Exploring Vienna

This Thursday marks the third month since my move to Vienna, and I still feel I’m just brushing the surface of things to see in this city! This week, we visited the artsy, bohemian Hundertwasserhaus Village and walked around the amusement park at the Prater.

The Hundertwasserhaus neighborhood is a beautiful gem for those who love modern art — and even for those who don’t. Hundertwasser designed each sloping building with such intricate detail; even the stones are cut in a way that seems “shattered” yet perfectly put-together at the same time. Complete with a shopping center and charming cafes, the Hundertwasser Village made for a lovely afternoon.

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The Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna’s famous, giant Ferris Wheel, stands as the focal point in the Prater amusement park area. The park itself is open year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week… so there is NO excuse to miss this gorgeous attraction!

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I’m in the process of compiling a “Vienna Bucket List” — things I absolutely must do or see before the year is over. Though I’ve seen quite a bit, there’s still a lot left to do! Now that work has settled in a bit more, I’m really looking forward to experiencing all this city has to offer.

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Vacation, all I ever wanted

We’re back in Vienna after 12 amazing days in the Netherlands and Belgium. After a year and a half of being together, I finally got to really spend time in Jacco’s home country (Holland), so this was a meaningful and special trip for the both of us.

We visited Amsterdam, the Hague, and Amersfoort before heading south and seeing Bruges.

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Shameless selfie stick usage in Amsterdam

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The most amazing tulips of my life in Keukenhof

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Keukenhof

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The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer, The Hague

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Brugge, Belgium

I think I’ve experienced more history, art, and culture in the past few days than I have in my previous 24 years combined.

We visited the Anne Frank house and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, walked through Mauritshuis in the Hague, and said a prayer over the cloth stained with Christ’s blood (yes, really) in Bruges.

If you love old things as much as I do, you might understand why the past week and a half has been so exciting for me. The architecture from the Middle Ages, the paintings preserved for almost a thousand years, the streets that Van Gogh himself walked had every history-nerd bone in my body tingling.

The cities are also filled with stuff for the younger crowd, of course. I’m pretty sure no one parties like Amsterdam. I think the coffee shops, restaurants, and bars may be worth the trip just by themselves, but I’m glad we got to experience at least a little bit of a lot of different attractions.

And now we’re back! Returning to Vienna really felt like coming back home… it’s great to be here again.

Karlskirche

Yesterday, I visited the Karlskirche for their 11 a.m. service. Though Stephansdom is (from an American’s standpoint at least) the better-known of the two, the Karlskirche has a breathtaking beauty of its own. For church-attending purposes, I actually prefer the Karlskirche due to the more intimate seating, but that is only my humble opinion.

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The Karlskirche was built in the 18th Century under the supervision of Emperor Charles VI. The impressive, imperial style of the architecture reflects the grandeur Charles envisioned for the church that would bear his namesake. Though the church appears starkly different from many of the other, surrounding buildings at Karlsplatz, it doesn’t look out of place; rather, it makes the church seem even more like a priceless jewel.

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The service was lovely, and I followed almost all of it (it was entirely in German — great practice for me)! The recessional was an organ arrangement of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah — it definitely felt appropriate.

IMG_2895For more information, visit the Karlskirche website! http://www.karlskirche.at/

I got locked in a park

Okay, so two posts in one day… but I had way too much excitement today not to share.

So, this morning, I did a Google search on parks and gardens in my area of Vienna, and I came across one very nearby at the School of Floristik. My weather app predicted the warmest, sunniest weather that we’ve had here thus far, so I decided today would be a great time to get some real fresh air.

When I arrived at the park, I was not disappointed. The garden was expansive, and it was laid out in various sections labeled as “countries;” there was an American section of the garden, a British section, a Japanese section, and so on. I had such a wonderful time. At about 3 pm, I heard some American students leaving the school, but instead of the sudden absence of people triggering me in any way, I simply took note of the familiar accents wafting away as the students left, then I smiled and went about my day.

I took pictures for about an hour. I read for another hour (on a different note, I’m reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt — amazing). At around 5:00, I decided maybe it was time to pack up my things and head home.

As I approached the entrance/exit, the first thing I noticed were the metal gates barring me from the street. They were taller than I am, and didn’t have any places to put your feet so someone like I could climb over and escape.

