Sunday, January 29, 2012

There Are NO Kangaroos in Austria

View of the Alps
The last weekend of my winter vacation I went to visit a friend who is teaching English in Salzburg, Austria. When I first came abroad, I must admit, Austria was not one of the places I really wanted to visit, but I figured because I had a friend living there, I might as well take advantage of a free place to stay and a free, fluent German speaking tour guide. After all, if I didn't go now, when would I ever take a casual trip to Austria?

I was not sure what to expect at first, as all I knew about Salzburg is part of The Sound of Music was filmed there, but it turned it to be a beautiful city, with its glorious view of the Swiss Alps, and has a lot to offer. My first day in Salzburg my friend had to work, so while she was working I spent the day wandering the city. I went and saw Mozart's birth house and the house he lived in when he was older, the Hohensalzburg Castle, and decided to splurge and do a little shopping in the old village at an Austrian H&M (where I found some nice jewelry, I might add!). I was tempted to do the Sound of Music bus tour, which takes you to all of the places the movie was filmed, but did not have enough time and did not want to spend the 40 euro on it either.

Mozart's birth house
That night, I went with my friend and some of her English and Irish friends to Vienna for an evening which surprisingly only cost about 46 euros roundtrip via train. I don't know what it was, but something struck me about that city; I absolutely loved it! You could also purchase a 24 hour or 48 hour underground pass for a small fee, which made it cheap and easy to get around the city. The night we arrived we went out to a really awesome club called Flex which was underground and was designed to be like a cave. It was not overly packed, was relatively cool, and played indie music, which was a nice change to all of the dubstep and drum and bass that are usually played at clubs. It was tons of fun!

Schobrunn Palace
The next day while most of the crew spent their time recuperating, two friends and myself wandered the city, however we were not really sure what most of the sites we were seeing were called; we just knew they were aesthetically pleasing and looked important. We did see the UN building, though, and once everyone else had recovered, we went to the Schobrunn Palace and continued to walk around the city up until we had to leave for our train.

Overall I'd say I had a very fun and successful trip. The only downside to Austria, in my opinion, is that there are few places to take out food, so one must go to a sit down restaurant if they want to eat out. Normally this would be okay, except the food was on the slightly more expensive side and service was very slow. If anyone was looking to go to Austria, I highly recommend you go with someone who knows the German language relatively well, as there are few signs in English and, though most people spoke English, they seemed to look down upon those who spoke English as their first language.

Now, however, vacation is over and I have completed two weeks of classes already. Boy how time flys! We won our second rugby match this past Wednesday against a team that SLAUGHTERED us last semester. This time we beat them 60 to 5 and I made two tackles by myself! It was a proud moment for all of us and we hope to keep up our winning streak.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Irish New Year

So, instead of spending another New Years Eve at a friend's house or apartment, a few American friends and I decided it was time for something different. That being said, we decided to spend this New Years Eve in Dublin, Ireland, and it has been one of the best New Years' yet!

Temple Bar Area
All of us were coming from different places, as my other three friends were traveling, so we all came separately and met up in Dublin. In order to save money, as the price for a flight home on New Years Day was simply outrageous, I opted to take the train and ferry to and from Dublin, which took about 16 hours each way. Unfortunately the actual time it took to travel to Ireland was six hours, so I spent the other 10 hours waiting around at train stations in between trains and ferries. It was not fun, but I made it through.

The Spire

Dublin is a small, but really awesome city. The first night there my friends and I went out to a traditional Irish pub in an area called Temple Bar which, to my surprise, was actually quite different from English pubs: the crowd was a lot older and there was live Irish music performed there and in most other pubs around. I felt like I was in the film P.S. I Love You. On New Years Eve day we walked around to all the sites: we saw the lovely Trinity College, Christ Church, the Dublin Castle, the Molly Malone statue (as my Grandpa suggested), the Spire, the tallest monument in Dublin, and paid a visit to St. Stephen's Green, which is equivalent to Central Park in New York City. I was surprised at how tiny the Castle was, but I may have thought this because the only free area of the Castle we could see was a small church located inside. I was also surprised at how small Christ Church was in comparison to all of the famous churches in London, as they were a lot larger and more extravagant. Though I enjoyed seeing all of the sites,  I am not going to lie, my favorite part of the day was visiting a milkshake bar named Shakes. It had a vast amount of topping options, including, but not limited to, Nutella, Kinder Bueno Bars, and Digestive Cookies. If there was a place on Earth that could be Heaven, this would be it!

View from the Guinness Factory
That night, in order to ring in the New Year right, we went to an outdoor concert in the center of town that was only 10 euro, followed by going to an Irish pub. It was a lot of fun and I am glad I spent my New Year this way. The next day all but one of my friends left and we spent the day wandering the city and at the Guinness Factory. The Guinness Factory, in my opinion, was a lot more interesting and aesthetically pleasing than the Carlsberg Factory in Copenhagen: it was larger, more modern, and had more interesting displays. Just like at the Carlsberg Factory, my friend and I got a free pint and got to sip on it inside their bar which was on the top floor, giving us a beautiful view of the city. That night I left Dublin and made my long journey back to Norwich.