Austrian Diplomats and Chocolate Cake

Trip Start Aug 25, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yet another DIS educational day.  We met with OSCE.  I don't remember what that stands for.  Basically, they are like the UN except that no one has heard of them and they accomplish even less!  A whole bunch of countries in the Northern Hemisphere are a part of it, and ambassadors from each place engage in "discussion" at least once a week.  Naturally, a large part of this is Europe and the US trying to reach agreements and Russia getting pissed and Veto-ing everything.  That's right, they run on consensus.  So with over 50 countries, it only takes one veto to ruin it all.

So there was a whole series of people who came to talk.  The first woman, and I can't put it any nicer, was a massive bitch.  She spent most of her time scolding us and making snide comments about how we were all stupid.  How could we not know what the OSCE was?!?  How could we not know that a new random little country was created somewhere in the Balkans?!?  Also, when a much nicer and more interesting woman gave a speech on human trafficking, this same lady, noticing that we were enjoying it too much, sharply cut the woman off and told her her time was up.

Later on, we finally got to the fun stuff and a tour of the city.  Our tour guide was perhaps the most wonderful person EVER.  She was this old woman of about 60 who couldn't have been more thrilled to show everyone her home town of Vienna. 

Naturally, she took us through the many phases and different parts of the Hapsburg Palace.

But she also took us into courtyards that we would have never noticed otherwise.  Some of these apartments have been here for hundreds of years.

In one of these little courtyards just so happened to be a small concert room where Mozart first performed when he came to Vienna as a kid.

And the tour ended at St. Stephen's Cathedral which is an awesome gothic cathedral.  Due to services, I couldn't get very far into the cathedral.  As the city was bombed during WWII, most of the stained glass was lost.  However, the few pieces that were salvaged were re-made into 3-4 windows which surround the altar.  The rest of the cathedral now just has pastel stained glass blocks in the window. 

Before we left the tour, our tour guide had recommended a cake shop to us so that was the first place we went.  Due to language confusion I ended up with a chestnut chocolate cake but it was still pretty good, especially for cake.  Basically Viennese food is good for fried stuff, sausages, cake, and chocolate.  That means it's a million times better than Danish food.

Afterwards, I wandered around a bit on my own and did some souvenir shopping.  By the time I left, all of the street performers were out.  Vienna, thanks to all it's history, attracts ton of different people who play in the streets.  I saw a a capella trio of three blind people, a woman playing classical music on a piano, a guy with a didgeridoo, and some breakdancers dancing to the Amelie soundtrack of all things.

As I was heading back to the hotel I ran into some more DIS people and talked them into/slightly begged them to go to the giant ferris wheel with me.  We reached the ferris wheel half an hour before it closed.

It used to be the tallest in the world.  It's also extremely famous for it's appearance in movies the Third Man and Before Sunset.  And it's way too expensive to ride at 8 euros but we did it anyway.  While the wheel itself isn't that tall, the cars are absolutely massive.  Each car is like a cable car attached to the wheel.

We got a great view of the cute but deserted amusement park next to the ride.  The whole area was a little sketchy and empty at night.  The ride was fun although we realized that Vienna is not a brightly lit city nor does it have any skyline to speak of.  Therefore, there wasn't all that much to see.  Still, this was easily the best day of the study tour.
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