Franz von Assisi Church.
The reason I think I got off to the wrong foot was that I had a lot of difficulty finding lodging. I had looked up a campsite the night before and tried to go there after grabbing a falafel for lunch. Oh man, I missed falafel. For some reason, the rest of Austria doesn't sell falafel at their kebab shops because it doesn't sell with the locals. Anyway, I biked for an hour down the 21km wide and 250m wide Danube Island in the middle of the rerouted Danube river. The campsite was not at the end as I had believed. I came back to the city center, got on the internet, located it, and tried again. I had to cross the entire river, not just to the island, but I still didn't make it. At this point, my short 40km day had turned into 70km. I was moving slower and slower and giving new definition to the Blue Danube 3/4 time (does anyone under 40 know this reference?).
I love the contrast between the swimming pool and the Danube canal, old danube river.
I headed back towards city center and decided I would just pay for a hotel. I was tired. I was frustrated. I wanted to sleep. Unfortunately, the International Aids Conference was in town, which means that the ten hotels I checked and probably any other hotel anywhere near city center were full. A couple hotels called around for me, but found nothing. I headed back to the internet shop to call hotels instead of just biking around. I found one for 250 euros. It was an entire suite. Iwrote down their address, but called the camping place to see if they actually existed. To my surprise, they did. I took their directions and got lost again, but with the help of a ton of locals, I did make it. My favorite was a 70 year old man who gave me complete directions in German without any hand signals or map. Oddly enough, he was the one who actually got me there.
St. Stephen's Cathedral gothic style reminds me of the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.
St. Stephen's Cathedral, built in 1147, redone in 1433, (done again in 1950? look at the roof).
Yesterday, someone asked how I get around without knowing the language because, contrary to popular belief, not everyone speaks some English (that is mostly in the tourism business or young people). This fallacy falls especially short in the country. The trick is to learn the basics of please, thank you, excuse me, and where. After that, you draw pictures, pantomime, and look at maps. One of my favorite times doing that this trip was when I wanted a tape measure to see how many meters my wheel moved in one revolution to get my trip computer set up. It took a while, but we got it, and it is such a rush of success when you can figure out even the most basic word.
Belvedere palace gardens.
After a good night's rest, I set out to explore Vienna properly. I did it on bike to cover more ground, but the next time I have a rest day I think I will stay off the bike entirely. The city was good. It is beautiful. It has grand buildings, but it just wasn't as friendly as other places I had been. However, being so big, they did have a British bookshop that I could buy a Mediterranean Europe travel guide and a recreational book about biking from the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea, to Everest Base camp and then, I believe, climbing to the highest point on Earth, Everest.
Oh old friends' Starbucks, Burger King, McDonalds, and even United Colors of Benetton.
I think my favorite stop was at Hundertwasserhaus. It is a funky apartment complex. It had been recommended to me and my friends, Stu and Acadia, had also visited it on their bike tour. It was neat to be somewhere that they were just a short while back since I am using their bike maps. According to wiki, "the house was finished in 1986, features undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows."
I think my second favorite part of Vienna was very telling for and about me. It was an art exhibit by The Human Rights Project. It had the faces of people and current events. I love how picturesque the major cities of Europe are, but they don't capture my imagination as much as living people and current affairs do. I think the problem is that European history between the Roman Empire and World War II is an endless stream of conflicts, royalty, and religion that I get lost in. I cannot say that I know that much more about the battle for human rights in say Burma, but it still captures me more. I think it has to do with the knowledge that those people are struggling now. It isn't over and done with. It isn't history yet.
An art exhibit by the thehumanrightsproject.org.
More of the exhibit.
Someone asked me why I am visiting all these big cities in Europe if they are not what I love. Good question. Part of it is to see what everyone else talks about. When most people talk about Europe, they mention the capitals. Also, I am hoping for an unexpected surprise. I also get to see a ton in between the cities by bike and the cities are a great place to hop on the internet, rest up, and get massages, though I have not gotten one yet. If I had to explain how I chose this trip, I would say I wanted to see the natural beauty of Austria and Croatia. I wanted to see the ruins in Athens. I wanted to see the culture and ruins of everything from Istanbul to Cairo. The stuff in between was filler with hopes for moments of serendipity.
Ferrari store with only one car.
A jaguar at the camp site.
These last two picture might be my favorite. There is only a single car in the Ferrari store. I believe the company has more than one model. I am sure they can order more or if they sell it they make all their money for the year, but it was still funny to see just a single car. Every single picture in the store was of a red Ferrari too. Apparently, one car, one color. The other one is a jaguar at my camp site. I don't feel like those two normally mix in the states.