Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday: Last Day In Vienna

I fly home tomorrow morning.

If things go well, about 18 hours after I get on the plane in Vienna, I'll be in my living room in Oklahoma, wondering what the hell happened and what strange land I've stumbled upon...where did the weeks go, and how come nobody here speaks German, and why is everybody so fucking fat?!?


B has to work today and tomorrow and had a lot of studying to do prior to the gig, so yesterday was a quiet Sunday. We did venture out once, driving the car up into the vineyards for a glass of Sturm at the little Heuriger we like so much. And was the hilltop crowded! It was a perfect day, mid-70s, very pleasant out.

Our last full day together for a couple of months.


This morning we were up early, had breakfast, then a mad dash. B had to meet her colleagues in town, then after a bit of work they were off on a bus to Lower Austria on an agricultural tour she's helping to interpret.

The bus ride and subway ride was kind of subdued, but that's how it always is on our last few hours together. We must have done this hello-goodbye thing 35 or more times by now and it never gets any easier. Somehow luck has been with us for more than eight years and we always see each other again, thanks to all that petroleum they keep sucking out of the ground and turning into jet fuel.

A kiss goodbye on the sidewalk in front of the hotel / meeting place, then she was off to work and I was wandering back to the subway and home to pack my bags.

With luck, the next time I come here it'll be to live, for good.

And if that turns out to be the case, this will be the last-ever entry in the Bicontinental Bastard blog.

Thanks for following along.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday: Long Night Of The Museums

Every year Austria has "The Long Night of the Museums."

For one low price (13 Euro) you can enter any of the museums from 6PM - 1AM. There are special busses and trams that can take you to the outlying museums.

What kind of museums, you ask? Download the PDF booklet in English if you want (scroll down to the bottom of the page and there it is), but aside from world-class art and history museums, you can also visit:

The architecture museum, the schnapps museum, the chocolate museum, a museum of Vienna funeral services, a circus and clown museum, a museum where you can experience what it's like to be blind (you're led along by blind guides through total darkness and get to feel the exhibits), a museum of endoscopic instruments (!), a museum featuring globes made before 1850, a museum devoted to the nursing profession, a motorcycle museum, a museum of contraception and abortion...and many more. 113 museums in Vienna, about 600 total in all of Austria.

As I said, this is an Austria-wide event. In Vienna, over 200,000 people took part. It was unseasonably warm---I didn't really need my jacket until late in the evening----and the streets were jam-packed.

We visited 1) the ORF radio facilities and took a brief tour of the O1 studios 2) Urania, where amateur astronomers had several telescopes set up on the roof for your viewing pleasure 3) the Hungarian Institute, where we saw a great exhibit of the photos of Robert Capa 4) the Butterfly House, which was packed with people but not so many butterflies 5) a gigantic display of ancient musical instruments 6) a huge display of arms and armor.

In the musical instruments museum there were groups who played 16th Century songs on replica instruments, and in the arms and armor museum there were guys dressed like knights who explained the use of ancient weaponry like crossbows, etc.

In the famous film The Third Man there's a chase scene through the sewers of Vienna. You can take a tour of these very same sewers and we wanted to go, but even at 6 PM there were a couple of hundred people lined up---and they only take 20 people at a time for each tour, so we knew it was a lost cause. We'll go next time, when the crowds are more reasonable....

All in all, a great night with lots of walking and interesting things to see, and it shows me I have to visit the museums one at a time when I have most of a day to devote to each, because there's way too much to see in one night.

You knew there had to be a picture of some food here somewhere.
We stopped by Orlando di Castello for a late lunch.
This was an excellent burger, organic meat. Cost: 7.50 Euro.
A rare treat for your tightwad correspondent.

A night boat tour on the Danube Canal.

Butterflies in the Butterfly House.

Exterior of the Butterfly House.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday: Last Day In France

It was our last morning in Strasbourg, but there was time for one final adventure.

We checked out of the hotel and walked to Parliment. B had to work for a few hours, but her colleague / our friend N was free, so we met N in front of Parliment. She and I caught a bus into the center of town where we boarded one of the tour boats that provides hour-long cruises along the canal.

Some of the very old buildings along the canal in Strasbourg.

This area of Strasbourg is called Petite France.

A look back on what we passed...

It was good to spend some time with N. I'd met her on a previous trip to Vienna, when B asked me to accompany her to the interpreter's school to play the role of someone giving a speech. N, then a student, interpreted the speech into German as B listened and later offered pointers.

Then on this visit I met N's parents and her brother and have really come to enjoy the company of my new friends. It was a good way to spend my final few hours in Strasbourg, cruising along the canal for a last glimpse of this charming town.

People enjoy walking along the canal.
This man and his dog had different ideas about which direction to go.

The boat takes you past the European Parliment buildings.

One of several churches you see along the canal.

This is one of my favorite buildings in Strasbourg.
Notice the Weeping Willow tree on the left---

Here's another view with the tree in closeup, some students enjoying the sunny morning.
Notice the student in the striped shirt laying in the fold of the tree where it's horizontal.
I bet hundreds of people have done this over the life of the tree.

After our cruise N and I stopped into a sandwich place, then caught the bus back to Parliment. We visited while she waited for the bus to the train station, and I waited for B to emerge.

There was some concern on B's part that she might have to stay later than she should, which would have made our return trip kind of sketchy...but she emerged on time. We caught a cab to the train station, took the train to Stuttgart, and there B did some shopping while I sat in a Starbucks answering email and sipping a green iced tea, watching the shoppers of Stuttgart stroll by with their bags of merchandise.

We took the train to the airport. The flight left on time and arrived early and we were back at our place in Vienna by 9 PM, me wondering if the time in France wasn't just a dream. But I think that about almost everything I experience.

The Strasbourg central train station, where we always begin and end our visits.