We awoke from our luxurious slumber in the wonderful bed around 0630. The sun was already risen and throwing dappled rays onto the grounds outside the window. It was going to be another sunny and hot day.
We met with the group and headed down to breakfast at 0830. As we arrived a gentleman was leaving. I found out that we were the last of the clients. We basically had the castle to ourselves. Everyone here was working for us. Kind of like nobility ;) The walls in the dining room had frescos painted on them and the pastel blue of the background was very calming. The entire design of the dining area brought you back to the 18th century. Nicely done. Breakfast was nice and fresh. They brought you coffee in your own little coffee pot and there was a delicious bowl of fruit salad. I had the usual meat/cheese/bread breakfast but added to it with a huge helping of fruit salad. Yum!
With breakfast finished and a few more shots of the castle area we were loaded and ready to go. One stop would be required… We had to buy some pumpkin seed oil. Apparently this was “THE” place to get pumpkinseed oil. We stopped at the little shop that the hotel receptionist had recommended. While there, I decided to hang out in the van while they got their oil. Not long after, they came out and said, “We don’t know which one is the good one – it’s all in German. Can you come help?”
I had no idea of pumpkinseed oil brands and didn’t have enough german knowledge so I said “Go buy the most expensive… probably the better one.” I hope I was right. We’ll have to have some when we get home to make that determination I guess.
While sitting in the van, I saw a hawk (or eagle) land and perch on a power pole across a field. When everyone came back I said I wanted to try to go over and shoot the bird. I drove over that way but was disappointed to determine that the pole was really in the MIDDLE of the field. We weren’t going to be getting close to this bird any time soon 😦
I looped the van back around and in no time we found ourselves close to a stork working a freshly cut field. I wonder what they eat… Anyway, this one was kind enough to allow me to get some decent shots of him in the field with the 100-400 before we decided to move on. The other four agreed that we should head quickly back into Bad Waltersdorf to take some pictures of the beautiful stork nest that we saw last night.
We zipped over and parked near the bank. While Francis and I staked out the Stork nest, the three women went and shopped in a few little shops (wow – MORE shopping!) I saw at least two young storks in the nest but they didn’t poke their heads up very high. Mom kept watch over them and made sure all was OK. While we were watching the female stork started making all kinds of noise, moving her head around and generally acting strange. We looked up to see the male stork flying in and circling the nest. I figured we’d get some great shots of him landing and the two of them in the nest. No love. He landed up on the church above us and only after we had been outwaited for 15 minutes did he decide to fly off and NOT land in the nest. Boo.
I was happy that I had a couple of decent BiF shots of the stork and one or two of mom and a baby’s head. We were good to go. We stopped in the bank to use the ATM and get some Euros. Away we went!
Vienna was close. This is a good thing. We had spent some significant time in Bad Waltersdorf and by the time we hit Vienna it was noon. Our plan was to drive to the Schloss Schönbrunn since it was out of the core of the city and then return the vehicle and head to our hotel.
Those plans fell apart. I had plugged in the address that I could find for the palace only to end up in the middle of downtown and circling in busy streets with one ways, Do-Not-Enters and all likes of traffic restrictions. The GPS was NOT helpful at this point. I was getting pretty frustrated with traffic so I found somewhere to park so that we could get a bearing on where we were and where we wanted to go. The palace idea wasn’t panning out so well. We got out and walked a bit while trying to find our bearings. It was SMOKIN’ hot. We found a pizza restaurant and ate lunch while re-evaluating our idea.
We decided to find the hotel and unload our gear and then take the vehicle back as we were to have it back by 1700 that day. I plugged in the address of the hotel into our GPS and it came back with “Your destination is in a restricted area” Oh Goodie. I followed the twisting roads that are Vienna around some that were pretty narrow until I came to the “restricted road” The sign said “Taxis, Limousines and buses only” (or something like that – it was in German!) I wasn’t about to get my first international traffic ticket today so I pulled off to the side of the road and Francis and Iris headed over to find the hotel and check in. We might just have to carry our gear from here. Whatever. At least we’d be settled for more than a day. After waiting for what seemed an eternity I was assured that we could drive down the road and pull over to unload as long as the driver stayed with the vehicle. Ooookay… We found a spot just down from the hotel and I pulled over while the other four unloaded some of the gear to take up to the rooms. It turns out that our “hotel” for the night was one floor of a 5 floor commercial building and that the entire “hotel” was about nine rooms (all fully booked that night – I might add) I waited down at the van. And waited. And waited. It seemed again to be an eternity before anyone came back and I could unload the rest of the gear from the van. We had to make sure it was absolutely empty because we were returning it.
