(5.0) (20 Votes)
October 15, 2004
Pros: BEST pastries made on planet earth !!!
I have been quite sick for the past couple day, probably the flu
or some bad cold. I was resting more than usual and had no access
to internet so sorry about the late entry.
Anyhow, on the 12th day of my journey, I spend the whole day visiting
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia Republic. Despite all the bad
publicity on the city, I found Bratislava quite charming and less
touristy than some of the other city I visited. It has a castle
on the top of the hill as well as a cute downtown area complete
with cobblestones, narrow alleys. It reminds me of Prague with minimal
tourist !!! I spend the morning walking around the castle. It sits
on the top of the hill overlooking the city. Although it was destroyed
completely back in the mid 1800's, it has been reconstructed since.
The architecture was not as impressive as Prague. I really enjoyed
the old town of Bratislava. Its filled with small restaurants, cafes,
and little squares. Interesting to walk around and get lost in.
I found this vegetarian restaurant where about a good dozen locals
lined up for lunch. So I looked at the English menu and ordered
a mushroom dumpling, stir fried soya with veggies, soup, salad and
carrot juice. When the waiter ring the whole thing up, it only costs
164 SKK equivalent of $4.6 !!!! When I got my food, there was so
much food I can't even put them on my tray!!! After this huge lunch,
I got tired, so I went back to the hostel to sleep. Plus the sour
throat is kicking in....
I didn't wake up until 6 pm. So I walked back to old town and met
this friendly tourist from El Salvidor. He was surprised that I
spoke English. We became instant friend. Next, we spend the rest
of night chatting about places to visit and traded our travel experience.
We finally found this pizza restaurant and had the delicious European
pizza for dinner. We split afterward after trading e-mails. I spend
the rest of the night sleeping while most of my dorm mates went
to this strip club........
The 13th day is probably the worst day on this trip. My flu really
flared up and I start having fever and chills and joint aches. As
soon as I arrived in Vienna, I crashed. The hostel owner saw me
being "tired" made the exception to allow me to sleep
during the day since from 10 am to 2 pm is her cleaning time. She
quickly clean the room up and allowed me to sleep. Vienna was SOOO
cold, its almost FREEZING with the wind chill, I guess the temperature
probably dipped below 0. I waked up later to visit the Aqarium knowing
that if I go the museum, I probably won't be able to enjoy it. The
aquarium was alright. It an old building converted to story after
story of fish tanks. The most interesting part of this aquarium
is that it has a completely enclosed tropical forest filled with
small primates, parrots, tropical birds and turtles. The only thing
that puzzled me is that there is NO enclosure on the entrance to
this tropical forest and I wonder how the Aquarium staff kept the
bird from flying away ??? Later I went to the Vienna state Opera
house just to find it closed. Well, better luck tomorrow.
Day 14, I am glad the flu is leaving. My fever and chills are gone
and I felt much better. I visited the Hofsburg Royal Treasury, Sisi
museum, Imperial Silverware Collection and Hofburg Royal Apartment.
No wonder everyone rated the Viennese museums some of the best in
the world, the were GREAT !!!! Since the Hapsburg family was once
the largest kingdom on the continental Europe and they owned places
like Germany, Spain, Venice, Hungary, Czech republic, Poland, Romania,
Bulgaria and France, the Hapsburg family has the BEST collection
of royal treasures I have seen on this trip. The Hapsburg started
their domination of Europe since the 1300's. They had their humble
beginning in a small Swiss village. Later the empire expended. The
success of the Hapsburg family lies in the hand of Maria Theresa,
the first female empress of Austria. She had 16 children, common
in its days. Instead of conquering the neighboring countries by
force, Maria Theresa skillfully married off her offspring to various
kings of the continental Europe, including France (Napolean), Spain,
Venice and Bohemia(Present day Czech Republic). She was able to
expend the empire this way, very smart indeed !!! She even started
free education for children in grade school and reform taxation
on the nobles. Unfortunately, the Hapsburgs (AustroHungarian Empire)
collapsed on 1918 the end of WWI. Under the European treaties for
the winning side, the Hapsburg Empire was split up into multiple
countries. The museum of Imperial treasury was dazzling with gold
crowns, septures, robes, decoration items filled with gem stones.
I even saw an emerald weighing about 1000 carat!!!! The Royal dinning
ware goes from silverware, silver dishes, silver candle holders
to silver tea sets. They are so much such silverware that chests
after chests were necessary to keep them in place. Sisi was also
know as Princess Elisabeth, the wife of King Franz Joseph I. She
was called sisi because she was always worrying about her weight
by obsessive dieting, exercising and traveling. Her story is just
the story of Princess Diana of Great Britain or Princess Grace of
Monaco. Beautiful yet mysterious, Sisi was depressed and became
a recluse after the tragic death of her throne heir son Rodolph.
She was later murdered in 1898 by an Italian anarchist on her trip
to Switzerland. The Sisi museum is filled with her memoribilias
and I am sure a similar one is in London commemorate the life of
Princess Diana. Very sad story.
On the 15th day of my travel, I visited the Summer Palace of the
Hapsburg family the Schloss Schönbrunn. Its one of the most
visited sites in Vienna. I did an English guided tour where I visited
40 out of the 1000 rooms available in this grand palace. It has
a huge ball room where VIPs around the world routinely visit and
dance in. The palace was fortunate when during WWII the British
air raid dropped hundreds of bombs on the palace vicinity where
only 1 bomb actually hit the palace itself. I think this is either
luck or the British pilots intentionally avoided destroying the
palace. There are tourists from around the world here, Japanese,
Korean, Americans, British, French, Italian, Germans, Czechs and
Hungarians. This is the one place the made the present day Austrians
proud, although they lost most of their once mighty empire, they
still retained the beautiful palaces and treasures.
I have to say the Viennese citizens knows about how to enjoy life.
The city is full of small cafe houses around every corner. Locals
sit or stand to enjoy some of the BEST pastries made on planet earth
!!!! Vienna is shaped like a target where the center of the city
is Stephansdom Church and everything else radiates out. Vienna is
also the home of famous musicians such as Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss,
and Schubert. One can find street and plazas named after them. The
best part of the city is of course concerts. I went to a Viennese
concert were standing room admission is only 2 Euros !!! I was fortunate
enough to listen to the most wonderful orchestra and watch the spectacular
performance by the dancers.
Something very unique about Vienna is the owners put muffles on
their dog's mouth when getting on trams or subways so that their
dogs doesn't bit innocent folks. These muffles looks like the one
out of the movie "Silence of the Lamb".
My next stop will be Salzburg, home of Mozart, will keep you updated.