Very Surprised in Vienna and Salzburg

Vienna, Austria- May 27th
We arrived in Vienna around 5:30 and Liesi, our couchsurfing host had other obligations so we couldn’t meet up at her house until 9. We dropped our bags in the luggage lockers before heading out to explore Vienna. We came to Vienna without too many expectations, as we knew it was a big city but we were pleasantly surprised. We first stumbled upon a gorgeous park where tons of people our age were milling about and laying around drinking juice and beer and just relaxing outside.

We sat and people watched for a while, enjoying Austrian fashion and getting a good feeling about Vienna in total, before heading to the Museumquartier.

We knew most museums would be closed since it was after hours but we found a museum opening which was free and since it was the opening, there were free beer and wine so we took part in that trying to understand the exhibit which was something about technology and participation and art, but it was mostly in German so we were pretty confused. We liked being part of the art world though and watching the other Austrian artists interact. We walked into the main square and were taken at again, how many people were just sitting outside with their friends on these really cool purple sculptures that were created for people to lounge around in.

Vienna just has amazing art that you sit on everywhere. We never realized it would be so artistic. We read about a restaurant close by in our guidebook and we were starving and once we got there we were not at all disappointed. I had zucchini spelt cakes with pumpkin chutney and Ellie had a tofu stir-fry and coming from Eastern Europe is was so nice to have proper gourmet vegetarian food.

A sign on the way home from dinner(apparently a lot of people confuse this street for the street that Dr. Freud lived on, it’s only a few letters different. I’m guessing these people got sick of people knocking on the door asking if this was Freud’s house)

After dinner, we headed back to the train station where our lockers were stuck and we had to get help from security, but we successfully got out our things and headed over to Liesi’s. Liesi’s flat is in the centre of Vienna and is absolutely huge and amazing. Liesi is a university student studying sociology and working as a music promoter. She has the cutest dreadlocks we have ever seen and was really nice. She explained that she was super busy so we would get a key and we had a strawberry drink with her and then we went bed.

The next morning, we decided to attempt to do laundry at her flat since it was free. The washing went fine except the dryer wouldn’t work and just kept steaming our clothing and making it sweaty and stinky and not dry at all. It was pretty classic because all of the cycle directions are in German so we have the translator and are trying to decipher what each cycle means in German when we sort out that one is called beautiful cycle and Ellie brought up the point that maybe we put it on that one since our clothes are beautiful. Either way, we ended up draping our clothes all over the spare room that Liesi let us sleep in.

We decided to walk everywhere that day to get a good feel for the city. Vienna has bike rentals located around the city that are free for the first hour and then only 2 euros each hour afterward, but we didn’t have a credit card for deposit. Everyone uses bikes in Vienna and they have huge bike trails that are the same size as the sidewalk, all over the city.

We went back and had a salad at the museumquartier and walked around the Ringstrasse which is a famous circular street in Vienna with most shopping and main attractions. We saw the Vienna Opera House and a bunch of gorgeous architecture.

opera house at night

Some construction was being done on this palace like city hall

We bought some gourmet cheese and ate it in a park and then walked to the KunstHausWien which is a museum built by an environmental artist who built the entire building without a straight line and the floor is not flat because he believed that humans lose their senses if they don’t engage their sense of balance and touch when they take every step.

It was gorgeous with lots of tiles and crazy colors. We saw GUY BOURDIN, an amazing fashion photographer who took really subversive photos for early French Vogue, etc. It was an amazing exhibit.

one the way home we found a barge on the river that had a swimming pool and a tiki bar, if we had a little more time, we would have loved to jump in for a while.

After, we bought some gorgonzola gnocchi from the grocery and cooked Liesi dinner and drank red wine before calling it a night and heading to sleep to prepare for our trip to Salzburg the next day.

