A Travellerspoint blog

Ah...

chillaxing with Mimon, Monsieur LaCashire and Mama

semi-overcast 6 °C
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After all the excitement and shenanigans of Christmas, it was time for some serious relaxing and downtime. We let the Lancashires have some quality family time at the Butterfly House while Simon had some quality time at the hairdressers and I explored the charity shops of Otley. They were absolutely packed – not at all conducive to the leisurely browsing that I enjoy. And as I stood on a corner, contemplating my next move, a woman walked past and said “just cross here, Alison”. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. So I crossed.
Simon and I checked out one of Otley’s newest cafes (part of Simon’s quest to visit every coffee shop in town), and then strolled home in the lovely crisp winter air, admiring the sunset and watching the plane trials fly overhead. And then we spent the evening eating a Mary Berry casserole and catching up on East Enders. Bliss.
Andy worked from home on the Thursday, Annie did some family visiting and I walked from The Oval to The Chevin (much to Simon’s disbelief – even the photos were not sufficient proof apparently). It was absolutely lovely up there – lots of families out and about walking and engaging in wholesome pursuits like Exercise and Conversation. Some less wholesome pursuits too, like Whinging and Moaning About How Steep The Hill Was and Complaining That We Are Not There Yet Because We Must Have Walked At Least Eight Miles By Now. But mostly there was the wholesome stuff. There was also someone called Henry who seemed to be missing, as his name was being called with great regularity – and I could only hope that Henry was a dog, and not a small child.
On Friday we set off to Bradford for a Lanccheri family outing, with Rosie totally rocking her new boots. When we got to the fountains in the centre, it was difficult to know who enjoyed frolicking in them the most – Simon or Rosie. Eventually we dragged the two kids away and into the National Media Museum, an excellent free (donations welcome) facility complete with arcade games. You know what they say – the family that pacmans together, stays together. Rosie loved the weird and wacky mirrors, and thought the seating facilities in the photographic exhibition were the perfect opportunity to play hide and seek. She was less impressed by the ‘history of the internet’ part of the museum – but the rest of us enjoyed the trip down memory lane with the computers and mobile phones of the past.
Museuming done for the day, we strolled the streets of Bradford, soaking up the industrial-heritage-multicultural vibe of the place. I’ve gotta say I liked the place. There was a feel of grandeur that had faded, and a kind of gritty beauty about it all. Probably helped that the sun was shining; that always gives a place a bit more charm, even when the temperature hasn’t hit double digits.
We made our way to one of the early curry houses – because we couldn’t leave the UK without having had a Bradford curry… The International looked a solid choice from afar but once we got closer and found a dead rat in the carpark it suddenly wasn’t so appealing, so we settled for the Kashmir Restaurant. Rosie obligingly slept through the whole experience, but I’m sure she’ll have a Bradford curry another day. The food was cheap and thoroughly delicious, and only enhanced by the service-without-a-smile and wipe-down-formica-table setting. Our waiter was most annoyed by our indecision over just how many serves of onion bhaji we wanted, and decided for us that we couldn’t have biryani AND a serve of plain rice. Because biryani IS rice, y’know? The constant serving of three things to a table of four was downright comical – three menus, three forks, three plates… somehow we managed four glasses, but that was obviously a mistake. It was all we could do to stop ourselves laughing after each interaction with the waiter, and I’ve never been so happy to have rotten service in my life. We had come forewarned that it would be part of the Bradford Curry Experience – and it lived up to our expectations. We wanted to be fed delicious food to the point of exploding for very little money, and if it meant having only three forks then that was fine by us.
Feeling rather rotund, we drove on to Armley for a slide night at Steven and Lesley’s (because surely they hadn’t seen enough of us). Steven impressed us all with a three-technology-slide-experience that was almost like being back at the Media Museum! And in amongst all the photos, I even got an early birthday cake. Winner. I suppose technically my birthday had started in Australia by then, so it wasn’t cheating.
My birthday started in England the next morning, and Annie and I tootled off into town to catch the Leeds bus – which we managed to miss by about 30 seconds. Never fear – in Otley you are never far from a café, so we enjoyed a hot beverage while waiting for the next bus. We sorted out most of the problems of the world on the way in to Leeds, and then had time for a quick pint and snacks (and more problem solving) before running in to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to see Strictly Ballroom. And oh was it magnificent! Annie and I were laughing from the moment the first actor opened his mouth, because there is nothing more hilarious than English millennials portraying 80s Australians. The accents ranged from very convincing to not-at-all-Australian, and the dancing ranged from brilliant to we-can-tell-you-are-the-understudy. It’s concerning when the backup dancers have more charisma (and bigger muscles!) than the lead role, but it just added to the charm really. The adaptation to the stage was perfect, and included all my favourite parts of the movie. The sets were clever, the costumes flashy, and the whole experience was just bloody fantastic. Ah Straya…
We walked out of the theatre and managed to cross the road just in time to catch the bus back to Otley, where we headed to the North Bar Social (aka The Pub Near Rosie’s Chair) for a few brews and a couple of games of draughts and Jenga. Just because you are drinking beer doesn’t mean you can’t exercise your brain cells and manual dexterity at the same time. We walked home via the chippy and timed it to perfection, arriving just after the boys and Rosie who had returned from their outing to see Burnley beat Sunderland 4-1. The boys were happy, the girls were happy – and then we ordered takeaway and proceeded to enjoy some beverages and some games. Rosie was too excited about NYE to go to bed, and insisted on playing Dream Phone with us, but she finally settled before the Jenga came out (luckily Annie and I had done our pre-party-Jenga-training). It quickly became apparent that the boys were fairly hopeless at Taboo, and that Robbie Williams was a rubbish singer (despite holding a guitar). We watched the London fireworks on television, and heard a few go off in Otley, before making each other resolutions for 2017 and trying not to spill salsa on the carpet.
New year’s day was a quiet affair, and we played games like Make Soup Using Leftover Vegetables, Fix the Render, and Rearrange Rosie’s Toys. Just what we needed – there were no complaints from any of us. 2017 was officially off to a good start.

