9.27.2005

Staatsoper

Two observations:

- This is a great place to window shop. All the items in the windows have prices on them (it was like this in Italy, too). So, you know what you are getting into before you ever go in to the store!

- We learned that Austrians and Germans like their personal space. If you want someone to move out of the way, you don't tap them on the shoulder, you say, "Entshuldigung" which means excuse me.

Patti and I were walking around this morning and decided to stop by the Staatsoper (the opera house) to find out how to get the rumored inexpensive standing room only tickets. Guess where we ended up tonight?! I can't believe that I went to the opera! For my ticket, a program, and coat check for three it was about 10 US dollars. You'll have to take a look at the photos to see which opera. We only stayed for the 1st act, since standing for 3 1/2 hours can be painful. Even just seeing the 1st act was well worth it!

Visit http://ljkinas.shutterfly.com/action/?a=8AZuWrFo4auX8A for photos and to find out what opera we saw!

9.26.2005

Orientation Wrap-up

Last night we had a party that ended the two week orientation program. We saw so much in this short time. I will put short captions with the photos – hopefully enough to give you some idea of what you are seeing. I wonder sometimes it if everything is beginning to look the same. Is it? I have been the quintessential tourist snapping photo after photo. Thankfully, I have enough sense to tell myself that I must stop, look, and enjoy! Even though I don’t always know the history or name of what I see, it’s beautiful and I feel like I don’t want to loose that moment. I think that the Folon painting La Memoire that I saw in Florence sums it all up.

Beyond orientation, we have been out to eat a couple of times with the Italian group… I really like these people! It’s a kiss on both cheeks when you see them and plenty of laughter. Although they did not all know each other they come from the same school in Rome.

Also, Patti is visiting and we have been touring more around Vienna. She took a side trip to Salzburg today and on Wednesday we will go to Prague and Budapest. Some of my Italian friends will join us in Prague and Andria will join us in Budapest. Fun!

German class has been fun, too! Twenty students in our class and we are from 11 different countries. I will really have to practice and do not have too much opportunity because the students speak in their native tongue or English. We try some things in German, but we are so slow that sometimes even the waitress will take pity and start talking in English. We ended our week with a trip to the grocery store and then to a café to practice!

Today and tomorrow, I have to sit by my computer so that I can register for class at 2:00 p.m. sharp. Otherwise, the seats fill up quickly!

The tourist highlights of last week:

Schloss Schönbrunn – An imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. The photos of the Baroque gardens are the same layout that was added by Maria Theresa in the late 1700’s. The Gloriette, which is said to be a war monument, provides a gorgeous view of the palace with the city of Vienna as a backdrop.

United Nations Office – The office in Vienna is the UNO on Drugs and Crime. During the visit to the office we heard lectures on the UNO in general, the Vienna office, and more specifically the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). By upgrading equipment and training people in marketing, UNIDO provides incentive to promote sustainable growth in developing countries.

Melk Abbey – The history of Melk has been around since 996! There has been a school here since the 12th century! Today, Melk is still a working monastery and school. We toured the main buildings open to the public, including the library which is amazing! There was also a chapel, gardens, and a historically “recreational” building.

Dürnstein – Where we literally had a 15 minute self-guided tour - we were running late most of the week and we had to move on to the next stop. This was pretty much just a bathroom break.

Nastl – This Wed site is all in German but I had to include the link. The site is filled with photos of the family who owns this small operation. The wife, Renata, took us through the vineyards and her husband, Gūnter, and kids served us during the sampling. The winery has been in his family since 1659 and the children are studying to take over some day. Nastl is in Langenlois, the largest wine area in Austria, and has one gold medal wine and two on the top 200 list in Austria.

Photos at http://ljkinas.shutterfly.com/action/?a=8AZuWrFo4auX4Q (bentley)

9.24.2005

The Imperial Chapel

I'll catch up on the rest later, but for now I have to record my visit to the Vienna Imperial Chapel, which dates back to the 14th century. Patti (a friend from NJ) and I went there this morning for a catholic mass, in German of course! The chapel is tiny and we were able to sit in one of the tiny boxes that you will see in the photos. The Hofmusikkapelle, is historically a court orchestra that dates back to the 15th century. It is still in existence and includes members of the Vienna Philharmonic, The Vienna Boys Choir, the Men’s Choir, and the Vienna State Opera. A mix of these provided music for the morning service and to top it off the music was all Mozart. This has been my best experience thus far! I plan to immerse myself in music in this city! Even in our dorm, we’ve already heard an amateur opera singer and pianist. It’s wonderful!