“Okay,” I thought to myself. “Don’t panic. I saw another exit in the far side of the garden.” I remembered how my pre-paid phone plan had just run out of minutes yesterday, so I couldn’t call or text anyone for help if I needed it. I felt my heartbeat quicken a little as I cut corners to reach the exit quickly.

Another metal gate stared me down.

Scheisse…”

But still not too worried. I had some other options.

I tried all corners of the garden. All locked and impossible to leave. Austrians really do not like people to enter their public parks when no employees are there.

I ran up to the school building and knocked on every window. No answer. I took notice of the signs that read “Achtung! Überwachungskameras” (Warning! Security cameras).

“Okay, kein Problem. There’s a neighborhood right across the street. Next time someone comes into their front garden, I’ll ask ‘Haben Sie eine Leiter?’ (“Do you have a ladder?”) After the longest five minutes of my life, still, I had seen no one.

“I’ve just got to find a way to climb over this fence.”

With my adrenaline rushing, I reached my hands up to the top of the gate, took a lunge back, then jumped as high as I could. I pushed myself up with my arms (I’m heavier than I thought), swung my leg over, straddled the fence, then swung the rest of myself over the fence. I landed directly in front of a middle-aged couple passing on the street (“Where were you five minutes ago?” I wanted to ask.) The husband put his arm around his wife as they averted their eyes away from me like I was a criminal who had just done something I wasn’t supposed to do. I smiled at them, dusted off my pants, and walked away.

I think the Überwachungskameras caught some pretty entertaining stuff today.

Also, thank God for yoga!

In other news, I got some pretty nice pics!

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Austrian National Library

…aka my heaven!

Yesterday, I took advantage of our day off and headed over to Stephansplatz, where I wandered around and discovered some alleyways I’d never seen before. As one would expect from exploring in Vienna, I stumbled upon some really charming places.

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In Vienna, every corner of every street in the city center gives visitors something to see. As if the architecture and color weren’t enough, shop owners decorate their stores with fairy lights and flowers, making the streets an overwhelmingly delightful mass of cuteness.

When I found the Austrian National Library (which, unbeknownst to me, I had passed several times already, just thinking it was some beautiful governmental building… whoops. Sometimes I’m a dumb American living up to my stereotype), I discovered that the famous State Hall with the beautiful painted ceilings and mountains of books is actually located in the entrance off Josefsplatz (good to know for future visitors), so I walked a bit longer, but was absolutely not disappointed. I totally fell in love.

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The Library is part of the University that was founded in the 12th Century! The room also acts as a museum of sorts, housing original documents and heavily-bound leather books from as early as 1200. Appealing to my inner (and outer) music nerd, the Library even features a handwritten piece of Gregorian chant.

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The best part is… I’m only just cracking the surface of what Vienna has to offer. I can’t wait to see more.

Consider Me Visa’d

In exactly a week, I will have been here for two months. To celebrate my upcoming second monthaversary, I got my visa today! I am so pumped, I’m not even mad about my terrible mugshot on the front of the Residence Permit card!

After about a year of planning to move to Europe (Germany initially, but saying I’m fine with having landed in Austria is a huge understatement), I’m finally here, *officially* a working expat. I gotta say — it feels great!

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Ostermarkt

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The Viennese certainly know how to Easter.

Yesterday, we visited Karlskirche at Karlsplatz for their afternoon Good Friday Mass. The church, though smaller than the Stephansdom, is no less incredible in terms of sheer gorgeousness.

We stopped at this super cute, hole-in-the-wall cafe called Charly Fresh for some delicious wraps and hot chocolate, then headed over to Stephansplatz for the Ostermarkt (Easter Market) am Hof. Here, several streets are taken over by vendors selling hot drinks, food, and handmade gifts. At least the length of a block (streets aren’t laid out in blocks here like they are in the U.S., but I don’t know what else to compare it to) is absolutely covered in crates holding the most beautifully hand-decorated Easter eggs I’ve ever seen. We tried to resist spending money and totally failed — we brought home 5 eggs. I’m still not sorry about it!

The weather is still really cold, but it doesn’t make the Easter season any less charming here in Vienna. I’m in love!

Happy Easter, everyone!