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Multi-country journey from Basel to Bratislava

Basel, Strasbourg and Bratislava


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Very late in the evening I safely made my way from the hotel to the Flixbus stop for the first leg of my journey to Bratislava: a couple of hours on the bus to Strasbourg, where I had a four-hour changeover in the middle of the night. There wasn't anywhere to go inside, but I managed to find a covered area on one side of the bus stop area with a seat where I could set up camp for the next few hours and stay dry if it started to rain. I could see that we were close to a bridge over a river - it would have been nice to walk round a bit and explore if it hadn't been between 1 and 5 a.m. and I didn't have anywhere safe to leave my big case. Instead, I kept myself awake by reading and, at a couple of points around 4 a.m., by blearily trying to dredge up some French from 20 years ago to use in response to an old lady who had come up and started asking me things....

The bus to Bratislava came on time and left Strasbourg at 05:10. The journey took 13 hours but there were no issues and time passed relatively quickly. We made stops at Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Munich and Vienna, plus the occasional service station. At the stop in Vienna the coach went through the coach wash while we were inside - something I hadn't experienced before.

On arrival in Bratislava I found my way to the magnificently-named Wild Elephants Hostel pretty easily, admiring the architecture as I went. It was about 7 p.m. by the time I'd got settled into my dorm, and I was too knackered to go out again, so I made snacks leftover from the bus trip my dinner and after going online for a bit, got an early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:40 Archived in Slovakia Tagged bratislava france austria germany hostel buses switzerland slovakia Comments (0)

Working in Vienna

Vienna


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Update from June 2021: The pay-as-you-wish Pakistani restaurant is the famous Der Wiener Deewan. The Sigmund Freud Museum finished its refurbishment and renovation and is fully open again.

I had a busy but interesting and enjoyable week teaching in the historic centre of Vienna.

This is the first of the short contracts this year where I've had to take public transport to school rather than being able to walk. Taking public transport during rush hour every day in work clothes gave me a real sense of being more like a resident rather than a tourist, although clearly this was just a very small taste of that. It's interesting how even something as 'everyday' as the Underground/ metro experience can vary in different countries.

I was thinking of going to the State Opera on Thursday (you can get cheap tickets if you get there early), but in the end I had too much admin to do and homework to mark to be able to go. There are several museums I'd love to have gone to but I would never have had time to fully do them justice, plus I was always so tired, so I left them for a time in the future when I'm in Vienna but not working. It's a shame I had to fly home late Friday afternoon as it meant I had to go straight to the airport after work, with only a quick stop at the hotel to pick up my bags. Otherwise I would have explored the city more and gone to a museum then and on Saturday morning.

One place I did go to was the Sigmund Freud Museum, but the main part of it was closed for refurbishment, so I just saw the temporary two-room exhibition, which focused on the basic details of his life and his psycho-analytical theories. It was still worth seeing, of course, and the ticket price was reduced in light of the situation.

I did go out for lunch with two of the other teachers a couple of times, to the same place; an Pakistani restaurant where you only pay what you can afford and what you think the food was worth. You serve yourself and the whole atmosphere is very casual. On both occasions I had a delicious chicken paprika dish with rice; for dessert there was a type of lovely thick semolina pudding with 'mandeln und mango' - I wondered what 'mandeln' meant, then soon found out it means 'almonds'. They called it 'Halwa' which was interesting - turns out that this is from the same wider halva family of sweets popular in the Middle East, Greece, Turkey and North Africa, though in a form very similar to rice pudding, and semolina-based rather than sesame.

The teaching was enjoyable throughout the week and the final project presentations and Show went very well. I was very impressed with what they managed to achieve with only a week of preparation - very proud.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:33 Archived in Austria Tagged trains vienna austria museum english_teaching unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

Return to Vienna: Coffee and goulash

London Luton Airport, Vienna Airport and Vienna


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Back in Vienna for a few days to teach a course at a school in the city centre.

I met up with my partner teacher 'M' at Luton Airport, as we were on the same flight. On arrival at Vienna Airport we took the CAT (City Airport Train) into the centre for €12 each, only to find out later that we could have taken the slightly slower but much cheaper S7 train for only €3.90 each - oh well, at least we know now for the return journey!

On our half-hour walk to the hotel we discovered that it was the day of the Vienna Marathon. We walked along the route for a while, with the runners passing by and supporters spurring them on. At one point we were given free goody-bags by a bank. Amongst some boring stuff there were two interesting things; a can of peach soft drink and a yellow plastic poncho - unneeded at the time because it was sunny, but I kept onto it just in case I might use it another time.

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After finding our hotel it was too early to check in yet so we dumped some stuff and then went to a nearby café. I had a lovely 'Grosser Brauner' coffee, but wasn't hungry enough to eat anything. There was a helpful guide to some of the most typical types of coffee in Vienna.