Check out the photos at share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AZuWrFo4auXPA (remember bentley)

9.18.2005

Heuriger = "German Wine House"

About 25 students went out tonight (well, they go out very night... but I actually joined them this evening). We went to a heuriger, which is a place that makes and serves it's own wine. A large mug of white wine was just 2 euros (about $2.40). There were two men playing, on a violin and an accordian, what I thought to be American tunes. Some danced, some sang. We all clapped. One student has an awesome voice - he is an opera singer. What did I learn? That the chicken dance is universal! Who knew!?

Graz

Before I get to the trip details, let me say that I am in a 1st level German class every afternoon. Our teacher is fantastic and I hope to practice more so that I can at least ask questions at the grocery store! ;-)

Graz was a beautiful city, even in the cold and rain! We had a walking tour all around town which ended with lunch at the Landerhaus-Keller (found out my cousin’s last name, Keller, means basement). It was more apparent in Graz, which is more acute than Vienna, that the open air courtyards are popular for coffee shops and meeting up with friends. There were courtyards everywhere!

A few other things to note about the photos are the clock that I keep zooming in on – if we would have been there at the right time, two wooden figures in traditional costumes would have emerged and the gold goose would have flapped it’s wings. There is a photograph or two of the Murinsel or “Island in the Mur.” The Mur is the river that runs through Graz and this island is a playground, café, and amphitheater. It is connected to the land only by the bridges and it rises to some extent with the level of the river. There is a photograph of a bakery with a wooden façade. Can you believe we had no time to even stop for a treat!? Look for the water spout made to look like a dragon. Finally – people in the photos! Us at lunch, on the bus, and Andria and Roser (from Spain) dancing to the sweet music of the violin!

Then, we ventured outside of the city to see an open air museum that had representations of traditional, historic homes, schools (Jaye - the close up is for you!), and churches from around the country. A large agricultural product in Austria was once the flax, used to make linen which was considered warmer than cotton clothing.

2nd look at Vienna

Just figured out that my photo captions are cut short, so I may just start to put more in the text about the photos.

Week one of orientation was spent touring Vienna and Graz, the two largest cities in Austria. In Vienna, a professor talked with us about the political system in Austria and to some extent how that tied to the history of Austria. Then we visited the Osterreichishe Galeria, which has an exhibit called “The New Austria.” Although there are approximately 600 political parties in Austria, only 4-5 are relevant. The latest voting issues that were discussed: pension plans (2004), which are of concern to those who fit in our “baby boomer” generation; not allowing atomic energy (2003); and not allowing fighter jets (2002). Austria practices “active neutrality,’ which means that they get involved but don’t take sides.

We also had a bus tour of Vienna We passed the Hundertwasserhaus, which I plan to visit later, but wanted to point out because you will see some photos here of a garbage-incinerating plant which has an exterior that was also designed by Hundertwasser. This plant is right beside the WU so I see it each day when I get off the U. Hundertwasser’s designs incorporate man and nature. So, you can imagine that he had some issues with working on this plant, but he agreed when the plant promised to use the most modern and anti-pollution technology for the time. The Fermware sign is his design and is the name of the parent power plant.


High up in the hills, we were able to get a view of the city and the countryside – although the weather was not so clear you’ll get an ok view here in the photos: http://ljkinas.shutterfly.com/action/?a=8AZuWrFo4auXtA

9.16.2005

Florence...

On my way to Florence, I am looking over a shoulder reading a newspaper. I can’t read the language, but I can make out that there is an “Aquabomber” who has used a needle to sabotage bottled water. What a welcome!

Myth: People in Europe do not wear jeans and can’t find them for reasonable prices in stores.

We met two Australians who were traveling for 6 weeks. They were fantastic! One was of Lebanese heritage and the other Greek. We hit it off with them and had fun exchanging stories about where to go, what to see, and where to eat.

Two fantastic meals in Florence – one was pasta (yummy!) and beans as a side, which were out of this world. I also tried the tongue that Andria had ordered – can you believe it?! It tasted like liver. I can say that I tried it now… the end. The other meal was an amazing salad sampler and then the best for last… the dessert sampler. It was all wonderful, but now I am a lover of tiramisu… not that stuff we get at home, though… the real tiramisu that you must only find in Italy! I have made friend with a group of Italians here at school and they say that they will make tiramisu some day! I look forward to that!!!

I have added the Florence photos (again… still Andria’s photos). Visit http://ljkinas.shutterfly.com/action/?a=8AZuWrFo4auXpQ (this should lead you to the same place as the Cinque Terre photos) to see them. Again, the password is bentley. I should be all caught up now!

Cinque Terre Photos Posted

Finally, the Cinque Terre photos are posted! I have separated each town in separate on-line albums. Although, they may look all the same to you. I hope you enjoy.

Go to http://ljkinas.shutterfly.com/action/?a=8AZuWrFo4auXWg and type in the password bentley.

