Sunday, March 15, 2009

No, we will never get a break.

This I've concluded.

Samstag - On this first weekend in Vienna, I decided that I wanted to explore the neighborhood that my dorm is in. It's about fifteen minutes by public transportation from the city center, and it's pretty quiet and mostly residential. I walked up the side of the street that we hadn't taken yet - so far we had only gone right to get to school, so I went left. My walk went to show that you don't need to be in the downtown rush of Vienna to find beautiful architecture and quaint little shops. There was even an Easter market by the train station near us with stands selling linens, flowers, jewelry, and food (roasted chestnuts aren't just a Christmas snack over here). Our plans for the evening were to see "Lucia di Lammermoor" with Anna Netrebko in the title role, but after seeing the line for standing room, we decided to come back another night when we thought our chances would be better at getting tickets. We wound up strolling through the Staatpark (Gorgeous! I'm taking more pictures as it warms up and the plants start coming back.) and getting dinner and drinks at a traditional Austrian fare restaurant. I'm definitely going back for the marzipan mousse and a Bellini that I wanted to have for dessert.

Sonntag - I had a quiet morning and afternoon. I got some much-needed grocery shopping done, picking up yogurt, pasta, fruit, juice, and other necessities from the Merkur. I was introduced to the concept of putting a "down payment" on shopping carts - putting in a euro and getting it back when I turn it in. We saw "Die Land des Lachelns" by Lehar Sunday night. Again, I snagged another 75 euro ticket for only 10 euro, in the first row of the balcony. "Lachelns" was the most visually appealing show I've seen so far here. There were Asian influences everywhere, from the music to the set to the costumes. I'd definitely see it again.

Sorry about the delay in posting. Between sightseeing and showgoing, and now adding classes, I'm realizing more and more just how much I have on my plate. It seems like every day I stumble upon a neighborhood that I want to explore more - and I've barely started to think about my out-of-town travels! And of course, I know I have to take care of myself. Relaxing and finding down time is understandibly becoming more difficult, but I definitely don't want to burn myself out. I'll put up pictures soon as well as posts about the last couple of days soon.

I hope you all are doing well wherever you are. I love you and miss you and wish you all could be here!

Yours, Lucy

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Will we ever get a break?

Donnerstag - Orientation day at Webster. Kara and I got up and ready for the day at about 8:30. We met Atoosha, our RA, and the rest of the gang and headed over to campus. We got to meet some of the faculty and staff as well as other students from different parts of the world (Ghana, Albania, Sweden, and the Ukraine just to name a few) that we were going to be studying with. The school provided pastries and coffee for breakfast as we sat through presentations about school policies, services, and icebreakers to get to know one another. We were served lunch at a restaurant right next door compliments of Webster. I was served the Wiener schnitzel, which I wasn't that impressed with. I thought it was basically a fried meat patty, and they served it with fries. I enjoyed the company more than the food, especially Althea and Anna. Althea is going to be our voice coach while we're here and I hadn't had a chance to get to know her until now. Anna was one of the student leaders from the Ukraine with an international business major. She was really sweet and funny and I hope I see her around.
After lunch, we split into groups and some of the student leaders gave us tours of the surrounding area. They showed us where to buy snacks, where the post office was, and walked us through this park that sits between the Webster building and the Neue Donau.





I'll take more pictures of the campus soon. If you'll take a look at the skies in the pictures, you'll see that they're blue and looking pleasant. It was sleeting earlier that morning and it rained later that day. I'm tempted to say that the weather in Vienna is just as crazy (if not crazier) than the weather in St. Louis.

After orientation wrapped up, the kids in the apartments invited everyone over for dinner. We picked up some foodstuffs for the evening at a grocery store and took the U-bahn and S-bahn over to their apartment. They're in a much more urban environment than we are in the dorms, which I was a bit envious of. Their apartment building had gorgeous tile floors and cast-iron railings. Very European, if you ask me. Dinner was zucchinis, onions, and lentils served over rice. A bit spicy and very delicious. It was served along with bread and cheese and wine. We ate, drank, and were merry until it was time for us to return to the dorms.