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In the evening M and I had dinner at the atmospheric Seven Stars brewery/restaurant with the other two teachers we'll be working with this week. The Seven Stars is where we all had a drink and some food at the induction weekend back in January - I very highly recommend it! This time I had the most fantastic goulash with one big round dumpling in the middle. We followed that with some ice cream from a place on the main shopping street; one of the two best places in Vienna for ice cream, according to one of the others. I had tiramisu flavour and it was indeed amazing.

Posted by 3Traveller 17:29 Archived in Austria Tagged trains vienna airport austria brewery unesco_world_heritage_site austrian_cuisine Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Hanseatic City of Lübeck

Klagenfurt, Hamburg and Lübeck


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On Sunday I arrived in Lübeck knackered after half a day of travel; a walk to Klagenfurt Hauptbahnhof early this morning, a short train ride from there to the airport station, walking from there down the road to the tiny airport itself, a long wait there, an hour and a half's flight over some spectacular mountainous scenery to Hamburg, the S-bahn train to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, a 40-minute train to Lübeck and then another 40 minutes' walk to the budget hotel.

Klagenfurt Airport (or, to be precise, Kärnten Airport) was one of the smallest airports I've ever been to, beating only Baltra and Catamayo airports in Ecuador for size.

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I had a window seat on the flight so I managed to get some pictures of the mountains.

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I haven't got many photos from Lübeck itself, mainly because the weather wasn't particularly nice for most of it, and secondly because both the school and our hotel were outside of the centre so I was often too knackered to go out again once we'd returned from school. There were a couple of exceptions though which I will describe below.

One of the few sunny times during the week was on Monday afternoon when some of us went for a little walk down the side of the river Trave.

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On Tuesday we were given a short tour of the historic centre by some of the lovely English department. It was done at quite a pace, because we had a booking at a restaurant we couldn't be late for, so I didn't have time to get many photos. For such a historic place, the centre of Lübeck does have a couple of streets which look more like a typical anonymous post-war British high street; this is because those streets were bombed by the Allies during the war. Amongst other places we passed there was the historic Rathaus, the Marienkirche with its Devil statue outside and a couple of historic alleyways leading to courtyard cottages, built three to four hundred years ago for poorer people when the city expanded (the passageways are narrow but had to be wide enough to carry coffins through).

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Dinner at the restaurant we were booked into consisted (for me and most of the others) of their speciality, flammkuchen. Flammkuchen is common in Germany and Eastern France (and I've had it once before in Luxembourg); a lot like pizza, with an extremely thin base, and creme fraiche instead of tomato sauce. Delicious!

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On Thursday afternoon we went into the town centre to have coffee and cake. We went to Café Niederegger, which is within the most historic and famous marzipan shop in Lübeck. I didn't end up feeling like cake, so I had Swiss Rösti, which came with a fried egg, bacon and cucumber slices. The café was very atmospheric; displays of fancy silver spoons and other cutlery on the walls, classical music playing in the background, elegant decoration. Marzipan featured heavily in the menu, and was piled up in various forms in the shop downstairs. If only I liked it! Marzipan lovers would be in heaven in Lübeck. I did end up trying a piece at school, and it was a lot nicer than any I've had before (not sickly sweet), but still not something I'd really bother buying for myself.

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I am leaving Lübeck with the feeling that I didn't fully make the most of being there. I wish I'd explored more, despite being tired and having prep to do for work each day. There's a great museum here which I never managed to get to - the European Hansemuseum, about the Hanseatic League and the part Lübeck played as the leading city within it. I would also have liked to have gone inside the Holstentor, one of the two remaining city gates and the symbol of the city. I will just have to come back to Lübeck another time!

Posted by 3Traveller 04:25 Archived in Germany Tagged mountains airport austria germany lübeck unesco_world_heritage_site german_cuisine Comments (0)

Hercules and the Lindworm

Klagenfurt


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My first time with Airbnb today. I fly from Klagenfurt to Hamburg very early tomorrow morning, and I was thinking I'd have to spend the night at the main train station, as the airport isn't 24 hours and no hostels were available at all, but Airbnb came to the rescue. It's been a luxury being able to cook for myself and use the washing machine!

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The bus journey from Graz this morning took two hours; I split that time between gazing out of the window at the often magnificent scenery and reading a very interesting travel book about Welsh-speaking communities around the world.

Klagenfurt is lovely, like a mini Graz.

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Unlike Graz, however, it has intriguing statues of a lindworm and Hercules in the main square. The former, part of a fountain, dates from 1590 and the latter from 1633. This represents an old German tale from the 13th century of a lindworm near Klagenfurt. An interesting reminder to me that these tales of 'Worms' (really, dragons or serpents), appear in local folklore across Germanic and Scandinavian Europe, not just the UK.

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Apparently the head of the statue was modelled on the skull of a woolly rhinoceros found in a quarry in 1335.

Posted by 3Traveller 12:35 Archived in Austria Tagged austria buses klagenfurt explorations Comments (2)

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