Vienna!

15 Jul

Vienna! Ah, it was so beautiful! I am going to try to tell you all the great things we were able to do while in Vienna. Woo! Here goes…

We arrived on Saturday around lunch time. We spent a little bit of time wandering around the airport buying local SIM cards for our phones and figuring out what types of train tickets we needed. Then we headed into the city to find our hotel. The airport train brings you only to a single station that is in a mall, so we walked around the mall for a while to get Phil some socks and Asher some food. The app we were told to use for train/tram/bus connections was no good, so we were completely lost and not at all feeling up to walking for an hour to find our hotel. It was difficult to figure everything out, but we were able to figure out via 3G that there was a tourist info office not too far from where we were, so we headed there to get help with public transportation. Um… even I’m getting boring as I type that, so I’ll skip ahead.

Phil’s conference officially started Sunday afternoon, so we had a semi-slow morning on Sunday, then Asher and I decided to head out for the day to let Phil work on his presentation before leaving for his conference. Asher and I went to the Schönbrunn Tiergarten (zoo), which is the oldest zoo in the world. It was a beautiful zoo with a great selection of animals. Asher loves elephants, so we were both happy that we were able to watch the elephants get some special treats that day. A bigger elephant kept pushing a little guy one when he tried to steal her treats. It was, as zoos often are, a good mix of adorably entertaining and sadly depressing. We also saw some HUGE hippos. The hippos at the Zürich zoo are kind of small — like the size of fat sheep or something — nothing like the whoppers they had at the zoo in Vienna. Hippos are super dangerous, right? We couldn’t really get in to the hippo pen, but I was kind of shocked at how low the gates were (maybe almost as high as my chest) and how close these enormous hippos were. I feel like I just read a story recently of a woman who was bitten in half by a hippo. Oh well. No one was eaten the day we were there, so we went about our business as usual. We also saw a panda bear, which was fun to see. There was a woman next to me who was recording a video on her iPad of the panda eating some bamboo (she said he was eating eucalyptus, but it was bamboo). She eloquently narrated some very interesting facts about panda bears (they are one of the rarest mammals on Earth? Is that true?) and said many times that it was such a “beautiful creature.” I agreed that the panda was a beautiful creature, but I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that she hadn’t started the video recording. We also saw koala bears, which were tiny and adorable. I have been to several zoos in my life, but I don’t remember if I had ever seen a koala before. Oh, another favorite of the day were 3 PRECIOUS baby cheetahs! They had tall skinny legs, super thin bodies, and the most preciously beautiful little kitten faces. Oh! So cute! Asher and I stood and watched the baby cheetahs do absolutely nothing for a solid 15 minutes as we echoed each other with rounds of “awwwwww.” So cute!

 


Monday was supposed to be super hot. I didn’t bring a strong SPF sunscreen and really didn’t feel like sweating all day, so I took Asher to an indoor water park. It was a teeny bit ghetto, as water parks have a tendency to be, but it ended up being a really great day. It was inside in the middle of the city, and I’ll tell you what — Europeans sure know how to make excellent use of the space that they have available to them! It was just one large room that included: a lazy river, a big wave pool, a single water huge slide that went all around near the ceiling of the building, a baby pool (that was super warm… presumably from all of the urine in it), a little kids pool complete with playground equipment, a bigger kids pool with some slides and a pirate ship to climb in, and a little ring-around type pool that had water that pushed you SUPER quickly around the twists and turns (that was my favorite – I held on tightly to Asher and we both zipped around and around, enjoying the cool stream and trying our darndest not to drown). Since it was just the two of us, I didn’t get any pictures of Asher swimming, much to my dismay. I snapped a few selfies when we took a break for lunch, but that’s it. That night we met Phil at the hotel and went to a great little Italian place near our hotel.