Posted by Buccas 02:46 Archived in England Comments (0)

Magalenha

Everyone loves a Christmas samba...

sunny 13 °C
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As we stood at the Menston train station waiting for our taxi to arrive, we noticed a couple checking the bus timetable. When a bus to Leeds arrived, they asked the driver when the next bus to Otley was - but of course the driver didn't know. So for our good deed of the day, we offered for them to share our taxi to Otley. This worked in our favour, because when the taxi driver arrived, he didn't actually know how to get to Otley. So our new friends directed him to the main street, then got out and gave us half the fare before wishing us a merry Christmas. Wonderful. We settled back into The Oval and caught up on the events of the past two weeks or so, before retiring to the Buccheri Suite (complete with door-like-product).
The eve of Christmas Eve was spent doing all the essential things - shopping, cooking, cleaning, and catching up on Strictly Come Dancing. And once all that was out of the way, the poker set came out and so did the gin. Never too early to get into the Christmas spirits.
Christmas Eve saw the Christmas jumpers come out, and between us all we managed to feed and entertain about 30 people. Stress levels were kept to an absolute minimum using the Danny Mac Samba Stress Elimination Strategy, and we put on quite the spread. The slow cooked pulled pork made the house smell amazing, the Mary Berry mini beef wellingtons were a hit and the zucchini slice was a success once it was translated to courgette slice. The pigs were in filo sleeping bags, and there were pudding options of all shapes and sizes. The Big Fat Lanky Christmas Quiz kept us all entertained and ended in triumph for the Back Room Team on account of our superior musical knowledge. Part 1 of Christmas: complete.
Finally, Christmas morning arrived. Rosie was up at the relatively civilised time of 6.45am and we were all excited to find that Santa had visited and filled our stockings (as well as eating his fruit pie and drinking his sherry). Rosie learned the art of present-opening, but it was a toss up as to who was the most excited - Rosie with her kitchen, or Simon with his Corangamite Shire bucket hat. Ah, the magic of Christmas. And the buck's fizz breakfast only contributed to the magic.
We stopped in at Ian and Sue's for a spot of Christmas cheer (and birthday cheer for Sophie) before continuing on to the Thornton house for the official Christmas shenanigans. Delicious lunch, followed by the Strictly Christmas special (terribly generous scoring, if you ask me), and then the usual - horse races, team percussioning, transformers, reviving long lost recorder skills, Taboo, Don't Show Keith Your Teeth, and, of course, our very own Strictly Come Christmas competition. I'm proud to report that Simon and I made it to the final with our Australian Smooth routine, but were defeated by Sam and Natalie with their excellent lifts. And while there was no snow to be seen - sunshine and 13 degrees - it was a jolly good northern hemisphere Christmas. Ten out of ten.
Boxing Day took longer to start for some than others (not looking at any one in particular... Simon), and once we were all up and functioning again, we headed north to Barlick for a big spread with James and Annice, and Ian and the kids. Gold star for the Yorkshire puds - even if they were made in Lancashire...
We found out the hard way that Rosie was most definitely NOT a fan of the Pieface game - I was the first to fall victim to the cream splatting machine, and this distressed the littlest Lancashire greatly. We also played the less messy games of Camel Cup and Catan, and then when our heads got too sore from predicting and strategising we retired to watch Groundhog Day. Tough day, but we soldiered on.
Andy somehow managed to pack everything back into the car again and we returned to Otley for some walking on the Chevin. Rosie enjoyed dog spotting while we enjoyed the views over the valley, and we finished at the pub at the top with a beer to celebrate the Chevinth day of Christmas. And as the sun set over the town of Otley, we felt very grateful indeed to have been temporarily adopted into the Thornshire family for the year. English Christmas? Nailed it.

