Welcome to my travel blog! Over the next 10 weeks I will be travelling throughout Europe and will share my adventure here. The name of this blog is a Latin phrase which translates roughly to mean 'to gain, understand, perceive'. It explains perfectly what I hope to experience in this trip; a sense of understanding and appreciation for life all around the world.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear Santa - this Christmas I'd like a pony...

As predicted, it was a hot night last night and being in an 8 person room, it meant that people kept coming in during the evening to bed as they pleased so the lights didn't go out until after midnight. It's not that late I know, but when people again turn on the light at 6am to get their stuff to leave for trains and airports it doesn't leave much time for uninterrupted sleep! Oh, and did I mention the snoring? Sigh – I asked for this – it all comes with back-packing!

Anyway, it was lucky in the end that I was up early this morning as last night I had planned out my days here in Vienna and forgot that my tickets to the Spanish Riding School performance were for this morning, not this evening. So when I realised my mistake, I got ready super-fast and headed down to the main part of Vienna, where the Riding School is part of the Imperial Palace. When you see the Riding School you'll understand why it is part of the palace – the place itself is like a castle. So, so beautiful!!

The Spanish Riding School is world renowned and has been for the past 300 years or so, since it was set up Emperor Charles VI and continued by his daughter, Maria Theresa. Walking into the performance hall I had the feeling (which I've had a few times while travelling) that I was certainly not dressed for such a beautiful venue. When I see these places I always feel like I should be dressed as women used to – glamorous and feminine. Instead I'm in a puffy jacket, beanie, trousers and walking shoes. Mind you, I look like a lot of other people – very few get dressed up for the different performances I've been to. Anyway, it's been a lesson in me getting over myself, but at the same time I feel a certain pining for the days gone by when there was a sense of glamour in fashion.

The Peformace Hall

Moving on, the performance was simply breathtaking. Apart from the beauty of the horses themselves, watching what they can do is such a treat. We're talking years worth of training here and they fly through the air. The only way I can describe it is like watching the ballet. You watch the dancers, entranced by what they can do with their bodies and the magnificent way in which they do it. It was the same with the horses – they leap, they dance, they fly – everything about them is beautiful... and then they crap all over the arena floor just to remind you that yes they are animals, not heavenly beings :)

If anyone is ever in Vienna, do not miss this performance – it is totally worth it! 

The horsies at rest after their big performance, and the stables' cat!

After the performance I was pretty hungry and feeling a little cold so I went looking for somewhere warm to get a bite to eat. And I gotta say, this is where Vienna let me down. I went searching... and searching and even more searching but the only places I found in an hour of walking were either a)McDonalds – which were all so packed that I couldn't get inside b)Starbucks - which were busier than the McDonalds and are again really expensive and c)really exclusive places that have men at the door to take your hand and lead you in. I've said it once and I'll say it again – where the hell are all the cafes?? Everyone knows its going to be cold outside so why aren't there more places to go inside and relax?

After an hour feeling very peeved at not finding anything, I gave up trying to be cultured and found a McDonalds that wasn't as crowded as the rest and pushed my way through the crowds to get a hot chocolate and shared a table with 3 Viennese kids.

I should say at this point that I really, really don't like crowds. I don't feel unsafe or worried in them, but I hate them because all manners really just go down the drain. I noticed this in Berlin too, but it is especially pronounced here, that no one will give way to you nor will they give any acknowledgement or thanks to to you if you do. So I started off the day making way for old ladies and parents with children and after about 2 hours of getting pushed around because of it, I gave up. It must just not be a thing of politeness over here to give way or of impoliteness to push in front quite forcibly. So I've decided that while I'm here I'll be more like the locals - while old people still get my deference, anyone under the age of 60 can bloody well wait for me. I can be like a brick wall if I want to be.

I stopped in to St Michael's Church, which is right near the Spanish Riding School as I was in need of some tranquillity and I've learned that in Europe (like Australia) if you want to go somewhere where it is quiet and no one around, go into a church. As I had hoped (for my own selfish reasons of course; I'd love it if it were full too!) it was practically empty. It is one of the purest examples in Vienna of Baroque architecture so though it is quite small, it is very beautiful with a lot of history behind it.

Speaking of history, I was very excited to see that just outside the church in Michelsplatz, there are ancient Roman fortifications going down a long way. These are from around 180 AD – the Emperor Marcus Aurelius died here in Vienna in that year.

The photo doesn't look much but you should see how far down they go!!

By now it was about 2.30pm and the light was already fading so I went to the Natural History Museum. Half of the fun of going to these places is seeing the actual buildings that house the collections – they are all palaces themselves! And it was nice to learn about history from a more scientific and biological sense rather than the cultural aspects I've been seeing lately.

Some photos of the museum - inside and out.

The museum was full of kids, which I should have realised would be – what do parents do with children on a cold wet day? Take them to a warm public place like a museum! It was ok – at least they want to learn and see things – there was a group of German emos who bagged out everything in the museum as being “totally unoriginal” who made me want to turn a hose on them so their mascara would run.

The animal collection there is impressive – the wild cats were my favourite. And the halls of meteorite were pretty cool – it reminded me of the fantasy write Terry Pratchett who had a sword made out of meteorites – how awesome!

As I was leaving the museum there was a Christmas market in the garden at the front – it was really nice but totally packed so I didn't try to have a thorough look at the wares – I'll wait until the working week starts and it's less crowded.

The Market in the afternoon.

And I think I have discovered how people eat cheaply here – it's all in the vendors on the street. Now in Australia I would never buy anything from a van on the street – but here it's how its done and its either kebabs or Bratwurst (and they are bloody good!) Give that I can't afford to eat at the restaurants here and I don't want to do my own 'Supersize Me' with McDonalds, it looks like that's going to be how I do dinner for the next week. Mind you, there go my hopes of returning home as a slimmer Christina – sigh.

Just one last little thing I've noticed here – the Viennese are crazy committed to recycling. They have 5 different kinds of recycling bins! I wanted to throw out my coffee cup and stood I front of the dammed bins for about 5 mins trying to figure out which one to use. In the end I just chose one and said a prayer for the baby seal I probably just killed with my act of environmental sin.


  1. Hey, those baby seals don't club themselves, you know!

    Sounds like you're feeling better, so that's good. It's pouring with rain here right now 7:30pm Sunday, and Luke has a bad cold.

    Only 6 more days until Santa comes!

  2. Well, not if we're to believe Mr Hell and Serge the Seal of Death.

    Yes, I only have a runny nose now so as long as I make sure to wash my hankies every night, I'm fine :) Let's hope it stays that way!!

    You may have a wet Christmas! I swear in the past 5 years there have not been more than 2 warm Christmases - remember the one that year when Mark and Nikki's parents were in Australia - it was like here! Hope Luke gets better soon.