reverse in numbers eg 9,000.00 in Australia is 9.000,00? I know the reason we drive on different sides of the road is that Napolean marched on the right (so it doesnt surprise me that we differ) and I would love an equally logical reason for the numbers 😛
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