Florence photos still to come.

9.14.2005

The Cinque Terre

I am trying to keep the photos at a minimum, but still give you a good sense of the Cinque Terre. I don’t always have captions – most of the views did not need them anyway. OK… the real reason is that people are going out tonight and I really want to go… so I need to get these photos posted!!!

CHECK BACK HERE SOON FOR THE LINK!!!

The day we tried to hike along the cliffs between towns, the ground was wet so the paths were all closed. Guess I have to get back there someday!

Monterosso - this was home for two nights, woke up with the roosters, and ripped up the train schedule since the trains in Italy are NEVER on time.

Vernazzo – this is the postcard town, with many hidden pathways and a beach where the kids were on learning about the sand and water from an older teacher.

Corniglia – a small piazza surrounded by buildings with one large tree growing beyond the rooftops

Manarola – my favorite where we climbed the terraces and saw gardens close up and the town far below

Riomaggiore – it was raining our entire time in Riomaggiore, the smallest of the towns, so we didn’t spend as much time here.

Photos really don’t do justice to these five lands on the cliffs surrounding the Mediterranean. It was so beautiful and even more beautiful to me is the history of the area. It is called an “artificial landscape” because the hills were transformed into small terraces held together with only earth and stone – nothing more. Over generations, these terraces were made by men with very little equipment. The paths are too narrow for donkeys, mules, or complex equipment. The terraces hold grapevines, olive and citrus trees, squash and pumpkins alongside roses and hydrangeas. The plots of land vary in size, but generally are very small.

A woman was walking down the street into town and before she passed the church, she did the sign of the cross. I wonder if her family has lived here for generations. She may still tend to one of the terraces. The shops sell very touristy items, but I suppose that is exactly how these towns make their money. White wine, lemons, sardines, and salted anchovies have not survived the ages. The Cinque Terre National park is trying to bring the vineyards back if only to maintain a live history of the area, but it is a slow process.

The funny story of Cinque Terre:

The bathroom boy collects money for the public to use the restroom by the train station. I think they are collecting money because of the water shortage that seems to be just in Monterosso. He talked to me during my first visit – asked where I was from. He did not speak much English at all. The second visit, he stopped and asked me more about exactly where I was from and then how much something was, but I couldn’t figure out what he wanted to know. Then, he asked me where I was staying (of course I gave a general answer of in town) and he asked me how much. Then, he asked me to dinner. Was he asking me on a date (my ego says yes) or was he trying to prostitute himself out to me (I am SO naïve!)?

9.12.2005

1st photos of Vienna

Trying diligently to catch up on my photos/posts. I'll be honest, I was sick last week and felt horrible on Friday/Saturday. I made it through about 1/4 of the Ufizzi musuem in Florence and had to sit the rest out. I will try my best to catch up soon.

In the meantime, here are my welcoming views of Vienna . If the photos load to slowly for Mom and Dad on dial-up, let me know!

9.09.2005

traveling in italy, hostel living, and foreign languages

first things first... the keyboards here are crazy - everything is in the wrong place. so no caps for today. i have finally figured out how to type a question mark and a right parantheses, which i consider to be an accomplishment.

this isn't one of my regular touristy posts... more of a blog really... so it's not short and the text isn't broken up with scenic photos ;-)

i STILL have no Italy pictures to post. one of the reasons is that i left my camera battery at home (vienna). yes, the cinque terre and tuscany have always been on the top of my travel list and here i am with my camera, but no camera battery. i can probably find one now that i'm in florence, but andria has been clicking away with her camera and letting me take shots, too. the cinque terre really had the postcard picture towns and i couldn't find a battery there.

orientation starts on monday, so i'll be taking an overnight train on saturday night back to vienna. i'm getting anxious about school. mostly because this late start is unusual. i'm not complaining mind you - i know that my classmates back in the states probably have late nights and little free time right now. i am looking forward to my classes here, but don't have a schedule yet. that could be nerve racking, but of course when you are backpacking the everything else has a way of leaving your mind.

i will hate to leave italy - it is just as i imagined. the cinque terre and florence are as different as OBX and NYC. the best of the seaside towns and big cities. i will return to italy during the next few months.

hostel living has been quite an experience thus far. in cinque terre, andria and i had one small room in monterosso. we had a sink in our room and shared a shower with 3 other rooms. it was in a great location.

in florence, we are staying at the hostel archi rossi... fantastic! it's buzzing with travelers. there is a tv/lounge area where they serve a free breakfast and where everyone was hanging out last night while it was raining outside. there is also free internet, which is normally busy but since i wake up so early when i'm traveling there is no one here right now but me and the guy who is working the front desk. there are paintings all over the walls on the first floor and many travelers have put graffiti on the stairwell halls... it's actually fun to read and andria and i plan to put the ncsu logo up there before we leave. we have 4 roomates, two from australia on holiday, one from NYC who was studying in germany for a month before she started to travel, and one who just arrived last night and went straight to bed.

the most frustrating thing for me is not knowing the languages. i love to talk with the locals and ask questions about the history of a place and what they love best abuot their hometown. You can only do so much knowing a few words/phrases and making hand gestures. i'm getting better at both. here in florence many locals seem very willing to speak english, so it's much easier... not sure if that's better, but at least i ask all the questions that i want!

