Trip to Kraków, Poland/ Living in Wien

This is my first blog post in a while! I guess I’ve just been too busy living life in a beautiful city…   
A couple weeks ago, my mom came to Europe and we spent the weekend in Kraków. Our hotel was conveniently located right by the Old Town Square, which is BEAUTIFUL. It’s filled with cafes and shops and horse drawn carriages and people selling flowers. It’s so much fun just to walk the square and people watch. Also, the city so OLD. The Town Square is literally still configured the way it was in the medieval period. It’s wild. Also the church has some guy that bugles out the window every hour which is fun.   

We also visited Auschwitz and Auschwitz II Birkenau. It was a necessary visit, even though it really was difficult. There were so many emotions and thoughts that were running through my body as I stood in the middle of the concentration camps. But I can’t put them into words, nor do I want to. It’s something you just have to experience.   

 
 But ANYWAYS… life in Vienna!!! It’s amazing!!! I’m taking classes that I enjoy, and I’m singing a whole lot. We had the first concert for my Performance Workshop course, which was exciting! A lot of the music students played chamber music and sang German lieder or Italian arias. It’s fun just to experience the talent of my peers.  

I also teach babies… well not so much teach as hang out with. They’re my new best friends, and we don’t even speak the same language. It’s the best internship in the world, honestly. I come in on Mondays and Wednesdays, which are their “English” days. Most of them know what I’m saying to them, but aren’t developed enough to know how to respond in English. Some of them like to impress me though by counting how many fruits are on their plate in English! “ONE… TWO… THREE… VIER… FÜNF…SECHS …” is usually how it ends up. But I appreciate the effort. I went on a so-called field trip with them the other day. It was in an indoor playground. With bouncy houses and slides and ball pits. It was the best day of my life.

 
 Now, I’m currently on spring break in Dublin…then Edinburgh. Then London. Then Paris. (Am I spoiled or what?!)

Advertisements

Nine days in one blog post: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin

The past nine days have been a crazy adventure. We had a week off before we start our real classes, so obviously I needed to travel! 

AMSTERDAM:

This is it. This is my new favorite city. It was beautiful, and there were so many nice people, and so many people riding bikes. I could have walked for hours and still been totally in awe by the buildings and the people and the atmosphere. We stayed at a hostel called “Hostelle” (it was a females-only hostel) about a 20 minute metro ride away from the city center. Getting off the metro and seeing this city was something  out of a picture book.  

 A few of the places we visited were The Sex Museum, Anne Frank’s House, and the Prostitution Museum. If that doesn’t scream Amsterdam, I don’t know what does. We explored the Red Light District as well as the “Coffeeshops.” We also went to the “IAmsterdam” sign OBVIOUSLY.  

 Honestly, my favorite thing to do in this city was just walk and explore with no specific end destination. There was always something interesting to find. And I cannot WAIT to go back. 

COPENHAGEN:

Unfortunately, we were not here long enough to really grasp how cool this city is. On our only full day, we were just walking aimlessly and we happened upon Christiania. And it was surreal. It was essentially a little hippie commune in the middle of a big city.  

 We talked to someone who worked there for about 15 minute, and he was so friendly! He kind of exemplified why Denmark is considered the “happiest country in the world.” That night we met up with friends who are studying abroad there (yay!), went to a wine bar and a cocktail bar.  

We had a lot of catching up to do. Side note-apparently in the cocktail bar, word got out that we were American so a couple people came up to us and talked to us because they “wanted to talk to Americans.” (I felt famous.)

BERLIN:

This city started out a little rough because there are a couple sketchy areas we ran into, but I ended up loving it once I went on the walking tours and started learning about the history. It’s so FASCINATING. If you’re ever in Berlin, I highly recommend the Sandeman’s free walking tour. The tour guide we had was incredible (because she works for tips). We learned so much and saw so much that we were inspired to immediately go on another (not free) walking tour. We learned about Hitler’s rise to power, and then how the division between East and West Germany came to be. It was incredible to learn all of this history while we were quite literally standing where all of it was taking place. For example, we learned about Hitler’s suicide (and the consequent coverup by the Soviets) while we were standing on top of the bunker where he shot himself. We also learned about some really cool stories of people escaping East Berlin to go to West Berlin that happened exactly where we were standing.  

 And of course, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was very eerie.  

