Oh Vienna, This Means Nothing to Me….Our Austrian Adventure Part 2

aka When I sing Ultravox for two days straight….

So we packed up from Zell Am See and headed East past Salzburg (where we had been the day before) towards Vienna.  And I swear, I cannot even hear the word Vienna without thinking of this…

The 1981 hit by Ultravox.  To be honest, it’s not a great song.  I don’t think it ever came out in the States and I had never heard it before we danced to it in my pole dancing class a couple of years ago.  It’s not a song that I would have ever put on purposely EXCEPT that we were on our way to Vienna.  And so I couldn’t get it out of my head.  Which meant that I couldn’t stop singing bits of it.

It was about a 5 hour drive (I know it doesn’t look that far on a map) from Zell Am See to Vienna, and I probably sang “Oh, Vienna….this means nothing to me” about 25 times.  And of course, as soon as we actually made it to  Vienna’s city limits, I played it.  At full blast.  And sang along.  Loudly, badly, with emotion and arm movements.  With my eyes closed.  I really got into it.  Somewhere in Munich there is a camera floating around with a video of me belting out the song as we drive into Vienna….wait….I think The Runner may have cut the cord of my camera strap so that he would never have to endure seeing that video.  Possibly not, but I am sort of surprised he didn’t put me out of the car.

Anyway,  we didn’t really stop much along the way but we did make one stop in Melk, about an hour outside of Vienna.  Melk is famous for its baroque style abbey.  We got off the highway with full intention of visiting the abbey- but we got sidetracked.  Well, I did after lunch at least.  We stopped into a wine shop specialising in local Wachau Valley wines… and well… at least I learned a new word…. Federspiel.   Federspiel is a classification for Wachau Valley wines of around 11.5-12.5%.    We picked up two bottles as souvenirs (which didn’t actually make it out of Vienna) and got back on the road.

On first arrival, Vienna seemed quite well, blah.  I wasn’t impressed.  But….as we kept driving I got more and more excited.

Vienna has an amazing combination of architectural styles- from beautiful, old buildings from the late 1700s to gorgeous art deco buildings built in the early 1900s to hideous, drab post World War II buildings built in a rush to house those left homeless after more than 87,000 houses in the city were bombed.  Once I heard that on our tour, I looked at the city differently and thought about the city a bit differently too.  Vienna was bombed over 52 times by Allied forces, there were over 3000 bomb craters that were left.  It sort of explains why there are blocks with 3 or 4 plain, drab 1950s building sandwiched between two beautiful art deco ones.  It was also interesting to think about what it must have looked like and how a city would have behaved at wartime.  On the plane over, I had watched The Woman in Gold, a recent movie about art restitution after World War II which takes place in Vienna.  I really enjoyed seeing the movie in person, but it was quite jarring to think about all the horrible things that would have happened there during the war.

We were also watching the refugee crisis start to unfold during this trip.  It was when Hungary had shut down the trains and weren’t letting any refugees pass through.  We saw it first hand when we arrived at our hotel in Munich.  We were staying opposite the main train station and it looked as though we had arrived in war zone- there were police and video cameras everywhere.  Our hotel had a security guard out front.  Hungary still hadn’t let the refugees pass by the time we left Munich, but everyone was on alert for when they did.  I did see a refugee family approach our hotel and get turned away by the security guard.  I don’t know what they asked or where they went after that.  But it was quite sad, and it really brought the crisis to the forefront of my mind.

Hopefully in 60 years, people will be visiting Syria in the same way that we were visiting Vienna and Munich, two cities that were devastated by bombs only 60 years ago.

Anyway, Vienna was a fantastic city- we were staying in a fantast hotel- Hotel Rathaus Wein & Design.  A boutique hotel themed around Wine.  Yep, a Wine Hotel.  Hallelujah, I had found my home.  Each room had a different Austrian winemaker featured, they did wine tasting in the evening and there were loads of cute little wine and grape themed touches.  And their breakfast was delish!  So good, I made myself sick eating it.  I highly recommend the hotel.

