Austria and Slovakia

Trip Start Aug 20, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Austria  ,
Monday, April 20, 2009

Coming from the heart of Bohemia, Prague - Austria was a very different pace.  Compare the rickety trams of Prague to the super-efficient metro system in Vienna, or the Czech Crown to the Euro.  All was different.  It seems as though Vienna has the best of both worlds - the German efficiency and effectiveness and the European history, architecture and beauty.
Vienna appeared to be a literal playground for the rich.  The city seemed to ooze money.  The amount of BMWs, Mercedes and Ferraris I saw in my few days there was uncountable.  And it wasn't just the cars, there seemed to be a posh allure in the air.  The city is elegant.  Best word to describe it.  The palaces, museums and sheer grandeur of the many prominent buildings are insurmountable.
Schonbrunn Palace was the royal residence of successive Habsburg monarchs and is one of the most important cultural sights in the country. And what a sight it is to behold.  The Baroque architecture and styling of the interior was demonstrated on every possible surface.  Many of the rooms, complete with different themes, even had the walls elaborately decorated with inlays of various precious materials.  The elaborate style continued to the exterior where there were immense public gardens with over 32 statues and a maze.
To continue to theme of excess I took a trip out to Zentralfriedhof cemetery to see the elaborate tombs of the Austrian rich, famous and powerful.  It is said that, in Austria, if you cannot provide yourself an elaborate tomb in death, there was no point to life...(or something to that extent!) - so, one can imagine the beauty of the cemetery.  The tombs I saw there included the likes of Schubert, Mozart and even Beethoven.
Other more artistic pursuits included a visit to the Upper Belvedere Museum which has the biggest collection of Klimt in the world.  The masterpieces included the very famous "The Kiss" which has been reproduced on everything from wall hangings at IKEA to playing cars at The Bay.  I also went to an area of the city where the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was given free rein with is detestation of straight tines.  An artist.  Yes - Hundterwasserhaus is a sight.  Maybe not for sore eyes.  Round and uneven seems to be the theme here - but surprisingly, it works.
Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia are the world's closest capitals at 60km apart.  So one day I took a trip to Slovakia - yes for the day.  Slovakia has recently converted to the Euro - so recently that both currencies are still in circulation and the locals have a tough time with conversions.  Bratislava is a beautiful, if small, capital with many medieval nuances that still remain - a sharp contrast the to the other European capital so close-by.  You can see the area of the original town moat and one of the original city towers still remains.  Wandering the cobblestone streets and happening upon some second hand stores amidst the history was one of the most enjoyable parts of my day there.  Eastern Europe, in general, is later to follow fashion trends and definitely have their own take on what is "a la mode" at any given time.
Leaving Slovakia I had to head back to Vienna and board my 18 hour bus ride bound for Paris.  18 hours, normal coach bus - you get the idea.  Smelly, uncomfortable and tiring are a few adjectives ones might use for such an adventure.  Thus this concluded my whistle stop tour of Europe. And I must admit with all the travelling it felt kind of nice to take just a short trip and be able to unpack the backpack again!
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