With the van unloaded and everything in the rooms, they all came down together to return the van with me. Not exactly what I had been expecting but hey… why not. I plugged my one last address into the GPS – the Europcar address, and we were off. The twisty maze of restricted streets, combination car/tram roads etc meant that we probably drove twice the actual distance to get where we needed to be, but we found it. At the office the nice guy at the desk pointed out that the drop off is just down the block but due to construction I’d have to make a big loop around 4 or 5 blocks and come back at the garage from another angle. This seemed easy enough. I hopped back in the van and started driving. It was then that we realized the map that they had given us with big black arrows had the arrows blacking out the street names, so we were pretty much out of luck for that approach. No problem, thought I, I’ll plug the address of the parking garage into the GPS and it’ll get us there. After a few turns things were looking good until I realized that the GPS wanted to take me down the road with construction and had simply brought me right back to where I started. I was getting frustrated. I’m not a big fan of driving in downtown traffic when I don’t know where I’m going or how to get there. After another 15 minutes of driving far enough down the way to get the GPS NOT to take us down the construction road we finally arrived at the drop off and said goodbye to the van. It was going to be feet,buses, subways and trains from here on in again.
We took our little tourist maps of Vienna and tried to figure out which way was which and where the info centre was as well as our hotel. Francis led the way and we headed back towards the hotel. It looked like it was about 2-3 km away. Not bad but definitely a good walk given the temperature today.
We weren’t too far from the hotel when we came upon the info centre. It was cool inside. Thank God. The 4 others went over to buy the Vienna card (it had worked well in Salzburg… the plan was to use it here too and get good value. I went over to the other cash and inquired about buying tickets to Budapest. After figuring out the time and price, I went ahead and placed my order. After much waiting and humming and hahing… “Sorry, it appears the system is down” was the answer.
So, we left the info center with better directions, a tourist guide, Vienna cards and no train tickets yet for Mrs D and I. At this point we split the group up. Mrs D and I headed back to the hotel to see about getting our laundry done while the others were going to go shop (I didn’t really feel like I was going to miss much 🙂 )
Mrs D and I got back to the room to find that our room was surprisingly warm compared to the reception area. On top of that, I couldn’t seem to get the A/C controls working. I went over to the reception and inquired. Apparently the A/C was broken. There would be someone in to fix it on Friday (shortly AFTER we were leaving). Bummer. We asked about laundry and they said “We can do it”. I said that we would prefer to wash our own as it would be cheaper and I asked for the location of a Laundromat. Apparently we weren’t too far away from one and the directions were pretty straight forward.
Mrs D and I packed up the small suitcase with all our dirty laundry and proceeded to trundle across the cobblestone roads, dragging the luggage with us. While the walk was short, the sun was hot and we were glad when we came to the intersection where the laundry was supposed to be. We looked around and couldn’t find any Laundromat. Then Mrs D mentioned that the little door on the corner was for a Dry Cleaners – perhaps THAT is what the hotel meant? We went into the cleaners and asked if there was a “self-serve” laundry around. In her broken English (which is WAY better than my German) she explained that there were no Laudromats in downtown Vienna. Only dry cleaners. People either have their own or share some in an apartment building. Tourists usually have the hotel do it for them. Boy – the look I got from Mrs D was priceless.
With our newfound knowledge of the state of clothes washing in Vienna we headed back to the hotel to sheepishly ask for the rate for laundry.
“25 Euros for one load of 8Kg. You’ll probably want two loads because you have whites and colours”
Wow! I can see a business opportunity. Someone’s got to be able to do it for MUCH less than that! I hate hotels and their services. They know they’ve got you… it’s a monopoly. Urgh.
“Um, we’re OK with it all together… nothing is THAT new. When will we be able to get our laundry back?”