Our wine themed hotel
Our wine themed hotel

We did a hop on hop off bus tour of Vienna and saw loads of highlights including Schonbrunn Palace.  A must do if you’re in Vienna.  BEAUTIFUL.  One of the highlights was the patisserie, where The Runner had Apple Streudel and I had Kaiserschmarrn- a fluffy shredded pancake which was delish! And while we’re on the subject of desserts….

The Viennese do not mess around when it comes to dessert!
The Viennese do not mess around when it comes to dessert!

That night we went to the Hotel Sacher, home of the famous Sacher Torte.  I think it I win the lottery and return to Vienna, I would visit my Wein Hotel but splurge on a night or two  at the Hotel Sacher.  Rooms start at €525, for a superior room- about $1000 AUD at the moment.  Of course, if I won the lottery, I’d upgrade to at least a Top Deluxe Room or a Suite.  On this trip, we only saw the lounge area and we only had dessert and a couple of drinks.  Wow.  It is a beautiful hotel, probably one of the most beautiful lounge areas of a hotel I’d ever been to.      Sadly, I don’t have any photos, but  their website does.

We spent a lot of time just walking around the inner city and the old city of Vienna.  We only really had time for one museum- the Belvedere Museum.  And why that Museum you might ask?  Because it has my favorite painting in the whole wide world.  Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.  Klimt painted in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century.  He had been a favorite artist of mine since college nearly and the Belvedere has quite a few of his paintings and drawings.    I wish we had had time for more museums, but I’m thrilled that we got to see The Kiss.  It’s stunning in real life.  Just beautiful and huge.  It’s displayed against a black wall which only makes the colours and the gold in the painting stand out more.  I loved it even more seeing it person (unlike the Mona Lisa, which was a lot smaller than I thought it would be).

We had a lovely afternoon in Grinzing, a lovely suburb of Vienna with lots of Heurigen- traditional cafes that serve their own house wine on site.  And by house wine, I mean wine that they actually make themselves.  It’s such a beautiful area and we had a lovely lunch in a sunny wine garden with really friendly staff.

I could write so much about Vienna, but I’d like to go back one day and spend more time there.  There’s so much we didn’t see and so much we didn’t do.   In fact, there’s probably a list of things we didn’t see longer than what we did see.  There’s so much history there as well that we didn’t get to delve into- the garage where we parked our car dated back to 1925!

After two days in Vienna, we headed to Munich.  We didn’t get to see nearly enough of Munich so I’m plotting our return back maybe in a year or two….and this time I’ll keep hold of my camera.

You can see the pictures I do have on Flickr!

An Apology…

To myself and to you my dear readers but mostly to myself.  So, I owe you a long blog post about the amazing trip to Austria and Germany that we’ve just returned from.  A post full of pictures and stories and video of all the highlights of the trip.  There were loads- the race itself, the beauty of the Alps, driving the Grossglockner high alpine road, all the ducks, medieval cliff top fortresses, Salzburg, a quirky wine hotel, Klimt’s The Kiss in real life, Schonbrunn Palace, BMW World, Munich, etc etc.  I owe you a post about gorgeous wines, lovely mountain adventures, athletic triathletes and more.  But I can’t deliver.

Because I’ve done something stupid.  A momentary lapse, a split second misstep.  A blip in the matrix.

I left my camera in a taxi cab in Munich in the last 5 hours of our holiday.

Yep, most of the photos and videos- gone.  I hadn’t been drinking or distracted by gypsies– just in a rush and careless.  We all know what it’s like that split second that you realise that all is not right.   Whether it’s the moment the door slams behind you right as you remember your keys are on the other side or when you go to make a phone call and find out your phone isn’t on the table where it had been just a minute ago.  Or when you figure out that you’re on the wrong bus the one day you’re late for work, or coming back to a car with its lights left on knowing full well that it’s not going to start.  It’s that sinking feeling when you kick yourself for being so stupid and careless whilst realizing that accidents and mistakes happen to us all.

