Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Long 6 Day Trip to Prague and other Places

I apologize for the long absence of blog post, school has made things extremely busy and I haven't had a whole lot of time to sit down and write about the trip I took with fellow IES Students to four  different European cities. The name of the tour was the "World Heritage Trip," and it went to Hallstatt, Salzburg, Český Krumlov, and Prague.


The trip started 5:30am, when I had to wake up and get ready for the journey ahead. The bus we took picked us up on the Ringstrasse by the Kunsthistoriche and Natural History museum. We got on and set off for Hallstatt, the first stop on the trip. It was about a 3.5 hour drive there, with lovely (/s) views of open fields, and then eventually mountains. The village itself is very small, but makes most of its money from tourism. It's situated in the Austrian alps and sits next to Hallstatter See (Lake in German is See). The weather that day was lovely. No humidity at all, and was slightly cool. When we arrived to our destination, we took a small ferry across the lake to the main village. Once we landed we went to have lunch at a restaurant that was reserved for us. This is what I had for lunch, and yes, it was delicious.
I believe this was veal with red sauerkraut, potato dumplings, and some Stiegl Goldbrau on the left.) 


Once lunch was finished, we had some time to walk around the village. It was really nice. After our free hour, we took a long haul up the mountain (plus a tram ride up) to take our tour of the worlds oldest salt mine. That might sound dull, but it was actually pretty awesome. The best part was this awesome slide you could take down while inside the mine: 

Brian and I got around 32 kph (so about 20mph). Also, if you're wondering, "Glück auf!" is a greeting that miners would use. After the mine tour, I got to view one of the best (and probably my favorite) view so far.

And I'll say it because it's true: this picture did absolutely no justice. Here's another of picture of Brian and I approving the view: 

After our day spent at Hallstatt, we got back on the bus and took an hour ride to Salzburg. To put it short, Salzburg was awesome. A lot of nice views, good food, and I even got a sick hat! The night we got to Salzburg, my friends and I went to a very nice Stieglbrau restaurant that over looks the city (we couldn't see the whole city because it was night time), and then to an Irish pub for a couple of pints. The next day we went on a very cool walking tour, that brought us all around the city and also up to one of the scenes from The Sound of Music (no, I did not go on the sound of music tour.) You probably saw this picture on facebook: 

Here's a picture of the view that you can't see: 

It was really nice. 

Anyways, the rest of the day my friends Kaira, Ethan, Brian, and Sam and I walked around the city finding stuff to do and things to see. Ultimately at the end of the day, we walked around for 5 hours and saw a lot of cool stuff. Here is the view from a cafe we went to that sits on the main square:

I got a good iced coffee and I think some food, I can't really remember. After this cafe I got a very cool Austrian hat at a semi-touristy store on the main strip. But first, Mozart's house: 

And now the hat, taken inside Mozart's house. 

Later on in the day, we went to this very special biergarten and had some delicious food. Also beer. That night my friends and I hung outside our hostel and talked about politics and music until around 2am. 
This is the church where Mozart played organ (If I remember correctly.)
 The next day, we went to the world heritage city of Český Krumlov (pronounced Chesky Kroomlov). This is another very small city that makes most of its money from tourism, but also has a lot of people who live there. We first at a this Tolkien like hobbit house outside of the city, where I had delicious meat and bread dumplings, along with some tasty beer.
This is where they made the meat. Also yes, that is smoked sausage up above. I didn't get a piece. Very sad. 


Now here is the craziest part. The outside of this place looks like it's a ran down hut that's on the back road. But the back yard has a garden you might imagine from a romance or Studio Ghibli film. Here's one picture I got: 

And for those of you that want to break your neck watching a video walkthrough, here it is! I apologize for the bad camera work. That was my fault.  video

Now the walk into the city was really nice. Weather was lovely, got some lovely pictures. Here you go: 





 That panoramic above is from the main square in town (as you can see it's kind of small.) 
That big spire in all of the pictures is the castle that over looks the city. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to get any pictures inside but I did get a nice picture of the village below: 
ft. the listening thing that you get on tours (the red box).
One of the coolest things about Český Krumlov was the quaintness of it all. It was pretty touristy, don't get me wrong, but I had a feeling amongst the square and the people of a quiet place where people grew up and die. There were a lot of cool things to see, and I am kinda bummed we didn't get to stay there for longer. 

The next thing that happened on the trip was the whole point: Prague! From Český Krumlov to Prague was about a 3 hour drive. The first night my friends and I just stayed in and played card/word games. Nothing too special. The next day was full of walking and picture taking. I'll let the pictures do the speaking: 








Now, this night that I did all this walking ended with a pretty cool occasion. I'm not sure if any of the readers here have ever had absinthe before, but I can check it off of my list of cool alcohols to have. In case you're not sure of what absinthe is, or what it's known for, let me fill in some gaps. It's an herbal liquor similar to other herbals, but it has a certain herb called wormwood in it. When it's created (whether it is macerated or distilled,) it has a very high alcohol content (like in the 70%s). So when you drink it, it's a sipper, kind of like a good whisky or brandy. There's this place in Prague called the Absintherie (here's the link if you're curious) that has over 100 types of absinthe to try. The coolest thing in the world is the way that they serve what's known as Czech style absinthe. Basically, take a sugar cube and coat it with absinthe and then set it on fire over a shaker of absinthe. After that, mix it in with the absinthe and once the sugar cube is dissolved, pour it into the glass. It's delicious. You have to chase it with water because of the alcohol, but it is so delicious. I think I have a picture of me drinking it in here somewhere...
This isn't that Czech style Absinthe, this is a Czech Mule that I ordered. Very tasty. 

