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Vienna Schnapps Museum and Bratislava, Slovakia

February 4
I spent the morning shopping at Stephansplatz, a large walking district in the center of Vienna, and then headed to a small bar for lunch on the way home. My burger from RoO’s definitely made me feel at home, but that’s probably because it came with an American flag on top of it.
After a quick last minute meeting with our professor, we headed to the Old Vienna Schnapps Museum! The main room was the only remaining building after the bombing of WWII. It still contains the old cash register and the very first “American” ever built. The “American” is the first chair that reclines. WE then moved onto the next room where we learned about the making of Schnapps. Apparently in October the heavy tax on making Schnapps is lifted, causing many Europeans to attempt to make Schnapps at home. Unfortunately the making of Schnapps has the ability to be very explosive and there are quite a few newspaper articles each year describing another failed attempt. The reason for the lift on tax is that in the past people made Schnapps to survive the winter-they used it as a medicine of sorts. The next part of the tour was the tasting, and our tour included three(…or six) tastes. Their flavors ranged from creamy to fruity to containing gold to absinthe.
After the tour I headed out for the night with my roommate. We headed to a bar with American karaoke! The night was incredibly unique. I was with people from different countries and our main language was German so it was a convenient way to practice my speaking skills! The one thing I don’t like about going out here is that you can smoke anywhere and everywhere. I hate waking up smelling like cigarettes in the morning.
February 5
This was a VERY early morning after hitting the karaoke bar last night. My 5:40 alarm was not a welcomed one. After getting to the train station and purchasing our tickets to Bratislava, we met up with a Student from Texas A&M who happens to be from the suburb next to where my dad lives in Texas-small world.
After getting to Bratislava our first challenge was crossing the insanely icy bridge by foot to get to the Austrian consulate. After eventually making it past the bridge we successfully applied for our Visas and went to explore while they were being processed. We headed first to a castle in the city and saw some gorgeous views of Bratislava. Afterwards we headed to a chocolate shop where we had the best hot drinking chocolate I’ve ever had. It was the same thickness as a melted bar of chocolate, and none of us were complaining. Mine had black cherries, ice cream, and whipped cream. Pair that with a slice of chestnut chocolate cake and I’m not sure how I ate lunch an hour later.
We then picked up our pretty new Visas (I feel so official now!) and headed to a lunch with plenty of Slovakian beer and food. After lunch we headed outside of the city to the ruins of Devin Castle. Unfortunately the castle was closed for the day but we still got to see the outside as well as a memorial.
After getting lost in the city on the way to catch the train, we managed to find and catch the train at the last minute. Literally.

Posted by Skraft94 01:43 Archived in Slovakia Comments (0)

Waking up in Vienna


My first full day in Vienna!
After waking up and unpacking all of my things, my room is finally in order! Now it's time to buy some hangers (and more clothes) and I'll be set!
Although most things in Europe are closed on Sundays, I still had an eventful day! Julia, Amy and I jumped on a train to a new part of the city today and fell in love with what we found! We ended up at the Schonbrunn Castle and explored some of the Castle's grounds. I can't wait to go back in the Spring when the gardens are in bloom and we can get the full effect of the castle's beauty! This castle is one that I learned about in German 104. The story has to do with Sissi and Franz Josef. The short version of the story is that Franz Josef was supposed to be set up with Sissi's older sister and the family was invited to a ball at Franz's castle. Sissi was brought with and Franz ended up falling in love with her as well. The story ends dramatically with Sissi being shanked to death but that's besides the point. In German 104 we were required to write and perform a skit about Sissi where I played Sissi. Being at the castle brought back some...interesting memories of the tragic performance of our skit.
After walking around the outside of the castle (we decided to wait until we came back to purchase a ticket to go inside) we found a great little Italian pizza place about a block away! We made it back around six and are now planning our trip this weekend to Bratislava and Budapest! I can't wait to bring our country count of the trip up to three! It looks like there should be a lot of really neat places to see and stay this weekend :)
Until next time!

