Austria Journal: Ceský Krumlov

[Sorry that I don't have any posts that are current. I have been busy and tired, and haven't been entering journals. I leave to stay in Klagenfurt tomorrow (Sunday the 3rd of September) and from then on I am probably going to be posting every day. Just wait, guys. There'll be more coming. I'll fill you in on stuff that happened on the days I didn't do a journal then.]

Days spent on trip: 10
Days until I stay in Austria: 8

This morning we left Italy, drove through Austria, and entered into the Czech Republic. We drove to Ceský Krumlov, and old city that had a big castle that was painted to look like it was made out of stone. It even had paintings of sculptures on it. We weren't sure if the paintings were modern or not, and what their significance was, but we did think we saw repainting where there may have been graffiti.

The Czechs seem to love music. Everywhere we walked, you could always hear someone singing or playing an instrument.

There was a concert in the town square, with good music, but it was getting late and we hadn't eaten, so we headed to a restaurant that someone had recommended to us for its good food and cheap prices.

The Czech Repuplic uses cronas as currency, and not the Euro, and there are about twenty-one cronas in a dollar, so it was a little disconcerting to pay 500 cronas for a meal and then leave 50 for a tip. As we left the fifty-crona bill on the table, we worried that there was some mistake. But the entire meal for four people was about 23.50, including the beers that my mom and dad had. The food was very good.

Ceský Krumlov is a beautiful town. We slept at a hostel just outside of the main town area.

We go to Prague tomorrow.


Austria Journal: Venice

Days spent on trip: 9
Days until I stay in Austria: 9
There were many people at this square--and many pigeons!

Venice is beautiful like everyone says, just a bit crowded--but that's just me. I don't tend to like big cities becuase I live so close to Manhattan.

The buildings are so colorful and old, and there are gondoliers everywhere. You never get around on cars, but rather with water taxis and ferries. Some houses have doors that open up to the edge of the water.

We met my uncle Dylan and aunt Wendy, as well as my cousin Tarot and his fiancee Paulina (who are going to get married in Gdansk). Also there were Kes and Nirvana, my other cousins, and Nirvana's husband Adam.

Touring around the most crowded part of Venice with eleven people is not easy. It's hard to keep track of so many people in the crowd.

We waited in line to see the Cathedral of San Marcos, which had beautiful mosaics depicting various scenes from the Bible. There were also bronze horses.

Then we went to have pizza and thought it would be a good idea to go on a gondola. Eventually, we found the perfect one: it was on one of the narrow canals, and so was much nicer than the others we had seen on the Grande Canal. And it was only €75 per gondola, versus the much more expensive ones elsewhere.

The narrow canal was quite crowded, but it was very quiet. Tarot and Paulina got the luxurious loveseat on our gondola (of course). Dylan, Wendy, Nirvana, and Adam were on the other gondola that we used.

We went on the ferry to go to another interesting place, but there wasn't time, so we just ended up trying to figure out how to get to the right ferry to leave Venice. We said farewell to the seven we had accompanied in Venice, and went back to our bungalow.

We'll see them again in Poland at the wedding.


Austria Journal: On to Italy!

Days spent on trip: 8
Days until I stay in Austria: 10

This morning we walked into town again from our hostel, after eating breakfast and checking out. We visited the Innsbruck Folk Art Museum and the church that was located in the same building. The statues and models of farmhouses we saw were quite beautiful.

Then we came across a man tuning a harpsichord in the arcade bordering the garden in the middle of the museum. We learned that there was to be a concert at one o'clock--perfect for us. We had lunch in a park and returned to see the concert. The music was truly beautiful, with old violins and a cello without an endpin (the part that touches the ground).

Then we headed to Italy. We passed the border without realizing it, and came across vineyards and white hills.

It was a long trip. We arrived at our destination around eleven o'clock.

Has anyone reading this ever driven during the night in a car in Italy, in the pouring rain, the sky lit up with lightning, while fireworks flash behind you? I have, and believe me, it's not boring. We did this when we almost had reached the campsite where a bungalow was waiting for us. I didn't even know that fireworks could be lit in a downpour. They were big too.

Now I'm sitting on my bed in our bungalow typing this into my Palm Pilot. The bungalow is quite tiny. There's just enough room for everything, and it's still raining, so the wood floor is covered in mud.

We will enter Venice and see relatives tomorrow!


Austria Journal: In Innsbruck

Days spent on trip: 7
Days until I stay in Austria: 11
Mike's friend about to eat wienerschnitzel. No, it's not sausage (see below).

Well, it was quite clear, once the morning fog disappeared. This was lucky, since the sights we saw were beautiful. The mountains in this part of Austria are so close and tall it is sometimes hard to see the sky without looking almost straight up.

