Monday, March 9, 2015

The Austrian Alps and Vienna

 I’ve been crazy busy the past few weeks but I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and write about them. Last weekend my fellow USAC-er and friend, Ryan, and I went to Innsbruck, Vienna for a weekend snowboarding trip in the Alps. Snowboarding in the Alps was definitely on my bucket list so it’s yet another thing I’ve been able to cross off. It's crazy that I'm getting to cross so many things off my bucket list. I hate it because when I'm at these places I know that I will most likely never be back again, and even if I do make it back, it won't be for a long time. It's really depressing but I know a lot of my study abroad friends have said the same thing.

We started off with a 5AM train to Linz, where we transferred to another train and finally got to Innsbruck, which is in the western part of Austria around 2PM. Funny story actually… okay not really that funny. I almost hate to post this because I don’t want my parents to know how much of a goofball I am. Everyone probably knows the story about how I forgot my passport when we went to Mexico… well this is a similar story so it’s not one I’d like to relive but it’s quite funny so I guess I should share.

I was passed out asleep facedown in a train cabin when the ticket checker on the train woke Ryan and me up saying that we need to move carts because they were disconnecting the one we were in at the next stop. So we sleepily grab our stuff and walk one cart up. About a minute later, I realize I had set my train pass (that is my ticket and has future tickets on it as well) in the last cabin. So I sprint to the back of the train just in time to watch it disconnect and be hauled down the tracks and disappear into oblivion about five seconds later. So at this point I’m a little frantic trying to find someone to help me. Luckily, a woman who spoke pretty good English asked if I needed help. I explained the situation and she told the ticket checker what happened. He said that there was no way to know where they had taken the cart. Keep in mind that the train only stops at a station very briefly and it waits for no one. Once the doors shut there’s nothing you can do. So eventually the ticket checker who doesn’t speak English told me to run across a few of the tracks. At the same time, I’m scared to leave the train I’m on because I don’t want it to take off with all of my stuff on it. But I sprint over there anyways and frantically look at all the carts trying to find the same one I was just in. Somehow…. A few of the train cleaners were standing nearby and realized I had left something important. They looked through their trash bags really quickly while I was running around and found it. They held it up and waved at me and I ran over and grabbed it, said a quick thanks, and ran as fast as I could back to my train and barely made it on before it took off. You can just imagine how terrifying it was. I’m very stupid if you haven’t figured that out yet. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep the rest of the train ride because the adrenaline rush. So be warned kids, keep up with your ticket/train passes. Not everyone can be as insanely lucky twice in a row as me. And mom and dad I promise promise promise I won’t leave anything important ever again. At least I hope I don’t….

Anyways, I loved Innsbruck. It was a crazy beautiful town. Very outdoorsy and laid back. It definitely had the mountain lifestyle going on. It even had a cool skate park in the middle of downtown. The mountains literally surrounded the town. It was amazing. The food was also good and the people were nice. It’s definitely my favorite place I’ve been so far (besides Prague). It was just a good sized town for me and had my kind of vibe.


The main gates to the town square.

The river was so pretty! It had beautiful, colorful buildings on either side and was surrounded by mountains. 

The main square.

To get to Stubaier Glacier, which is actually the biggest glacier in the Alps, you had to take a forty five minute, free bus ride. We actually almost missed the bus the first day because of Ryan. I literally had to stall the bus driver and beg him not to close the doors yet while Ryan went and grabbed our gear. But it all worked out and it was another crisis averted. You live and you learn. The ride to Stubaier was really pretty.

The whole drive was really pretty. You could see Innsbruck and other towns from the top of the mountains and you were just surrounded by the Alps on all sides.

The first day of snowboarding was a little rough. There was zero visibility. You could honestly barely see where the runs were at, especially since there are no trees and you literally just go down a marked run, and you definitely couldn’t see the moguls or any drop-offs. Everything was just solid white. I did get a lot better though with practice. Snowboarding is an ongoing learning experience for me since I’ve never had any lessons or anything. I seriously busted my lip within the first twenty minutes though. Luckily my face was so cold and numb I didn't even feel it for a good half hour. 