So unfortunately that is how my amazing trip to Europe ended.  In tears.  In a Munich police station trying to use the little German I know to tell a police woman how I had momentarily been careless enough to get out of a taxi with no receipt, no license plate number, no drivers name and no camera.  Of course this is after The Runner and I had been staring down taxi drivers for an hour to see if we could find the one we had been in before (we couldn’t.).  I guess if there is an upside (there’s not really) it’s that I’ve learned the word “lost” in German (verloren) and discovered a universal truth:  Taxis are the worst place in the world to lose anything no matter what country.  There must be an international black hole where lost taxi items and socks go never to be seen again.   I’ve finally fallen victim to it.

I will share some of our adventures in the coming days, but I need a bit of time to mourn the loss of Cam the Canon Camera.  Outside you were like any other camera, but what was on the inside of your little memory card brain can never be replaced.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons and picked up a lot of tips in the past few days- most of which I will probably never implement. Like always note your taxi driver’s name and number, take a picture of your contact details as the first photo on your camera SD card, write down the serial numbers for all of your possessions, write your name on everything with a dynamo label, check for your belongings every time you leave a vehicle.  All common sense things that no one does all the time.  We might do some of the things some of the time, but the one time we don’t…..  oh well….Maybe I’ll just use Uber from now on.  At least, it’s traceable.

Road trip… Did someone say mountains?

We made it to Zell Am See thanks to The Runner’s excellent driving and trusty German roads and engineering!  The autobahn is pretty cool… And Mercedes Benz does make a pretty good car…. 

I did very little to help other than take pictures from the passenger side of mountains…. So many mountains!!!!
But we made it!   And we even picked up a new little buddy for our collection at home.  His name is Hans D. Ente.  (Ente is German for duck!)

And now for the official start of our Austrian adventure! 

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

Guten tag München!!!

Three thoughts immediately hit me as we start our descent into Munich.

1) Thank God! Well that’s the G rated version at least- after exactly 24 hours of flying I’m ready to get out of the air and onto the ground. I don’t mind flying but it’s been 24 hours since I took off from Sydney- not counting a 3 hour layover in Dubai I’ve been in the air the whole time! Granted the layover was pretty good. I had an actual real life first class lounge shower! (thanks to one of Gary’s triathlon club friends). I cannot stress what a difference it made/makes to my sanity. I actually feel relatively human and not like a stink bomb! I now have to figure out how to get lounge access every time I fly. Every. Time. 

Oh and I had a Shake Shack burger….not sure which was the bigger highlight!

    
    
2) It is beyond gorgeous- even from the air! From what I can decode we’re flying over Salzburg and possibly over Munich and looking out of the window, all I can see is green grass, blue water and mountains!!! Actual real life Alpine Alp-y mountains. And they’re amazing even from up here!  

      
 3) I should have spent only more time learning German- I have literally no idea of what the announcer is saying! Thankfully they’re in Arabic, German and English but I’m quickly realizing that google translate might be my best friend on this trip!

So if you’re reading this, then you know I’ve made it! Pass the bratwurst and get me a beer! I’m in Germany!

Let the adventure begin!

On my way to the airport and we’ve already passed the first hurdle…. The bike fits in the Uber car…. Just!!

Fingers crossed the luggage gods smile upon me and I’m under my 30kg allowance…otherwise it’s $100 per kg and I’ll have to wear layers onto the plane!   
   

The Final Countdown…

Fun Fact:  The Final Countdown is a song by 80s group Europe.

(sorry if you actually clicked the link and watched the video, it’s not a great song or video unless you’re into 1980s hair bands and men with leather pants and makeup).