 
Coming back home to Vienna WAS really nice though… considering how exhausted I was after the trip. It was an experience, but now I’m ready to begin the semester in a place that has really begun to feel like home. 

Living the life of a Viennese. 

It is Monday evening, and I am still recovering from an incredible (birthday!) weekend. 

On Thursday night, I went to my very first Viennese ball! And at the HOFBURG PALACE, no less! It was glamorous, I felt beautiful, and there was a lot of dancing… and very swollen feet come 2 am.  

   
I drank expensive champagne, and took way too many pictures with my friends. The best part was it became my 21st birthday when the clock struck midnight, so even MORE of a reason to feel like a special snowflake princess, right? 😉

The next morning, all the German classes went out for a free breakfast (again… happy birthday to ME) at the Palmenhaus.

That evening, Haley and Emilie brought me THE most amazing birthday gift in the WHOLE WORLD: 

 
It’s a SOLID. CHOCOLATE. SHOE. In case you were wondering. I literally have the best friends…

We went to my favorite Italian food restaurant (okay, fine it’s a chain…) for dinner. We had to go to the one in the seventh district because the entire first district was essentially blocked off because of a protest. Apparently every year, the Austrian Freedom Party (super right-wing, anti-immigration party) has a ball at the Hofburg-the same place I was at the night before for the Technical University ball-and people protest. It’s pretty cool, and honestly for the size of the protest, it’s very peaceful. If anything like that were happening in the states, I don’t know what would happen….

Anyways, later that night a bunch of us went to the Travel Shack for drinks and dancing. This bar has a lot of international tourists which is cool, and many of the bartenders are English speakers… which is kind of cheating but it makes life a lot easier when I don’t have to pretend to speak German after a couple drinks! 

   
 
Saturday, I did a bit of shopping which was nice. And on Sunday… I stayed inside. All day. Trust me, it was needed. 

In case I didn’t have ENOUGH adventures ALREADY, next week we are off to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin. But let’s worry about my intensive German final before I get too excited…

Auf Wiedersehen!!!

Adventures!

Friday: Flex Nightclub. 

We danced the night away, and met an Austrian who studied abroad in Kansas who said to us, and I quote: “I love Americans! They’re so stupid, but they’re so nice!” So that about sums up how the Europeans feel about us… 

But it was a good time. Fun vibes, great music- mostly in English which is interesting. We got home at 3 am (and said Austrian called me a grandma for going home so early).

Saturday: ice skating at City Hall


It was snowing on Saturday which made it all the more fun to go ice skating… but it was really cold. They put up this ice rink for a couple months in the winter in front of the City Hall and it’s AMAZING. So, so pretty. 

Sunday: The Albertina Musem, Käsekrainer, and (more) Schnitzel 

I wanted to see the Edvard Munch exhibit on the last day it was at the Alberina. And it was so worth it.  

   

  
There was also Picasso, and Monet and the museum is in a beautiful part of the first district in Vienna. With the most gorgeous view from the front… 

 
Haley and I also experienced Käsekrainer for the first time. It’s essentially a fancy, cheesy hot dog. In a baguette.  

 
THEN for dinner we went to this neat restaurant called Zwölf-Apostelkeller. It had traditional Viennese cuisine, musicians, and a cool atmosphere. It was almost… dungeon-y?  With pretty lights.

 

So, some cool stuff has been happening. In the meantime  during the week, I have been in German classes, and going to the local bar Rupp’s. My roommates and I all played Taboo in German… harder than we expected. But way more fun. 

Tomorrow, I’m going to a ball at the Hofburg Palace. Ballgown and all!
 

Settling.

This week has been all about getting into a routine, which is going well. I have officially been here a week (although it feels like MONTHS). First week of German classes have been fun too! Although actually speaking in German… not so fun. It’s a difficult language. This week, I was accepted into both the education internship and music performance workshop, so that’s good news. 

Otherwise, I’ve simply been trying to make this city feel like home. And if that means I have to consume the typical beer-and-schnitzel meal… 

…that wouldn’t be too bad, I suppose. 😊

More updates to come soon!   

The first few days…

Wien is as GORGEOUS a city as ever. I get off the UBahn to go to the IES center and it just looks like I stepped on to an old movie set.

Speaking of the UBahn…it’s easily the best public transportation system I’ve ever been on. It’s cheap, not crowded at all, and it’s so clean. Compared to the NY subway where I subconsciously lather my hands in Purell after I get off… the UBahn is paradise.