Posted by Buccas 05:42 Archived in England Comments (0)

Koszonom

overcast -4 °C
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After Bratislava gave us the parting gift of snow, we were a little sad to leave… but Budapest was calling us, and we answered the call. We arrived at the train station in plenty of time, thinking that if we were there early we would have more hope of finding somewhere to store ourselves and our luggage. Unfortunately, the 11.53am service to Budapest didn’t arrive in Bratislava until 11.52am – so that ruined that plan.
We jumped on board and wandered through the carriage that was made of of cabins – just like the good ol’ Vline glory days. Unfortunately these cabins were reserved for people travelling with bikes, for people travelling with children under 10, for people with limited mobility… I didn’t see any cabins reserved for people with green eyes or for people with red suitcases, so we had to continue on until we found the regular seats for regular people. The Hungarian countryside was rather picturesque, and we rather enjoyed the journey.
Once we arrived in Budapest, we headed for the metro ticket machine and totally had it all under control except that the touch screen element seemed to be rather unresponsive to our touch. Out of nowhere, a young girl came and offered to help us defeat the machine by using the strategy of pressing the screen repeatedly – basically what we had planned to do anyway. And as she chatted to us animatedly while pointing out where our target station was on the metro map, I had a sneaking suspicion of where this interaction was headed and surprise, surprise, she asked us for money once we were at our destination. Pretty sure she needed the money more than we did, and at least she was pleasant about it.
We settled into our Airbnb room and then set off on a quest for food. We enjoyed some seriously good goulash with amazing mashed potato, then returned home for a chat with Rita and Ivan about life, the universe and everything.
The next morning, we walked into town to join a walking tour. It was -3 degrees. MINUS THREE DEGREES. There was snow falling at some points. Remind me again why we came to Budapest? Our tour guide, Leve, taught us a lot about the Hungarian character – a tendency to over emphasise one’s own attributes (‘mountains’ that are mere bumps, a ‘sea’ that is just a lake), to focus on victories and delete losses from historical records, and to be a little bit narky with tourists. But on the plus side, he did show us a spot to have a really hearty and cheap meal for lunch at the end of the tour. We got chatting to a couple from Portugal who were living and working in London, and we discussed the health and education systems of our respective countries while reminiscing about being warm.
Our afternoon entertainment was a guided tour of the Hospital in the Rock – a hospital and former nuclear bunker built into the rock (kudos to the people of Buda for their creative naming skills). The guide was rather serious in the face of some mildly hilarious mannequins positioned around the place, but the history of the place was really quite interesting. And it was 15 degrees underground – so it was totally worth doing the tour, just for the opportunity to be warm again.
After being ejected back out into the cold, we enjoyed the dark and foggy views over the Danube from Buda to Pest, and then after crossing the Chain Bridge we enjoyed the views back again from Pest to Buda. We then enjoyed the views of cake from inside a café – dobos torte, nom nom nom. The lights around the city were spectacular and it was a city that we had fun exploring - hard to pin it down precisely, but there was just a good 'vibe' about the place. Not as grandiose as Vienna, not as grungy as Bratislava, just a little bit flashy but still seeming 'real'. I liked it. The people were fairly friendly too - and while everyone spoke English to us, it was fun to be able to say "koszonom" at the end of the exchange and what their smiles suddenly become that little bit more genuine.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Budapest without a trip to the thermal baths, so on Wednesday morning we found ourselves walking across the city (-4 degrees!) to the Lukacs baths and being given a slightly overwhelming tour of the ‘medical treatment facility’. I felt like I was in some sort of institution – people in white coats everywhere I looked… and pretty much not my idea of a good time, but travel is supposed to be an opportunity to broaden the mind and have new experiences, so I gave it a go.
