Extreme European Adventure: Vienna (Wien) (June 27-29, 2014)

Friday, June 27, 2014
After another great breakfast at the Penzion DeLanta, we headed to the local grocery store to spend the rest of our CZK before heading off to Vienna with CK Shuttle.

We were picked up and in a van with the young Czech driver and five Japanese people. There was very little conversation in the car. One thing that I found odd was that all of the older Japanese women got into cars with their sweaters on and immediately closed the air vents that were pointed at them. Kris and I were warm so we had our vents wide open.

Next thing you know, they ask our driver to turn off the air conditioner! He turned it down to the lowest setting possible without turning it off. At the rest stop we took halfway through the ride, they all got out and put on their heavy jackets! Seriously...I thought I was cold natured, and I was hot in that car. Crazy!

After the three hour drive, the driver dropped them off at the train station. We had requested to be dropped at our hotel. We got in the middle row of seats (we had been in the back) and told the driver to feel free to turn up the air conditioner. He smiled and said, "full power!"

We are meeting our good travel buddies Carol and Clark in Wien before they depart on a Danube cruise. Their pretour package booked them in the Intercontinental Vienna, so I found a reasonably priced hotel directly across the street called the Starlight Suiten hotel. It had good reviews and is a small chain. After we checked in, we went to our suite. Talk about space! It was like a mini apartment! We had a microwave, mini fridge, free wifi, and tons of room. I wouldn't hesitate to stay in another one. Awesome!

Unfortunately, while the hotel had laundry service they did not have laundry facilities. Finding self service laundromats in Vienna city proper is not an easy task. After a bunch of internet research, we found a laundromat about a 30 minute walk from our hotel called Green and Clean. It's a really nice and large laundromat chain located all across the city.

We walked through Belvedere Park with all of our dirty clothes strapped to Kris's back in his backpack. It was loaded down, but it was lighter than his normal load. It was still funny to see him trudging through the pretty city park with a ginormous backpack.

Green and Clean has a bunch of different machine sizes. You can choose your capacity and choose if you want just a washer, just a dryer, or a machine that does both in one. For 15 Euro, we were able to put all of our clothes in one of the larger machines and set it to wash and dry. You don't need your own soap since the machine weighs your clothes and measures out their own soap based on the cycle you choose. After it starts, it locks and tells you the time the load will take. We had 76 minutes to kill, so we went down the street stopping in every supermarket and store we could.

After killing time, we came back to find our load just about ready for us. We used their handy folding table and quickly were back on the road to our hotel. We stopped at the grocery store to buy provisions for dinner and breakfast. Salad for Kristy and microwavable brats and pasta for Kris. We'd already picked up a mess of beverages in Cesky Krumlov with our leftover Czech money.

We had a relaxing evening at the hotel catching up on correspondence, photo editing, and watching German television. They have some odd commercials. This one was playing a lot for those interested: http://youtu.be/sl3X2ZyYZBE.

Saturday, June 28, 2014
The Currens arrived today. We had a nice leisurely breakfast while waiting to hear that they had arrived. Their hotel let them check in virtually as soon as they landed, so they came to our hotel rip, roaring, and ready to go. We presented them with their own can of Kofola.

Carol's first stop for us was the Hundertwasser Village. This crazy place really did channel Barcelona in spirit with mosiac work. It was the brainchild of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Trees grow on the roofs and color is everywhere.

Carol and I had to pay to go to see the toilets in this incredible place!

Next up was the Domkirche St. Stephan. This church had a crazy roof and odd gargoyles. It has the strange mix of new on top of old. Really fascinating.

A horse was getting his/her shoes fixed outside of the church while we were there.

Walking around with Carol and Clark while stopping here and there is always so much fun! While in Stephansplatz, we had to get up close and personal with the nail tree. This section of tree is centuries old. People would drive nails into it for good luck. There is even a statue depicting the practice in Stephansplatz.

For lunch, we stopped at Demel pastry cafe. You can watch the bakers there working on pastry perfections through the glass window right in front of where we were eating.

Clark and I just got dessert. Carol and Kris got some dainty sandwiches to go along with their desserts. The pastries were divine!