There was NO way I was going to spend 50 Euros doing LAUNDRY. I think I could BUY enough clean clothes to last me for the trip for less than that!
“Probably at the end of the day tomorrow.”
Wow! 24 hours to do one load of laundry. Urgh.
“Great! If it’s done a little earlier, could you drop it by our room?”
And with that, we emptied our clothing and hoped to see it again before we left.
As it was now dinner time and we were pretty tired, we texted the other 3 and told them that we were just going to be hanging back at our hotel room and having instant noodles for dinner (the cursed chinese instant noodles that we HAVE to bring on every trip). We would see the others again when they came back later at night.
After the ever satisfying noodles, we headed out to see a bit of the city on our own. We wandered down towards where we had dropped off the van. We walked along streets and saw a lot of lovely architecture. The interesting part was that so many of the beautiful old buildings had very modern stores and businesses. It took away from the feeling of quaint old, but I suppose if you’re going to be a big city you can’t let all your old buildings just be souvenir shops. I still didn’t like it a lot but that’s life. Vienna wasn’t about to change for me.
We walked down towards a monument and fountain. The monument was covered in Cyrillic writing. I figured it was a communist monument or something from the past. It turns out we had found the Russian Liberation Monument to celebrate the liberation of Austria from Nazi rule by the Russian forces in WWII. Cool. I took a few shots but it really needed the ND filter to get my shutter speed slow enough to get some good effects. I thought that this might make for a nice shot at night.
Mrs D wanted to work our way over to the “MuseumsQuartier” so that we could see what the whole thing was about. After checking our map we wandered down the road and passed by Karlsplatz and went into St. Charles’ Church briefly. It’s a beautiful church with some odd parts including two spiralling columns based on “Trajan’s Column” in Rome. The church has a magnificent dome, the view of which is quite unfortunately spoiled by a bunch of scaffolding at the time. No matter it was a lovely view inside the church.
We continued our wanderings and then came across a street restaurant scene. There was a length of almost a kilometre of restaurants jammed into the width of a street the whole length. There must have been 20-30 different restaurants and they were all pretty busy. Seafood, asian, traditional Austrian… it was all there. We wandered through the cacophony of dinner sounds and medley of aromas it was quite something to behold. I felt like I was in one of those Discovery Channel documentaries. I learned later that the area was called the “Naschmarkt” and that during the day it’s a very busy market area.
Two blocks later we emerged and refound our bearings. We would have to duck up through a few blocks to get to the MuseumsQuartier. Off we went. Not all streets in Vienna feel touristy and the one that we found ourselves on was much more local. There were old looking apartments, a few teens on skateboards and a tattoo parlour. It seemed like it might not be the neighbourhood to hang out in at night :( We hurried a bit through there. Not long away we found ourselves at the edge of the MuseumsQuartier. We went in.
The MuseumsQuartier is basically just a large quadrangle with museums fronting it on all sides. The museums ranged from major to less so and is touted as the eighth largest cultural area in the world. Basically to me it seemed like just one large place for a bunch of University students and hipsters to hang out. If it had been in Vancouver there would have been an unmistakable odour of weed. I wasn’t overly impressed.
We left the area and started heading back to our hotel. We walked past the Hofburg Palace as the sun was setting but we were about 15 minutes too late, the shadows of other buildings were already being thrown on the facade. It was a very interesting building and again I thought to myself that this would likely be cool at night. We continued through various archways with some very cool sculptures until we found ourselves just few blocks from home.
With the sun pretty much set it was a good time to finish what had definitely turned into a pretty long day. We knew the other three weren’t too far from home too as the “Spot” was on Francis and they had a check in just 5 minutes ago about 3 blocks away. Sure enough they came back shortly after us.
We went over to talk as a group and realized that the other room’s A/C worked. It appears that it was just OUR room that had non-working A/C Man – we were not having much luck. Blown power in Prague, overheating in Salzburg and now no A/C in Vienna when the temp was over 30C in the day. There was a fan in the room but it didn’t help much. We would be asking reception to move to a new room tomorrow!
With another blog entry done we slipped off to uncomfortably warm sleep. Tomorrow we would see the Schonbrunn Palace.