Skip to content

Wien: Rainy day 5

Although it's been raining quite a bit since we arrived, this time, getting out was almost impossible. It was dark all day long and it never stopped raining. Plus, Talie was working all day so I ended up doing Sudoku and watching CNN... yeahh..

Positive outcome, I had time to plan what we should go visit, and how to get around using as much as possible public transportation (using a car is a mess).

The day is quickly over, and it's time to find a place for dinner. Let's try to see if we can find a nearby coffee with good food. It is still raining and getting soak is not my intention. As we walk, it seems everything is closed. Of course, it is Sunday after all and most little places don't open.

Still, walking on the ring, we continue up to Schwarzenberg street. Longer walk than expected, but the Cafe Schwarzenneger (err... Schwarzenberg) is open. Good, we won't have to cross the street and go to McDonald's.

Entering the restaurant, we can hardly see if tables are still available. Walking around, we find one spot, near a piano. Well, I don't want to exagerate here, but near is not strong enough. We were probably more eating on the piano itself. We start looking at the menu, while enjoying the music (not like we could ignore the sound getting out of that piano!)

We order and enjoy our meal. Good food, respectably priced (although the bread is not free). Now, time to pay, using the beloved kreditkarten. The guy comes back, with the credit card in his hand and a question mark on his face. He then asks: "erm.. you're not from France?".

Well, of course we're not from France, we explain we're from Canada. Usually, people tend to say: "Ohhh... Canada... good", and then stop talking as they just know we are a quiet northern country somewhere and don't know much about it. This time it's different and the guy wants to know more.

Discussing with him, we discover that he went three times to Montréal. Last time he went to the city, he took a car from Halifax and drove all the way there. He told us one time he had a hard time getting understood as no one was speaking English. Turns out, he was at Rivière-du-Loup and most people were only speaking French. He trully knew where Canada was.

As for the Sesame Street moment, today's word: Brot. This is bread my friend, and if you see it on your invoice, I hope you ate it and I hope it was good, because you just paid €3,40 for it.

Wien: Real day 4

After a short shift, Talie is ready to walk around the city. First stop: Stephansdom. We won't have time to go inside, as I have to head back to the hotel for a call. We will at least observe the building during the day, as it is difficult to see the complete architecture at night. After heading there, we will look around the center of the city. Overall, this was our complete walk:

Arrived at Stephansdom, we can barely walk. Center of Wien on Saturdays is packed. People are dancing, singing, playing instruments and drinking beer in the middle of the streets. This differs significantly from my last walk there, which was at night in the middle of the week. We are told by a young man selling concert tickets that streets are filled with people on Saturdays, but since everything is closed on Sundays, it quickly gets back to a more quiet mode.

Looking up, we can see the cathedral. Some parts are being renovated, but you can see all the details of the architecture. Even the roof is amazingly detailed. On top, we can see people walking around visiting the building. We definitely need to go back and take the tour.

Continuing our trip, we take all the little streets in every direction. At some point, even if we knew approximately how to get back, we couldn't say if we were facing a particular direction or not. After a while, we are back on Kärtner street. We just have to go south to cross the the ring.

Almost arrived at the ring, Talie asks if we should eat something if we want to survive until dinner. On our left, a hot dog stand selling their local version of the food. We take one and end up with a 12" baguette, carved and stuffed with sweet ketchup, strong mustard and a huge sausage. Good thing we only took one for the two of us.

For the two of us? Yeah right, Talie almost ate the whole thing. Turned out, it was pretty good, and probably more nutricious than what we call hot dog sausages.

Heading back to the hotel, we look where we could go for dinner. We decided on a spot and went back couple of hours after. That restaurant is almost the proud sponsor of today's Sesame Street moment. It is a word Talie decided to memorize carefully: Schopftintling. This, is a sort of mushroom.

Day 4.25

Not really a long post and I'll make one longer once I've done something interesting today.

Between 6 and 9 in the lobby of the hotel, you can get complimentary coffee. Basically, it is an automated espresso machine with pictogram buttons. I've been using it for 3 days, and I can't really figure out how to ask for a double espresso (and short ones, not allongé). What I found out is that it is best to simply press twice the small cup button.

Still, waiting in line, there is a blond mid-40 women in front, trying to understand the machine. She is pressing a button, transfering the small styrofoam cups inside her big thermos, then doing the whole thing again. She definitely looks American. Turns out, she's from Texas.

