// Overseas travel blog
// Overseas travel blog
I made the trip from Berlin to Vienna on the weekend. It was a great getaway (Viennese coffee and cake, anyone?) and provided good opportunity for some German practice. My German is coming along pretty well, and actually probably is why I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been studying pretty hard, and the less English I read, write and speak, the easier it is. I still have moments in class where I want to cry because I feel so frustrated and useless, but I’m my own worst critic and to be kind and fair, I’ve improved greatly. (I’m also one of those tragic later-in-life second language learners – a great disadvantage, I’m told.)
In Vienna, I took trains only as necessary and saw the place by foot, as I like to do on holiday. While walking along the footpath adjacent to a beautiful palace garden, I was asked by a lovely old gentlemen how to use the city bike system. I had stopped and was sanding on the street reading the brochure just out of interest. I didn’t really have to think too hard to make conversation.
“I’m not really sure to be honest,” I said.
“Ah, but have you read – can you only pay by card? Because I don’t have a card.”
“Well yes it says you have to pay by card, but you can use credit, or the local’s card, or one other card here,” I replied.
“And you can arrange it here?”
“Yes,” I said. “You just use the machine to rent it. But I’m not too sure, it’s only my first day here!”
“Ah, I see,” he said.
“Ok thanks. Have a nice day!”
Mind you, Austrian German is hilarious and not at all like the Berliner accent. The Austrian German is thick with rolled ‘R’s and a sing-song tone. The benefit of this is that because I aim to speak some semblance of Berliner German, my accent was different anyway, and barely anyone switched to English on me during my four day stay.
Only hours later, a young backpacker was walking towards me and stopped to ask if I spoke German. I told him yes and, happy with the response, he asked for directions to the nearest train station. I had luckily just come from one 10 minutes earlier and was amazed that I could recite the directions, how far away it was, and how long it would take by foot without barely a hesitation.
While in Austria, I went to the opening of the Vienna Festival or Wiener Festwochen as they call it. It was a free concert held outside the town hall. The hall itself which was a marvellous architectural spectacle, which was made all the more beautiful by some carefully placed blue lighting. The weather on the night was pretty chilly and dismal as it rained the whole time, but we were given free ponchos and a little aperol spritz helped me to forget about it. The concert went for about two hours and was an array of quartet performances, children singing and dancing, a fabulous brass band, yodelling, and satirical songs and puppet performances, most of which I was pleased I could understand. One whole song was mocking the Austrian accent “In Österreich wir sprechen sehr schlecht Deutsch” (In Austria, we speak really bad German). The whole concert was actually amazing and I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the whole time.
I also went to a traditional Viennese coffee house and had a nice strong coffee and some delicious apple strudel. It was the perfect environment to while away some time reading the paper and people watching, even if I did feel underdressed in my sneakers and windbreaker. Everything in the city, including the coffee houses had an air of sophistication, and you certainly payed through the nose for it.
Apart from the obligatory sights, I actually loved staying in a hotel and treating myself to some TV and wifi (neither of which I have at home), and several sleep ins. Oh, and the weekend wasn’t complete without a trip to the Wachau Valley for a day of bike riding and winery touring along the Danube, and a visit to castle ruins on the top of a steep hill overlooking a little town. It was a great four-day getaway, and only an hour and a half away by plane.