Should have posted earlier..

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 05, 2012

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Flag of Austria  , Upper Austria,
Friday, September 28, 2012

Sorry friends, this is a bit of a mammoth posting, because of pretty patchy internet, feel free to skim read! Sadly the pedal boating in Hallstatt did not eventuate, all we could get out of the owners was 'no' so not sure why. So we just wandered around Hallstatt instead, and I added to my angel and nativity collection :) I was going to spend the money anyway...

Rachel was going to join us in Salzburg but wasn't able to at the last minute, and we had already booked her train ticket to Vienna. Shelley and I had talked up how we would shout offers for a cheap ticket at the train station to make Rach's money back for her but we couldn't quite pluck up the courage. Clearly didn't inherit all the Poppy genes!

We were picked up at Wein Westbahnhoff by Rick and Annemarie Iles, distant relations of Shelleys. They had offered to put us up for our stay, but went way above and beyond the call of duty. To start, they gave us a tour of inner Viena by night, which was just beautiful and set us up well with an idea of the city layout for later. They then gave us a map and told us where all the best spots and sneaky things to see were. The next morning we went to church with them, fittingly to a guest service, where they even translated for us then dropped us in to town.

And what an afternoon it was! We couldn't afford to see the Spanish Riding School, but we knew where the stables were. Just after we got there, they got the stallions out and walked them across the road right in front of us! The Gala Exhibition for the cheapos :) After seeing most of the outside of the centre of Vienna, we stopped at Cafe Central, one of Vienna's original coffee houses. The coffee and cake were ridiculously expensive, but so delicious, and the atmosphere, in a gorgeous building with live piano music was amazing. We then sprinted down to the Vienna State Opera, and got standing tickets for the opera Elektra for 4 Euros! The man in front of us told us it was 'heavy' and there was a lot of singing about demons and rivers of your blood and gauge your eyes out - very good singing with a sweet orchestra in an amazing venue though!

The next day we visited the beautiful Summer Palace, named because it was a better place to go hunting in the summer. Amazingly, we found a camera shop that sold my charger and a lovely man in an Internet cafe who charged my battery for half an hour so I have nice pictures!

Catching a bus to Katowice in Poland then one to Krakow was about 1/5 the cost of a night train, so of course we were in! It also meant we were in Austria, Slovakia, Czech and Poland all in one night :) we spent pretty much the whole day in Krakow going out to see Auschwitz. You can't really describe seeing a place where 1.1 million people were killed. What really got me was the room they with tons of human hair, cut off victims after they were gassed to make felt and carpet, and the numerous babies clothes and shoes found. An extreme reminder of just how evil we humans can be.

That evening we caught a night train to Prague. There were no sleeping carriages, so we had to get seats in 6 seat bays, but after the bus went so well we thought that would be fine. In our carriage was a lovely girl called Anita, who told us all about Prague and gave us heaps if little tips. An older man, who came in reeking of alcohol joined us and proceeded to continue to down several cans of beer. It was a bad sign when Anita told us she never slept on these trains for safety reasons, but when we made moves to sleep about midnight, nothing changed - full lights on, Anita and the man just kept talking... About 330am, they started playing loud Polish rock music and I realised we really weren't going to get any sleep! I think it was for the best though, I wouldn't have liked to be in the dark with the dodgy drunk man, who Anita later told us had been telling her all about what a lovely mouth she had as he got progressively more toasted!

After two nights away from a bed, with no showers and little to no sleep, I have never been so glad to see clean showers in a train station for only 2 Euros! It was definitely up there as the best shower of my life, only post Parachute showers come close I think. Good thing Prague is so gorgeous, it amazed Shelley and I so much we forgot to be tired and grumpy :)

I keep saying that places are beautiful, but Prague really does top the cities - there are beautiful buildings everywhere, lots of churches and a few castles. Last night we went to see Swan Lake, I've never seen ballet before and absolutely loved it! We might try and see Sleeping Beauty tonight in another theatre :)

Tomorrow I am off to London and then Newquay in Cornwall to see Rachel and Hayden, and will be home in a week. I can't believe it's going so fast!

PS I forgot the funniest part of the Sound of Music tour - the staunch 30 year Eastern European man sitting behind us who didn't appear to know much English but knew every single word of every single song and wasn't shy about singing along at the top of his lungs! :)
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