vienna

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Trains, Towns, & traveling on…

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I write this from my seat on the train to Prague, in the Czech Republic.  I’ve just finished up 5 nights in Budapest, Hungary after having spent a week in Vienna, Austria.  Next stop after Prague is Berlin, then on to Copenhagen, where a girlfriend awaits to show me her lovely city & countryside. 

The road, the rails, the rambling this soul has been doing is starting to catch up somewhat.  The week in Vienna was excellent, since I had the pleasure of a couple of girlfriend’s company.  It was great to not have to think ahead or plan anything or research a thing.  Do I sound like I’m getting a bit tired of this traveling nomad’s life??  Perhaps, yes—but the reality is when it’s over with, I’ll wish I was on the road again.  So I’m taking it all in stride as best as I can.  Let me recap some of the highlights of the cities I’ve just visited, while they are still fresh in my memory.

Vienna…  What an elegant city–that’s how I kept describing it to people I would talk with.  Sites that were just a delight to explore more than once were definitely Shonbrunn Castle & its beautiful grounds.  I believe it is something like 40 hectares in the heart of the city.  Simply gorgeous.  Tranquil, even with all the crowds that come to see it daily.  My dear TEFL classmate, Kathi, shared it with me my first day in Vienna.  What fun to explore the grounds, we never went to tour the inside of the castle; the grounds were so spectacular we didn’t want to spend our time indoors!  I returned on another day with a friend that joined me in Vienna for a few days, without really seeing the same areas in the same manner twice.  It truly is a splendid place to spend a day or several hours.

Kathi & Shonbrunn

Something I’ve come to realize in my travels is the real joy I find when I’m in nature.  It can be in a city park, a botanical garden, or lovely settings like the national park in Plitvice, Croatia.  I find serenity in these places, but also a real connection with the environment around me.  I knew this at a young age, when I decided to major in forestry in college, later finishing in horticulture.  After my travels are done, I intend to find work in a national park seasonally. 

Vienna has so much to offer it’s really hard to put into words the feelings I felt about the city, other than it is cosmopolitan, sophisticated, culturally aware, and just a real gem of a city.  The public transportation is excellent; there are bike paths throughout the city too, so if you are so inclined the choice is really up to you.  Fun experiences were at the Rathausplatz (town hall plaza) where my final night they had the opera “Carmen” on the big 50x 80 foot screen with incredible high definition & a sound system that was equally impressive.  All for free! =)  Also, the Praterplatz with its amusement park, the Danube River of course which my friend Tina took me out on for an afternoon cruise.  All equally wonderful experiences and the list could go on & on.

Rathausplatz

Next stop was Budapest…..

But now I’m on the train from Prague heading to Berlin.

Where to pick up?  I think from where I am—although I don’t want to side step Budapest. 

The city was also beautiful, but a definite air of depression seemed to cover it too.  The buildings were covered in soot, from years and years of traffic exhaust. It sort of gave the city a feel of the obvious in terms of the years of oppression from communist ruling and occupation.  The streets are all under some type of construction with a new metro line being installed, so the city felt like it was trying to come out of its past, but it has not emerged yet.  I hope it recovers the way that the Czech Republic seems to have. 

Prague is alive. 

Budapest was best experienced for me by hitting the amazing baths it’s renowned for.  The one I went to the first day was definitely my favorite.  I went to the Gellert Baths on my last day, which is known as one of the original bath houses.  The Szecheryr Furdo baths where I went first, were pure indulgence, vibrant, & filled with all kinds of people.  I spent a good 6 hours there that day, which flew by.  At the Gellert Baths I stayed maybe 3 hours and was ready to leave at that time…enough said.

Szecheryr Furdo Chess match

Bathing Buda-style!

Budapest also has some amazing sites to visit all of which I really enjoyed, from the Parliament where the crown jewels are on display, to its castle that overlooks the Danube from the Buda-side of the river, to Margaret Island, with its lovely gardens & bike paths to ride along under beautiful wooded paths, while the Danube is circling it’s coastline.  It’s what you make of it right?!  I indeed made the best of the city, in spite of a traveling companion who turned sour quickly.  I knew something was up when that feather floated down in front of me as soon as we entered our hostel—life really is like a box of chocolates….  =)

So as I said, previously Prague is ALIVE!

Its buildings are beautiful, its architecture amazing, the pastel colors of the buildings all speak to you as you walk by them, the tender care that has been taken of them is so evident everywhere you turn.  The city is vibrant, with tourists, locals, music & art forms everywhere you turn.  The weather while I was there was cold, rainy, but instead of feeling like remaining indoors I felt inspired to take photographs in sepia my first day out!  Does that tell you something?

Prague Castle from Charles Bridge

Prague also has a beautiful river flowing through it, called the Vltava River.  It also boasts the Charles Bridge with fantastic statues every few meters on either side of it.  There is no lack of great photography that has captured it from every possible angle & time of day, via the artists that line the bridge as you walk across to the other side of town where its impressive castle is known as Prazsky Hrad.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about Prague was it’s wonderful music scene, with composers such as Mozart having adopted it as a second home, during his glory days, it has brought a diverse population of musicians with the best you could ask for in everything from classical, to opera, to jazz, blues and beyond.  I was in Prague only for 4 nights but was able to hear live music for free in the Old Town Square two of four days, due to the Prague Jazz Festival being put on by the Agartha Jazz folks.  My last night I spent listening to some hot R&B, by a Scotsman named “Stan the Man” at the U Maleho Glena club.

Berlin—you have a tall order to fill!

Prague at night