Although it’s been another busy week, we managed to fit in some downtime. After one final day in Prague, we had a crazy journey to Vienna via Plzen and Linz, then enjoyed the atmosphere of Austria’s capital for four days before spending the weekend with Birgit and Felix in Orth an der Donau.
Monday 1/10: One of the problems (and benefits) of returning somewhere is that you’ve often seen most of the tourist attractions, and don’t really need to them again. This was the case for us in Prague; we didn’t want to go up any of the towers, nor did we have any desire to cross Charles Bridge again. However, we did do a walking tour with Urban Adventures, which took us to some familiar places as well as introducing us to new ones. Our guide, Teresa, met us at the astronomical clock and explained its many devices, then took us through the Old Town to the Jewish Quarter, then into the New Town. She explained the history of what we were seeing, and we came to appreciate how important Charles IV had been for the city. She gave us a lot of homework, though — we were supposed to visit a lot of important buildings on the other side of the river that weren’t included in our tour, and like naughty schoolchildren, we did none of it.
The tour finished with a beer at about 2pm, and by this time we were quite hungry. We headed to a canteen restaurant that had been recommended on the IndieRail page, and gorged ourselves on typical Czech fare.
After a stop at home, we split up: Craig headed next door to the Mucha museum while I walked across town to meet Moroni and Mirka. We caught a tram up to the castle complex, and ducked into the cathedral before heading back down the hill to Moroni’s other favourite bar. They had dinner but as I was still full from lunch, I just had an enormous beer instead.
My route home took me across Charles Bridge (so I didn’t miss it after all), and Craig and I headed out in the light rain for a light dinner.
Tuesday 2/10: After a great breakfast at our hotel, we walked the ten minutes or so to the main train station, where we caught a train to Plzen. We didn’t have time to visit the beer museum, but Craig really wanted to have a pilsner in Plzen. Perhaps fortunately, there were no bars near the station, and our wandering took us right to the factory, where we enjoyed a beer and a ham platter before returning to the station for our trip to Linz.
This journey was smooth and uneventful apart from a change at Ceske Budejovice, and we were met at Linz Hauptbahnhof by our awesome friend Sabine. Because we had to be in Vienna before 9pm, we had only two hours to spend with her, but we spent them well. We caught up over a game of Phase 10 (Sabine thrashed us), then ate a very tasty meal that she had prepared: dumplings stuffed with bacon, sauerkraut, and homemade strudel. It was so great to spend even a little time with her, it really pulled me out of the bad mood I’d been in for most of the day.
We had to change trains once to make sure we arrived at the Sudbahnhof and not another of Vienna’s many many train stations, and we found our apartment (which was kindly provided by Oh Vienna) without any problems. The owner gave us a tour and explained everything very clearly, in German. We somehow missed an important point though, because we couldn’t get the heating going.
Wednesday 3/10: Our day started with a 20-minute walk into town, where we visited the tourist office to pick up an information pack that the tourism board had been kind enough to put together for us. We browsed the information over coffee in a nearby cafe, then activated our Vienna Cards on one of the trams that travel around the central ring road. We hopped on and off the trams, admiring the awesome architecture, until we found ourselves more or less back where we’d started.
After lunch in the Hofburg gardens, we wandered through Museumsquartier then caught a tram back home, where we stayed until it was time for a dinner of Wiener schnitzel in a nearby restaurant.
Thursday 4/10: We were both in need of a virtual weekend, so we slept in then lazed about during the morning and early afternoon. Craig got us kebabs for lunch, and soon after eating we headed out to explore a bit more of Vienna. First, we stopped by the Hundertwasser Village where, oddly, we did not see reference to the Kawakawa toilets. Next, we had coffee and sachertorte at Demel cafe, which had been recommended on the IndieRail page. Finally, we headed to the Naschmarkt, which we always visit when we’re in Vienna, for tasty Asian food. In the past we’ve often had Japanese bento boxes, but this time we had sushi and noodles at a place called Mr Li.
We decided not to make a late night of it and headed home, and just after we’d poured ourselves a drink, it started to rain: talk about good timing!
Friday 5/10: We’d planned to leave the house at 10am, but with one thing and another (ie me sleeping in) we didn’t manage it until midday. Since it’s Design Week in Vienna, we decided to visit MAK, a design museum on the Ring road we’d explored on our first day. There were a lot of interesting things to see, from sculpted ceilings and inlaid sideboards to Apple products and sex toys.
We had lunch at Der Wiener Deewan, a pay-what-you-want Indian restaurant on the other side of the Ring, as recommended on the IndieRail page; the food was delicious and the place was packed.
Next, we wandered through town to the tourist information office to pick up some vouchers we’d seen mentioned in a brochure, but they’d run out. Instead of making use of the vouchers, then, we caught the U-bahn to my favourite clothes shop in the world, the C&A on Mariahilferstraße, which has always been a treasure trove for me. Sadly, this time it was not to be and I left empty-handed.
By this point we were both pretty tired, so we headed home for a rest and then a bit of work. Soon, though, it was time to head out again — to a heuriger. These farm restaurants are one of Craig’s favourite places to eat, as they serve food prepared on the premises as well as local wine. We visited two; the first for a glass of wine and the second for dinner. You can order off a menu as at a regular restaurant, or choose cold meat and cheeses from a buffet and pay by weight. We chose the second option and were a bit surprised by how expensive it was — but very tasty. We also got a free half-glass of wine with our Vienna card, which was nice.
Saturday 6/10: Since we didn’t have to check out of our apartment until 11, we slept in then did a bit of work before heading across town to catch our bus. We made it to the station where the bus leaves from without incident, but just couldn’t find the bus stop. We looked at all the signs, asked at two information offices and even talked to bus drivers, but to no avail. We eventually found it after an hour of looking (and after the scheduled departure time), and it turned out the stop had moved somewhere else — somewhere we’d looked, and which certainly wasn’t marked. Luckily, the Droam came to our rescue as we could get online to find an alternative route, and we made it to Orth an der Donau only an hour or so late.
We’d been invited to stay by Birgit and Felix, who had recently bought a rambling farmhouse and are currently doing it up. We spent the first couple of hours in their enormous garden, enjoying the sun and sharing travel stories — they have some awesome ones, I was quite jealous.
Dinner was a communal affair — I made pebre and guacamole and they prepared rosemary potatoes and roast pumpkin, which we combined with canned dolmades, olives, and a fair amount of wine.
Sunday 7/10: The steady rain kept us inside for the whole day, but that was no problem — actually, it was kind of nice. After breakfast, we had a project: to assemble the Ikea bed that had finally been delivered at midnight the night before. It was my first experience with Ikea products, and I think it went pretty well overall; though I did manage to destroy a screw (sorry guys).
Birgit threw together a potato and pumpkin strudel for lunch, and we’d just finished eating when the lights suddenly went out: adventure! Apparently a power pylon somewhere had been blown over by heavy winds and the outages were quite widespread. It was no problem for us though; we lit candles and played Monopoly Deal and Uno.
Luckily, the lights came on within an hour or so, so we could cook dinner: Curry and rice would probably have been difficult to prepare over an open fire, even with Craig’s fire-making skills.
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