This was me sitting on the side of the mountain. You literally can't tell the sky from the snow. It was crazy. Definitely not ideal conditions but it was actually pretty cool to have gotten to experience both types of weather and it was something I will never forget.

That night we went to this amazing Austrian restaurant. Austrian beer, called Agustiner, was actually really good. I also had something called a Tirolean (we were technically in the Tirol part of Austria) Kendegree, which I really didn’t know what it was when I ordered it, but I figured why not try some of the local food. It turned out to be delicious. It was fried potatoes and meat (not sure what type of meat) and grilled onions with a fried egg on top. It was so good and some of the best food I’ve had in the past two months. Delicious!!

The second day on the mountain was better than anything I could have even dreamed of. It was perfect weather. The sun was out and I only had to wear a light shirt under my coat because it was so warm. I really just can’t even put into words how amazing the mountain and the views were. It was a night and day difference from the day before. The sky was so incredibly blue and the mountain had thick, fresh powder. It was seriously heaven. I also wore my gopro that day and got miraculous footage, probably the best I’ve gotten with my gopro. It was great quality. Anyways here are a few pictures from that day. I will upload my video soon hopefully. It’s such high quality from my gopro that it’s taking forever on my crappy European wi-fi. Just to give you an idea, it’s at 44% right now and says it has a little under 1200 minutes left. Anyways I can honestly say I will never forget my trip to the Alps. It was just an absolutely perfect and amazing day. One of the best I’ve ever had in my entire life for sure.

The view going up one of the gondolas. It seriously took around thirty minutes to get to the very top.

It was really cool because we were literally above the clouds, so you could see the tops of the peaks above the clouds and see the rest of the mountain below them.

Later that night I was talking to John and we realized we were actually in the same country for the first time in like six weeks (he had just gotten back from Romania). So he suggested I leave early in the morning and come to Vienna, where he is studying for a semester, before going back to Prague. I figured why not and hopped on a train at 6AM. We had a great time. He showed me around Vienna and we had a good burger for dinner at one of his favorite places. I literally only saw him for like twenty hours but it was definitely worth it. Vienna was nice too, kind of a combination between Berlin and Prague in my opinion. I liked it a lot. It was honestly just nice to see John though.  We had a lot of fun. I had forgotten how much I enjoy being around him and he made me feel at home, which was a feeling I hadn't realized I had been missing.

This week was pretty busy for me. In addition to my usual internship and classes, I had a midterm, a presentation over my history project, and a group study session to complete a case study for my International Management class, all crammed into three short days. Thursday though John actually came to Prague for two days to see me. It was nice getting to show someone around. We went to the Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. He’s basically been sick for three weeks though so we didn’t stay out in the cold too much. Again, we had a good time just hanging out and drinking in the bars. I also made him try smazeny syr (fried cheese sandwich) and Kofola, which is the communist’s version of Coca Cola they created a few decades ago when American products were forbidden.

We went to a museum this week in my Art and Architecture class that had really pretty views. These pictures were from out of the windows. The views were actually prettier than a lot of the art.

Haley and I at Chapeau Rouge on Tuesday night.

Today it was actually great weather! It was a beautiful day, like sixty degrees or so and sunny, so a few of us walked through the city, around Old Town Square, and along the river to a park on an island in the middle of the Vltava River that runs through Prague. We got snacks and laid on the grass and had a picnic. It was wonderful!

That’s about all that’s going on now. I’m actually feeling kind of sick (thanks John) so I’m probably just going to enjoy myself and continue laying in bed and watching movies for the rest of my Sunday to finish out my weekend.
I’ve been entertained by all the snow pictures/stories from back home the past week or two. I hope all my friends are doing well. Miss you guys!!

There are lots of musicians and artists around the Old Town Square. Saw these guys as we were walking around. It was really cool looking actually. I was amazed of course but luckily my genius and all-knowing friend Zack was there to tell me how they do it. 

Enjoying the pretty day with a picnic on the banks of the Vltava.

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