Most of the bathing participants were elderly Hungarians, with fairly sour expressions on their faces. The tourists were all the people under the age of 70 with slightly confused expressions on their faces. The sign as you entered the baths said “silence heals” – and maybe it does, but I never had the chance to find out due to intermittent drilling going on in the steam room next door. But in between bursts of drilling, there was a certain element of relaxation that could be obtained if one just stopped thinking and let the waves of Hungarian conversation roll over you. Simon loved the whole experience, and even had a massage (my worst nightmare) before we headed off to take our newly relaxed selves back into the city.
The afternoon was spent at the Flipper Muzeum – a collection of pinball machines and arcade games, all available for free play (once you had paid your admission fee, of course). Oh my goodness. This was MUCH more fun for me – and couldn’t have been further removed from the thermal bath experience! Flashing lights, strange noises… no signs saying ‘silence heals’ here! My favourite machines were those from the 1950s and 60s – something about their simplicity really worked for me. Simon was the official ‘Buckaroo’ champion, but the ten pin bowling machine found us fairly evenly matched. There was table soccer, table ice hockey (we were terrible at this), air hockey, and all sorts of other weird and wonderful entertainment options. Great fun!
We mellowed out again in the evening with a concert at the Budapest Jazz Club, which was more on the thermal bath end of the spectrum than the pinball museum end. The players seemed slightly disinterested and disengaged – all except for the drummer, who was rather offputting in his tendency to make as many different noises as he possibly could. He seemed to be trying to solo constantly instead of providing a rhythm section. Maybe it was my uncultured ears, but each piece sounded a bit samey – same tempo, same crooning vocal style. But I’ve heard much worse before, and probably will again.
For our final morning in Budapest, we hit up the Christmas markets, which were full of food stalls, souvenir stalls, hot wine, and police with massive guns. Following the unpleasant happenings in Berlin earlier in the week, there was definitely an increased police presence around the city. I think that was supposed to make us feel safer, but instead it was slightly unnerving.
We spent the afternoon commuting to the airport on a totally packed bus, and ended up standing in line in a shed while waiting to board our flight. Thank goodness the shed was heated – otherwise there may have been an uprising from the passengers of flight FR8357 as the scheduled departure time rolled around and found us all still standing in the shed.
We eventually got underway, and it was fairly meh as far as flights go. It didn’t start well, with a terribly lacklustre safety demonstration from the flight attendants. I feel that I have seen enough renditions of this routine this year to be able to offer insightful and constructive criticism, but the attendants were too busy trying to sell us overpriced sandwiches to listen to my feedback. Their loss.
We touched down at 7.40pm, and less than an hour later we were jumping on board the train to Leeds, having negotiated luggage collection, border control and the walk to the station in record time. There was even time to grab a slightly-less-overpriced-than-on-a-plane sandwich to keep us going, which Simon thought was a great investment because he’s learned how important it is not to let me get hangry when travelling. I couldn’t have been happier – I had food, and it was five degrees, making it a whole nine degrees warmer than the temperature we had left behind in Budapest. British winter come at me!

