Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Meningo Encephalitis and Milka


I am already beginning to see the changes taking place in me as my stay in Austria approaches its three month mark. Last week I took the bus to Wien alone for the weekend with Rotary. In the past I’ve been known to be an anxious person, and while I can’t say it was all a walk in the park, I can however say I didn’t hemorrhage a blood vessel or gain an ulcer during my travels. I’ve learned that organization is key, and that one can never have too many resources, information or “Plan Bs” (ie. calling my sister because I had not a clue how to get to the city bus once in Wien). I spent two hours and 7,80 Euros on the bus to Wien. Once there I was very confused as to where to catch the city train. Amidst the heaps of construction that surrounded the bus depot admittedly, my heart began to sink and I first realized this was not going to be as easy as promised. First tip to surviving a new city - Not everyone knows the right answer to your question. Also, it is even more probable that you got a wrong answer if you are in a city in which you can’t fluently speak the language. I asked maybe three different people how to get to the bus stop and they all gave me the wrong answer. Thankfully I did not randomly hop on a bus, but called my sister and ended up in the right place with a very nice Austrian girl who went out of her way to help me catch the right one. Although I was some times confused, I must give the Wien people credit; not one of them refused to help me when asked and often they tried to explain the directions in English. The bus system is relatively easy to navigate and I got to Mariahilferstrasse relatively easily (although as I would soon discover the U Bahn is a much more efficient and easier mode of transportation). The mix-ups leaked into the extra time I gave myself to go shopping, so I ended up with a short supply. To my surprise as I was traipsing around the shopping street, (trying to look very important and fashionable; everyone in Wien looks like a model, I am being very serious. They all dress extremely well and are perfectly groomed,) I ran into two other Rotary Exchange students, Amelia and Tasia from Pennsylvania and Idaho. Small world you might say? In fact no, small street. It was only a fifteen minute walk away from the Youth Hostel we were staying in. I ran into another group of Rotary students as well that came from Graz. 

"The Kiss" Tea. Tastes mostly like Earl Grey with a little hint of orange. Well done.
Who knew that's what Klimt had in mind when he painted this masterpiece.
You say Goodbye I say...
The night we arrived we went to see the Musical “Hello Dolly” at the famous  Volksoper. The best experience of the evening was seeing this beautiful stage and the theater in which it resided. The musical was good with its twirling of white hooped dresses and dances by waiters. Although, not spectacular if I am being honest, and with you, my readers, I want to be completely honest. The principal singer/actress was excellent, that was sure, but I feel that simply, the plot and the play itself fell a little short and turned bland for me. While I am an outspoken fan of the quirkiness and dramatics of Woyzeck this southern bell, 1930’s piece was not my favourite. 
Mmm.. Chinese
The night was quickly redeemed however by a large buffet at a Chinese restaurant close to the theatre. We were then left on our own to get back to the hostel (I’m not sure why they trusted us with that.. for a large portion it was their first time in Wien.) But perhaps we are more capable then I give us credit for, for everyone was back safe and on time. I enjoy the freedom personally. I think it may be this way here because most of us, being already 18, are legally adults and as such we are expected to have the awareness and the maturity that comes with the title. 
Alycia and Me in the Chinese Restaurant. (She's from Edmonton!)

Pretty Buildings and Bombs

The next day was a tour of Parliament. I won’t go into too much detail, (I’ll spare the facts and let the ones that are interested out there Wikipedia it for themselves) but it was really quite interesting. The little pieces of history that were floating around in my head from my sisters and classmates all organized themselves together during the tour. The common theme throughout the guide was the impact of the bombings by the Allied forces in WWII that demolished 40% of the parliament building. Awkward... but I do have to say the Austrians are mostly pretty comfortable discussing this touchy piece of history. But I do not bring it up, similarly as one does not make fun of another person’s family member even though it is common practice by the person in question. I consider it a form of respect as I would wish to be shown in Canada’s case in a similar situation.

It's everywhere


Amelia, Tasia and Me at the Greek Restaurant
Roomies! (minus Demi)

After many pictures we walked to Stephansplatz (the centre of Wien) and had lunch at a Greek restaurant followed by a tour of the Schönbrunn Palace. We had time to walk through the gardens which were beautiful as Autumn approached. Then we had coffee and cake while waiting for the tour to start. The palace was elegant and definitely worth the visit. Our walk-through was aided with individual audio devices. We heard about Sisi's history with the help of an esteemed British man's voice that was decorated with sound effects of the time.
Schönbrunn's Gardens


Meningo Encephalitis and Milka

By this time we had to get back to the hostel for our first round of shots, (and not the alcohol variety). Once we had all assembled a very stylish man of perhaps thirty entered the room. Of course none of us took him for the doctor at first. The vaccination is against Meningo Encephalitis this a tick sort of insect which hides in grass and bushes and who’s bite can lead to meningitis so possible brain damage. This turned out to be one of the more painful shots I’ve had in my life. The next day my entire room woke up complaining of intense soreness in their arms.

We went for dinner at a typical Austrian restaurant and then had free time from 7pm to 12pm. Like the hard-core partiers my roommates and myself are, we went to a really cool coffee shop, (I got a chai latte, of course) we stayed for an hour then back to the room to eat our snacks (Oreos, Manners, Milka, Hariboo, and chocolate covered graham crackers,) all in time to be asleep by 10pm. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of our evening, (especially since most came back from their late night out with colds). 
Always a happy camper with Chai

Italian Cafe

Cookie, Chai and Euros

The inside was pretty neat, too bad this picture does not convey
its ambiance.
Oh, those Italians


Starbucks Steps Aside

The next day we opted out of the bus tour as there was word of a lack of seats and we all lived close to Wien. We walked to Stephansplatz and enjoyed a relaxing morning at McCafe and a little walk into the Shephansdome. Tasia expressed her concern (having not stepped into an Austria McDonalds before), but was soon converted. These stylish establishments serve consistently good coffee and cakes, and can be relied on much similarly to Starbucks in Canada. 

Autumn in Wien

Even though the weekend temperature hovered around 11 degrees Celsius I would say with the sun it felt more like 17 degrees. Beautiful fall weather for a really enjoyable weekend with friends. I can confidently say this was the best Rotary event for me so far. Not because of what we did, but because now I know who do do it with. (And I had excellent roomies.) 

Kirtag! A circus that comes to every town.
Lisa took me after I arrived home.
We went on that ride you see there. It spins around, scarier than it looks, I assure you.
Riesenschlangen- Gummy outside, Powdery Paste inside
Simply put - sweet.
We also got chocolate covered strawberries. 
Lisa and I enjoying out purchase "Lady and the Tramp style"


  1. At our syksykauppa (fall market) I bought some of the yummy gummy liquorice type candy too!
    Sounds like Austria is great.
    I miss our Monday & Wednesday morning car rides to choir

  2. As do I my friend! Yep, it's pretty awesome. I am friends with an exchange student from Finland at my school. I bet you are having such a good time! Her lifestyle sounds awesome.