Tuesday Asher and I went to the Leopold Museum to see the Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele collections, among other Viennese artists. I was a bit nervous bringing Asher to an art museum by myself, but that little boy did GREAT. I explained to him that we had had lots of fun at the zoo and swimming, but that this was an adult place that was not for playing. The rules were that he had to let me hold him or sit in his stroller quietly and that he was not to walk around on his own. He said okay, so we went in. I carried him around and we talked about everything we saw on the first 2 floors. Though I hadn’t planned out how I was going to talk to Asher about war yet, we ended up talking about war, since there was an entire section dedicated to Viennese art depicting World War 1-inspired images. (this month marks the 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI, so there were exhibits all over town about it). Asher seemed both interested in and saddened by war, which I guess is good enough for a toddler. When we saw pictures of violence he said “Oh! No…” with a vocal tone that emphasized a disappointment in humanity well beyond his two little years of age. He enjoyed pictures of children, but not when they were sad. He enjoyed colorful pictures and definitely saw some of what we call in this house “booty-butts” …and he saw plenty of other other body parts that I tried not to talk too loudly about with him. You know the types of images I’m referencing, right? A lady ought not type such words on her Blog, but I will say that the body parts he saw rhymed with “Bagina” and “bun-bircumcised benis.” Art! Amiright?

Wednesday we had an appointment to visit the ZOOM Kindermuseum in the Museumquartier in Vienna. I was particularly excited about this since I used to bring DJ and Finn to the awesome children’s museum in Richmond and I have always wanted Asher to experience something like that! I just assumed that all children’s museums must be great. The one in Vienna, though… eh. It was alright. The organization of it all, in my opinion, was terrible. You can’t go in without a reservation, which seems strange. Then they bring EVERYONE into the little ‘age-appropriate’ area at the same time for one hour. We were in the “Ocean” room for kids ages 0-6. It was beautifully decorated and had lots of really great play areas for little kids… but not when they are all let in to run amuck at the same time! And that’s a big age range. There was a daycare/school group of 5-6 year old who were basically just terrorizing all of the little kids. Asher was really overwhelmed by all of the kids pushing and yelling and taking and just being dreadful (you know that type of kid). No one was watching the school-aged kids and I very quickly became “that” mom who was shouting “NEIN! GEH!” at random kinds when they started shoving poor Asher around. There was an “ocean” area, then you could go up into a big boat, and then step off of the boat and into the “jungle.” Again, it was a great place, but just not entirely conducive to great play when everyone goes in and out at the same time together. I got some pictures, but I feel like they are the kinds of pictures that lie, since they look like Asher was having a great time when in fact he was borderline miserable. We were in the room for exactly one hour and then in a quick rush, they told us all to leave. Asher and I were both a bit irritated when we left. We did that and then we got lost walking around the city for a bit. We ended up going to the House Der Musik that same day, which was a great time for both of us. We learned about what sound is and how it works and got to listen to lots of different sounds. That museum wasn’t necessarily geared towards small children but it was extremely interactive and Asher really enjoyed most of it. (*Edit* After I wrote all of this, I realize I think we did the Haus Der Musik after the Leopold Museum and we actually went shopping after the children’s museum, but I don’t want to rearrange my photos and paragraphs after all of that… and because Asher is demanding some attention right now so I really just need to be done!)

If you’re not on Facebook, then you have not yet seen Asher’s great dance video that I posted the other day. Here it is: 