Posted by Buccas 15:41 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Cabbage soup

overcast 1 °C
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We checked out of our Viennese flat while the plumbers were doing something to the shower, and said farewell to German Ludwig and Taiwainese-Australian Yu Chan, with strict instructions to visit Yu Chan's brother at his coffee shop in Melbourne some day.
We trundled along to a cafe near the train station to indulge in some pre-international-travel lunch. I used my favourite German word (apfelsahft) and obviously pronounced it with some resemblance to the real deal, because the woman nodded and lo and behold, brought me a cup of apple juice. Nailed it. The menu was a tad limited - it was a three course meal for less than ten euro, or it was nothing. Three course meal, coming right up! Dessert was jam-filled doughnuts - and the jam was apricot, total win. I feel that apricot flavoured things are under-represented in the world, and Austria was doing its bit to balance things out.
We waddled onto the train (which departed precisely on time - maybe it's Austrian efficiency we're supposed to talk about?) and an hour later, we waddled off again, this time in Slovakia's capital, Bratislava.
From the moment we walked out of the train station, I knew I was going to like this place. It had none of the glamour of Vienna, but something about it just worked for me. Maybe I was a Slovak in a past life. Who knows.
We sussed the tram system pretty quickly and got ourselves out to Nove Mesto and settled into our flat, which was big and clean and fully-equipped and was costing us about $30AUD per night. We headed straight for the supermarket, had an early dinner and then set off to see the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir perform. Simon had been overcome with guilt at our lack of cultural experiences in Vienna, the centre of the classical music universe, and was determined to make up for it. So there we were, in the beautiful concert hall, trying to look as if we belonged there. The hall had a simplistic beauty about it - stunning, but not intimidatingly grand.
The first item was a choral work, not my cup of tea but I enjoyed watching the orchestra do their thing, and found one double bass player with a most unorthodox bowing technique. Next we dispatched with the choir and brought in the grand piano - and I simply could not watch the pianist. He made such grotesque facial expressions and his body movements were so distracting that I felt I would dissolve into a fit of giggles if I stayed focused on him. At what point does somebody need to tell him that's he's being a nong? I'm sure Beethoven's artistic directions did not include the outrageous gesticulations that were occurring on stage... But once I removed the visual element of the performance by watching the cellists, it was all rather impressive. And Greg Farmer's doppelganger played first violin, so it was nice to see a familiar face up there on stage.
As the first half was coming to a close, It Happened. The moment I had feared had arrived. There was A Tickle In My Throat, and I knew that the cough that was coming was not a simple clear-your-throat-and-it'll-be-gone situation, it was a coughing crisis. So I did the unthinkable and walked out, as stealthily as possible, under the disapproving glares of the back ten rows of the audience, so that I could have my coughing fit in the safety of the foyer. Gah.
On the plus side, I discovered that there were speakers in the foyer so I was able to listen to the end of the first half in the foyer, which was nearly as magnificent as the concert hall itself.
After intermission, I'm sure a few people thought it strange that I remained in the foyer after the final call to be seated, but there I was comfortable and able to enjoy the Saint-Saens piece (you would know it as the final song from Babe) without worrying that my cough would affect anyone else. So - Simon got his Culture in the end. 11 euro well spent.
On Saturday morning we headed back into town and joined a walking tour with a focus on the role of communism in Slovakia. This was a wonderful decision on our part - it was quite a small group (maybe ten or so people), and what interesting people they were! It's not often you meet someone who works in the Australian Embassy in Oman...
Anyway the tour itself was brilliant. I felt like some puzzle pieces had come together in terms of understanding life in Europe post-WW2. The Slovak-Soviet relationship was far from black and white - which I suppose was a reminder that few things in life can ever be categorically considered 'good' or 'bad'. The Soviets are acknowledged in their role as liberators AND oppressors in Slovak history, with neither role taking away from the other. We learned that much of the old city of Bratislava was destroyed not during the war, but during the 'modernisation' that came after the war. For example, there was a monument to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and it was located on the former site of a synagogue. The synagogue was not destroyed by the Nazis - but was demolished to make way for a new highway after the war. Go figure.
We marvelled at the hazy views of the Danube from Bratislava Castle, averted our eyes from the hideous Slovak Radio building and chuckled at the communist feat of engineering that had created a public park where the seats were unusable and the sound of the fountain drowned out any hopes of conversation.
After the tour, we climbed way too many stairs to get to the Slavin war memorial, and then found our way downhill to a restaurant that was warm and welcoming. Our young waitress could not have been more helpful, and we had an awesome Slovak meal. You may be surprised to learn that Christmas cabbage soup (vianocna kapustnica) is absolutely delicious, but you will probably not be surprised to know that I also enjoyed my potato dumplings with sheep cheese and bacon. Kinda tasted like the best macaroni cheese ever in the history of macaroni cheese. We finished off with sour cherry strudel and some of the nicest vanilla icecream I've ever had, before rolling our way through yet another Christmas market on our way back to the tram stop.
For our next trick, we crossed off a few icons of Bratislava. We started at the 'blue church' (Church of St Elisabeth) and then waltzed along the Danube River, before waltzing right across it. From there, we headed into the Old Town and enjoyed soaking up the vibe of the place. Cobblestones, beautiful buildings, Christmas markets, random statues of men peeping out of manholes - you get the idea. It was lovely - but it was cold. The rain that had been forecast never eventuated, but gee willikins it was cold.
We ate lunch by going to the stall with the longest queue of locals, and enjoyed some sort of fried-potato-with-spices-and-cheese heavenly concoction. And I thought it was supposed to be the Irish that were the potato masters! The only downside to market food is that your hands get cold, so to remedy the situation, we headed for the Slovak National Gallery, which was a) free and b) heated. As a bonus, it also had c) information in English. We perused the WW2-era art until we had regained feeling in our extremities, then trammed it back home to warm up (again) with some cards (turned out Huf Patience was not Simon's strong suit) and now we're wondering if we will ever feel hungry again. There is a reputable pizza place just down the road, and it might just be worth braving the cold for...