The next day, we took an afternoon train to Salzburg, birthplace of Sound of Music and Mozart, where our host Christiane picked us up from the train station in her car with her son Yoshi. Christy is an amazing artist who is getting really well-known and is having exhibits in Barcelona this summer. She does awesome photography as well as “happenings” which is art that involves spectators. She drove us to her cute little flat where we met her boyfriend Felix and we all sat outside in her garden where she showed us her portfolio, made us chocolate ice cream with peaches and talked about traveling from the US and Austria’s politics, including their position on being part of the European Union. We talked for ages and we learned a lot about Yoshi and her and found her laid-back parenting pretty interesting.

Yoshi is 3 and has a funny habit of ssaying “Shiza” (which means shit in German) every 5 seconds.

It was really weird playing with a little kid who doesn’t understand that you don’t speak the same language. It felt bad not being able to answer him when he asked us questions, but it was cool how much we could communicate even with just hand gestures.

The next day, we took a day trip to Werfen to see the famous Werfen Ice Caves. We got on the train early, enjoying the really pretty train ride to Werfen next to the River. After we got off the train, we had to take a shuttle to the ice caves which was really funny because as soon as we sat on the shuttle, a huge group of high school kids from the states gets on with thick Southern accents, like not South Carolina or Texas, we’re talking Alabama and sure enough, they were from Mobile Alabama. And I bet you can’t guess what they were doing in Salzburg? Oh, just a little mission trip, helping the poor unfortunate souls of Salzburg. Salzburg is nothing like Africa or a 3rd world country and is far more beautiful than almost anywhere in the states, but the kids from Alabama in their Jesus shirts are doing their part for Austria. That aside, the drive was twisted and turned and steep, but we arrived and then had to hike 30 minutes to take a cable car to the top of the mountain and then hike another 30 minutes uphill.

We wore lots of layers because we were heading to the Ice Caves, but it was very hot outside. After an hours hike, we were breaking a sweat.

Our thighs were burning and we were huffing, but the views were shocking and probably the prettiest mountain views we have seen so far. Once getting into the ice caves, Ellie was chosen to be a lantern holder so she held a fire lantern which was a little scary as while in the ice caves we have to climb 1400 steps, no joke.

The ice caves were really cool though and go 42 km deep into the cave and we only walked 1 km of it. The ice was glittery and magical looking, as well as huge and made shapes. It was totally worth the climb and the trip and the freezing cold weather change from the summer heat outside.

Upon arriving back in Salzburg, we got some Indian food and walked around town.

Salzburg is really pretty and there were some tourist attractions but it already mid-afternoon and we were tired from the ice caves so we explored near the river and watched an animal rights protest in front of some big chain store. We also made a pit stop at HM so I could buy some new shorts and then headed back to Christy’s to see what the plans were. Christy was working on a project with her art partner, a dance student also named Ellie. We hung out with them, drinking a few beers and they invited us to this Milk Festival that was happening in Salzburg that happens every year.

It’s a celebration of dairy so you wear all white and they sell things like cheese and yogurt and milk and vodka in milk cartons. It was odd and there were people dressed in different exciting white costumes.

We got there a little late since Christy had a hard time finding somewhere to send Yoshi, but we stayed for about an hour before heading with Felix, Christy and Ellie into the Salzburg countryside to go to their friends house party in the woods. When we got there, there was a bonfire and a dj with a proper turntable, playing weird techno. We couldn’t sort out how he was getting electricity without a generator in the middle of the woods but he was doing it somehow. We had some red wine and hung out amongst all of Christy and Ellie’s interesting art friends who didn’t speak much English until we were exhausted and went to sleep in the back of Felix’s camper van with his 8 yeard old daughter who had been sleeping their the entire time we were at the party. I told you parenting was a lot more relaxed in Europe. Felix woke up Sandra(his daughter) and he and Christy slept at their friends house while we slept in the van’s pull out bed.

Waking up the next morning in the mountains was amazing and we took some photos and waited for Christy, Sandra and Felix to wake up and drive us back to get our train.

Our trip to Salzburg was really amazing because it was so nice doing what the locals do and not just seeing Mozart’s house, as well as feeling inspired by Christy’s amazing political art. She gave us two of her photos with nice messages on the back and invited us back whenever we want this summer. We were so lucky to get her as a host to show us a different side of Salzburg.

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