I got up early this morning to rush back to Schönbrunn Palace so I could see the inside. I was super excited to take all kinds of pictures, but photographing was prohibited. I took a couple photos where there was no sign on the way out, but I decided just to add some photos of my favorite things from online sources:
The main ballroom.
An example of some paintings and a cermic heater in the back, tended from behind using passages so as to keep dirt out of the rooms.
The porcelain room.
I like that I have now been to where Marie Antoinette grew up as well as where she ended up spending most of her time while in France.
After seeing the Palace, I grabbed a pretzel and a melange and jumped back on the metro. I have it down now, how to ride two stops per three legs and where I can simply run across the platform to the next train versus where I have to transer by going upstairs first. I also know how to evade paying completely. Heh.
Vienna State Opera House: one of the side fountains.
Back at the Labyrinth Hostel, I took advantage of the free wi-fi to verify locations of some places, time tables, etc. Then I grabbed my stuff, turned in my key, and started walking towardsthe Vienna State Opera House (Vienna Staatsoper). Along the way, I stumbled upon the Burgtheater and found a rack of City Bikes. Unlike the rack in Warsaw which used a touch pad, these bikes required a card swipe and I was able to rent one. I picked good ole bike 11, a nice yellow. All bikes had a basket on the front so I was able to put everything I was holding in front of me. With the bike lanes and ligts ahead of me and new variations of speed, I took off cruising through the parks around the opera houses. I hit a cobblestone roundabout and almost lost it. Looking up, I was surrounded by parades of horses, carriages, and tourists. I had found the Spanish Riding School.
My friend texted me that I needed to take the train in a couple of hours. I used my phone to make a few guesses then followed signs on familiar streets to head back to the train station. On the way, I stopped at a couple of tabacs to find stamps to send my postcards. They directed me to a bank that had postal service. The teller helped me with my cards, then looked at me like I was crazy when I was confused about where the station was and where I could take the bike back. He told me there was a rack at the station for the City Bikes and that all I had to do was stay straigt. Sure enough, I continued down the street and the station was only a couple blocks from sight. I dropped off the bike, went in and bought a ticket, then crossed the street for a meal.
Me on my City Bike before I returned it.
I had an hour, so I decided to grab something real to eat. I found a place that looked attractive and quick, but then I ended up not wanting any of the food. Instead, I had a beer and got talking to the bartender. He reminded me a lot of one of my professors at school. He was very enticed that I was there from America, having arrived to Europe from India, and he had originally mistaken me as being from Yorkshire. Quite specific! He took me and another guy at the bar – his friend – out to the patio for drinks on him. He said, “There are two kinds of people: Ones who learn how to run a restaurant, and ones who know how!” He also told me, when I watched him skip and whistle back inside and asked his friend if the guy likes his job, “I like being my own boss. I can eat and drink whenever… and whatever I like!” I paid for my beer, then he gave me some plum brandy and another small beer on the house. I stood while he ran between his cigarette and his customers and was soon introduced to another friend who arrived, one who told me he plans to hike the AT when he comes to America in 2015. The first friend took some pictures of the rest of us, then I headed off towards the station.
Me with the second friend and the bartender/owner.
I had read my ticket wrong…The train left the minute I thought it was supposed to arrive. I was frustrated, had to tell my friend so he could change my tour arrangements for later, then I had to wait for an hour for the next train. I got on and off the wrong train twice in that time, confused by the platform signs which were not changing with the trains and which read the train I wanted the whole time. Once on the correct train, I had a quick one hour nap, failing yet again to have a ticket validated. I was shortly in Bratislava where I paid a guy way too much money to drive the American five minutes to the state theater. It was there that I met the trains for the Oldtimer tour.
Oldtimer tour train.
The tour lasted for an hour. I got to get out and see the outside of the Bratislava Castle, but had to keep my distance due to the squads of police protecting a couple dozen world presidents having a conference there…or so Juraj explained as we later drove along the Danube.
Me with the Bratislava Castle behind.
On the way home, I got a crack at driving his new car. I drove the standard about 100km, adjusting to the Slovak signs and driving habits. I panicked when I got in the town and became overwhelmed, stalling the car out once and saying I had had enough…no need to push my luck. I told Juraj about my time in Vienna, the interactive performance I saw (the conductor last night even had the audience clap to his direction at the end), and about the tour I saw. Back at home, Patrik sat with me as he watched the Disney channel in Czech. Juraj later played clips of him driving my family antique car from a decade ago when he was in America. We even spent some time analyzing my unvalidated train tickets, trying to see if they could be used by someone again. Looks like tomorrow will be a relaxed day and my last one here in Slovakia before I say goodbye and move on to Budapest. I feel sad with the thought of leaving…