Maria, Ernesto (one of my roommates), and I, just got back from Vienna and
Bratislava. The difference between the two cities is really the difference between black and white. Even though they are so different, they have very unique qualities that make it so fun.
Bratislava was like a ghost town, even though it was the capital of the city. The city seems to be a lot older than any other city I have seen. Since it is a poor country, I am sure that there is a major brain drain to other parts of the world. The best part of the city was the inexpensive food and drinks. Dinner for three in an exclusive restaurant â€“ 18 euros.
Vienna (also known as Wien), is just 60 kilometers away, but parallels the excitement of Paris (the subject of my next post). One can see two tourists for one native. The city is amazingly rich, where some of the buildings just blow your mind. The front side of the building looks white and clean, but one can really see the age on the sides of buildings, which are brown and black. I think that the city of
Vienna didnâ€™t clean the sides of the building for aesthetics. Â With Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn, and many more that have made history in
Vienna, makes the city the capital of classical music. In every corner, musicians are showing off their skills. Concert companies are dressed in affluent costumes trying to sell tickets to operas and musicals. We decided to go to a musical if the price was right, and business school students that we are we negotiated 40 euros per person gold tickets to 20 euros. It was totally worth it. The music of Mozart and Strauss is fantastic. The concert also included opera style singing and ballet. It was TOO GOOD.
We have all decided to go back to both cities after we get older to go to a real opera in the opera house. Have dinner at an expensive style restaurant, go to the opera, and then go have drinks after. I am sure we will do this in 5 to 10 years.
I figured I’d drop in and offer up an update as to my whereabouts the past two weeks. Having finally gotten pretty much accustomed to the way things work at The Hague University, I’ve been hitting the books quite a bit harder the past few weeks. The whole “self study” bit is still somewhat of an adjustment, but it’s a good exercise in building discipline.
The city itself is growing on me, too. Surprisingly, the weather has been quite good to date (knock on wood…seriously, do it – rain and I don’t get along too well). One of the things I thought I was going to miss most about Louisville was the fall – it’s by far my favorite time of year. There’s nothing like waking up early on a September morning, stepping outside and breathing the crisp Autumn air on the walk to school, absorbing the electric, fresh feel of campus that first week, and knowing that football season is merely days away. However, since Louisville saw temperatures in the 90s and 100s in September and since football hasn’t quite gone as expected, I don’t really think I’ve missed too much anyway. I actually consider myself fortunate because I’ll be in town for the thrashing (hopefully that’s not putting it too midly) of UK in basketball.
In addition to ramping up the studies, I traveled to Luxembourg City and Antwerp (instead of Oestrich-Winkel) last weekend with a few newfound friends. We were planning on going from Luxembourg to Oestrich-Winkel to see Maria and Kartik but only spending basically one day there wasn’t quite enough to justify spending the EU150 or so it was going to cost us to get there and then back to The Hague from Frankfurt.
Actually getting to Luxembourg turned out to be quite the adventure, though. Within five minutes of leaving Den Haag Central Station, we were already headed the wrong way (we didn’t see that we had to switch trains in Hollands Spoor). A culmination of this and several other train errors, some our fault, some not, led to us spending about nine hours on the train that day en route to Luxembourg. The city was very beautiful and had plenty of history, though. After quite a bit of searching – something important must have been going on in Luxembourg this weekend because all the hostels were booked – we were able to find a nice, affordable hotel within walking distance of the city center and enjoyed a phenominal meal from one of the nearby restaurants. Since this was only a weekend trip, after figuring out that it was going to be too expensive and that we didn’t have enough time to visit Maria and Kartik, we made our way to Antwerp on Saturday night.
Traveling without booking a hotel beforehand, although plenty adventerous, generally isn’t a good idea. Of course, we weren’t aware that we were going to Antwerp until Saturday afternoon so I suppose this one wasn’t our fault. We arrived in Antwerp around 20:00 and tried to take Frommer’s advice about a cheap hotel in town. Unfortunately, it was booked. As was the next one we went to. And the next. And the next. And every other hotel we asked.
Finally, after wandering around for some time, we found a cheap um…”hotel”. It was immediately and painfully obvious that the hotel wasn’t in the best part of town when I noticed that the window of the bar on the ground floor of the hotel had a rock thrown through it. I entered the building and was greeted not by a receptionist at a nice desk with posh lighting, but by a dimly lit hallway leading up the stairs to the left or into the bar on the right, an elderly African woman who was from Kenya, and her son (both of whom, I might add, were as sweet as can be). The place was actually a place of residence that I assume she (or they) bought and turned into a hotel. Unfortunately, the inside left a little to be desired. The light peaking through the door of our second floor room was the only one in the building to light our way up the steps, past the peeling paint, past the make-shift bathroom, and into our not-so-pleasant smelling room with peeling linoleum floors and no way to lock the door. I think the girls I was traveling with were horrified, but I was already relishing both how great of a story it was going to be and the low price. Predictably, we made it out alive and well and have now have a great story out of it.
Anyway, Antwerp was a magical, old-feeling city situated on the Scheldt River with cobblestone streets, guildehouses that date to the 16th century, the obligatory impressive Catholic cathedral, and even a castle. We were fortunate to witness some sort of parade through the city (one of the gentleman in the parade had an amazing handlebar moustache, I might add), drink beer in a bar that has been in operation since the late 1500s or early 1600s, walk through the diamond district, see authentic Belgian lace, and naturally, indulge in some fantastic Belgian waffles. It was great to get back on the road again.
I suppose it’s time to exercise some of that hard-earned discipline and continue studying for my Finance-5 test that’ll be administered tomorrow. My travels during fall break will take me to Geneva, Switerland for about five days where I’ll get to see among other things, the UN, the Alps, and hopefully some quaint Swiss town, and then up to Ireland for about a week where I hope to travel all over the island. Until next time…
I am writing this schedule so I can give future exchange students to the ebs an idea of how their week might look! This also gives me the opportunity to somewhat reflect on my experiences in this amazing country.
Here is a small outline of what I did in the 1st week of my:
Wednesday, August 15:
Thursday, August 16:
Frankfurt. Got picked up by Jennifer who took me my apartment, took me grocery shopping, and got me situated with the landlord. I cannot thank her for her hospitality. Met some people that evening.
Friday, August 17:
Mainz with the people I met the night before. My first experience of
Germany. The city is absolutely amazing. However, the trains only go until 12:30. We were almost stranded at the train station. We made it home safe and sound at 5:00. Public transportation in
Germany is good, but service is only once an hour and once every two hours on weekends. The school is in a small town.
Saturday, August 18:
Slept a lot after a coming home so late. Made a budget, and got more acquainted with Hallgarten, the town which I stay in. I also exercised. No workout facility, so running is our only option.
Sunday, August 19:
We went to Rudesheim, a very touristy town on the
Rhine. Even though it is small, we found good food. Rudesheim is the town that resembles the busy street in the Harry Potter books. 10 of us found a restaurant and enjoyed coffee. Since it is
Germany, there is alcohol in it, of course.
That is a quick agenda of the 1st week. I had my first taste of freedom. No more fast food. No more quick meals. No more parents. Freedom has its pros and cons.