We made our way to Innsbruck, and stopped at an internet cafe along the way. The computers were slow, but I managed to post one of my entries to the blog (remember that, readers?).

Then, we took the scenic route the rest of the way. Once again driving along the hairpin turns, we came across waterfalls and valleys and hangliders. We saw vistas of great beauty. And then we reached Innsbruck.

It was another beautiful town (how many beautiful towns are there in Austria, anyway?). We parked our car and set off on foot along the streets to the part of town where there were only walkers and beautiful builldings. In the center of this place we came across a depiction of the Crucifixion--in front of a McDonalds. Oh, well.

We continued down the street and came across a silver statue of a young woman with a puffy dress, holding a silver rose. Then she moved and we realized that she was a person dressed up as a statue. We gave her a euro and went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I ordered a wienerschnitzel.

Now I know many of you are going to think, Oh yes, wienerschnitzel, that's a sausage, right? Well you guys are wrong. A wienerschnitzel is a piece of (usually) turkey that has been flattened and fried with breadcrumbs. Take a look at the picture. The "wiener" part of the name means "from Vienna" in German.

Then we walked back to the car so we could drive around to look for a place to stay and found a parking ticket on our windshield. I guess we weren't allowed to park where we did!

We found a youth hostel right away and went to bed quite quickly, being tired.

Hopefully, we'll remember to pay the ticket!


Austria Journal: Hairpin turns in the fog

Days spent on trip: 6
Days until I stay in Austria: 12
The foggy road on the way toward Insbruck

We left Klagenfurt in the morning and headed toward Innsbruck. The trip was very beautiful because of all the mountains. On our way, we sidetracked to see a glacier. We were able to walk on top of it and look at the ice up-close. We were very high up, above the treeline.

Then we continued on our trip and went to a restaurant for dinner, my mom, sister, and I eating lasagna and my dad eating deer stew.

After that, we went through the thick, thick fog along hairpin turns in the high mountains. It was drizzling, and so it was very hard going.

We crashed in a town two hours away from Innsbruck, in a hotel. We had to sleep in two separate rooms because they were very small.

Tomorrow we will reach Innsbruck via the scenic route, providing the weather improves and there isn't much fog.


Austria Journal: Touring around Klagenfurt

Days spent on trip: 5
Days until I stay in Austria: 13

When we woke up, breakfast was already waiting for us on the table. After we had finished it, Michael's friend Issiac came and we went for a little tour of the area around Klagenfurt.

First, we visited an old church. Its interior was very beautiful. After that, we quickly looked at a museum of old farm houses, but it was closed so we couldn't go in.

Then we headed for some small mountains nearby and saw old excavated Roman villas. We climbed to the top of the mountain (it was very beautiful, see the pictures), and ate a late lunch (it took very long for them to make the meal). We had "noodles"--ravioli-like pockets of noodle material stuffed with different things. I had the Käsenudeln (cheese noodles).

A slightly annoying dog accompanied our stay at the restaurant.

We ran down the fields back to our cars and headed back to Klagenfurt.

While my dad, mom, and sister were sleeping, Mike showed me his flight simulator (Microsoft FS 2002). Then we went to visit the principal of Waldorfschule Klagenfurt, Rosmarie Bluder.

Rosmarie is a very nice person. She showed us around the school, starting with the lower grades and working up to the tenth grade, my class. I thought the school was a very pleasant place.

After our visit to the Waldorf school, it was time to make dinner. While Helga was busy dong that, my dad watching along so that he could know the recipe, Mike and I went on bikes to the Wörthersee (the lake). He showed me the place where he and Isaac went swimming. It was in the middle of a small woods with trails going through it, right along the lake.

The view from the banks of the lake was quite awe-inspiring. It's very hard to describe the beauty of Austria.

We biked back to the house and had another amazing meal of sweet Indonesian food.

We leave to tour Austria tomorrow.


Austria Journal: Our first Klagenfurt visit

Days spent on trip: 4
Days until I stay in Austria: 14
The garden outside the house in Klagenfurt

This morning we took a taxi to the airport to get a rental car. Once we had gotten it, we set off towards Klagenfurt to visit Helga and Michael and stay with them for a few days.

The highways of Austrua are quite scary at first. The average driver goes 120 kilometers per hour, which is exactly 75 mph. Now of course in Germany it's worse, but still.

Salzburg was aon our way, so we drove through and ate pizza there. It's a very beautiful city, but there are way too many tourists.

We drove through the rain and the mountains for hours, going in 5KM-long tunnels and listening to European music and world music on the radio (interrupted by the tunnels).

Klagenfurt is a very beautiful town. The lake is blue and quite clear, and there are mountains all around. We met Helga and Michael in the parking lot of a place called Minimundus, where they had scale models of the famous buildings of the world (we didn't see anything but the Eiffel Tower and the Space needle, which were higher than the thick hedges that surrounded Minimundus.

