EuroTrip 2009

Needing to get away from it all, I came across one sweet of a deal on Air Transat back in September 2009 for a return flight from Montreal to Vienna for less than $470 CAD (taxes included!) so off I went to Europe for 8 days in late September and early October.  Not knowing more than a few words of German, I bought a little German phrasebook and figured that I would manage to get by in the Austrian capital without too many problems.  I can confidently say that I survived.  What follows is my brief recollection of the sites and experiences I had during EuroTrip 2009.

Day 1: Montreal to Vienna

My flight arrived in Vienna around 10:30 am local time. Not knowing what to expect from the customs officials, I bookmarked the "Customs" page in my phrasebook but to my surprise, I didn't have to explain anything.  All I did was place my passport on the counter, the officer took a quick look at my photo, stamped my passport, and gave it back to me.  

After picking up my backpack from the baggage carousel, I proceeded to the Information booth where I purchased my Vienna Airport Lines Bus ticket and 72-hour Vienna public transit pass.  With my transportation passes covered, I proceeded to exit the airport where the bus was waiting. Although I was pretty confident that I was boarding the right bus to the Westbahnhof Train Station, I was a little hesitant to stash my backpack in the bus' underbelly after I was told that I could not bring it onboard but since everyone else was doing it, I didn't think too much of it. that is, until I boarded the bus and watched people hovering around the underbelly, without exactly seeing what they were doing.  At this point, I was starting to worry that maybe it wasn't the greatest idea in the world to put my camera in my backpack back in the airport.  This worry was compounded at the bus' first stop at the S├╝dbahnhof Train Station, where passengers were getting off, and what appeared to be randomly carrying luggage away from the underbelly.  Nevertheless, I was hoping my fears were silly, and upon reaching my destination, I was able to relax with the confirmation that my rucksack was still there.

So there I am in the middle of a construction area, as the train station is undergoing major renovation / expansion, and I only have a printout of a map from the hostel's web site.  Of course, the directions provided are no longer valid due to the construction so I made my way around the station and figured out that I was indeed going in the right direction, and sure enough, I found my hostel in fairly short order.  You can find my review of Hostel Ruthensteiner in my next post.

So after settling in quickly, I started my way back into town and see how much I can see and do before my lack of sleep and jetlag kicked in. Now to be perfectly honest, I was not expecting to be in any kind of shape to do anything but sleep that afternoon but considering  the short duration of my trip, I was truly hoping that I could at least cross one thing of my list of sights on my first day, and sure enough, I did.

After stumbling upon several churches along the way, I reached what I call the "Museum Lawn" that separates the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts).  Since my hometown has the great Canadian Museum of Nature, I chose to bypass visiting the Natural History Museum, and make my way to the "Kunst".  Now, as you can see from the photos below, this museum has a stunning architectural interior.
In fact, I spent more time admiring and photographing the building itself than the artwork held within it.  Now that's probably because I'm not really an art fanatic as the Kunst is known as one of the world's greatest art museums and from what I've read, it contains a world-class exhibit of the Habsburgs' art collection, including Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Bosch, and Brueghel.  I'll take their word for it because I found the architecture so interesting that concentrating on anything but the building itself would, in my opinion, be an insult to the workers who built it.  The Museum also has an excellent collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art.  The section with the mummies was interesting but had a weird, irry smell that added some mystery to the exhibit.  The museum also has a coin collection featuring a 100kg fine gold Canadian coin.  Talk about a reminder of home!  I was permitted to take photographs throughout the museum but I did get warned not to place my camera on a stand in the Roman section.  The stand did not appear to be of any significant value but I didn't feel it was worth objecting to the warning handed out by the two Austrian museum guards.

Upon exiting the Kunst, the sun was setting in the horizon and darkness quickly fell but not quite, as the Austrians definitely do know a thing or two about lighting up their buildings so I took this opportunity to walk around and snap some more photos of Hofburg Palace, and the National Parliament and its classical water fountain.

On the way back, I stopped at a corner to take a photograph and was sudden grabbed and pulled back.  A complete stranger saved me from getting hit by a tram!  Where did that thing come from!?!  After thanking the man, I continued my way back to the hostel, passing by the McDonald's, and stopping at a small restaurant for a delicious Putenlaibchensemmel, which basically looked like a stretched out piece of chicken, deep fried like a BeaverTail, on a bun with pickles and lettuce.

The restaurant didn't look like much but the burger was delicious. As little school-age children skipped by singing a German song, I made a mental note to come back here the next night.  

A few more steps and I was back at the hostel for the night.  And oh yeah, if you ever stay at a hostel, be sure to have ear plugs!

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