After a short discussion on how difficult it is to get coffee (still, don't forget she is from the US and must be drinking a container of cheap Dunkin Donuts coffee each morning), I just remember the Starbucks I discovered the first day. Asking if she would want to know where the Starbucks is, I get a strong: "REALLY, Where?". I guess she'll be heading there now.

During that time, couple of taxi drivers entered the lobby and took a small cup of coffee for the road. Each morning, they are drinking their small cup while waiting in line for clients. Even the polizei (police) is doing the same thing. At least, some people are happy with that complimentary machine. Rule of thumb, if you want to fill your thermos, you're at the wrong spot.

Day 3 (really, DAY)

Day 3 in Wien, that's right, we are now living like the rest of the world and sleeping at night. It also means we can enter buildings and see some sunlight. Although like the other days, it's raining outside. After a pretty good storm, it seems we will be able to get some blue sky, time to get out and show Talie the surroundings.

First thing first, time to start the GPS tracing see if the trick really works. With the iPhone switched on in my pocket, I will try to collect our position as we walk. This should allow us to precisely trace our steps on the map and geocode the photos taken. After some GPX to KML and KML to polylines conversion, here is the output:

Not bad, we can even see where we crossed the bridge in the park to go to the other side of the canal. We can also see where we entered the shops at the end because of the sudden storm (believe me, rain was pouring!).

So, simple walk in the park, but we were still able to see some interesting things. Upon entering near the canal, our first reaction was to see all the flowers everywhere. It is still cold here, around 2-6°C. Still, without any leaves in trees, the grass is green and flowers are surviving. Just on top of us, a weird tree with hairy balls. Don't know what this is, but it scares me. Let's move on before one ball falls on my head.

Walking the length of the canal, the sun quickly reappears. We now have a complete blue sky, with still dark clouds on the horizon. There is a small bridge nearby, we cross it and exit the park on Am Heumarkt. Continuing our walk, we pass by a board announcing future concerts. In big letters, we can read: "Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Kent Nagano". A block away, we are in front of the Wiener Konzert Haus.

Continuing our walk, the sky gets darker and darker. Back on Kärntner ring, we see now opened shopping centre. Couple of minutes after, rain is now pouring. We quickly get inside, even if we don't really need to shop.

On the lower level, we see a market selling fruits and vegetables. We decide to go see if we can find some nutritious food. When eating at restaurants, it's hard to get your daily dose of fresh vitamins. We head down to realize that the market is bigger than expected. We go inside, take some fruits (no chocolate for me..), Red Bull (Austria is where this stuff is from after all) and some bread.

Waiting in line to pay, we are greeted with a somewhat cold women. As she starts scanning our groceries, she's mumbling words that we cannot understand. Looking frustrated, she gets up and walk away from the counter. Not knowing really what is happening, it seems she has scanned everything and I begin packing the items. However, it seems the apples are missing, where have they gone? Talie also seeking the missing bag, the wonderful women comes back with our forbidden fruits.

Looking at the bag, we both realize why she was such pleasant company. In the store, you have to weight your own things and apply a label on the bag. She continues mumbling German words, even if she now realizes we can't speak it. Oh well, let's pay and get out before she jumps on us.

Going back outside, the rain has stopped again. However it is still dark and we decide to head back to the hotel. It will be dinner time soon and we have to wake-up early the next morning.

As for the Sesame Street moment, today's expression: Es tut mir leid (S toot meer lide). This is what we should have said to the poor women, given the fact that we were overall "sorry" for being misinformed.

Night 2 in Wien, Seeking U2

Second night in Wien, and it seems the rain just stopped. With xGPS installed on my iPhone, I now feel more confident about getting lost, as I now have the maps of the city even without Wifi. Still, let's plan the trip ahead, trying to memorize all the names in my head.

Tonight's challenge: Go see U2. Of course, not the band, Talie would hate me. I'm talking about the U2 line of the underground transportation system U-Bahn. If I'm understanding the map correctly, I just need to enter at Stadtpark station and transfer at Karlsplatz where the U2 line begins. From there, it seems there is a district two stations after with museums and nice buildings. It would make lovely photos.

Now that the trajectory is calculated, let's see where I really went. On the map, indigo is walking, green the U3 and red the U2. Pins are where I was scratching my head trying to find where I was:

Now, walking by Stadtpark, I quickly recognize the big U sign that indicates the U-Bahn entrance. Couple of minutes after, my ticket is bought (1,70€) and I'm waiting on the platform. Surprisingly, this is not an underground station, and you can see the sky from inside.

