So it is 7:25 as I write this. I’ve just spent the night on the train (the Euro 294). I don’t know if I’ve slept; if I have, it wasn’t much. It is harder to sleep on a train than I thought. (I thought the lulling motion of the train and my extreme tiredness would combine for a good night’s sleep. I was wrong.) But, I opened the train shade around 6 a.m. to the most AMAZING site . . . We are deep in Austria, and we just keep passing by these picturesque towns on the slopes of the green, green, GREEN Alps foothills. Verdant is the only word I can think of to do it justice. With little rivers flowing past. And we just passed through a town with a MAYPOLE. Yes, the flowers were still attached to it from last month. They still do that here! A maypole.
Interestingly, too, a lot of the homes have at least some solar panels on their rooftops or an array set up in some extra space in their yard — not many, usually only four or five. Some people who have an array in their yard might have as many as 12.
I have this great book I want to read on Brunelleschi, but at the same time I don’t want to read it because I just want to take in all these amazing sights. There are horses, cows, and mountain goats grazing. Mountain goats! Some little cottages have shrines to the Virgin Mary set up in their backyard. A lot of them how flower boxes outside the windows.
Our train car came with our own bathroom with a shower. I was THRILLED to see this, because I expected to be feeling pretty gross after sweating around Florence all day and then getting on a train to Vienna . . . And not being able to shower until we checked in to our hotel the next day. (Poor planning on my part, that.) So you can imagine how happy I was to see that there was a means for me to actually wash off and feel clean. It was quite an experience, though, showering on a moving train. There was a button to press to start the water. It was red, through, so I was afraid to push it lest it summon the conductor for help. It turns out that’s what I needed, though. So, one presses the button, water comes out for a bit, and then it turns off. This is so that there isn’t so much water that it overwhelms the ability of the small shower stall to drain. So, I had to press, lather, press, rinse, press, lather, press, rinse, and so on, until I was finished. All the while, I had to also maintain my balance so I didn’t fall over when the train took a bit of a curve.
Thing 2 opted not to shower. She was feeling really tired and not well. I don’t think the overnight travel agreed with her. I gave her some ibuprofen, and she ate a bit of breakfast, but really didn’t feel up to more than that. I forgot to mention, too, that not only did we get breakfast on the train, in our compartment waiting for us was also some water, some champagne, and other snacks. Nice!
So the train let us off at Wien Hauptbahnhof, which is the main train station for Vienna. From there, we had a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s (wanted something familiar) before we hailed a taxi for the hotel. McDonald’s doesn’t have quite the same breakfast items in Osterreich as it does in the States. Some things were the same, but some were different. That’s okay. We arrived early (about 9:30 a.m.), so it was our intention to drop off our luggage at the hotel and then walk around Vienna a bit until it was time to check in.
Our hotel was kinda swanky, and they cheerfully took our luggage. They gave us a map of the city and we set off. The first place we went was to the Stadtpark, which is where there were a couple of monuments to composers, once of which was Strauss. There were lots of people in the park enjoying the day. We found a nice shady spot to lay down and rest a bit. Thing 2 was still feeling the motion of the train cars, even though we were on terra firma, and I admit I was beginning to feel it too. The weather was a welcome change from the mega heat in Florence and Rome. In fact, I got cold in the shade and moved myself out into the sun where I took a short nap while Thing 2 read. After about an hour and a half, we moved on.
Destination? Shopping for dirndls. Mission: accomplished! We headed to the Original Salzburger Trachten Outlet, where each of us found dirndls, complete with aprons and dirndl blusen. It took us about an hour, but the ladies in the store were very helpful with helping us get the exact, proper fit. Thing 2 got the longer version, and I got a “midi” shorter version. I also got a traditional shawl to wear around mine. It took us a little over an hour, but we left feeling accomplished. We’re gonna look awesome come Oktoberfest time.
Our next stop was to proceed into the old part of the city a bit more to look at an old church, St. Stephen’s Church (kirche). There were lots of tourists in Stephensplatz, which is where the church is located. Thing 2 and I could see a noticeable difference in architecture between this medieval church and those we saw in Florence and Rome. Whereas the churches in Italy were decorated with marble and painting (frescos) on the outside, the churches in Austria were decorated in a more gothic style with more stonework, spires, and buttresses. We went inside, took a few pics, lit a candle in prayer, and headed out after about a half an hour. I could tell Thing 2 was really wearing down, so we hit an Austria souvenir store (kinda kitschy, but hey) and then headed back to our hotel down the main drag. By that time, our room was ready and our luggage was already delivered, so we made a reservation for dinner and went up to shower off and get comfortable.
Our dinner was fine dining, for sure. Sadly, that is the one meal that Thing 2 and I forgot to take a picture of before eating. We had all kinds of starters before our meal actually arrived. We had an avocado-cream cheese thingy, then some kind of other bite-sized thing that was served among heated rocks, of all things. Then we were given a carrot-y horseradish-y thing and some rustic, homemade sourdough bread with butter. It was good. Then we were given a salmon tartar with another kind of cheese(? – it was white stuff) and FINALLY our meals arrived. Thing 2 ordered a Wiener schnitzel, which is NOTHING like what the name implies here in Southern California. Here in Vienna, Austria (Wien, Osterreich), it is actually a breaded piece of veil, deep-fried and served flat. It is NOT a hot dog or any other kind of sausage. Her meal was also served with a small side of cranberries (she likes tart fruits and berries, unlike me) and some potato and cucumber salad. The potato and cucumber salad had a slight vinegar-y taste similar to the German potato salad my mom makes at home. The vinegar taste was more subtle, and it was still good. I had a gnocchi with peas in a cream sauce. I had a taste of Thing 2’s meal, and I can vouch that both meals were delicious. We each got a chocolate cream, raspberry, and marshmallow ice cream confection for dessert, PLUS the restaurant surprised us with even more sweets after that — a chocolate-covered coconut ice cream bar and a nougat-filled cookie.
We rolled out of the restaurant up to our hotel room where we promptly got into our comfortable bed and turned out the lights for the night. We were able to get about 9 hours of sleep to recharge before we had to get up the next morning for the next stop on our sightseeing tour. I was hoping a good night’s sleep would also put an end to the swaying feeling we both still had from the train.