Fun Fact #2:  The Runner leaves on Thursday for Europe where he will compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria

Super Fun Fact:  I’m going with him

I’m excited because I’ve never been to Austria or Germany, and to be honest, I would never have put Austria on my list of places I’m dying to go. No offence to any Austrians who are reading this but if this opportunity hadn’t come up, I don’t think I would ever have planned a trip there.  But now that it’s less than 2 weeks away, I’m getting really excited to see the country and already feeling like we’re not going to be there long enough.  There is a lot to see- castles, palaces, natural wonders, art museums, musical attractions, you name it…. but we’re going there for the triathlon.  The Half Ironman (or 70.3 if you’re in the know) World Championships are being held in Zell Am See, Austria and that’s where we’re off to.

**You may remember that The Runner qualified for them back in December last year, if not, well you know now!

Obviously, I’m proud and excited to see The Runner competing in the triathlon itself- it’s a huge achievement to qualify for the World Championships of anything let alone an individual sport like triathlon that pushes your body to its limits.  I mean, I thought I deserved a medal for walking/running the City to Surf last week and I didn’t even finish in the top half of competitors!  (Actually, I did get a medal, but everyone did so….)

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Anyway– qualifying for the World Championships – and in a sport that requires 5-6 hours of exercise at once, well, to me that’s just off the charts!  He’s been preparing for it for months and I’m excited to see how well he does.  It seems like it was not too long ago that I accompanied him to his first triathlon up in Maitland, NSW (near the Hunter Valley- my main reason for going).  In fact, it was 5 years ago and much has changed since then.

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He’s come a long way and Austria really will be the culmination of years of effort and training on his part.  Austria will also be the first time his family gets to see him compete-and I’m thrilled that they’ll finally get to see him—especially on such a big stage.  A big downside of living so far away is that our families often miss the medium sized events—the things not important enough to come visit for, but that are big events for us nonetheless.  It will be great for them to be finally see him race in person– especially since this is SUCH a big race.

I’m also excited to see what a World Championship race is like.  We’ve been to so many races over the last 5 years of so many different sizes and varieties, that I’m excited to see what this one is like.   We’ve been to races like Maitland where there’s barely anything (or anyone there) and others (like Noosa) which are full blown multisport festivals with lots of sponsors, lots of people, television cameras and a whole city full of triathletes.  I’m expecting Zell Am See to be next level.    First of all, there are 12,000 age groupers (every day competitors) competing on the Saturday before the big race on the Sunday.  The Sunday race is the one you had to qualify for.  So, there will be about 14,000 athletes  and their supporters, sponsors, and other curious onlookers.  You have guess there could be 50,000 people there over the weekend- which is a lot.  Now I don’t know a lot about Zell Am See, in fact 12 months ago I had never heard of it, but 50,000 people sounds like a lot.  According to Wikipedia, the town of Zell Am See has a population of 9,573; so, 50,000 triathlon related people will be pretty noticeable.  I’m predicting a lot of shaved legs (on the men), ironman calf tattoos (also on the men), and a lot of talk about nutrition, transition, and lots of other –itions.   But I’m excited to see the spectacle—and I’m excited to see an Alp….

Actually can you see just one Alp or do they come in groups?

I don’t know because I’ve never seen one.  As much as I hate snow and cold weather, I’m super excited to see snow capped mountains (even in the summer) and excited to see what a real Alpine ski village is like (but so happy that skiing is not on the menu!).  For a girl from DC (the flattest place ever) who has moved to Sydney (the least wintry place I can think of), seeing an Alp (or multiple Alps) is a pretty big deal.  Even for me, a girl who HATES the Sound of Music (yes, I know, it’s weird and a long story), I’m excited to see the rolling, green hills and majestic mountains of Austria.   I’m kind of also excited to stand on top of a) hill and twirl around and sing….

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Ok, maybe not,  but I’m definitely getting excited for our trip!