I mentioned a while ago that I might do a little round-up of what I've been doing in Austria recently if you lot wanted one, and I got a lot of comments saying you would, so here it is!
It's been really sunny in Austria lately (although we've had a bit of rain and even some thunder this week), and a couple of weekends ago my landlord* asked if I wanted to go for a drive in the countryside. He drives a convertible so it was really great driving through the country south of Vienna. Austria really is such a beautiful country. We stopped off for lunch and the view down the road was what you can see in the picture on the right above. The mountain is the start of the Alps. You might be able to make out a motorbike in the picture too. The roads we were driving on are really popular with motorbike riders as they're quite empty and bendy. My landlord also owns a motorbike, one of the big touring ones, and he's said that he might take me out on that one weekend, which is really exciting as I've never been on one before.
My friend Elle was in Vienna with her uni for a few days just before Easter, so it was great to be able to catch up with her. She's a friend from school, so I don't see her when I'm at uni, and also her family moved away from my home town so I don't get to see her in holidays either. It was lovely being able to spend some time with her, and we were incredibly touristy and went for coffee and cake in some of Vienna's famous Kaffehäuser. The coffee house is a Viennese tradition, a bit fancier than your average British café with a huge selection of ridiculously rich and yummy cakes. The Viennese have their own terms for all the different types of coffee, so don't go trying to order a cappuccino or a latté!
The Viennese cake and sweet shops were full of Easter creations, mainly cute little marzipan chicks and chocolate bunnies, but I found these marzipan boobs in one shop window, casually sitting next to the rest of the "normal" Easter stuff. Cheeky!
Another friend, Lindz, came to visit for a couple of days before Easter, and we decided pretty spur of the moment to take a day trip to Bratislava. For those of you that don't know, Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and only an hour away from Vienna on the train. If you're ever in Vienna for a few days I'd recommend making the trip, it's only €14 return. Bratislava is a big and relatively modern city, but nestled in the middle is the old town, which is a bit like a mini-Vienna. Lots of pretty old buildings, a pretty castle and good, cheap food. We got ice cream and the man selling it obviously took a shine to me as he made me this ice cream man. Considering the ice cream was only 50 cents a scoop anyway, it was a total bargain. Had to take a picture of "Top Shop" too, as I found it pretty funny that in Bratislava it was a shop selling kitchen utensils and ironing boards.
My parents came to visit just after Easter, and we did really touristy things like take the sightseeing bus tours. People knock them, but they really are the best way to see everything and learn about a city. We always go on the hop-on hop-off ones, as then they double as your transport and you can go and spend some more time looking at specific things if you want. We also went up the Donauturm, or Danube Tower, which has a viewing platform at 150m in the air, so you can see across the whole of Vienna. It also has a rotating restaurant where we had lunch. At first it was quite fun sitting still and watching the view change, but after a while it gave me a bit of a weird feeling. Not so much nausea, but a bit of a disconcerting feeling.
The pictures are of me and my dad in the gardens of the Schonbrunn Palace, which are huge and green and stunning, and me in front of the Belvedere Palace. There are lots of palaces in Vienna, all very beautiful and mainly containing museums and art exhibits now.
So, that's what I've been up to recently. I wouldn't want you to think it's all fun and games though, I do still have to go to uni and study, which is really difficult as it's hard to understand everything in the lectures. Still, much as I want the academic side to be over, I can't believe I only have a few weeks left. I've completely fallen in love with Vienna, and I'm currently trying to figure out some way I can come back here once I've graduated, whether to do a masters, intern or get a job.
If anyone has any questions about Vienna (not that I claim to be an expert at all) or my year abroad or anything like that, then pop me an email! (Contact info is in the side bar.)
*I realise it might sound strange to some people that I'm all "I did this with my landlord, I did that with my landlord's family". The man I'm living with isn't actually a "landlord" in the usual sense, I've known his family for about ten years now, and they are the reason I decided to come to Vienna. The original plan was that I stay with a member of the family for a few days whilst I found some accommodation, but when I got here my landlord said I could stay with him for the whole time I was here if I wanted. Obviously I said yes, as I'd much prefer to live with a) someone I know and b) someone who is Austrian, as if I stayed in a shared student flat there'd be no guarantee that the other students would be German-speaking natives.