Salzburg, then Bavaria, then auf wiedersehen cheesy bus tour!: 17th and 18th September

To say that we started the last day off well would be an understatement.

We set out with our local guide Christina (who I think I liked best of all the guides) for the magnificent Alps, ready to go on our excursion to see the Eagle’s Nest, which is kind of like Hitler’s treehouse. Except instead of being on a tree, it’s on a freakin’ ginormous mountain.

Sadly (but not really) due to an accident, the road to the Eagle’s Nest (which is so perilous you have to take a special bus) was closed, so instead, we took the famous ‘Romantic Road’ into the Bavarian Alps, right to the top of mumblecoughberg (I’ve forgotten, OK, it was a while ago now) which gave us a view of not only the Eagle’s Nest, but also Salzburg, and a whole lot of really quite amazing mountains.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because first we have Part Zwei in the Saga of Cartoon-Character American Tourists (I would like to disclaim that I am only referring to those American tourists. The ones who complain that the coke tastes different in [insert country here]. That actually happened by the way).

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Wien (Vienna): 15th September

We didn’t sign up for the trip to see Schönbrunn Palace, so got to have a nice sleep-in in the morning, before jumping on the bus for the sightseeing trip.

I spotted this cool bit of grafitti:

which I would quite like on a t-shirt actually.

Our local guide was called Sylvia and she had a refreshing take on the people of Vienna – she told us about the tendency of the Viennese to hate everything new. Which is why they originally hated this magnificent building:

We started in the beautiful Museums Quarter, near Hofburg Palace, which will be familiar to my IUSY friends I’m sure:

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Ranking of Cities by Hipsterishness

This may be controversial. And I know I haven’t got to most of these places in the blog yet, but I think this is too important to wait.

In reverse order of hipsterishness:

10: London. Come on, that is like so 40 years ago. 

9: Salzburg. The Sound of Music was filmed there. And it wasn’t even ironic. 

8: München. It could be cool maybe, if you like went to Oktoberfest ironically or something.

7: Prague. There are tourists everywhere and it’s all capitalist now. I mean it’s so mainstream there’s even a Mozart Symphony about it. Seriously. But it’s got that post-USSR vibe which is cool. 

6: Vienna. The whole ‘hub of international non-government-orgs’ thing is awesome, I’d love to like, intern in Vienna or whatever. But the whole coffee-shop scene is so been-there-done-that. When Freud does it, it stops being cool. 

5: Budapest. It’s got the whole touristy thing going on, which is a downer, but it’s also a like totally unique city and the language is so obscure, you probably wouldn’t understand it. 

4: Stockholm. Controversially not at the top, but y’know, the whole ‘Stockholm is hipster’ thing is so mainstream now. 

3: Copenhagen. Nørrebro is like the best place to hang out and I got this way awesome retro-craft shop to sell my handmade bookmarks, but I hate capitalism so people get to name their price. It’s awesome. 

2: Berlin. I like to sit in the aching post-communist east with a perfect latté machiatto and write my ironic-comedy-def-jam-beat-poetry-raps in my moleskine with this pencil I got at this shop with no name, which has an eraser shaped like Karl Marx’s head. You wouldn’t understand. 

1: Catherine-de-Barnes. I bet you’ve never even heard of it. 

(Sidebar: I’m in character as a hipster for this. No really. Shuddup, I’m not a hipster)

Vienna: 14th September

We began our visit to Vienna by rejoicing at the coolness of our hotel room and by heading out way into the outskirts of Vienna to the town of Marchfeld.

There we visited the most remarkable restaurant I have ever been to: Marchfelderhof.

When we arrived, what seemed like the whole staff was waiting outside for us, waving and holding up umbrellas.

They laid a red carpet out on the road for us, and put a red ribbon up across the door, which they got one of the little Aussie kids (Emily) to cut it:

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Praha (Prague): 11th September

I should warn you all, this will be a long post, simply because I think I took about 300 photos on this day.

We had an early start on our first day in Praha (in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m endeavouring to use the local names for places, ‘cause it seems silly to me that we have our own special ‘English’ names), which was a good thing, ‘cause it was hoooooot. Like 28, 29º (felt more like 35 really). We met our local guide, whose name sounds like ‘Shaka,’ but I’m almost positive that’s not how you spell it and she took us up to the castle, which is an interesting collection of buildings from different eras.

You can almost see by looking at that picture how hot it was. And it was only like 8.30am.

The main entrance to the castle is still guarded by two volunteer soldiers, decked out in uniforms designed by a dude with a flamboyant-sounding name (which, alas, I cannot remember), as one of the palaces inside the walls (that’s right – one of the palaces) is still the home of the Czech President.

The guards have one-hour-long shifts, and have to stay completely still for that time. Which means that they get the usual nonsense from tourists, jumping up and down and getting photos taken with them. Shaka told us that they had to put a little fence up around each guard post because some ladies kept trying to kiss them. Which grosses me out to the max. As did this:

That really sums it up. These poor dudes had possum-in-the-headlights expressions on their faces, probably very uncomfortable in the knowledge that they will forever be in a whole lot of tourists’ holiday snaps. From my tone you can probably figure out that I refrained from this parade of obnoxious voyeurism.

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Nürnberg and Praha: 10th September

We had an early start and all crammed into the bus (all 52 of us – 54 including our driver Harald and our tour director Noel) and headed off for Prague. We had a nice mix of people on the bus – lots of Americans and Canadians, a healthy spattering of Aussies, a Swiss lady, a Brazillian lady, an Israeli dude and another pair of Kiwis! (with whom we became buddies fairly quickly).

Little did we know, on that first day, that our wish to have some sterotypical American tourists on the bus would become real.

Too real.

But anyway, everything was still sunny and lovely at this point.

We had a lunch stop in Nuremberg, or ‘Nürnberg’ to the locals, with about an hour and a half to wander around. The place which was famous for Hitler’s gigantic rallies, and for the war crimes tribunal some years later is actually a beautiful little town and was a nice place to begin fine-tuning (translation: actually attempting to say more than ‘zwei’ and ‘cappucinos’) my German. Cough.

We hung about in the square for a bit, though it was ridiculously hot. For us anyway. At least 28º celsius.

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