Posted by Buccas 10:31 Archived in Slovakia Comments (0)

Pacman and persecution

sunny 4 °C
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The train journey from Munich to Vienna was relatively unremarkable. We tried hard not to be 'those people that keep coughing and sneezing', and hopefully didn't disturb our fellow passengers too much. We crossed from Germany into Austria, and were mildly alarmed to hear a muffled announcement that said that some carriages were headed to Budapest while other carriages were off to Vienna airport. This was disconcerting for us because a) we didn't know which carriage we were on and b) we didn't know at which station the split would occur. So it was with a reasonable amount of relief that we arrived at the main train station of Vienna - and for the record, that's where the carriages were set to go their separate ways.
We disembarked, appreciated the festive lights around the station and promptly felt cold. It was an easy 15 minute walk to our apartment, where Ludwig showed us around and got us settled in. At this point, I was interested in bed and very little else. Luckily for me, Simon was still feeling like a semi-functional human being and so he went to the supermarket and did some serious German language detective work that resulted in us being able to have beef and vegie noodle soup for dinner. What an excellent husband I have!
Tuesday was officially declared a Day of Rest, with a complete ban in touristing, sightseeing or any sort of physical exertion. The sun shone through our windows but we weren't fooled - when we headed outdoors, we rugged up as much as possible because 2 degrees is pretty gosh darned cold, sun or no sun. We stocked up on vegies and paracetamol before retreating to the warmth and comfort of our house, and settled in for a solid session of watching the washing dry. One of our least glamorous ninking days to date - but sometimes you just need to chill.
The chilling obviously paid off, because we woke up feeling better the next morning. And by 'better', I mean 'in improved health compared to previous days', not 'completely fixed and feeling 100%'. So we eased back into being tourists, ever so gently. We caught the tram from underground, and before it had gone even one stop it had become an above ground tram. Baffling.
We wandered around the Volksgarten and decided that it was probably a garden designed to be appreciated in warmer months. There was no winter plant life to be seen - just rows and rows of roses with sacks covering them, and it seemed more like a huge memorial to the coffee beans of Ecuador. It's not often that buildings bring more charm than gardens to a city, but for Vienna in winter that was certainly the case. The city had a feel of grandeur and elegance and cleanliness - all these stately buildings and statues and monuments dotted around the place. We had discussions about whether every statue of a man wearing a hat while riding a horse could possibly be Napoleon, and found our way to a rather unexpected little museum.
When you think of Vienna, you think of classical music and schnitzels, right? Well now you need to add globes and Esperanto to your list. For we discovered the Globes Museum and the Esperanto Museum - which were actually just two floors of the same building, an annexe of the National Library.
Austria, you are a magnificent country. Nowhere else have I encountered a Department of Planned Languages. I'm wondering if I can establish one in Camperdown when I return. Admittedly the Esperanto Museum was rather on the small side - Esperanto Room may have been a more apt title - but it had everything I wanted to know about this planned langauge. Developed by a Polish opthalmologist (as all good languages are), it was more than a mere language - it represented a desire for world peace through communication. If Miss Universe was a speech pathologist, she'd definitely speak Esperanto. I hadn't realised that it was used by Europeans in the early 20th century in prisoner of war camps and in providing aid after World War One, and I most definitely hadn't realised that Esperantists were persecuted by Hitler (who claimed it was a 'Jew language'). There was also information about several other planned languages - including Klingon, and an attempted musical language, where concepts were represented by various note sequences. And just when you thought that was all that such a museum had to offer - there was Esperanto Pacman. Be still, my linguistically beating heart! All the joy of Pacman combined with the word endings of Esperanto. Nerdtopia.