I only have the time to take a couple of photos and the train arrives with a quiet hum (resembling the Toronto subway). Train stops, and I'm waiting on the platform. Is it normal that the doors are still shut? Looking at them, they do have a door knob. Intrigued, I open one of them. With a simple push, one of the door opens magically. While the doors are automatic, they won't open by themselves. Probably another ingenious energy efficiency feature we just don't use in Canada!

Inside the train, I only have one station to go. 2 minutes later, the train arrives at Karlsplatz. Same trick here, you have to open the door if you want to exit. Looking around, this is a much bigger station. I can connect with two other U lines, but obviously I am only looking for the U2 line. Couple of meters ahead, I'm now on the U2 platform. I quickly enter the waiting train. 2 other stations ahead, I exit the suburban network. Enough public transportation for one night.

Going back to the surface, I realize that I am now completely lost. As usual, I cannot find the street names, and I don't know in which direction to walk. Trying different directions, I then discover where to go. I quickly find the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien and the Kunsthistorisches Museum. With all the lights pointing at these buildings, it makes beautiful night pictures. Continuing my journey (while getting lost again at Karlsplatz), I find the Wiener Staatsoper (or Opera House). Unfortunately, it starts raining again and I must head back to the hotel.

Waiting for the rain to settle down a little, I decide to wait near the tramway stop where stands sell shish kabab and weiners. Near me, the dude behind the counter greets me with a strong "Kalispera". For a unknown reason, I answer back and turn around. The guy now starts to speak with me in Greek. Uh-oh.. let's hope he understands English. He did. However, he was convinced I was greek. Guess it's time to shave then. After a short discussion, I head back to the hotel, grabbing coffee for the run.

Trail is now over, time to upload photos. Since I've seen on the news that they are cutting the Sesame Street staff, let's help education a little. By each day, I'll try to introduce a new German word. So, today's word is: kreditkarten. I'm now able to pay and say thank you. It sure does make some people happy.

Fun with maps - Day (Night) 1 in Wien

As some of you might already know, I'm currently visiting the city of Vienna, Austria. While I've been there since yesterday, it is the first time I actually have to walk around and try to understand street names.

After a quick walk around the corner (around the ring?), here is a map of where I went:

Basically, I was looking for coffee. I discovered maybe 7 McDonald's, but realized afterwards that these were only signs pointing to 2 or 3 real restaurants. Naturally, every corner you could find a chique coffee shop, but I was missing the caffeine factor of dripped coffee. Plus, the espresso I had last night was exactly tasting like the ones at home. Whether this means I make good espresso or the coffee shop was bad, yours to decide.

After walking a little bit, I found myself in front of the St. Stehpen's Cathedral (Stephansdom). Just on the other side, a huge pedestrian street with a lot of shops (clothing, books, etc). Still, no cheap dripped coffee. After trying for 15 minutes to see where I was on the map (street names are difficult to spot on buildings), I decided to walk on Stephansplatz as it was crossing Kärtner Ring southbound which becomes the street of the hotel eastbound.

Now, don't let me try to pronounce these names, as I would probably insult someone. I'm just trying to find the same sequence of letters on my map. Shame on me, the only thing I can now say is: "Yes", "No" and "Thank you".

Alright, still walking now. While going south, I'm close to Walfischg street. Is seeking now over? Looking at my left, a Starbucks store is there and open. As recommended by Maxim, if you want your caffeine, Starbucks' coffee is the one to choose at 21mg/oz. Good, let's hope they do understand English now.

Just inside, I'm next in line. The women in front of me is struggling to order a cafe latte. Can't understand what they are saying, but it seems this one won't be easy. Taking a deep breath, I'm probably looking terrified. It's my turn now, prepared to play the "point and nod" game with the guy. To my big surprise, I'm greeted with: "Hello, good evening". As it seems, the women in front did struggle, but with her English. Good.. "Grande Coffee" it is.

Time to pay, I see that big credit card machine that accepts the chip thing. Let's try to see if my new card works. Just popping the card on top, Deutsch menus simply change and everything is now in French. Pretty good sign considering the machine knows where I'm from. Typing my PIN, I'm now seeing a "Merci veuillez reprendre votre carte". After 4 weeks of trying to use it at home, I'm finally able to test the chip technology.

Being a happy person with my coffee and credit card tested, it's time to head back to the hotel. There is still a little bit of rain and the humidity makes it feel colder outside. Just have to walk along the park. Couple of minutes later, I'm back in my room, drinking that good (same old) Starbucks, writing this arcticle. Now that the post is over, the cup is also empty. Let's try to see if I can take some night pictures.