Bellies happy, our next stop was to see the beautiful architecture of Hofburg Wien. An area of land here shows how an excavation revealed the current palace is built on top of the old one.

The statues at Hofburg Wien were well crafted!

They even had a statue of John Goodman!

I doubt any trip to most cities is complete without a visit to the market. In Vienna, it is the Naschmarkt. We walked through the booths selling international food and bought some fresh juice (strawberry and dragonfruit) and bread for our sandwiches the next day.

Kris might have bought some type of dessert, but we had Marlene cookies waiting for us back at the hotel. Nothing beats Marlene cookies!

At this point we all split up to freshen up for dinner. Kris and I went to buy items for our picnic lunch the next day. I was sure Carol and Clark would go back to the hotel and nap, but they went shopping and did some photo editing. We met at their hotel to go to dinner at a very Austrian restaurant called Salm Bräu.

Carol ordered the famous spare ribs, Kris and Clark got chicken schnitzel, and I got beef gulasch with potatoes. I didn't like my gulasch meat (too fatty), so I ate the potatoes and a pretzel dipped in the sauce, and Kris gave me half of his schnitzel.

Before calling it a night, we strolled a bit through Stadtpark.

I really like the traffic lights here. There is a separate person for bike rider and pedestrian.

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Carol and Clark came over in the morning to make their sandwiches for the day's picnic lunch, and we all walked to the U Bahn station to get tickets to Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial 1,441-room Rococo summer residence in modern Vienna, Austria.

This place is impressive and massive and gorgeous and I simply can't explain the grandeur...and we didn't even go inside!

SO many photo opportunities!

SO many statues!

And the gardens are immaculately manicured!

The walk to the top was long and hot, but it sure was worthwhile. It felt like you could see the entirety of Vienna from atop Schönbrunn.

We opted to take the wooded path back down, and this was a great choice. We found a picnic table with a few birds and squirrels and sat down for our lunch with only mosquitos to bug us.

We made it back to the hotels with enough to time really quickly freshen up, drop some things off (big camera for instance), and reapply sunscreen before meeting up for our Segway tour.

Unfortunately for us, the beautiful clear weather of the morning seemed to be taking a turn for the worse. We met our Segway tour guide, Charlie, at 2pm. He seemed satisfied with our Segway-ing prowess. Kris had never been on a Segway before but took to it easily...maybe too easily. I'd only been once before and was freaked out a bit about doing it in the city, and the Currens are pros now. We started heading out.

We wound up getting out much further than we ever would have on foot. And, while I know Charlie was full of information about what we were seeing, I really wasn't paying much attention. I was too busy either worrying about hitting someone or looking around taking in the scenery.

Gorgeous home in the Jewish quarter of Wien/Vienna

However, one thing Charlie said still sticks in my head. If you run into a plaque on a building in Wien (especially in the Jewish quarter) like the one I have pictured below, it likely has the names of the Jewish people who lived there and were victims of the Holocaust written on it. If they have more information, they include that info.

At the start of our tour, it only rained on us lightly. We weren't going to let that rain stop us. Kris also had a minor wipeout thanks to two impatient cars and a narrow turn, but we weren't going to let that stop us either. (Side note - Kris was a bit ticked off that I didn't get a photo of him sprawled out on the sidewalk next to his Segway in Vienna. I was too concerned about him to think about it.)

Unfortunately, after visiting the park where Hitler built a flak tower for bringing down enemy aircraft, it started to rain much heavier.

Charlie had to call our tour over for safety, so we had to zip back to the Segway store.

We zipped by the banks of the Danube and got to see all of this awesome spray paint art. I wish I could have photographed it, but no time.

Due to the tour ending short, we got a significant discount on our tour. We appreciated the discount and still had fun.

After our tour, we split up and Kris and I were put in charge of finding a close place for dinner. We found a great close place called the Stadtpark Bräu. We were really happy with the food, atmosphere, and prices, but we didn't expect to be charged for each piece of bread we ate that was put on the table.

WARNING - in Austria/Germany, if bread is put on your table, it may not be free.

Regardless, my spatzle and salad and Kris's mixed grill were delicious. Fairly confident that the Currens enjoyed their steaks too.