Freitag - We got up early to register with the Austrian police, which was required by law for us to do. Atoosha rounded us up and took us all to a big government building where we filled out our paperwork and waited in a room that reminded me of the DMV while they filed everything. Once our business was finish, it was time for play. Webster organized for us to go on a bus tour of the Ringstrasse, which is the heart of downtown Vienna. We started at the Staatsoper before seeing some of the city's most famous sights: the Hofsburg Palace, the Museums Quartier, the National Library, the Austrian Parliament building, the Volksgarten, Vienna's city hall, St. Steven's church, the Staatpark, the National Mint, the Hotel Imperial, and Stephansdom just to name some. I didn't get any pictures of the places we saw because I figured I'd snap shots in person instead of from a bus.

Emily and Alice eating lunch and waiting for the bus


Delicious lunch



After the tour, we went our separate ways to rest and clean up for Die Hochzeit des Figaro at the Volksoper. Six tickets were ordered in advance for 6 euro a piece, but there seven of us were planning to go to the opera that night. I opted to go for a student discount priced ticket that I would buy at the box office. Kara and I picked up kebaps on the way down, a very common street food here in Vienna. They're very similar to gyros, with shredded lamb, lettuce, onions, sauce and spice in a sandwich-like pita/bun. Ridiculously delicious, and ridiculously cheap - a stand outside our dorms sells them for less than 3 euro. We took the tram and the U-bahn to the opera house and I bought my ticket for 10 euro, or $12.50 in US dollars. I don't think I've ever gotten such a good deal in my life, because it was an unsold ticket in the second row. Let me repeat: a second row opera ticket for $12.50. Where are the deals like that in the States?

Almost everything about Figaro blew me away. The sets were amazing and the lighting was superb. The cast was phenomenal, especially the Count and Countess. Figaro and Cherubino were hilarious. The only character I wasn't impressed by was Susanna - she was good, but just good. Once the opera wrapped up, it was time to go home. Since Kara was staying over at the apartments and no one else from the dorm came to see the production, I was heading home alone. It was a quick and safe ride back, with no problems except for a vending machine not giving me my chocolate-hazelnut bar. It got caught between the side of the machine and some flaking plastic on the back side of the flap that I'd reach behind to get my candy. Lamesauce, but by day had been great enough that I wasn't too bummed by it. I'll get my chocolate bar someday.

Sorry it's taken me so long to post. Just when I think I've got a day off, something gets thrown in to the schedule and before I know it, I'm out running around all day. I'll add pictures soon.

Love, Lucy

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pictures are up! (Well, some of them)

You can bet that these are the first of many, many pictures that I will be posting. I'm hosting them on Flickr and clicking on any of them will take you to my photostream. There are more pictures on my camera of what I did on Wednesday and today and I'll have those up ASAP.

Today was another packed day. I'll talk more about it tomorrow because I'm all tuckered out. I hope you all have had a great day so far.

Love, Lucy

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What a day. Days. (Part Zwei)

Mittwoch (heute) - Kara and I woke up and got ready for the day. I was desperate for a shower, but I had no towel, so I just used a t-shirt to dry myself off. Again with the improvisation, you see. Two doves landed on our windowsill as we were eating breakfast, but I accidentally scared them away when I pointed at them out of glee. Hopefully they'll come back. The night before, Kara had picked up a piece of cheese to eat with our bread. It looked like brie, and had about the same texture as brie, so she figured it must be at least similar to the French classic. We opened it up and phew! It stunk. Like pumpkin. And farts. Pardon our word usage, but the cheese smelled like pumpkin farts. Once we got past the smell and put in on our bread, we decided that the taste made it a winner. We opted to leave our window open for a little bit to air out the room. For the curious, it was Saint Albray cheese.

My desk and dresser

My bed, nightstand, and bookshelf

Anyone who knows me could figure that I'm hot for our curtains.

