Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Our Way to Austria & Vienna, Day One

05/23, Wednesday
We're up early and John rings for us at 7:20, off to the train station in M-L. Plenty of time for train departure at 7:45. We are on a fairly tight schedule until boarding the night train to Vienna.

Oh-Oh! There is no train this morning to Agen! A bus, instead, arrives about 15 minutes late to transport us to the Agen station. Our train connection in Agen to Bordeaux departs at 9:01. They had to hold the train for us about 4 minutes. Now, we're on our way to Bordeaux.

Today's travels include: car to station, bus (instead of train) to Agen, train to Bordeaux, bus to Bordeaux airport, plane to Rome, bus to Rome train, overnight train to Vienna. We hope the RyanAir portion is delayed from 13:00 because our bus connection is very close, 10:30 - 11:15, which leaves less than 2 hours for check-in and security. The night train doesn't leave until 19:05, so a later arrival in Rome is not too critical.

All connections have worked out fine, and we are waiting at Roma Termini for our night train. Mom has beaten me today at Cribbage and Gin. That only leaves Scrabble! We are thinking of trying to learn Chess. The App I downloaded was confusing...maybe there's another easier one.

We're on the overnight train in our compartment. With all of our luggage, it's crowded, but the company has provided free sparking wine, bottled water, and a cookie. Fortunately, Mom inquired about a dining we had pasta and a salad in the station. Alec, our steward, set up the beds and took our breakfast order...breads, cereal, OJ, coffee. Riding on the train is kind of like being in a washing machine on the tumble cycle. I don't dare remove my contacts in fear of plucking out an eye. The beds are quite comfortable and clean, but the jerking of the train keeps you from sleeping soundly.

05/24, Thursday
The landscape from the train windows shows the beautiful hills of Austria and it does look like The Sound of Music! In German language, Austria is Österreichishe, which means West Region, I think.

Arrival in Vienna at 8:30am. (Austrian spelling for Vienna is Wien, pronounced "Veen".) Taxi to hotel, check-in, and leave bags. Tram to tourist info center behind the Opera building, and some walking. Tram tour around the Ringstrasse (a broad street that replaced the town defensive walls) to hear about some of the important buildings. Vienna is well laid out and seems quite easy to get around. Many beautiful buildings and lots of ornamentation. Fifty percent of Vienna is green and one park is larger than Central Park. The City (Stadt) Park has many statues and busts of famous composers from Vienna. I'm glad we are here !

Our Hotel Prinz Eugen is across from the new Süd Bahnhof, south train station. We have to "learn" another language, German. Austrians do not consider themselves as Germans although their language is very similar, if not exactly the same, but with different lilt. The toilets are for Herren and Damen; the streets are strasse; the churches are kirche; Danou for Dunube; platz for piazza or place.

After a short rest in the hotel, we venture out again to see Stephansplatz and St Stephansdom, the cathedral. can you believe, I forgot my camera! So, no photos of churches and streets. We had dinner at a typical Austrian street cafe...Mom had goulash and I had fried liver, onions and fried potatoes. The liver was tender and tasty, not like when I was a shoe leather. We used the U-Bahn, unterbahn, subway. Very clean, fast, quiet, on-time...just like Chicago's!

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