After a sad day of saying goodbye to Germany and our new friends from the program we headed to the train station for Vienna, Austria. With no other expectations than a smaller Germany we were pleasantly surprised! Vienna was amazing, with tons to do and even more to see. The culture was very much like Germany, including the same language and efficient transportation system. The streets were clean and beautiful and the people were incredibly kind and helpful. On our first day we travelled all over the city using the Metro system and walked the local zoo, which happens to be the world’s oldest. After spending a little over 5 hours watching pandas, wolves, elephants, seals, giraffes, monkeys, and rats (yes, they had a rathouse) we decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest. Unfortunately, we hadn’t done our research and ended up in a very nice 4 star hotel… with no air conditioning. For the 6 days we spent in Vienna, the low was 90 degrees!
Our second day in Vienna we roamed the streets of the altstadt (“old city”), which was filled with cobblestone streets and 900-year-old churches. Every corner had chocolate truffle shops, ice cream shops, and beautifully constructed fountains. The focal point of the old city is St. Stephens Cathedral and the State Opera House. Each landmark was more breathtaking than the next. Later in the day we ventured to the Schönbrunn Palace. The Palace was massive and included multiple gardens, two hedge mazes, and the green house where League of Extraordinary Gentleman was filmed. At the end of the tour we walked into the restaurant for an apple strudel show, which was the highlight of Chelsea’s day (It was pretty cool and we got to eat strudel). Check out the link and pictures below to see the Palace.
We are officially one step closer to making it home. This morning we checked out of our hotel in Interlaken and made our way through Bern, Geneva, and are now leaving for Paris.
We are staying close to the Airport in Paris so we can just wake up and get on the plane tomorrow and should be in the States tomorrow evening around 8.
Update We are at the infamous CDG airport which is super confusing. The flight looks like it is on time and we should be departing around 1:30 Paris time. .
Since we spent the least amount of time in Italy, Im only going to do one post. As the other blog posts from Chelsea may have mentioned, we freakin’ loved VIENNA. Accordingly, we decided to cut Rome out of our Agenda and stay 4 days in Florence before heading to Interlaken, Switzerland.
To backtrack a bit, originally we were supposed to leave for Italy on the 5th, but we missed our train and the only other possibility was leaving that night. I emailed our hotel in Florence, Hotel Tourist Ricci, and asked them to move our four nights back a day. I need to give Ricci a great review because he moved our days back with no problem and no charge.
Anyway, we took the night train and had some good company from 4 Austrian/Australian girls. Yeah, you read it right. Strange accents. Drank some Jäger and they were probably making fun of us Ames the whole time. We arrived in Florence the next morning around 7:30 and waited in the McDonalds with our packs until we could check in at 8:30. Hotel Ricci was technically a Bed and Breakfast because it was a detached apartment in what seemed a newly vacated business building. And we had a little balcony facing the Doumo. AND WE FINALLY HAD AC! We froze ourselves the first night and it was amazing.
Wine and Grub. I don’t think I need to spend much time re-iterating how damn good the food and wine was. I definitely gained ten pounds eating pasta and drinking the house Chianti. The only problem was that it was the record high heat. Everything is made out of stone and if the road seemed like it was some kind of lava rock (a black stone?) that just held all the heat throughout the day. So 15 minutes after walking through massive walls of people you were dripping in sweat. Following the Lonely Planet Guide, we ate Gelato at least once every day. The trick is finding the good spots. So apparently there is a technique to finding good gelato.
Finding Good Gelato
1. Bypass the Road Stands
2. Mounds of Gelato = it’s probably not very fresh
3. The color should reflect the actual color of the flavor. No super bright iridescent yellow for Banana.
4. Has to have metal buckets. Most places have picked up on this though.
5. Doesn’t have mass produced flavor identifiers. This means that they don’t make their own Gelato in house.
For the real deal check out Grom.
Leather Shops / Stands. If you are in Florence you have to check out the leather stands. Piazza San Lorenzo is one block that is always stacked with little leather shops. We picked out some presents for friends and I got myself a nice bag for school. They wouldn’t haggle with me as much I thought they would. They probably just knew I was a sucker. This is a must do if you are in Florence. Prices are good too.
Museums….yeah we didn’t go to any. In July, everything is packed and the lines / queues are really long and disorganized. We had been to so many museums in Germany and Vienna that we were just happy walking around. We did walk through the Doumo though (Free). It is absolutely stunning and huge! It took over 150 years to build it. The new colors are different from the original colors as you could imagine. Enjoy the pictures below and I may made add something when the wine memory isn’t in full effect.
So….today we left to go to Florence on the 10:30 train and missed it by three minutes. Part my fault for being slow, and part the guy at the ticket counter for telling us to go to the wrong station. Oh…and I was being slow because I was arguing with the Hotel for charging me €90 for washing my clothes. That’s like $115 ‘Murican dollars. And, I thought it was free because the maid broke my cologne and the lady working said she would wash my clothes. Of course I thought they would do it for free. I will let the bank fight that one for me. :)
I’m not complaining, just wanted to share my aggravation. This kind of shot happens. Anyway, we are kicking it at Starbucks trying to keep cool while we wait for the next train at 8:30pm. We also left all our new friends yesterday and are now just traveling as just the two of us.
We will try and do some posts this evening on our 10 hour train ride to Italy.
Update: We trained it through the night and have arrived at 730. Stoked!
All I can say is AmsterDAMN! The Netherlands certainly lived up to its reputation and it was an experience of a lifetime. The Hague was our first stop where we had a full day planned with everyone in our program. First, we visited the International Criminal Court of the former Yugoslavia. We had a brief lecture about the history of the Bosnian/Serb/Croat war and the war criminals that were tried at the Ad Hoc tribunal. Next, we visited the International Criminal Court where we met Judge Hans-Peter Kaul (the German Judge) who answered all our questions on international criminal law and how the ICC operates. Thankfully, our educational portion of the trip ended around 7pm when we ran to the station to make our train to Amsterdam!!!
Chops, Katie, Cara, Katie, Josh, Sarah, Steve, and I made it to Amsterdam just in time to shower and go out! We ventured all over the city, drinking, eating, laughing, drinking, dancing, drinking, and dancing into the wee hours of the night. Needless to say it was a night to remember and we’re all so grateful to have had the experience.
The next morning (yes we had about 3 hours of sleep) we toured the city on foot, stopping by the Anne Frank house, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijks Museum. Holland was absolutely beautiful with gardens and canals on every corner. We had the luck of running into a Dutch pancake house and WOW! The picture does not do the food justice, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re back! Check out the pictures and links below to see our Netherlands experience!
Click on the link below to see all the fun photos