Casa’s Blog

A Life Abroad

Oh I’ve got you to thank for this. You can’t say you’ve never had a doubt…

So here I am filling in an hour or so before my train to Munich leaves.  For some reason I booked at 4pm train.  I don´t know why.  It was over 6 weeks ago since I booked all this stuff  (and I can’t remember what I had or didn’t have for breakfast :P) but I assume it was cheaper.  Whatever  the reason I was able to fit in a little extra of Vienna before I left which is definitely a good thing.

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I had a choice of a variety of art museums or to go to the United Nations base in Vienna for a tour.  Knowing me, guess which one I did?  Yep I was off to the UN. After seeing but not being able to fit in a tour of the United Nations in New York it is a good example of things just working on my tour.  Getting in to the United Nations is harder than breaking in to Fort Knox though. Once you step off the Metro you go through an xray machine just like in the airports.  Then you buy your ticket (just4 euros which I thought was a bargain) and then you go through another 2 security checks.  One takes down your passport details as technically you are in an international zone and no longer in Austria and another is just more xrays (in case a crafty terrorist someone managed to skip through the last one undetected).

As I sat around and had an ice cream and waited for the tour to start I had never wanted to be an older person more in my entire life.  Why this wish for sudden ageing?  Well as I looked around the group of about 30 people, they either classified as older people (50 plus) or massive geeks.   Like I am talking “Big Bang Theory” level of geeks.  I was confronted once again with my geekhood, but at least I can take solace in the fact that I was definitely the coolest of those said geeks 😉 haha

Eventually our German and English tour started.  Once again I was impressed with the ability of a tour guide to flawlessly swap between two languages.  Also, it appears it takes 50% longer to say a sentence in German than it does to say the same phrase in English.  The tour took your around most parts of the building – the memorial park, the conference rooms, the artwork donated by various member states as well as other areas.  It was a buzzing building full of people and probably the most truly multicultural workplace one could ever see.  Our guide also gave us a great overview of both the UN as a whole and also the specific role of the Vienna branch (basically Nuclear Energy, International Security and Crime & Drugs).  She also had a few anecdotes to pass on that were quite funny.

With a morning to fill in Vienna it was well worth the trip for anyone who is politically minded.  Especially as I finally got around to reading Obama’s take on the world beyond America’s borders in Audacity of Hope last night where he focuses a fair bit on the UN and Americas need to be an active player in it.

Anyway, Munich awaits!  I think I might just fit in an Austrian beer at the pub before I have to head to the train station…

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

She was swinging from her handbag on the King’s Road. Fresh from boarding school and double barreled shame. Now there are worms in her skin….

Firstly a word of advice.  The Vienna card costs about 18 Euros and gives you 72 hours of unlimited public transport use and discounts at various sights and shops.  The discounts are okay BUT something I have discovered is that the Student prices are always cheaper if not the same price and you can get a 72 hour public transport card for 5 euros less.  In short, if a student you dont need the Vienna Card.  If not a student…get it!

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So today it was time for my second palace in Vienna and probably the most visited and well known – The Hofburg Palace.  The palace complex now includes a variety of museums and exhibits while still being used by the President and civil service of the now republic of Austria. For me the things I wanted to see were the Imperial Treasurer (They have ads in the subways that say We may not have emperors but we still have their Jewels which is funny enough for me to go plus there was bound to be an abundance of shiny things) as well as the Sissi Museum, the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection.  The Hofburg is right in the centre of town but as a result it is quite a maze (a non-fun maze unlike yesterday) so finding the entrance was a little difficult. Although maybe this was just me.

Eventually I found my way to the entrance to the Silver Collection, Imperial Apartments and Sissi Museum which are one complex accesssed with a singular ticket.  The Silver Collection includes only as mall percentage of all the utensils, crockery, cooking implements and table decorations that the Hapsburgs used and collected during their reign.  It does leave you amazed at the extent of the original catalogue before items were sold after the end of the monarchy because the displays are extensive and probably in the end just a Little too large and repetitive.  It also isn’t something that you should see on an empty or half empty stomach. All the talk of banquets and meals with up to 30 courses starts the stomach craving for some food of its own (or at least mine did).  Particularly as the court confectionery kitchen is discussed in detail. The most interesting point of this section to me was that there is a special imperial way of folding napkins that that has been used for hundreds of years and is still used for state banquets. However, it is so special that it is only passed by word of mouth and currently only two people know the technique.  It is a little like the Colonels 7 secret herbs and spices and part of me wonders if the two people who know the secret are not allowed to travel in the same car, plane or vehicle for fear that one accident could wipe them both out.

The Imperial Apartments are quite similar to the ones seen yesterday in the Schonbrunn Palace.  The layout is similar even if the decoration is a little more modern as they were completely redesigned by Emperor Franz Joseph and Empresses Elisabeth (Sissi) in the mid to late 19th Century.  Red was a dominant theme of the design. Maybe it was because it was a little repetitive from yesterday but I didn’t find this seciton of the tour as enjoyable as yesterday. I think it also was because that without the amazing and beautiful grounds surrounding the rooms and with extra large crowds of people the experience was always going to be slightly less enjoyable.  If I become King of Austria I think Schonbrunn would be enough and the Hofburg can be left as a museum hehe

The Sissi museum was really interesting though. Although the audio guide was hard to use as all the numbers were hidden so you would accidentally skip points and have to backtrack, you were given an insight in to an interesting figure of the Austrian Monarchy.  Basically it seems that Sissi was loved by the Emperor beyond words (as they were monarchs they were cousins so…yeah…a little awkward IMO haha) but is someone who despite strength and beauty struggled with the position of living in the public view and the pressures associated with it. She was totally overwhelmed by the position of Empresses it seems and has become the subject of much mythology after her death.  Part of me wonders about the similarities and differences between her story and that of the most famous Princess of the last 40 years – Princess Di.

Anyway, after stopping to rest my legs in the Heroes Square where Hitler announced the annexation of Austria, I worked my way through the maze that is the Hofburg until I found the Treasury.  You have to pay extra for the audio guide but it is well worth it as non of the descriptions are in English and the amount of detail given to a raft of different objects is impressive.  Overall, this place is ace!  There are shiny amazing objects and stories to be told around every corner (and there are a lot of corners in this vast exhibition).  You see a lot crowns and royal objects from throughout time as well as important objects for the Holy Roman Empire that has dominated my history lessons of the last 2 weeks.  Also there are a lot of relics on show.  Although if you believe that every part of the true cross is from Christs cross or every thorn is from the crown of thorns as is claimed…it appears Jesus Christ was about 1000000000 kilos, 900 metres tall and was crucified on a cross resembling Rockerfella Centre set across the empire state building.  Regardless though the work of the metal smiths and jewellers is exquisite. Christ…COME HERE FOR SHINY HEAVEN LOL

So that was my day.  It was a full on day, much more full on than usual but before I go I have a request.  I keep getting the feeling of a sharp sudden pain on the top of my torso between my neck and the top of my shoulder.  Like I’m being karate chopped.  It first happened when I went for a sip of my cocktail while watching the comedy show in NYC and I looked around for who/what hit me. It happened once more in Prague while leaning over to pick up a book and today while I lent over to pay for my lunch.  I think this is pain associated to my dodgy back and the even dodgier beds I am sleeping on at the moment.  However, if this is a common symptom of a Stroke, Heart Attack or Swine Flu could someone please inform me ASAP. Thanks 😛

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments