Last weekend, our managers gave us the 4th of July off, so we went to Vienna, Austria. We took a sleeper train there (7 hours) and arrived at 6 am.
After dropping off our luggage at the hostel, we walked to Schonbrunn Palace. The palace was really amazing and ridiculously extravagant. We toured 40 rooms with an audio guide. We learned much about Maria Theresa, toured where Napoleon slept, and stood where Mozart performed as a child.
Next we walked the gardens, went through a hedge maze and then through a labyrinth. We played games and obstacles while going through the labyrinth. First, Greg solved a math hopscotch, then Austin climbed a pole to ring a bell. We made songs out of musical stones, and John worked a see-saw mechanism to operate a fountain. It was so much fun!
We then walked up a very large hill to enter the Gloriette, which is a viewing building for the whole palace grounds (incredible view of both the palace and the city). We enjoyed ourselves so much, that we returned on Sunday to explore more of the gardens. This was definitely my favorite part of the trip.
Next we took an underground train to the city center, where all the shops and whatnot are. After shopping a bit, we walked to this humongous church called Stephansdom (one of the world’s tallest churches) that we had seen from the palace hill. It was incredibly ornate inside, and there were organ pipes bigger than any I’d seen.
By this time, we were exhausted from all the walking we’d done, plus the 6am arrival. We did so much walking that day, I think our feet were about to fall off, so we took a train back to the hostel to relax.
On Saturday, we went in search of Zentralfriedhof, the cemetery where famous Austrians are buried (Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, etc). Well, we got out of the subway station, looked at the map, saw a quaint cemetery just around the block, and assumed that must be it. So we go there, spend 30-40 minutes looking for these graves (no directory), and nothing.
After a second look at the map, we see this massive cemetery about 1.5 km from where we were. We finally make it to the right cemetery, and it is beyond huge. We spent 2 hours looking for these people! Eventually we figure it out and find them all together, take pictures, and leave.
Next, we headed over to the Prater (famous amusement park). Austin and I found a new favorite ride; I don’t know what it was called, but man, I want one! John and Greg were a little scared of it, so they decided just to watch us and take video. It had a very long and tall middle connector to 2 sets of seats (4 each), and it spun around on its central axis causing the seats to come around very high in the air while the sets of seats flip/rotate too, and then it brings you whooshing toward the ground flipping, only to be brought back up into the sky at incredible speeds (it displays how fast it is going, & Greg said we made it up to 120 km/hr). It was so exciting and fun, but the girl behind me would not stop screaming.
Next, we found the trampolines. However, John is the only one who would participate with me. When he saw me doing flips, he thought they looked easy (however, I used to be a gymnast, and he did not), and so he tried, too. He face planted, head dived, and all that good stuff, so funny, and all on film. Luckily he did not hurt himself.
Everything went so smoothly during the trip, the train there, navigating the subways, and finding good food. However, nothing can ever go perfectly; we had quite an adventure on the train ride back to Krakow. Apparently, the train conductor on the way to Vienna only gave us back 2 tickets when we left the train, so we tried to convince the conductor on the Czech Republic part of the trip, but ended up having to pay him for 2 more tickets. Then, we had to pay the Polish conductor once we crossed that border!
The most exciting part, however, was a stop in a middle-of-nowhere town in the Czech Republic. John, Austin, and I left the train (it had a 20 min stop) to see if we could talk to someone in the station about our ticket situation. However, after being redirected to 3 different people, we discovered that not one person spoke even a little English. When we returned to the platform, the car we were on was gone! Ours was the last car on the train, and it was no longer there, along with Greg who was in it. We ran to every platform, and attempted to communicate with people, but could not locate our train car.
A few minutes later, we see it rolling back up to the platform. They had to attach it to another train because it split routes here. Relieved, we see Greg hop out of the car and motion for us to get on. However, on our way down to the car, it started leaving again! We ran, but could not make it, and Austin did a classic chasing after the train scene; I really wish I’d had the camera. Now, freaking out about what to do, we just start cracking up. During all this, Greg had tried pulling the emergency brake twice on the train, but nothing happened. What a good friend – he tried.
After another few minutes standing around hopelessly, the train car came back yet again. Apparently, they had to rearrange some more. Finally we made it back onto the train and vowed never to leave it until we were in Krakow. Oh, and to top it all off, the train’s windows didn’t open, and the air conditioner was broken for the 7-hour ride.