Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Day 6 of the big trip has brought me to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. However, let's backtrack a couple days to Vienna, where I spent the previous 2 nights.  The train from Prague took about 5 hours, and surprisingly we didn't have to do any sort of border check / passport control.  Which is a good thing because I only have a couple pages left in my passport.  From the train station it was super easy to get to the hostel; the subway system in Vienna is great!  One of the first things I noticed was that they have an honor system for purchasing newspapers.  Also, no one jay-walks, even if there's not a single car in sight, people wait until the light turns green to cross.

As I hadn't eaten all day yet, a traditional Austrian meal seemed quite appetizing.  I decided to go with their house specialty spare ribs - an extremely massive meaty platter.  And it was delicious!  This place also brews their own beers, so when in Rome...

After getting lost and wandering around for about 2 hours (at least on a full stomach!) I made my way to Belvedere gardens and palace - great way to walk off the massive lunch.

And here's a pic of my lovely hostel - I stayed at the Wombat (stayed at same chain in Munich) and it was probably the nicest, cleanest hostel I've ever stayed at.  They just opened in January, so everything was really new.  There were 2 girls from Argentina and 1 from Australia in the room too. 

Just by coincidence, it just so happened that the Aussie girl who was staying in the hostel room with me also happened to be doing the same bike tour with me the next day.  So it was nice starting the next day off with a friend to have breakfast with before embarking on the long 10-hour bike trip through the Wachau valley.  There was a group of 4 young canadian lads (20-21ish) who were on the tour as well, and I had to sit in front of them the whole bus ride to the bike starting point.  They were still drunk from the night before, so I had the pleasure of listening to them recount tales of binge-drinking from the night before, throwing up in a cave inside the bar they were at, playing with ice-pics, and then continuing to down absinthe, shots, and beers all night... Definitely an entertaining journey to say the least!

We spent the day biking through Wachau Valley, tasting various Austrian wines and different vineyards, and relaxing along the Danube.  And this was not your typical wine-tasting.  The first stop was a winery where we all had 4 glasses (full!) of different wines - three white and one red.  No one spat out the wine, it was literally 4 glasses of wine at 10 in the morning!!  Everyone was a bit buzzed as we started the biking, and it was funny watching people stumble a bit on their bikes. I guess that's why they made us sign a waiver basically saying we wouldn't sue the company if we fell off the bike and got hurt.

We paid a visit to a random graveyard which was actually quite beautiful.  Each grave had a garden planted on top of it with various kinds of flowers.  A few actually had rhubarb and lettuce growing on them which seemed quite strange - I really hope no one's planning to make their dinner salad from those plants!

Next to the graveyard was a small chapel, with an alter made of human skulls and bones.

Gorgeous views all around, and it turned out to be a beautiful day...

We had a big group -  I'd say there were probably about 20 of us.  We had Aussies, Canadians, and 2 other Americans from Texas (now living in Saudi Arabia).

My bike.

This was where we had lunch and three more full glasses of wine...

The noisy lads from the bus are in the front of the group photo...

Danube River!!  My grandpa used to go fishing on this river when he was young, so it was really special to get to go down and splash around in the water for a bit. :)

This was a little town we stopped in for 3 more glasses of wine, as well as a chocolate tasting.

Not so flattering photo of our lovely tour guide, Marla.

And back on the bus at the end of the tour, Marla had plastic cups and our group polished off 3 more bottles of wine.  Apparently it's legal in Austria for passengers to drink in the car - crazy!!  No more being classy and swirling the wines around in our glasses for this road trip!

Two Aussie friends who went on the tour and stayed at my hostel - I thought they had a striking resemblance to two of my friends from high school, only with a different accent.  Just another example to prove that everyone's got a twin out there somewhere in the world!

All smiles after 10+ glasses of wine and biking all day!  That's the hostel lobby by the way behind us.

It wasn't all smiles for about 30 minutes though because I got stuck in the elevator with 5 other people in the hostel.  It was actually quite scary because the elevator dropped 3 floors while we were inside, and it was really really hot inside and started to feel quite claustrophobic, like there wasn't enough oxygen or something.  Needless to say, after we were rescued I stuck with stairs.

Here's the hostel bar / night club...

No alcohol served if you're under 16!  

I didn't spend much time in the city center of Vienna since I spent the entire day out in the countryside on the bike tour, but did manage to capture a few photos of the architecture and St. Stephen's Cathedral in the main square.

The next day was a bit rough considering the excursions of the previous day, but there's no better cure than a lovely boat ride down the Danube River to the next destination - Slovakia!  The boat only takes 15 more minutes than the train, and reaches up to 60km/hr.  I couldn't believe how fast it went!

Farewell Austria!

Hello Slovakia!

This is Bratislava castle.  The long blue boat at the bottom is actually a hotel boat that came down the river from the Netherlands.

Overall Vienna was really nice - I wish I'd had another day to see more of the city center and perhaps see a concert or something, but it was really wonderful to get out into the countryside, see the "real Austria", and make some new friends.  On to the next town!

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