Thursday Asher and I got up fairly early and went to the fabulous Schönbrunn Palace. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that, since it seemed like a big trip, but it ended up being SO worth the time and effort. It was gorgeous! We took the smallest tour available. It was like 25 rooms or so, which ended up being perfect. I was given a little audio guide and was able to move through at my own pace, which, once I got a room or two ahead of a guided tour group, was great. I learned a lot about the Austrian imperial family and some about the culture and architecture of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries (I think that’s about right). I realized just how much we normally focus on religious history while walking through the palace because every time we’d see a new painting or wall mural Asher would say “Is dat Jesus?” After the palace tour, we walked along some of the back gardens and took some pictures. A person or family could easily spend a day or two there because there was so much to do and see! There were TONS of gardens, plenty of tours and demonstrations, and everything was just gorgeous. We ended up only staying for a few hours, but it was a great trip that we both really enjoyed. That was the place I most wished Phil could have visited with us. He would have really enjoyed it. Then after the palace Asher took a short nap in his stroller and we headed over to the Prater, which is a famous amusement park in Vienna and the reason I decided not to stay all day at Schönbrunn. I had read some really excellent reviews for the place, but man. It was strange. You know that bad feeling you get at skanky carnivals? The one where you keep wondering if someone just grazed your butt with their hand? The one that sneaks into your stomach when an acquaintance full-body hugs you for a few seconds too long? Yeah. That’s the vibe I got from the Prater. Since I was alone there with Asher, so we stuck to the little kid rides and they were all, I’m quite sure, from the first generation of carnival rides ever created. Shoot, maybe they were THE very first kiddie carnival rides ever created. First of all – They were FILTHY. And they so old and run-down looking that I really felt like I was walking around a list of Buzzfeed photos depicting abandoned places. The people who worked there seemed either to be stoned out of their minds or just plain ol’ out of their minds. Seriously. One of the younger guys who was running one of the kiddie rides went into a back shed looking thing between ride-runnings with another doped-out looking skinny guy for a few minutes. I have no idea why they were going in there, but I assume it was to do lines of drugs… or drop drugs… or whatever the correct drug-doing terminology would be. The other ride operators were really old people who had overly-expressive clown-like facial expressions and walked around talking to themselves. Maybe their faces looked like that because they didn’t have any teeth. Maybe they looked like that because they were partially melted after being outdoors for the better part of a century. Who knows? A few of the rides that Asher went on the ride operator turned on the ride for Asher and then literally WALKED AWAY. Ummm… is that safe? They also never questioned his age (lots of the rides he went on said they were for ages 4 and up), even when I said “he’s only 2” they just looked through me like I didn’t exist and motioned for him to hop on. Don’t get all up in arms with me about it, Asher made it out unscathed. There were a few that I just outright said no to because I didn’t know if I could trust that he’d be safe on them, but I did let him go on the ones with strings, er, safety belts I mean. It was a really, really weird place. It smelled bad and felt… sad. Just weird. We didn’t go on the super famous and old ferris wheel that I had originally planned to ride, but we went on another ferris wheel. That was the only ride I went on that day and it was, despite the rest of the place, nice. I’ll tell you, though, I used to love the thrill of being way high up in the air, but the last several years I think I’ve developed a relatively stressful fear of heights… especially when my 2-year-old wants to climb around and look out everywhere while the little circle-thing we’re sitting in wobbles back and forth and when the guard rails are too short and the doors are practically non-existent. We quickly made some “rules” and then we snapped a few pics when we were high in the air. It was a bit of a rush for both of us, and, though it was a little bit scary, it was worth going up there for the the cool breeze and the great view of the city.

That was the last day of Phil’s conference, so Friday we were finally able to spend the day with Phil! It was great! We got up and went out for a nice relaxed breakfast. Then we headed to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which I had been excited to see with Phil all week. It was, of course, gorgeous. We ended up going on a tour of the catacombs beneath the cathedral, which was quite interesting. I had never seen human skeletal remains before… and now I’ve seen several the skeletal remains of thousands of people and stacks and stacks of human bones. Spoiler alert: They look just like the fake ones you can but at Party City in October. Asher was pretty interested in the coffins and the bones. I was really interested in the tour guide’s weird accent. Both his German and his English sounded like he was speaking with a rubber band around his tongue, which is kind of typical for Austrians, I think. Weird. After St. Stephens, we went to enjoy a world-famous Café Sacher torte and some coffee. It was a cold and rainy day, so we were happy to have anther opportunity to do something we wanted to do indoors. After that, we headed to the Jewish museum. Vienna was a very important city for Jewish people for a long time, since it was the home to a huge population of Jews for many years. The museum had a LOT of plaques and things for reading. LOOONG readings. It was all very interesting, but not entirely practical with Asher. He did well, but still. Neither Phil nor I read everything, but it was definitely worth seeing. We learned how the Jewish population grew and prospered in Vienna, and then of course there was a lot dedicated to the Jews being exiled and killed during the war, and then the rebuilding of the local Jewish population and a bit about the modern day Jewish community in Vienna. What a sad, sad history this world has. I will say that that museum in particular made me proud to be an American. America may not be perfect, but thank goodness for America’s support of Jewish people in WWII.