The group and I then set off to figure out our route to school. Let me tell you, I cannot say enough good things about the public transportation here. After buying our passes at a Tabak, we hopped on the Strassenbahn, or the street car for about five minutes. Then we got on the U-bahn, or the underground metro for another five minutes. Once we got off that, we got on a bus (again, for about five minutes) that took us close to campus. We met up with the three from the apartments at about 1:00. Once we got acquaited with where school was, we took a little walk around the neighborhood to see what was around. Webster's campus is in the 22 district, almost directly on the Donau. It would have been nicer if the weather wasn't so cold and rainy; today was a dreary day for the most part.
After a short walk around, we decided to head back to our residences to prepare for the evening's plans: Falstaff at the Wiener Staatsoper!

We came back to the dorms at about 3:00 and rested and changed before leaving at 4:30. We got off the U-bahn at Stevensplatz - right in the heart of downtown Vienna! That's when I really felt like I was in the city that all the guidebooks had been talking about. No longer were we in a quiet suburb, but surrounded by both stately buildings, Stephansdom, and open plazas as well as urban traffic, haute couture shopping, and bright lights. The Opera House was a short walk away and we waited in line to get discounted standing-room only tickets for four euro, or about five dollars. After we staked our claim, Maddy, Sam, and I went to find some dinner. We stopped at a food stand and I ordered a bratwurst, which filled me up and hit the spot.


The Staatsoper



Inside the Staatsoper:





You can see the electronic subtitle screens in front of the seats

Falstaff was an excellent production. The staging was fun and the characters even more so. One of the great features of the Staatsoper is that it had little electronic translation screens for us to follow right in front of us. After all the frazzling travel and short nerves, we needed a comedy to brighten our spirits. That, or a drink - which was soon to follow. Picture your typical Viennese pub with beers on tap, a big cuckoo clock on the wall, and gentlemen sitting everywhere smoking a pipe over conversation or a newspaper. That's exactly where we wound up. Of course, a crown of eight college kids stuck out like a sore thumb in this setting, so our server knew to bring us English menus. I didn't need a menu to figure out what I wanted - eine Bier, bitte! Maddy and I also split a coffee sundae of sorts (I swear, that must be the only thing keeping me going at this hour.) We ate and drank our fill and headed bedward at 11:30. By midnight, we had arrived back at our dorms, changed into pajamas, and settled down for the night. Then I got started on my blog post after catching up with Neil.

My drink. I know, I know, I didn't come to Austria to drink a beer that's brewed in my hometown. It was what they had on tap. There will be plenty more beer drinking opportunities.

Cute cute cute

Kara and the clock


Something was hella funny.

Now it's 2:15 AM and I'm definitely ready for bed. I promise promise promise I'll figure out how to post pictures soon. If I can't do that, I'll at least set up a photo hosting account and put them up there. I can't wait for you all to see my snapshots from the last few days.

I hope you all are doing well and aren't missing us too much. We all miss you too. We have orientation tomorrow morning, which I'm sure I'll need a fresh start for. I miss and love you all. Take care! Gute Nacht!

- Lucy

What a day. Days. (Part Ein)

Alright. I'll do the best blogging I can with it being 1 in the morning here. Here goes:


Montag - I got to the airport at about 1 in the afternoon. I hung out with Neil until everyone else got there. We woefully parted ways at about 2:30 and before we knew it, we were all on the plane to Chicago by 3:45. Laugh all you want, but you'd have thought I had never flown before. Everything about the 35 minute flight was new and exciting and my eyes were glued out the window the entire time.

My view of the runway. So exciting!!

Chain of Rocks Bridge and the intake towers in North City


A suburb near Chicago

More near Chicago

We arrived at Chicago-O'Hare early, so we sat on in the plane for another 30 minutes after we had landed. Finding our gate was easy enough, and we all found a late lunch in the airport food court. Last meal in the U. S. = spaghetti and meatballs and an apple. We boarded the airplane for Frankfurt around 7:10 and were off by about 7:45. I was hoping for a window seat, but having an aisle seat wasn't too bad. They served pretzels for a snack which I had with orange juice. Dinner was served soon after; I had chicken curry and rice, a side salad, and a Love and Quiches (how cute is that?) oatmeal chewie. It was a bit hard to get comfortable, so I didn't sleep much between reading Martin the Warrior of the Redwall Series. Our flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was 8 and a half hours. It was nice having the screen in front of us that mapped out where we were, how fast we were going, the outside temperature, miles traveled, time until destination, etc.