To be honest, the Globe Museum was always going to struggle to compete with that, but it put up a valiant fight. It had a surprisingly interesting and captivating collection of globes. My main disappointment was not being able to touch them, on account of them being safely stored away in glass cabinets. You'd think they were precious items, hundreds of years old or something. Simon managed to find one globe from 1896 or thereabouts that was turned so that Australia was facing outwards. Only very few Australian towns were marked - and Portland was one of them. Winning.
After all the excitement of learning Stuff and Things, we spent the rest of the afternoon being slightly more 'normal' Viennese tourists, checking out the Christmas markets. I'm not sure if it was just the markets we were at, or the time of day, but there was noticeably less hustle and bustle compared to our German experience. Or maybe it was my brain that was still a little foggy, and I wasn't processing things as quickly as usual. Nevermind.
We stopped at a coffee shop on our way home and it was delightful. There was a husky snoozing in his basket, the fire was roaring and the waitress sang 'All of Me' while she made our drinks. Not in a 'listen to me sing' kind of way, but in the most beautiful singing-to-herself kind of way. Ah perfection. An excellent way to finish the day.
We attempted to kick the touristing up a gear on Thursday, and ventured to the nearest Tabak Trafik to buy a daily public transport ticket. The woman in the shop spoke German, Russian and Polish, which unfortunately didn't align with our English, Italian, Auslan or Spanish skills, but we worked it out with a fair bit of laughing along the way. Once in the city, we started with one of our oh-so-beloved free walking tours. Apparently this was the place to be for Australians in Vienna - at least three quarters of the group was Aussie. Most of the people we spoke to were doing the 'live in London' thing, and had just popped over to explore some Christmas markets for a couple of days. One woman insisted on saying that she was from 'Melbourne, Australia' several times, as if she couldn't handle being identified as any sort of Australian other than a Melburnian one. She also felt the need to exclaim 'been there!' any time another city was mentioned. We gave her a wide berth.
We enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the beautiful buildings (and the less beautiful buildings) of the old city, and tried to get our heads around the Hapsburgs, the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Empire. We stood beneath the library balcony where Hitler had made his speech when annexing Austria, and saw the WWII 'apology' monuments. I didn't realise that Austria is obliged to be a neutral democracy - and is forbidden from forming an alliance with Germany.
We also learned a little about Vienna's past musical inhabitants, and basically every second person we passed had a cello or some other instrument strapped to their back.
After the tour, we lunched and bought train tickets to Bratislava (as you do), then checked out the Austrian Resistance Museum. This building was so warm that I nearly fell asleep immediately upon entering, but I managed to make it through all the written information in a state vaguely resembling awakeness. The years leading up to WWII were certainly fairly tumultuous times for Austria. The ambience of the museum was disturbed somewhat by some sort of Christmas party going on in the courtyard outside. I'm normally quite a fan of the song "I will survive", but in this context it sounded horribly, horribly wrong. For it to be played once would have been an unfortunate coincidence, but twice? Really? Anyway, it was an interesting place to reflect upon the different ways that Germany and Austria acknowledge their shared past. Apparently Austria considered itself the 'first victim of National Socialism', and the government only officially acknowledged the role of Austrians in causing suffering in 1991. It's a heavy burden, and obviously still such a difficult subject.
The tram ride home was a pleasant form of touristing in itself - past the grand buildings, past the Christmas markets, and past all the festive lights. We watched it all go by with a sense of sadness - Vienna had so much more to offer us, but we just weren't well enough to make the most of it. I'm sorry Vienna, I'll try harder next time.

Posted by Buccas 10:04 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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