I woke up before we arrived in Vienna and did some catching up on my journal while looking out the window at the beautiful Austrian countryside. A dreary sky had given way to feathery cirrus clouds and a brilliant, piercing sun that danced off the still dewy grass. We passed quaint villages that were inset in lush, green rolling hills. I wanted to stop the train, bypass the rest of my education, and retire in one (a town, not a hill).
After surprisingly receiving a complimentary breakfast on the train, we made plans to meet Brad and Jason (our two new Canadian friends) later that night for dinner or a beer. The train rolled into the station where Paige and I stored our bags in lockers and ventured out into Vienna after procuring a map of the city.
Downtown Vienna seemed very Westernized. It was quite different at first glance the other European cities we’d seen in which old buildings lined narrow streets full of small, typical European cars. Vienna was more of a concrete jungle with large streets, large cars, and several SUVs. One thing we noticed about the Austrians that we found rather strange was the fact that they waited for the green walking light at every intersection that had one. No one in any other city we’d been in did this and no one in any other city that we’ve been in since did, either. As we got deeper into the city, the new concrete buildings gave way to some older-looking buildings, slightly similar in architecture to some of the ones in Amsterdam. However, my guess is that the older-looking buildings actually aren’t quite so old (the ones I’m referencing in Amsterdam were built in the 16th and 17th centuries) but were instead built more recently in such a way that they looked old. They just seemed too new and the architecture too precise to be that old…furthermore, the streets were very wide unlike the narrow streets of some of the older sections of the previous cities we’d visited. This would lead me to believe that the invention and adoption of cars had taken place when the buildings were built. However, I’m far from an expert and could very well be wrong.
Anyhow, Paige and I chose to eat a lunch that would’ve been enjoyed by a native Austrian – beer and bratwurst. The bratwurst was especially interesting because it was filled with cheese and then stuffed into a long, hollowed-out roll of bread into which ketchup and mustard were squirted. The meal was phenominal, albeit messy, and the beer cheap and delicious.
After walking around and seeing some of the more popular sites, Paige and I decided to find a park to take a nap before meeting Brad and Jason for dinner. Along the way, we came across an interesting computerized kiosk that rented bikes to those with a credit card, tourist pass, etc to make it easier to see the city. There were approximately 20 bikes locked into racks that would be released upon paying. The computer was able to display all of the other kiosks in town, tell how many bikes the location could hold, how many bikes were available, the aggregate total time ridden on the current day of all the bikes, and the aggregate total distance ridden on the current day of all the bikes. The bikes were rented by the hour and the first hour was free; however, losing a bike resulted in a EU400 fine. Theft was prevented because, as I mentioned, either a credit card was necessary or before getting a tourist card, one would have to volunteer some sort of credit card information.
After the nap, we met Brad and Jason for dinner. Trying to conserve money, Paige and I had decided to sleep in the train station since there was a shower there. Upon learning this, Brad and Jason selflessly offered to share their room with us…we couldn’t believe that we’d lucked into another couch surfing situation without even meaning to! Their room was very nice and more than large enough to accommodate all four of us. Brad and Jason shared with us a few beers that they’d bought as we played some more uecker and watched some strange music channel that played covers of the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, etc. Jason and I teamed up to win the uecker game, as we’d done on the train (though it took surviving a ferocious comeback from Brad and Paige). Since it took us so long to put the game away, we didn’t get to bed until 3:30 AM.