Sam and Maddy in Chicago-O'Hare

Our gate

Waiting to board

View from my aisle seat

Dienstag - We had arrived in Frankfurt by 10:30. As we were landing, I turned to Kara, who was sitting next to me and said the first thing on my mind, "Dude, we're in Germany!" My wonderment at finally being in Europe was in full swing. Frankfurt airport = ginormous. It honestly took us about 40 minutes to walk through the terminal to get from our arrival gate to our departure gate, not counting going through customs. Getting my passport and luggage check went quickly enough though. We boarded the plane to Vienna a bit late, at about 12:45. The flight from Frankfurt was another quickie, only about an hour. I was very proud of myself for ordering my complementary drink in German. ("Ich mochte ein Kaffee, bitte. Haben sie Milsch? Mit Milsch, bitte.")

Are we going to the Batcave? No, it's just the Frankfurt airport.

Joop! It's a cologne

A dispenser in the bathroom of toothbrush heads you swished around in your mouth to brush your teeth hands-free. Those techie Germans.


Getting ready to board our plane to Vienna

Our plane had a stork (maybe?) on it. You're jealous.

Another window seat, sweet deal.

Very fluffy clouds. I saw a triceratops and a stegosaurus in these clouds.

I spy Austria

Wingin’ it

Wind turbines in the Austrian countryside.

These cute little villages were everywhere

We landed in Vienna soon enough and we all headed to the baggage claim crossing our fingers. Luckily, all eight of us had all of our bags. A van was waiting to take some of us to the dorms and some of us to the apartments Webster had ready for us. Three (Liz, Jason, and Katie) went to the apartments close to the city center, and the other five of us (Sam, Maddy, Derek, Kara, and myself) took off for the Donaufeld Studentenheim dorms in the northern 21st district of Vienna. The ride took about 20 minutes. We passed by some churches and businesses, but mostly residentials areas. I moved into my dorm with Kara and we each took a quick nap as soon as we finished unpacking our luggage. Evening arrived, and we all met up and decided we were hungry, so we braved the uncharted territory of a grocery store about a five minute walk up the street.

It was your standard grocery store with a meat, deli, and bakery counter. For those of you in St. Louis, it was about the size of a Straub's - not a sprawling grocery store like Schnuck's or Dieberg's. Everything seemed to be priced reasonably. We decided that we were going to try to make a zucchini-cheese bake that Liz recommended. We also picked up some additional items like break and instant noodles. Some things I noticed:
- I was surprised at how many brands I recognized. For example, my instant noodles are Knorr, which they sell in the States. That was my first sign that things might not be as foreign here as I was expecting.
- In a similar vein: As far as I'm concered, Lindt and Milka chocolates are the fancy, high-quality kinds that you need to go to a specialty or import store to find. Here? They sell 'em like they're Hershey's. They're everywhere. I saw stacks and stacks of Lindt chocolate bunnies. I'm very, very pleased.

So, we finished up our grocery shopping and went to get started on our dinner. We must not have checked out our kitchen very closely, because only when we got back did we realize that we didn't have an oven to make our zucchini-cheese bake. First rule of traveling as far as I'm concerned: when things don't go as planned, improvise. And improvise we did. We wound up sauteeing the zucchini and adding our egg-cottage cheese mixture to it once it was tender. We didn't know we bought garlic cottage cheese until we opened it up, but we were a-ok with it. We added bread crumbs to thicken it up, and before we knew it, we had our own signature zucchini-cheese porridge. It turned out very well, we all agreed. The only setback we ran into was Derek getting electrocuted? We can't even explain what happened. All we know is he had his hand on the metal counter, felt a jolt go though his arms, and then one half of the kitchen electricity went out. Hmm.





We cleaned up our dinner mess and called it a night soon after. By 8:00, we were all pooped.