Posted by Skraft94 09:52 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Transition back to Vienna

The rest of my ski week was a very relaxing one-kind of. I spent the morning and afternoon of my last two days watching animated children’s movies in German to be somewhat productive while not skiing. Unfortunately my knees kept me from hitting the slopes. At meals and at night all of the students would come together to eat and get to know each other!
The day before we left we had to return to the bottom of the mountain to return all of our ski equipment. Unfortunately there are only two ways to get to the bottom-by skiing or by walking to the gondola and taking it all the way down. A small group of us ended up walking to the gondola with our professor that afternoon. I shouldn’t say walk, I should say climb…it’s a mountain. You know the Spongebob episode where he gets stuck at the bottom of a town and tries running up a ninety degree angle to get to the top? That’s how we all felt trying to get to the top of the mountain with our ski gear. I would like to think that this was the most intensive cardio exercise of my life. Luckily once we returned our gear at the bottom of the mountain we took the gondola all the way back up to a bar where we celebrated some milestones of the week. The categories were most improved skier, best dressed at meals after hitting the slopes (sarcasm), overcoming adversity, and best fall. After some VERY amusing nomination speeches we all continued to hang out and celebrate our last day on the mountain.
The last day also required a climb back up the mountain to the gondola, but this time luckily with no ski gear in hand. After returning to the bottom for the last time, we said goodbye to Saalbach-Hinterglemm and returned by train to Vienna. I was beyond excited to return to Vienna! It was time to get familiar with the city I now call home. After a short walk from the train station we dropped our bags at the dorm at four pm and began a race to find things for our room. Stores in Vienna close at five or six pm on Saturdays and are also closed on Sundays. This made food and a phone plan a top priority. Food ended up being the only thing we accomplished but I’m not complaining because now it’s Sunday and I have groceries 
My arrival at my dorm, Haus Erasmus, also made for an interesting story. I walked into the room I had a key for and told the girl that I was her roommate, to which she responded with, no you aren’t. Apparently I had been moved rooms without being notified. I later found a letter and my new key in the room I slept in the first night. My roommate is really nice though. Her name is Betty and she’s from Hungary. We’re both sophomores but she studies chemistry which is way over my head.
After getting groceries a few of us decided to go out for dinner together. We took the train into the center of Vienna and I absolutely fell in love with my new city. You come up from the train stop right outside of Stephansdom, a famous cathedral in Vienna. Unfortunately my phone died as soon as we got there so I don’t have any pictures to show yet. From the Stephansdom we headed to see the State Opera House where we bought a traveling bratwurst and a beer to enjoy for dinner sitting on the steps of a large statue outside of a museum. It amazes me that it was legal for us to walk around the city with our beer cans. After dinner we headed to the Rathaus-city hall. Outside of city hall there is an ice skating rink and a small ice skating maze set up. American music was playing and people of all ages were skating together on the rink. It was absolutely beautiful. We also purchased a Glühwein, a hot spiced red wine, to enjoy while we observed the ice skating. After finishing the drink I decided not to return the mug for my deposit back, but instead to keep it as a souvenir and also as my first dish in my room. Now to find a plate and some silverware.
I’m so happy I got to experience the center of Vienna for the first time at night. Everywhere I looked was beautiful lit up architecture and culture and music. It was an extraordinary way to start my night.
After making it back to the dorm from dinner at about nine, almost everyone in the program decided to go out and celebrate it being Saturday night and our first night back in the city. We headed to a bar down the street to start the night and then made our way to an Australian bar called the Travel Shack. It was amazing to see the mix of people crammed into this bar-and I do mean crammed. Also expensive. I miss Champaign’s drink prices.
All in all my first day back in Vienna was amazing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me!

Posted by Skraft94 03:52 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

The Alps!

