Trip Start May 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 29, 2006

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Flag of Austria  ,
Saturday, September 9, 2006

After a month in Eastern Europe, it was refreshing to get back to the familiarity of Western Europe. I took a night train from Krakow to Vienna and was looking forward to the first new city I was going to experience on my own. Let me say that it didnt get off to a good start. I didnt sleep much on the night train because I was woken up and checked 8 times for my passport. Then, while we stopped in Bratislava(I think) and I was asleep, two thieves almost stole my bag. I had the door to the sleeper car locked but the window was slightly open and these two guys were standing outside of the train, one standing on the others shoulders, and had pulled the window down and was climbing into our car. Luckily, the other guy in the car with me woke up and told them to get away because in another 10 seconds or so , they could have stolen everything I had. So after that close call, I didnt sleep much more on the train that night and arrived to Vienna at 6am, at the wrong train station(Bahnhoff Ost instead of Bahnhoff West), and it was POURING down rain. So I had to take a tram all the way across town and then walk about 15 minutes to my hostel in the pouring rain to have the hostel tell me that I can drop off my bag but I cant check in until 2pm. All I wanted to do was sleep.....really.....please.....

So I dropped off my bag and decided to make the best of it and explore the town. Luckily, after I stopped for a quick breakfast, it had stopped raining and I had clean skies to walk around under. Having been in almost every major European city, I was still blown away by the architecture in this city. The Hapsburgs had all the wealth in Europe for a long time and it shows. The buildings in this town are just huge and overly ornate. The Parliment building, the Hapsburgs castle thingy, the ministry of defense, the churches, and just about every other building on the Ring Strasse are almost too much to take in. I had decided after walking around for an hour or so that I wanted to check out one of the hundreds of museums in Vienna to waste some time and I chose well in the Kunst Historishe Museum. It is the fine arts museum in town and it had to be one of the best art museums I have seen so far. I liked it much more than the Louvre in Paris or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence because it had more of the art I liked. I love northern European art such as Dutch, German, and Flemish painting and this museum had a whole wing dedicated to it. They had Durer, Bosch, Rembrandt, Holbein, and a whole room dedicated to my favorite artist ever Pieter Bruegel. They had 12 or so of his paintings including 2 of my top 3 paintings by him. Lets just put it this way, I spent about 2 hours in the Northern European section of the museum and about 15 minutes in the Italian-French-Spainish section.

After the gallery, I had had my fill of walking and was finally allowed to check into the hostel and take a nap. Ohhhh man, best nap ever. I was out from about 2-5 when I finally woke up and rode the metro out to another art gallery called the Beleveder. I was too late to enter but it did teach me a valuable lesson, I dont have to pay for public transportation. They sell tickets that you are supposed to stamp but nobody checks and so nobody buys them. I must have taken the public transportation buses, trams, and metro about 20 times without ever buying a ticket. Sweet deal.

This is where the scary part of traveling alone starts. How to meet people and avoid going to sleep at 8pm because there is nothing to do? Well, at the Wombats Hostel(one of those "top ten" hostels in Europe), meeting people is easy. They have a bar that is packed to the gills with fellow travelers and it made meeting people a blast. I went down for my free drink at the bar that is supplied to you when you check in and I instantly met four Australians and a dude from Idaho. Then, the coolest part of it all, the hottest girl in the bar comes over and starts talking to us. Isnt it supposed to work the other way around? Well I spent the rest of the night at the bar hanging out with my new friends and reveling in the fact that my fears of traveling alone have been squashed. It was such a relief to meet these people and know that, even out of tourist season, there are still people around to hang out with.

The next morning, I woke early and decided to take a bike tour of the city. There is just so much to see in Vienna that I thought a bike tour would again be a great way to do it. I wouldnt say it was the best tour(our guide didnt speak the best English) and I was the youngest one on it by 10 years but it was still well worth it and better than trying to walk around the city all day. After the bike tour, I met back up with Alex(the girl from the night before) and Lester from Australia and we all went out to explore the town and have some famous Austrian Schnitzel. We went to this place and for 9.50 Euros we got a HUGE plate of schnitzel that we all shared and we walked out of the joint owing less than 5 bucks a piece. What a deal for a supposedly expensive town. That night, again, was spent down at the hostel bar with the some of the people I met from the night before and a couple new people that I happened to meet. The night started off well with a halftime tie to Oklahoma and me singing Bow Down To Washington for the whole bar and ended rather unpleasantly with us getting blown out and the bar playing the same Shakira song for the 10000th time. I cant tell you how much I have come to hate that song....

Today I woke early again and caught a train to Innsbruck for some fresh air and an escape from the big cities I have been traveling through recently.
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