31 August 2002

Austria/France 2002 - Saturday

After our 18-hour trip "across the pond," we arrived in Vienna (that's 'Wien' to the locals). One of Delinda's bags didn't. We got a rental car and attempted to head to our hotel. I say "attempted" because none of us could figure out how to get it into reverse. We prefer to blame this on travel fatigue and jet lag... We finally stopped a couple of gentlemen walking through the parking lot and asked them if they could help us out. They got us on our way.

We found the Hotel Wende in Neusiedl-am-See, checked in, showered and headed back to Vienna for whatever meal it was time to eat, sightseeing and walking around until we could legitimately go to bed.

We were headed for the famous and historic "First District." Originally contained within the city walls, there is now a roughly circular road (known as "the Ring") where the wall used to be. Inside this ring are many sights and famous places including St Stephan's Basilica, the Winter Palace, the stables and training grounds for the Lippizan Stallions, monumental statues and narrow brick streets.

We had a city map. We even had a detailed map of the First District. Could we find it? Nooooooo... This, we prefer to blame on the fact that German street names all have at least a couple dozen characters per word and the street signs just aren't that big. By the time you've picked out the first half dozen or so characters, you've already whizzed past the sign.

At one point, we thought we were getting close. We kept seeing all these signs pointing to points of interest and, in particular, a major one that said, "Einbahn" with an arrow. Greg had a smattering of German left over from his high school days and knew that "Ein" meant "one" so we thought maybe Einbahn was the First District. So we followed the arrows. Needless to say, we drove all over in what seemed like completely random fashion before we finally figured out that Einbahn does NOT mean First District...it's a general street sign that means "One Way."

We finally found a place to park and just decided to call it close enough. We went to a little cafe across the street and ordered something to eat. We struck up a conversation with a British family at the next table and discovered that we were parked right ON a section of the Ring and that was the First District across the street. They told us about a pedestrian mall that leads to St Stephan's Basilica and we decided head that direction after eating.

After the meal, we ordered tea (for me) and coffee (for Greg and Delinda) and the tea I had was wonderful. I asked the waitress if the tea could be purchased locally and she said yes...at the Tee Haus and waved an arm in the general direction of the Ring. I got the specific name of the tea (Sonnen Insel...Sunny Island) from the menu and figured I could look up the Tee Haus in a phone book (Haas & Haas at Stepansplatz).

The spire of St Stephans guided us in the general direction until we finally emerged in St Stephans Square (Stephansplatz). It's an awesome Roman/Gothic style basilica with an imposing tower on one side, stone gargoyles all over and a pattern on the roof made with colored tiles. We went to the main entrance but it was closed to visitors because Mass was about to start. Delinda wanted to light a candle and we wanted to do a service in one of the basilicas anyway so we went in and sat down for the service.

It was a more contemporary service than I expected...no organ music, no robed choir, no incense. The music was provided by a youth choir in T-shirts and shorts with guitar and flutes. The service was in German so I didn't understand a word of it, but the sermon was heartfelt and the pews were packed.

After the service, we wound our way back to the car and back to the hotel. Delinda's missing bag was waiting for her in her room.

30 August 2002

Austria/France 2002 - Friday

Greg, Delinda and I boarded the plane for our trip to Austria.