We followed Helga to their house, stopping at the waldorf school. We couldn't go in, so all we saw was a smallish building (we are going to visit the headmaster and go inside tomorrow). Helga did tell us that there are about 17 peoople in the class I'm going to be in, but only four or five boys (including me and another visiter from Sweden). All the rest are girls.

When we reached the Lorenz house, we brought our bags in and had some Elderberry-flower juice that Helga had hand-made while talking about various things.

Then we had quiche for dinner, followed by iced coffe with whipped cream on top flecked with cocoa. All the food and drinks were delicious. We learned during the meal that Michael loves sports but doesn't like reading. My mom told them that I liked cooking and said that at one point I should show them my carbonara, baked ziti, and pasta with pesto that I can make.

Once again exausted, we all flopped into the comfy beds provided to us, though it was still just ten o'clock.


Austria Journal: My mini-trip to Vienna

Days spent on trip: 3
Days until I stay in Austria: 15

So today was quite a day. After having breakfast at the youth hostel where we are boarding, we went to the banks of the Danube on the tram (yes, they have trams in Austria. It's quite a good form of transportation). After seeing the Danube, we had 'mineralwasser', and then went to a place where they sold slabs of a baloney-like meat.

After that, we split up. My dad and my sister decided to go back to the hostel and catch up on sleep. My mom and I went to Vienna on the train (a 2-hour trip).

During the trip, we passed a quite a few windmills (the power-generation kind). When we got to the train station my mom needed to get money, so we went to the Bankomat. But when we inserted the card, it said it was out of order and didn't return the card (I guess that's why in New York most ATMs have you insert and quickly remove the card--that way there's no way for the ATM to eat your card.

My mom waited in line at the money-exchanging place to which the Bankomat was attached, and eventually got her card back. Then we headed toward the center of Vienna. We followed one street almost the whole way, and passed many stores selling modern clothing. After a while, we came to the Stadtpark and rested a bit. After walking through it, we came across a tourbus and decided to pay the €13 to go on the tour.

It was a multilingual tourbus, so we all had headphones and picked the right language-channel. Ours was channel 2.

The tour showed us the major landmarks of Vienna, including the Danube, and told us about the lives of Schubert and other composers that lived here, as well as Siegmund Freud.

After the tour was over, we ate pizza and quickly ran back to the Bahnhof (train station), but nevertheless missed our train. So, we called the hostel and told them to leave a message for Dad, then waited fourty-five minutes until the next train. The signs didn't say anything about Linz, where we were stopping, but the many people we asked all said it stopped there.

Then, after a long time trying to figure out where we were supposed to sit (in the front were sleeping-cars and separate compartments that were all taken or reserved. Eventually, we made it to the regular area and sat down.

As a side note: people here smoke a lot. Unlike New York, you are allowed to smoke in all retaurants. As a result, it is almost impossible to bear sitting inside a resaurant--luckily, most have outdoor areas. They even allowed smoking on the train, which created a very uncomfortable invironment for the rest of us nonsmokers. So don't think New Yorkers smoke the most--Austrians do it much more often.

When we got back to the hostel, my dad and sister were playing UNO with regular playing cards whilst listening to classical music. They told us that thay hadn't in fact slept much but actually had gone to a circus, which, they say, was 'pretty good'. One part involved bulldogs playing soccer.

We related our excursion to them, showing them the videos I had taken. After that, I decided to write my journal--and here we are in the present.

Vienna was sure nice, but I'm ready for bed.


Austria Journal: Ryanair

Days spent on trip: 2
Days until my stay in Austria: 16

I am sitting in the Ryanair plane. German conversations carry on around me. The plasic lemon-navy seats are very uncomfortable. There is no button to recline the seats. There are no TVs. There are no radios. There is no complimentary food or drink. In short, it is the opposite of Air India.

Ryanair's boarding gate was crowded. Air India's gate wasn't that bad, considering the size difference in the planes. Air India had TVs on the the entire time, radios, magazines, and even newspapers in the back.

My seat vibrates as someone behind me kicks it. I'm glad this trip is only one hour and thirty-nine minutes.

Ryanair is so focused on selling cheap tickets that there isn't even a first-class or business-class section. It's all economy.

At least electronics are allowed on the plane. I was able to listen to a podcast earlier.

I hope this flight will be over soon. It's the worst plane trip I have ever taken (but probably cost the least).


Austria Journal: Air India

[Hey all! I'm in Austria now, copying this entry in an internet cafe. It's the 23rd of August. There are quite a few reasons I am not putting the rest of my entries in now. First, this Austrian keyboard I am using switches the y with the z among other things. Also, the computer I am using is quite memory-deprived, and is very annoying. Expect the rest of the entries as soon as we get to a place with wi-fi, perhaps a couple of days.

