Sunday, December 21, 2008

Days 113-114: Vienna, Austria

Vienna is actually located further east than Prague, yet it is considered to be a part of Western, not Eastern, Europe. It sure feels like a mix of the two, though. At its airport, there were more flights to Eastern Europe--Tirana, Sarajevo, Kharkov, Minsk, Kiev, Krakow--than to the West. Vienna's two train stations are similarly catered to these two parts of Europe: Westbanhof goes, well, west, and the South train station goes to the east and south. But the city itself feels more like Western Europe when walking its streets.

But first, let's backtrack and start chronologically.

As written in the Paris entry below, my trip to Austria was somewhat longer than I expected, since my flight out of Paris Orly to Vienna was moved up to 1 p.m. from 9 p.m., in essence killing my last day in Paris.

However, by the time I got to my hostel in Vienna, I was so exhausted that all I did was nothing.. It took me about two hours just to stop talking to the girls in the room and get myself on my feet to go and eat some great local Austrian food.

I had a reason to be exhaused, though. My camcorder broke when I was coming back from Versailles. For some reason, the mini cassette was stuck inside and would not come out. I really wanted to catch Vienna on video, so I decided to find a shop that could fix my camcorder. Unfortunately, to fix a camcorder in such a country in not always done on the spot, and I was told that it is too expensive (about 70 euros for one hour), so it would be better to buy a new camcorder. So by the time I arrived in Vienna from the airport and visited this shop and then another, I was told that I would definitely be better off buying a new camcorder, especially since there are now holiday promotions for 99 euro camcorders--and I would be eligible for tax back, too, since this is a fairly big purchase.

Great, only the retail stores closed at 6 p.m. and it was already 5.45. And I still had all my luggage on me and did not find my hostel, not that I really tried. So imagine me running with all my 6 bags of various sizes down one of Vienna's main shopping thoroughfares just to get inside a store on time. Luckily, at about 5.52 p.m., I made it inside and bought the camera by 6.02 p.m. Unfortunately, the cheapest 99 euro camera, a JVC, was sold out, so I bought the next cheapest one in stock: a 119 euro Samsung camcorder. With a 13 euro tax refund that I should receive in the mail some time soon (hopefully), the final price was only 106 euros, or something like $140.

Then I checked into my hostel. And by 9.30 p.m I was back in my hostel from a great Austrian meal of local soup, some bread and meat thing, and some salad. Yummy.

The breakfast wasn't any worse. For one, I purchased two tickets (for two breakfasts, since I was stayingf for two nights), but I was only asked to show my ticket once, meaning my first breakfast at this hostel was, in essence, free. I still paid the money for the tickets beforehand, so I just ended up giving the leftover ticket to the great Australian girls from my room. But this breakfast has to be seen to be believed: for only 3.50 euros, it was an all-you-can-eat buffet, with croissants, butter, jam, cereal, an espresso andhot chocolate machine, liver spread, eggs, bread of all types, sausages and other meat, cheese, etc... Easily the best breakfast of my trip. And the bar in my hostel was advertising happy hour beer for only "one fucking euro." For a traveler on a budget, things did not get any better than that, although, trust me, the last thing I wanted at this time (i.e. after the Paris pub crawl) was a cheap beer. Instead, I needed some sleep.

Which I got after my first night in Vienna. I made sure to get up early, since I had one full day in Austria. Luckily Austria's whole population is roughly equal to that of Paris, meaning Vienna was much smaller and compact. It is truly a beautiful city, but the weather was cold and murky. By midday, it improved, and I truly enjoyed my time in Vienna. I actually saw all the sites I intended to see save for one castle that was quite far our from the historic city center.

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