Anyways, that was probably one of my coolest bar experiences in the world. The best part about it was the next day when we brought a couple of our friends with us, the bartender guy remembered us and was happy to show more people about the magical world of absinthe.

After this second night at the Absintherie, we had a bus trip that brought us back home, barring one more pit stop: to the Budweiser Budwar factory in České Budějovice (or in German, Budweis), Czech Republic. We got a tour of the factory where all of the Budwar beer is made for Europe. Just for clarification, this isn't the Budweiser crap that they serve in America. This stuff is delicious. Crispy, fresh, and not too expensive (I think? not sure on that one). Here are some of the pictures I got from the factory.










Well, that's pretty much it. The six days that we were traveling and enjoying central Europe flew by. Seeing these four different cities/villages was pretty crazy, and gave me a much better sense of the culture that is shared by these different cities. That's mainly beer, but also art and music and beautiful scenes. Hopefully the pictures that I took can give you a glimpse of some of the stuff I saw. Anyways, so sorry for the long delay of posts. School has been crazy, but things are coming into alignment. I have three different concerts to go to at the Musikverein in November (Brahms 1, Mahler 5, and Schubert 6). You will be hearing about these occasions, among others. Also this weekend I am going on a one day trip to Wachau valley (in Austria, along the Danube). I will be doing some killer tours and lots of wine. Have a good day. Servus! 


Bonus pic of the Budwar tour guide lady and I after the tour. She was very nice. When I asked her for a picture she said "selfie?"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I had a looot of coffee this week.

This past week has been another week full of busy homework and meetings of the sort. I had a big German test this past Friday that I studied a crap ton for, a meeting with Dr. Solvik (The IES Vienna Director) about my classes, and drinking coffee. I had a lot of coffee.

This weekend was a lot of fun though. Friday night my friends and I went out and did some late night hanging out in the different parts of the city. If you are ever in Vienna and want to see cool museums, I urge you to go to the Museumsquartier. It's off the U2 line (I believe it's the second or third stop) and there you can find the big Art History Museum, the National History Museum, the Leopold Museum, and Maria Theresa Platz. It's a very culturally centered center in the city. Inside the actual plaza (despite it being known as the Museumsquartier and not platz,) there is a big open spot for people to sit around and enjoy the nice weather, day or night. We hung out there for about a half hour and enjoyed the scenery (even if it was seriously busy). 

Friday afternoon, after my German class, we went to the Palmenhaus and got some coffee and cake. Google Photos made a lovely slideshow of the pictures I took for me, so if you want to look at that, scroll down to the bottom of the blog post and check it. 

Yesterday, my friends and I went to this cafe in the 6th district called Cafe Sperl. It is an authentic style Viennese cafe that was built in the late 19th Century (1880 I believe). I didn't get any pictures of it because I was too tired and was too enthralled by the live piano playing some arranged orchestral pieces and some jazz music. If you wanna look at some pictures not taken by me, just google "Vienna Cafe Sperl." It should pop up. 

That's all I have for tonight. This coming week is the last week of the German Intensive, and it cannot come soon enough. Stay tuned for the 6-day trek up to Prague! 

Also, here is a picture of a .5L Guinness I got at our local pub called Rupp's. Try and see if you can see the shamrock that's on top of the head in the one pictures. 

Here are the picture from the album (I guess the link wasn't working.) 












Sunday, August 28, 2016

I actually went outside today

Sorry for the misleading title today. I've actually been outside the majority of the time here since I've been in Vienna. But now that it's my first actual weekend here (it's currently 6pm here Sunday evening) I wanted to give the people another post.

Friday I had my first german test that went pretty well. I did a good amount of studying for it, but am just thankful that it's all over with. My classmates and I were fortunate enough to have an awesome professor, because after our test (our class lasts three hours) we went to the Naschmarkt. I bought some tasty noodles for about 4 euros and then she treated us to drinks (I got a beer).

Saturday, Charlie, John and I went to the Kunsthistoriche Museum (Art History). There were some killer pictures and pieces of artwork in there. Here are some examples:





That last one is a picture of the roof in one of the halls. It was opened by the Emperor Franz Joseph I around 1891 so as to show off the Hapsburg's impressive (I think the proper term for this is actually gigantic) art collection. Here's one more: 

This is a panoramic of one of the main halls. I can't remember which one, but look at it! It's huge!! The first and second panos are taking from different views from the same hall. 

After the museum, we went to our go to cafe (Coffee Day off of the Innerstadt in the first district). It's very quaint and simple there, and you don't feel the urge to dress up as if you're going to the opera, much like you feel at almost every other cafe. After that, three off us (plus John's friend from home) went out to get some drinks and ended up walking a lot more than not (I am partly to blame for this; took a wrong turn somewhere going to a bar that I recommended). 

Today the three of us and my friend Kaira went to the Cafe Central (you know, that popular cafe where all the intellectuals of the 20th century would hangout and get mad at eachother) to do our homework and get some coffee. Well, my suspicions were true and it was very busy inside. Also,  it didn't look like the kind of place where we were allowed to do homework or things like that. We decided to go back to Coffee Day to do our homework and help eachother out with the German. Anyway, that's enough for today. Tomorrow starts week two of the German Intensive program, and the end cannot come soon enough. I have to work on my strong and weak verbs as well as different prefixes and stuff like that. 

Greg 

bonus picture of a cup of Arabian Coffee I got at a cafe yesterday. It was really tasty.