Monday, May 12, 2008

Where I was: Barcelona, Zurich, Vienna

May 12, 2007

We're en route to Greece--on the train from Venice to Ancona where we will catch the ferry. We just got into Italy from Vienna. Last time I wrote, Lisa and I were on a night train from Zurich to Vienna, for which we were too cheap to actually book beds. For a while it was just us and so we closed the door (to our cabin), pushed the seats together and went to sleep. There were no curtains, which put us in a fish bowl setting.

Around 4 a.m. a dude came in. He moved our stuff from our seats a.k.a. food and trash. I was awake and watched him because I had heard him. Then he unsuperbedded (took the two seats apart) the aisle seats and sat down. Because he did this I assumed he was just getting into his right seat. Then I felt Lisa wriggling around again. I just assumed she did this because she was still sleeping, but sensed his presence. Then she sat up really abruptly, ripped her eye mask off and screamed at the sight of the man.

I tried to calm her down saying he was o.k., but then she told me that she woke up because his hand was on her thigh. He spoke Italian so I yelled at him. Of course he denied, but I asked him to leave. He sat right outside, and basically stared at us. He got up, but then came back and actually had the audacity to ask to come in again. I got him to go away, but we were too scared to go back to sleep until some commuters got into our car a little after Salzburg.

Eventually we got to Vienna and we were staying with a friend of Lisa's friend from London who is abroad in Vienna. By ourselves we used a map and guided ourselves to his house. He was so shocked to see us show up at 9 a.m. without any help. I guess we're just getting good at getting oriented and moving from place to place. After not being able to shower for five days we each took a shower, which was awesome. And while Lisa was showering Mike gave us suggestions for what to do in Vienna.

First we went to the famous church in the town centre called Stephensplatz. It was very beautiful. I was most impressed by the really brilliantly colored stained glass windows at the rear by the alter. After the church Lisa and I were dead tired, especially since we barely slept--all fault of the molester. We got some full-sized pigs in a blanket and some coffee in the square near Stephensplatz in an attempt to revive ourselves. Then we headed to some open air markets where I was just in awe by the markets. We met a "Rock" (as in DO YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN') impersonator who sold wasabi buts. He was trying to pick us up--we've kind of become immune to this being in Europe.

Then we got sucked into an internet cafe.

After an hour there we headed to Schonbrunn, the summer home of the Hapsburgs, and explored the gardens and the imperial zoo.

The next day we went to Belvedere, another Hapsburg palace. It was full of art!

Lisa and I went shopping. We bought ridiculous amounts of food at the supermarket for our travels. Mike made us dinner and then we went to the train station.

We had a really comfortable night because we booked beds and had all of our food. In the morning they brought us breakfast in bed, which was a really nice treat.

We got into Venice a little before 9 and our train to Ancona didn't leave until 11 so we got to walk around a little. Now we are en route to Ancona where we will catch the ferry.

My dad called and I spoke to him. He was freaking out because my phone didn't work in Austria. My mom sent me a panic e-mail--they were basically ready to book a flight. They freak out really easy. I also spoke to my host mom in Italy and we are staying with them the night after we get back from Greece.

May 9, 2007

Barcelona was exactly as we had hoped--as Lisa liked to say, "a little piece of paradise." We got in and of course it was mayhem carrying around out bags, which we have nicknamed Cartman and Kenny from their resemblance to South Park characters.

We decided that it is good practice to book our reservations immediately upon arrival--for our next destination. The line in Barcelona was so long , and after waiting with our backpacks we were given the news that there is only a train that is also a hotel going to our next stop (Zurich), and, it COST us. We were fairly annoyed since we paid so much money for the pass. At this point we did not know it was a hotel on wheels so we were even more annoyed.

Barcelona was warm and beautiful and we were so excited to get out into the sun. Of course our first mission was finding a place to stay. We took the subway to Las Ramblas. We proceeded to walk into every hostel in sight to find sketchiness or not good deals. We got hotter and hotter and more tired as this ordeal continued. We followed a flier for a pension that we got at the train station and that ended up being full. The lady at the pension recommended this place on the corner.

This is where we met Carmen at Hostal Miramar. This hostel might not have been the most beautiful looking place, but you could tell Carmen busted her butt cleaning it.

We had our own room, which was nice so we could let our backpacks spread out and get our stuff together at night. We got organized and then went roaming around Las Ramblas. We feasted on delicious Menu del Dia and each treated ourselves to a bracelet since we survived our first overnight train. All of this went on Las Ramblas.

We looked for a beach, which we eventually found and it was beautiful. After walking around we got some tapas, which were a huge disappointment compared to the ones I got while I was in Madrid during the semester.

After dinner we headed to a club that we got free passes to earlier in the day. This was the first night out really, but since we had some time in Barcelona it was totally worth it, and we were able to sleep in a little bit in the morning.

The next day we woke up after a long night of listening to our neighbors throwing up and decided to go directly to the beach. It was great and both of us got a lot of color. After beach we did the sky ride over the water, which although pricey, was really fun.

After the ride we men some friendly Americans and chatted atop the hill letting our backs soak up the sun. We then mosied to Sagrada Familia--the famous Gaudi church. I was impressed by my abilities to understand Spanish all weekend, but mostly on this walk when asking for directions and actually knowing what to do.

We walked all over looking for some authentic dinner and ended up with seafood paella on the beach, which was so delicious. (I STILL REMEMBER THE TASTE ONE YEAR LATER--this is a reflection from RIGHT NOW 2008).

We called it a night. Lisa and I laughed when we got back because more often than not, we shared a bed than having our own beds.

The next morning we rented bikes and rose all over the city. We happened across such beauty. The same happened on our way to the church--running into beauty on accident.

We returned our bikes, ate some sandwiches and headed to the train.

We got to Zurich, and the first thing we did was take a boat tour of Lake Zurich. We honestly spent a lot of the day just taking in the purity of Zurich. The mountains, lake and cottages made for such a serene setting.

We spent a lot of the day looking for food places that took visa since Zurich is not on the Euro. It was very annoying to deal with another currency.

After only a day, we got on another train. On to Vienna, Austria!!

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