9.04.2005

Random thoughts..

It's late Sunday afternoon and I am too tired to go into details about today... maybe later tonight. Andria and I met up with Blue and walked through the 7th District (where we live) and down to the Museumsquartier. I promise to get my photos on line, but until then I hope you are happy with the few here in my blog. Oh... here is another one.It's of my neighbors... shall we call him Buster? When I sit at my desk, I can see him sitting in a window across the street 5 stories above the street.

One of the guidebooks says that if NYC is the big apple of the U.S. then Vienna is the wedding cake of Europe. The buildings here are beautiful and we saw more of this today as we walked around the more touristy area (more about that in a later blog).

Subways are on the honor system. You do pay and get a ticket, then get the ticket stamped with the date/time. There wasn't anyone to ever take the ticket. However, if they ever do come by to check tickets and you don't have one - it's a fine of $70 Euros.

Newspapers are found in plastic bags that are locked to the lampposts. You put money in a little box and take out a paper. The honor system again.

9.03.2005

Vienna – the 6th District

I explored the city with Andria today. We are living in a true city, so the Billa grocery stores and Bipa drug stores are small along with everything in them…the products are definitely not supersized. Looking up to view the architecture or whatever I might miss if I only look straight ahead. What did I notice? Gardens. Little gardens in window boxes, big gardens on rooftops, and hidden gardens behind huge double doors like these in apartment/loft buildings. The architecture is great, too, but I have a feeling that I haven’t seen anything yet.

The Mariahilfer Strausse (Street) is like an average Joe’s Chicago Michigan Mile. This is where you shop and I did…. window, that is. The crowd was diverse and I think many of them were local – or at least they were speaking German. Traveling off the beaten path, I found a kitchen store that my cousin Ja would love and a wedding at the St Aegyd church.

It’s another late night. I did put in a good 7+ hours of sleep my first night here, so I must be settling in to this time zone.

9.02.2005

My Buddy

Willi is a student at WU and he was assigned to be my buddy and to help me get acclimated to Vienna. He was not able to pick me up at the airport, so he sent his friend Florian. They both grew up in a small town in northern Italy that was originally was part of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty. Their first language is German, then Italian, and they are learning English at WU.

Florian later told us that he had joked around that he was going to the airport to pick up an older woman and he ended up with three. “They’ll never believe me,” he said. Andria was also there to greet me and I met an Australian traveler, Blue, near baggage claim who didn’t really know how to get to her hotel. So, the four of us and several bags of luggage fit into Florian’s car. This brings me to another observation. Small cars. SUVs are certainly not the norm here. Florian was having a great time whizzing around downtown at high speeds in a tiny, borrowed car.

Just how small are these small cars? Check out the Axiam Luxe (the "truck") and the Mercedes A160...

London Gatwick ≠ London Heathrow

The morning of my flight, I realized that I had to figure out how to get from airport to airport (a 1-½ hour bus ride). As it turned out, it was a good way to get through a 7 hour layover. Since I had never taken such a long flight, I was proud that I kept my patience. The only delays were in London - a long queue for passport checks and a late plane coming from Leeds to take us to Vienna. I did have to lug my luggage from Gatwick to Heathrow and as my sister Jaye and nephew Andrew know – I had a bum wheel on my 60 pound suitcase. The entire outside of the wheel finally fell off, but there was a mini-wheel hiding underneath that I think will work fine as a spare.

The overseas flight was not bad since I was able to sleep a few hours. Dinner blurred right into breakfast. The man sitting to my right was disgruntled and angry with British Airways since his previous flight was cancelled a few weeks ago due to the strike and he missed a holiday with his family. Already upset, he found his headset had an electrical short, his video wasn’t clear, and he forgot to ask for his free bottle of wine with dinner. He put on his eye mask, put in his ear plugs, and turned toward the window to sleep. The man to my left made up for him! He charmed the stewardess into handing over 4 bottles of wine. Since each bottle was 12 oz. he was happy for quite some time.

During the bus trip to Heathrow I couldn’t see much but trees and a few shingled elegant homes on the hillsides. Driving on the opposite side of the road wasn’t so odd, but then again it wasn’t me doing the driving.