Sunday, September 21, 2008

Central Europe Week 1 - Vienna to Cesky Krumlov

Today marks approximately one week since we departed for Central Europe. So far, it's been a very interesting experience - not entirely without worry although so far all problems have been resolved. Except our flight on Alitalia in two weeks which might not happen if the airline ceases to exist before then...

After four aircraft flights from Wellington to Vienna, Austria, we finally arrived on Monday evening. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for P's luggage. After waiting around for 30 minutes just in case, we filed a missing luggage report with the airline and hit the bus into Vienna.

We stayed for two nights at a very simple but pleasant 'pension' (apartment-style accomodation) in the west of the city. Situated right near a major U-bahn (underground) station and trams, getting around was no problem at all.

P's luggage turned up on the third day - you can imagine our relief. The airline customer support was pretty bad - the phone number to call would put you through then disconnect you because they were 'busy' - no holding! Also, making collect calls is unheard of here for some reason. We couldn't even get an international operator.

Then we joined our Intrepid tour and stayed in another pension in the north-west. This place was pretty terrible actually - the sink wouldn't drain, the fridge didn't work, the shower head was broken, the lightswitches were hanging out of the wall. But it was fun and we didn't die.

In the interests of making this interesting, here are the highlights:

  • Schoenbrunn Palace - ridiculously huge Baroque-style castle/mansion with ridiculously huge gardens.
  • Upper Belvedere art gallery - we saw Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss", which was actually quite entrancing. P stayed longer and I went to:
  • Vienna Natural History Museum. Wow. I spent an hour just looking at rocks. Interesting and beautiful rocks though. But a lot of them. 1500 or so? 700 meteorites, an entire floor of stuffed animals (birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, the works). The highlight was the Venus of Willendorf - the first known example of human art, dated around 25,000 years ago.
  • The catacombs beneath the cathedral - lots of bones. LOTS of bones. Creepy.
  • A lot of other stuff. There's so much to do in Vienna it's crazy.
We also spent half a day in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. That was an interesting journey but I have to say it's not an interesting city at all.

Yesterday we arrived in Cesky Krumlov, a picturesque little town between Salzburg and Prague. It's a really charming place. We had a tour from a resident who explained the significance of sights around the town, as well as her experiences during communism. Then we had a tour of the castle which is full of remarkable frescos, some more than 400 years old.

It's only been a week but we're having a total blast. Our Intrepid leader is excellent, the group gets along well, and the locals are usually friendly (although not so much in Vienna, unfortunately).

Tomorrow we head to Prague for a few days, then on to Poland!


jimmycav said...

Sounds like a cool start to your trip (apart from the luggage).

Who thought Vienna would have so much geology... rock on! (sorry)

Simon said...

Good to hear P's luggage turned up. I find it amazing that lost luggage turns up at all.

Have fun in Poland.

meowsqueak said...

Yay, I've finally got comments!

Thanks guys :)

eli-the-insane said...

Wow! The Venus of Willendorf! How exciting!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear that you are enjoying your European trip. I hope the weather is to your liking and that you are taking lots of photos for home consumption. Very windy and wet here with severe weather warnings. Have fun - Dad.