Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wien Berufung

Last weekend, February 7-10, I got to go to Vienna, or Wien as it is called in Austria and anywhere else where they speak German. My mission is to complete some steps to secure my visa. The description of this process requires another post, so be looking for that soon.
A round trip bus ticket costs €35 from Prague. That is a pretty sweet deal and the trip takes about 4.5 hours. It was scheduled for longer, but we got in a tad early.
I have to say traveling on the bus was quite nice. We're not talking Greyhound at all here. Greyhounds do not have a stewardess, wifi and free hot chocolate. The seating is however, smaller than on most airplanes and that was a little awkward. Fortunately on the trip to Wien the seat next to me was empty. I do not foresee myself being so lucky on the return trip. I, and I assume most people, booked a later bus back to Prague on a Sunday evening. It makes sense, head out to Vienna for the weekend, party it up, and cruise back to Prague on a later bus then roll into bed and wake up for work Monday morning.
I must admit the Czech countryside, which happens to be most of the country, is strikingly similar to the US. As you plow through it (sorry I had to leave this pun in) there are fields waiting to be planted, some of which have had a disk run on them lately, deer stands (I am told the "deer stands" are for hunting boar rather than deer) and grain elevators. Granted I only saw one grain elevator and two deer stands, but it was a lot like driving through the Texas hill country. There was an obvious lack of irrigation equipment and maybe they do something else, but I assure you I didn't see a single center-pivot rig.
There are even forests. Those of course look closer to what you will find in Tennessee rather than Texas. I think I even saw some stands of aspen trees, which I've never seen in Tennessee. I'm not sure on the aspens, I was under the impression altitude determines where they can grow. I could be wrong.
Really, I should have stuck a camera to the window and snapped a few photos of the majestic Czech farmland and the only grain elevator I've ever seen that doesn't bear the marks of a drunken, gun-toting rural populace.You have to love a drunken, gun-toting rural populace. I do. I wish I'd had grain elevators to shoot at from the back of my buddy's pickup truck as we sped up or down a holler drunk at 3 a.m. As it was we merely had road signs and hillsides for target practice, and maybe the odd rail car filled with coal. Please keep in mind I'm not advocating irresponsible firearm use, but boys will be boys; especially boys who live up things called "hollers."
Diversion aside, I will be that person next time I'm cruising through the Czech countryside and take some photos. I promise. I did take a few photos as the coach, as my British friends call it, neared the Austrian border.
I took this in a town called Mikulov. It's a castle. I know, it's a shock to find a castle in the Czech Republic. Clearly this photo does nothing to show the wonderful agricultural countryside.
So after one out-the-bus-window photo and I went back to watching Full Metal Jacket and on into Wien.
When we arrived in Wien I was a little surprised at where we stopped.
When we left Prague it was from a large bus depot, next to a train depot. There were platforms and a building where you could buy tickets and all sorts of stuff. It was even really nice. Only one skeezy-looking girl came up to me and tried to sell me a bottle of Hugo Boss cologne I assume she stole from a store. Everyone else was just waiting for the bus. No one even asked me for change.
When we arrived in Wien we basically pulled over to the side of the road near a metro stop and were let off near a stick with a sign on it, which I'm pretty sure I can find again on Sunday. Either way, I made it and the metro was close so I was able to get anywhere in town really easily. But hey, there was a giant Ferris wheel nearby. The bus depot in Prague didn't have one of those.
So then it was on into the city, to my hostel and then to make a dry run finding the embassy before I had to do it early in the morning. Turns out I picked the right hostel location, it's on the same street just a few blocks from the Czech embassy. There is even a tram that goes those few blocks. It would take me less than 30 minutes to walk or 15 minutes by tram. Not bad.
Then I wandered around a bit. Really, so far other than everything being in German, the city looks a lot like Prague. I'm sure my opinion will change tomorrow once I get to really see it. They do however have the coolest public skating rink I have ever seen in my life.
And as a parting gift a photo of a tiny part of the skating rink. I don't even know where exactly it is or what the building behind it is. I'll find out. All I know is that it's on the Ring Straße.

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