Sunday, June 15, 2008

Free Weekend

This weekend, our group had the opportunity to decide for ourselves what we wanted to do. Instead of going away to different countries like many of our fellow friends did, the four of us (Mike, Brent, Lama and I) decided to stick around Vienna. 

On Saturday, we took Edith's advice and went to Baden, a small town right outside the Vienna city limits. We had a picnic lunch by the train station, and then wandered into town. The town area was decorated to look like Wien's Graben, with Eurocup flags and soccer statues. It was so cute!

The decorated "Graben".

Green streets!

We then found these great hiking paths, and walked up the mountain until we found a gazebo with a great overlook of the city. We spent about an hour there taking pictures of ourselves jumping off the railings. :)




For dinner, we ate at another heuligen and had some great new wine. Our dinner was excellent and also very cheap! We Euchre for awhile, too, which was interesting since I'm not too familiar with the game. 

Our dinner: pork, corn salad, mediterranean salad, bread, and wine!

The heuligen sign from the outside.

We decided to head back into Vienna around 8pm so we could go out for Sarah Fetter's birthday. Unfortunately, I was very tired, so we actually ended up just sitting around. No big deal though, it was a perfect day--very relaxing and lots of fun with our friends!

Today (Sunday), Michael and I decided to just sit around downtown Vienna and do some homework. Right now we are sitting at Coffee Day, sipping on a melange and writing our mini papers. We're both taking the class "Senior Seminar--Values in Transit", which is a seminar course about people's values and their philosophies about life. We're reading a book called "This I Believe"--a collection of personal philosophies and things people believe in. It's a very eye-opening and intruiging read; I would definitely suggest it! Check out the website if you're interested in learning more or reading this week's featured essay. It's a great one.

Well, back to our homework. I hope everyone is doing well at home! I'm looking forward to coming back to American culture, but I'm also excited to live it up in Europe for the last 11 days we have here! Enjoy your Sunday, and Happy Father's Day! :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Yesterday (Wednesday), we took a day trip to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Even though we only spent a little bit of time there, I enjoyed the city very much.

Of course, our first activity after arriving was a city tour. Woohoo. We got to see a couple of great overlooks of the city though, which were cool. When the tour was finished, we had about 30 minutes of free time before our dinner. We ate at a hotel restaurant, and had chicken...for the first time since May 13th!!! It was amazing. 

Overlooking Bratislava!

Their new (and ugly) bridge.

The main square downtown.

It's Old Greg!

After dinner, our entire group went to the new State Opera House to see Tosca, an opera by Puccini. Sadly, the Italian was translated into Slovakian, so we had a hard time understanding what was going on. The singers, in my opinion, were decent, but I was expecting more. I shouldn't say that though, it really was great. :)

Waiting for the opera to begin.

Luckily, Bratislava is only one hour away from Vienna, so we arrived home just in time to take the last train back.


When I heard that our group would be traveling to Budapest, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I have never been to Hungary before...but I was pleasantly surprised! The city was very different from Salzburg and Prague, but beautiful nonetheless.

On Friday night when we arrived, we immediately met our tour guide Elizabeth and took a night tour of Buda (the old half of the city). We then went to one of the highest lookout points in Buda, and were able to take pictures of the night view. It was beautiful!

The next morning, we had another tour. Incase you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not a huge fan of the city tours. We've had so many of them already, and they are honestly very tiring. It's hard to be in a huge group, too--I sort of feel like they're herding a group of sheep around. But anyway, after the tour, we had seven hours of free time (too much...). A couple of us decided to look around the festival that was going on, rather than spending our afternoon and the Buda spa. I was starting to feel stressed out at this point--a lot of the girls had gone to get massages (which sounded nice), but I thought they were too expensive. I was nervous about being separated from them, even though I was hungry and needed lunch. *Side note: new word for being angry while hungry: hangry.* Needless to say, we soon found Doc and Dr. Gibbs, who were sitting at a table in the middle of the festival eating amazingly appealing food. My stress was lifted, and I went over to the stand to get a huge heaping pile of roasted vegetables and potatoes. It was by far the best meal I've had on this trip!

View of the city during the day.

