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Wednesday, June 30
First off, let me mention that I did not take my laptop along on free travel. There was never really any time for it, anyway. I simply kept a journal the old fashioned way, making notes while standing in lines or waiting for the shower. That said, here it goes.
Packing for the trip wasn't hard, but we discovered that we had too much stuff! We couldn't decide what to leave out, so we just stuffed the extra into Greg's backpack. I should mention that we had to sit on the suitcase just to close it. Yes, we knew that did not bode well for the rest of the trip. The biggest problem was that we each needed 3 pairs of shoes: shower shoes for not-so-clean restrooms, dress shoes for our nice clothes, and walking shoes. Greg's shoes are big, too!
We left the villa later than we had intended to. Greg got semi-sick at the last minute, which he has a history of doing. Right before our ski trip to Colorado a few years ago, he came down with a serious fever. But he didn't get any worse this time, thank goodness. We still got to the train station with a lot of time to kill, just not enough time to make a stop at the internet cafe. We came up with a few more-concrete plans for Vienna while we were waiting around. The train came 20 minutes late, so that was just more time standing around. The couchettes in the compartments weren't what I expected, but they worked just fine. Six little planks came down out of two walls (three on one side) to make beds. There were pillows and sheets available too. They weren't very big, and there wasn't enough room between them to sit up. Laying down, even ~I~ felt kinda cramped. I didn't get as motion-sick as I thought I would, but I still could only lie facing the direction the train was moving. It took me ~forever~ to finally fall asleep, but I suppose I survived. About an hour or so before our stop, the conductor brought back our tickets and passports (he had collected them earlier).
I love Vienna. It took us over an hour to get bus passes, find a hotel, take our stuff there, and come back into town. "Wasting" so much time was frustrating, but not really too big a deal. The most famous church here--Stefansdom--wasn't extremely impressive to me, but I think that living in Italy has spoiled us. After that we walked down a long shopping district that was very pleasant before coming to the Staatsoper Opera House. We tried to get tickets then, but they said to come back at 5:30 for standing room. Then we walked a ways to the Hofburg Palace complex. The treasury room was very interesting and indescribable. I just can't imagine spending so much state money for dressing up the royalty. There were so many jewels, robes, crowns, religious art, and more. The gardens--more like a park--were very pleasant; we had to walk through them to reach some things. We also went to the chapel where the Vienna Boys Choir performs. It was ~so~ small! No wonder their performances sell out so quickly. I had intended to buy a CD, but not for the price they wanted. After the Hofburg we went to eat at Wienerwald, a German-Austrian chicken chain. It was more than fast food, and tasted really good. Next we crossed town by subway to the Shunbrunn palace, which was enormous. It was similar to the Pitti palace in Florence in many ways. We took self-guided audio tours through the main appartments. It was just an ear piece that talked about each room as you went throught them, lasting just over 30 minutes. Then we went back into the center of town to do a bit of shopping and got in line for the opera. We were amazed at how long the line was! Fortunately a couple other girls from our group were ahead of us, so they bought us tickets. At that point, it was 40 minutes until Carmen started. We wanted to go change into nicer clothes, so we ~ran~ back to our hotel as fast as the trains would carry us. We changed faster than Superman, but we were still 15 minutes late (it started at 7:00) to the opera. Unfortunately, that meant that we got the worst standing room, which is all pretty bad anyway. We could see maybe 20% of the stage, which got frustrating after a while. I eventually just sat on the steps and listened, which was still very enjoyable. There were several intermissions, and we kept trying to find a better place, but nothing worked out. When it was over at 11:00, we went to get something to eat. We had missed dinner because of running to get changed. One of the only things open was T.G.I.Friday's, so Greg had a salad and I had a baked potato. The best part was the free refils on the cokes! Then we went back to our hotel, exausted.
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