Days spent on trip: 1
Days until my stay in Austria: 17

As I sit here in the Air India jet that is to bring us to England (so we can transfer), it is hard to believe that I am actually going to Europe and not India.

English is the second language here, underneath the Indian lettering, and after the Indian announcements.

The woman flight attendants wear saris, and the safety videos are very cutely made. On the fire exits is a cartoon of an Indian bowing, his hand on his chest and a grin on his face.

The food that we had earlier was diverse, too: the choices were vegetarian, chicken, or--believe it or not--mutton. Yes, mutton...all complimentary. And this is "Economy Class"! They were also serving scotch whiskey as a complimentary drink option.

Right now, the projector that shows the videos (Ballywood, of course) is displaying all the info about our flight. Every now and then, it shows a message about the map of the flight in large, red, italic letters:

Physical features map only.
No political borders depicted.

Why they have to warn us about this is anyone's guess.

This isn't our only flight. Next up is Ryanair. We'll see what they'll be like.


Austria Journal: Packing and worrying about what's allowed on the plane

[Please note: After this journal entry, I am leaving for Europe. It may be a while before I get an internet connection. Although I will still be keeping a journal, I may not be able to post it on this blog for a few days/weeks. Don't worry. I'll post it eventually.]

Days until departure: 1
This is just a picture of an Austrian road I found on the i-net...when I get to Europe I will supply some actual photos I have taken--I'm bringing my camera.

So there's less than a day until I leave for Europe! We're going to leave at 4:00. A night flight.

I'm half finished packing my bags (will all my stuff fit?) and getting ready to vacate my house for the three or four months that I'll be gone.

We've been worrying about the restrictions on carryon bags and the delays that they are causing. We hope that we won't miss a flight.

You can't even bring electronics as carryons. This means that I'll have to put my iPod, Palm Pilot, and other things in the checked bags.

No liquids are allowed in the carryon bags, and since we're going to Britain as part of our transfer, we'll have to figure out what to do with lots of our stuff.

But we'll figure it out. It shouldn't be too much of a problem.


Austria Journal: To-do lists and wonderings of outcomes of trips

Days until departure: 2Another shot of Klagenfurt from the internet

So the days are marching by. I just made a list of things to pack, and though it lists more than 60 things, I'm sure it is yet to be completed.

We got a new camcorder yesterday (our old one makes grinding noises unless it is held upside down), and are putting the finishing touches on our clothes shopping.

Right now my brain is buzzing with activity, thinking, "Wait...what else do I need? I have this, this, that, and that, okay. But what about that? Can't forget that!" It would be very unfortunate were I to forget anything.

* * *

But, thinking of the trip, I wonder what it'll be like. It will be the first time I've been away from my parents for more than a week. Will I get homesick?

It is certainly going to be a new experience for me. I haven't even been to Europe as a tourist before.

Also, I wonder how quickly I'll learn German. I know a fair amount, but can't really have a conversation with a German-speaking person yet. How long will it take before I can?

Luckily for you readers, I am going to document this transformation.


Austria Journal: All about the pre-dumpage vacation

Days until departure: 3
Another shot of the Wörthersee

So it isn't as simple as I put it yesterday. I'm not just going to Austria. I'm actually going all around Europe first, during the summer. Then, I'll go to Austria for the beginning of this school year.

On the first day, we're going to fly in and sleep (the jet lag is going to be a killer). Then we're off to visit my Austrian host family for a few days, so that my parents can get to know them a bit before they dump me with them.

After that, it's off to the rest of Europe including the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, and other places.

Finally, we'll end the vacation with a Polish wedding: my Cousin Tarot and his fiancee are to be wed in Gdansk.

All in all, this vacation will be a real great one, probably the bast I've ever had!

So after that, I'll get dumped back in Austria. Don't get me wrong though! I am looking forward to it!


Austria Journal: Why I am not overly excited about the trip

Days until departure: 4
This is where I'm going to stay in Austria. It's a little town called Klagenfurt. That lake is the Wörthersee. My host family sent this photo to me.

So I am going to Austria. I am not sure what I feel when I think about it. Am I scared? Not really. Am I excited? I guess.

But I know that if I get it fixed in my mind that Austria's going to be awesome, it'll just make the four-day wait unbearable.

So, I'll just think of the trip as only slightly exciting.

To Austria I Go (in a few days)

All right folks! I'm going on a vacation! And after that? Austria, until November or December!

I'll learn more German while I'm there, and (I'm sure) will learn many new things.

Another thing: I'm going to document my excusion in a journal and publish it on this blog, starting today! Above please find the first entry.