-4 °C

Wow! I definitely had no idea what to expect out of my first experience on skis. Our lesson started with learning how to walk sideways up and down the mountain-fifteen minutes of that and I was already ready for a break! After a few test runs on a VERY small hill, I was still struggling with the concept of turning and wasn't able to join the rest of the group on their first run down the mountain. After calling it quits from exhaustion after two hours that first morning, I was convinced I never wanted to touch skis again and would be spending the rest of my time in the Alps drinking coffee looking out the window.
Luckily on day two I woke up with determination to show the mountain who was boss-and I did just that! After one of the girls on the trip explained further the concept of turning and took me slowly on my own, I was finally grasping the concept of skiing. When the ski instructor saw, I was quickly told (not asked) that I would be joining the group of beginners on their run down the mountain. (Insert fear and excitement here). Our ski instructor is absolutely one of the coolest people I've ever met. At seventy years old he has been spending time skiing on these mountains for over twenty years. His entire family is currently on vacation here-his two year old grandson showed me up big time on my first day trying to ski. Our ski instructor's name is Yoshi and he has a way of getting you to ski even when you aren't sure that you want to. This morning (morning 3) I couldn't look him in the eye when I told him I wasn't accepting his invitation to go down the mountain with him today because my knees were still a bit wobbly. Anyway, back to day 2. After trying to follow in his path down the mountain the first time on the way to the ski lift, I was quickly greeted with my first fall. Luckily the mountain has an abundance of fresh snow so the landing was pretty soft. It was the first of many falls, and I quickly learned to laugh them off as everyone in our group was falling and helping each other to get back up. The amount of encouragement and laughter on our three hour ski session was enough to make me love the sport (something I never thought I would say after day 1). I think my worst (and funniest) fall was when I managed to run into the side of the mountain and get stuck with one ski about a foot higher than the other one. It took me so long to try to get down to the ski path and when I finally did my skis started doing their job and sliding and I fell backwards into the snow on my back. I wasn't sure I would ever get up but I don't think any of us in the group had ever laughed harder!
My first ride on the ski lift took my breath away. I've never seen anything more beautiful than the view looking down on the mountain. The trees are so perfectly covered in snow that it looks fake. Yesterday was so perfectly sunny that you could see all of the mountains in the distance from our lodge-it definitely made for an amazing photo shoot! One of the other German speakers wants to take artsy pictures and I'm more than happy to be a model so we got some great pictures of all of us!
The food at the lodge has been amazing as well! It finally hit me yesterday how big of a deal it is to be at Zell am See and to be skiing in the Alps. Its so strange that I'm here learning to ski for the first time because people from around the world who ski frequently do so much to try to come here in their lifetime. I'm so blessed to be able to have an opportunity like this one.
Nights here at the resort are a lot of fun too. Whether it's sitting downstairs at the bar enjoying a few beers or just spending time together in the room, I'm really happy to be getting to know the people in the program! It was definitely interesting to get here and realize that so far I'm the only student who is here to take only German classes-the other student in my program is coming later in February.
I'm looking forward to a few more days of skiing in the Alps and I hope to make more progress and have more stories to tell in the next few days!

Posted by Skraft94 01:40 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Day 2

Travel to Zell am See and my first glance at the Alps

This morning was an early one! Our train left at 6:56 this morning and it was a five hour ride. The train ride was gorgeous as a lot of it was through the Alps. After the train ride we took a short bus ride to the lodge where we got all of our skis, poles, helmets, and ski boots. It was about this time that I realized that showing up to a ski week without snow pants and goggles probably wasn’t my greatest idea ever. Whoops. After getting all of our things we took a ski lift up the mountain to where we would be staying. The lodge is so high up that it was in the clouds when we arrived. It’s incredible how high we can get in the mountains to be able to ski around. I’m definitely nervous for tomorrows first ski lesson! I can’t wait to see how long it takes for me to fall and not be able to get back up.
Today also brought me the first wifi of the trip. I was definitely happy to be able to talk to friends and family for the first time since arriving.
I’m definitely still jetlagged from the flight over and am looking forward to getting some much needed sleep before spending the next six days skiing the Alps!

Posted by Skraft94 11:59 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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