Saturday we had another fairly slow morning. We all took showers, had some coffee, then packed up all of our stuff to check out of the hotel. We left around 11 and then went to see the city with our 2 little suitcases in tow. We ended up not doing tons of crazy stuff that day. We went to the Augustine church, which dates back to the 14th century and was where some of Austrian’s imperial family were married. It was small, but worth seeing. We took Asher to a playground for a while, so he could burn off some energy and do his little kid thang for a bit. There were lots of beggars in Vienna. There are plenty of homeless people in Zürich, but not so many decrepit-looking ones with their hands out like in lots of other big touristy European cities. We passed one guy in particular near the playground. He looked so sad. I watched him for a while while Phil and Asher played in the park. I saw tons of people pass him, and only a few people acknowledge his existence. That broke my heart. I have no idea why he was homeless and unhealthy-looking and poor, but he was a person. I always used to think it was cheesy when my Mom would say “there but for the grace of God go I…” when seeing pitiful looking people, but I thought it that day. Bless that man’s heart. I gave him some change the second time we walked past him. Though we really don’t have many people like that in Zürich (at least not that I see), I’m going to try hard to “see” people like that, rather than looking the other way, even though it makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, after the playground, we went to the Austrian National Library museum, which houses over 200,000 books that date all the way back to the 16th century and is absolutely beautiful. There was a really interesting WWI exhibit set up in there, which we enjoyed. I know a bit about WWII, but until last week I didn’t realize how little I knew about the first world war. I really learned a lot from all of the WWI exhibits I saw last week and it, like the second one, was terrible. After the library museum, we went to see St. Charles’ Church. It was gorgeous from the outside, but for some reason they charged 8 Euro per person to enter and see the sanctuary, which we were really not interested in paying. It was too hot and we had already spent too much money and we thought it was stupid to charge people to go into a church, so we turned our noses up at the people and stormed out, which I hope taught them a lesson on being normal. Well… we didn’t exactly “storm out,” or make any sort of “impression,” but still… we left quietly. We then headed to the airport, had a quick and easy flight home, and then sprinted through the pouring down rain from the bus stop to our lovely home and practically straight into our lovely, lovely, lovely beds, which were the very best part of coming home. Asher fell asleep on the way home, which always makes bedtime a breeze since he just transfers right to bed at night. He was SO out of it when I took him to the bathroom and took off his clothes, but as soon as I put him into his own cozy bed that he had obviously missed all week, he let out an excited giggle and wiggled into the blankets with a HUGE sleepy grin. He was happy to be home. 🙂

Though our main daily excursions before Friday didn’t include Phil, Asher and I were happy to be able to have dinner together with him every night. We rarely-to-never eat out in Zürich, so we all enjoyed getting to try new and different delicious foods together. We went to a few different Italian places, a Mexican place (no bueno this far from Mexico), a few Viennese places, and an indian place. It was great. The German word for “Viennese” is “Wiener.” I must share that I giggled seeing the word “Wiener” everywhere, just like I used to giggle when I first moved to Zürich and had to get used to seeing and hearing the word “Fahrt” at all the train stations. hahaha Silly German language! And just for kicks, here are a few random pics that didn’t fit into the other spots:

 

So there you have it! That was our trip!

2 Responses to “Vienna!”

  1. My Help Source July 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    That’s a great post, Bre! I feel like I was there. Glad you guys had such a wonderful time.

  2. echolbrook July 16, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    Dig the breakdancing. He’s adorable!

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