Heroes Square

Our group eating lunch with Doc and Gibbs!

After lunch, we weren't sure what to do with our remaining six hours. Doc and Dr. Gibbs had left us, and so we were on our own. After wandering around the festival for awhile, we ran into Gibbs and Doc again, this time holding wine! They explained to us that you could buy a wine glass and a row of tickets for 5 Euro, and then go to all of the stands at the festival to taste-test their wine. We took their advice, and spent the next couple of hours walking around with our glasses. It was a lot of fun!

With our wine glasses at the festival.

For dinner on Saturday, we went on a boat cruise on the Danube. The view of Budapest was really cool, and the food was wonderful! We had goulash soup--very good. Later in the night it started raining, so after dinner we stuck around for ice cream and then went back to our hotel in Pest. On Sunday, we left the city and headed for a small town called Szendendre. It reminded me a lot of Saugatuck--small, with a lot of cute art shops. The weather was great, so we really enjoyed ourselves. We made it home just in time for dinner downtown Vienna, and then headed home for some needed sleep. 

All in all, Budapest was great! I would recommend it for any traveler...but beware, you won't be able to understand a thing! :) 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Session One

This week has been incredibly hectic. Yesterday (Wednesday), twenty-six new students arrived for second session, while thirty-two from first session left today (Thursday). Unfortunately, that overlap was completely nuts. We all went out to dinner on Wednesday night, and it was honestly a disaster. There were almost 60 people in this small upstairs room--let me remind you, no air conditioning. One open window. Ahhhh!

Some 1st session people, some 2nd session, some both!

I will really miss some of our new friends from first session! We all bonded really well, and we didn't have any problems! I'm very proud of our entire group, and I wish so many people were staying! The new people from second session have a lot to live up to now!

Besides all the switching craziness, not much has happened this week. I went out to a heuliger with Caitlin, Brent and Mike one night, which was a lot of fun. We enjoyed our time just the four of us--we don't get that much here. A bunch of us also went to go see this huge outdoor summer concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Schonbrunn castle on Tuesday night, which was wonderful. Over 100,000 people attended! We had great seats near the front, too, but unfortunately it rained! :( We got free ponchos though, which at least kept me try. All in all--great cultural and musical experience!

Brent and Lama

Me and Michael

Wearing our rain jackets before the concert!

View from our seats.

Tomorrow (I can't believe it), we head to Budapest! I'm not sure what to think about Budapest, mostly because I honestly have never heard anyone talk about it. I'll fill you in on Monday though! Enjoy the wonderful weekend! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I can't believe I'm finally getting to this post the day before we leave for another weekend trip. This week has been crazy! I'll tell you about that after all of the Prague stuff, though. First things first.

So Prague...was great! We did so many fun things--we had a couple of walking tours of the city, a great boat ride which included a lunch buffet, and a tour of the Jewish ghetto. We also had a fair amount of free time for shopping and wandering around the city. 

Standing by the bridge during our free time.

Boys on the boat cruise!

Wearing yarmulkes at the Jewish museum.

Having a beer with Hillary on our night out!

I really enjoyed Prague a lot. It's so different from any city I've seen before. The colors of the buildings are different, the smells are different, and the people are different. I was excited to hear the language, but when I got there I realized it was near impossible to even repeat a word in Czech once we heard it. Our tour guide, Donna, was hilariously trying to get us to repeat really complicated Czech words with a bunch of consonants in a row. She was wonderful and really cute.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but this month the Eurocup Tournament (soccer) is being held in Vienna...meaning there are tourists everywhere. We ended up seeing a lot of tourists while we were in Prague, too, which I think was one of the only downsides to the weekend. The other bad thing--money. Our dollar is doing so badly that within one year it went from $1=25 Kc to $1=16 Kc. We were expecting to buy a lot of cheap stuff, but that didn't really happen. 

Overall, Prague was wonderful! I don't know if I'll ever get back there, but if I do I would be very happy!

Great view of the city!

The main square where Michael and I ate lunch.

p.s. I almost completely forgot! On Saturday, temperatures in Prague reached the highest for May they've reached since 1870! It was ridiculous--almost 100 degrees!