I’ve only been here a few days, and I’m already a pro at getting from the fifth district (where my apartment is), and the first district (where my classes are). It’s not too difficult to use landmarks as cues to get around here, because every corner you turn, there is another extravagant palace or opera house to admire…. at the very least, a funky cafe.
I started German classes yesterday, which is DEFINITELY necessary because my most-uttered sentence thus far has been, “sprechen sie Englisch?” to which the response for the most part has surprisingly (and thankfully) been, “of course!” What I didn’t realize before coming here was that the German vocab I would really need to learn is literally all food related. Honestly, the hardest part of being here so far has been walking into a Billa (the local small supermarket chain) and trying to figure out whether the bag of sugar was powdered or granulated.

Anyways… my apartment is gorgeous! Haley and I share a HUGE double, and we have two other suitemates we share the apartment with.
   
  
  
The toilet room is seperate from the rest of the bathroom, which is kind of adorable, kind of annoying.

We have been discovering new food places and cafes, which is my favorite part. Haley, Emilie and I found this delicious Italian restaurant, for example…

ALSO, I forgot to mention… I go to school in a palace. 

  
 This is where I “study.”

All in all, I’ve been having a great time. Just exploring, eating, drinking lots of ‘wein’ which makes for a good time. This place has already started feeling like home… and it’s only day 3! Looking forward to more adventures… I’ll keep you updated!

Auf Wiedersehen,

Elissa

Orientation in Mariazell

I was only in Vienna for a few hours (in the airport, no less) before I was immediately whisked away to spend a few days in a hostel in Mariazell. 

There are about 170 of us college students in the program, and all of us are staying here. Needless to say, it’s a little hectic… but still a lot of fun. 

We have been getting an overwhelming amount of information. From housing, to SIM cards, to internships… in the past two days we have had meetings for every bit of information I need to know while living abroad. 

When not in these meetings, I am meeting new people in the program… which ultimately is the whole point of this orientation. 

Yesterday, I went on a pleasant snowy hike around the hostel:

    
 

It was the perfect weather… not too cold even though the snow was freshly falling, and no wind whatsoever. 

Today, Haley, Emilie and I were JUST short of making the bus into the city… so we decided to relax in the sauna and pool… indoor pool. Don’t worry.  

  
Now, we’re sitting in the common area, sipping on a Gösser (a German lemonade-beer?) and continuing to meet new people. 
We’re moving into our Vienna apartment on Saturday! 

Auf Wiedersehen,

Elissa

Adventure is out there…

Five days until I hop on the plane to JFK and spend a few short nights in the city.

One week until I hop on the plane with one of my best friends for our flight from John F. Kennedy Airport -> Vienna International Airport.

There are still so many things to do until then! I have to get my ball gown tailored, get my school supplies in order, and invest in some more super warm wool socks.

I have so many different emotions rattling around in my brain. Nervous, terrified, excited beyond all measure.

I’m ready for my adventure. What a perfect time to embark on such a wonderful experience. New people and places to discover.

I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. So bring it on.

Countown: 87 days! (I think)

Alright, so I still have a while to go before I actually arrive in Vienna to start my study abroad semester, but I figured I would write about what I’m doing in terms of preparation so far…

So, first things first… in a week, I’m going to the Austrian Consulate in New York to obtain my Visa! It has been ao absolute nightmare to get an appointment reservation though… I’m glad this process is almost over. First, I made an online reservation for Columbus Day (during fall break) along with my friend Haley, and everything seemed to be booked no problem. I got an e-mail confirmation and everything. A week before my reservation date, I got a call from Haley saying that a representative from the consulate e-mailed her saying that there was a “system malfunction” and the the consulate is actually closed for the holiday, so they wouldn’t be taking appointments. Lucky she told me this, because I never actually received an e-mail from them. I would have bussed all the way into New York for nothing. So a couple days later, Haley and I sat down to book our flights and book YET ANOTHER appointment for the consulate. For whatever reason, I was able to get a reservation, but Haley wasn’t. Trying to call the consulate has been absolutely useless, because they are incredibly unhelpful.

Anyways, it’s not been a great start to the semester-abroad process, but it can only get better from here right?!

But in all seriousness, I have only heard amazing things about this country, this city, and the IES program. I am so excited to see what this adventure has in store!!!! And only 87(ish?) more days to go until I find out!

Until then, auf wiedersehen! 😉