30 April 2010

Grand Finale Vienna

My last week in Vienna is now over. It was quite good but I was very busy. The weather was nice and I ate way too much ice-cream - it is so popular there that they have these huge Gelateria (italian ice-cream parlours) with dozens of flavours. I went with friends to an Australian pub, which was just a small sports bar but sold really good burgers (not as good as Velvet Burger in NZ but really good for Vienna, where burgers are hard to find except for at McDonald's). Not only that, but it was a kangaroo burger! So despite Austria's slogan of 'no kangaroos in Austria (apparently nobody knows of Austria and the world thinks Austrians are Australians - which is not true of course. I was always well aware of the existence of Austria); anyway, as I was saying - despite the slogan I had my first meal of kangaroo meat in Austria.

So the last of my nice view on the way to/from work

Yesterday I went to the Hofburg palace with my professor. She is on the Science committe and there was this big prestigous award ceremony at the university, and then a reception with the president at the palace. So I was invited and first was the ceremony. It was all in German of course but that was okay. I listened somewhat and then mostly daydreamed. The university is like a palace itself (this is the main campus, not where I worked). It's a couple of hundred years old - the building that is. The University as an institute is about 700 years old (all this knowledge is thanks to my professor). We had a walk around so I could see the nice building. It has a big grassy square in the middle surrounded by busts of famous alumni - the only names I recognised were the really obvious science ones like Freud and Shrodinger. The inside was all wide starcaises and marble columns and the main hall in which the award ceremony was held had paintings on the ceiling. I was surprised to find that I knew Austria's european national anthem - it is the music that in English is called Ode to Joy.

And no more working in a building that looks like a UFO

So after the ceremony there was an hour or more until the reception so my Professor took me out to a cafe (it was on the way from the one place to the other you see). It was called the Landtman Hotel, and is one of the really old ones. It is on the Ringstrasse which is the road surrounding the first district (which is the oldest part of Vienna and full of huge old buildings), and is across from the Rathouse (parliament building) which now in the spring is like a big park full of trees. So it was a really nice place to sit outside and have cake and hot chocolate (my last in
Vienna). Then the Hofburg - most of my Austrian friends have not been inside. It was quite similar to Schonbrunn which is of course perfectly understandable as the two palaces belonged to, and were decorated by, the same royal family. The president gave a speech, again in German, and then greeted and congratulated all the award winners. That was about all there was to the reception, after that there was just talking to a few people and some sandwiches and drinks. I tried caviar - it didn't really seem to taste like much at all.

The Hofburg, probably the last of such buildings that I will see for some time

So I also had to pack my things and send a box of stuff to Ireland, because all my carry on baggage has had to be devoted to my science stuff. Which weighs about 15 kilos, so I was quite concerned about my bag being weighed. Then I sent my box away and it was also about 15 kilos and to post it to Ireland was only 26 euro! I had been worried that it would cost a fortune. Finally I had to go home and finish packing my suitcase, which went just fine until I tried to close it. I did get it closed though and on my way out of the building this morning I broke the handle (it was just that heavy - and dropping it down a small flight of stairs probably didn't help). So that's two handles down. But it has had a pretty long life I guess, I only got it a year and a half ago but it has had to take all my stuff from one side of the world to the other about twice, plus some extra trips in between.

The Prater - luckily my last day was a nice one and let me take good farewell photos

My flight left at 12 and first I had to return my keys to the housing office, which took way longer than I was comfortable with - I was starting to worry. But I made it to the train on time, heavy bags and all. And then when I got to the airport I weighed my bag at an empty counter and it was 33 kilos!! And you are only allowed 20! To pay for extra weight is like 5 or 10 euro a kilo, so luckily there was a post office right there. I brought a box and managed to remove all that extra weight out of my case and then had to wait in line to check in. I normally have no lines because I arrive so early but everything was against me today. And of course I chose the slow line where everybody had luggage problems. I must have waited about half an hour surely and then when my turn came it took all of 2 minutes! I left my carry on with my friend though because I didn't want to risk them asking to weight it.

Finally the Riesenrad, which will no longer be my iconic landmark - I must return to Vienna though so that I can actually do the iconic things like the Riesenrad and the Sacher Cafe

So by the time all that was over it was already time to board the plane, so I got to the gate and what would you know but there is a big line at security. And then another at the gate itself. And when I finally got through the gate instead of getting onto a plane there was a bus outside of the door! So they packed the bus as full as it could go (and it was very hot because Vienna has such lovely weather) and then the bus took us all the way across the runways to the plane. I have never boarded a plane in such a manner before. But finally I was on the plane, safely got my heavy and very fragile bag into the compartment and I could relax. Except you know the problem with the ease of European travelling? There is always a school group. They are noisy and irritating and kick your seat.

And now I am in Ireland again. I got my bag and the bottom of it is all wet. But nothing seems to have burst open so perhaps it is from somebody else's bag? Luckily it smells of shampoo, and my case could probably have used a wash anyway. It was sunny, if a bit cloudy, and I got on the bus that is supposed to go directly to Galway and arrive at 5.45. But by the time they have put all the people on the bus, plus the horrific traffic, surely it will not arrive on time? I hope it does because my phone is basically out of battery so I will not be able to let anybody know about changes to the schedule. And what would you know, but it has started to rain. Already. And I am hungry and my computer battery will probably not must for much longer, so I will then also be bored on the bus. Of course I should probably just be thankful that there is internet on the bus in the first place.

And tomorrow back to work and looking after barnacles.

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