Saturday, June 12, 2004

Vienna, Austria--Day 133

Today we woke up pretty early despite the jet lag and headed to the zoo. We first stopped at this outdoor market (which we took the subway to) and it was really neat because it was a mixture of what seemed like an old flea market with people selling everything from old shoes to old street signs to specialty foods and wines. We had no problem perusing the different stalls and picking up a few foods to snack on while we looked!

After the market, we got on another subway over to where the Schoenbrunn is, which is the old national summer palace of the Hapsburgs. The zoo just so happens to be on the same grounds--what a luxury! So we walked around the open square of the Schoenbrunn over to the zoo where we bought our tickets and headed into find the hippos, or as they say in German, Flusspferd. :)

We found the flusspferds and boy did they have a huge place to live! Not only did the three hippos have a large outdoor grassy area and pond, but they also had a huge indoor "Flusspferd Haus" where there was a large exhibit devoted to the hippos, and to the zoo's previous hippos. It was great, and I could not believe it!

The three hippos at the Vienna zoo are Ali, Aka and Kimbuku. (Ali being the father, Aka the mother, and Kimbuku the baby). Luckily we arrived just in time for feeding time and the hippos were anxious to eat, which meant a lot of getting out of the water, which is perfect for the photos! I think that Kathryn and my other friend Sarah (who is from Tucson, where I grew up) thought it was quite the sight seeing my run (literally) back and forth and getting the pictures. I found them being there quite handy because I was able to throw my bag and papers at them to hold while I darted around taking the pictures. We spent quite a while getting the hippo pictures and Kathryn was great in asking in her fluent German what the names of the hippos were. The zoo keeper she was talking to was very enthusiastic about the project. All I could do was just smile and nod!

We stayed at the zoo a while longer looking at some other animals (Kathryn is a giraffe fanatic and Sarah loves anything cute and fuzzy) and ate lunch near the Flusspferd Haus before heading back out of the zoo. Since we were on palace grounds, we decided to walk around the glorietta by the palace, which has wonderful views over Vienna. We then took a tour of the palace where we got to have neat audioguides take us through the different rooms (and through the hoards of school children and tour groups) and learn all about the Hapsburgs. Afterwards we headed back to Kathryn's apartment, stopping by the grocery store on the way to pick up stuff to make knodel for tomorrow. We then went out to dinner with Kathryn's FANTASTIC roommates Anke and Martin, and their next door neighbor Bertyl (Harry Paaatter..heehee) at a Heuriger, which is a fresh wine restaurant type thing, frequented by the locals. It was a lot of fun--you mix the fresh wine with sparkling water and its just great. We got heaps of food there and apple streudel, and afterwards headed back to continue the festivities (and schnapps tasting) back at Bertyl's apartment next door to Kathryn's.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Vienna, Austria--Day 132

Today we arrived in Vienna. A good friend of mine from Tucson (who is also named Sarah) is tagging along on to some of the zoos with me on this Eastern European leg. It was so exciting to be on the same flight and to finally have company. The flight out of Tucson was actually pretty delayed due to bad weather in Chicago, but we made the rest of our connections just fine since we had significant layovers in both Chicago and London. It was great being back in England even if it was just for a few hours.

Our flight from London was fine and both Sarah and I were feeling a little delirious due to lack of sleep. While I napped sprawled out on a bench, Sarah read her book, keeping watch on the time and what gate we were supposed to leave out of. The London Heathrow airport kept us on our toes though, we had to hop off and on several shuttle buses between terminals before finally getting to the right terminal that our flight left out of. Then we spent time walking around the terminal trying to find the best seats away from all of the smoking sections. Finally it was time for our flight to board and luckily this one was not delayed.

We made it into Vienna around 6 pm and found Kathryn (my good friend from Macalester) waiting at the arrival gate. I realized that I hadn't seen Kathryn in a long time (could it be over a year?) and so it was great to see her and to be able to spend time with her while on the pursuit of hippos.

Kathryn was happy to see us because the flight number that I told her turned out to be wrong (we were on a British Airways flight, not an American Airlines flight) so she was really worried that despite us telling her what time we were going to arrive, that we wouldn't show up. I also realized at that point that I didn't have Kathryn's phone number, so I wasn't sure what we would have done if Kathryn wasn't waiting for us!

We were also lucky to have Kathryn with us since she is fluent in German, and there was no way for us to navigate the Austrian train system without her help! We got our tickets, boarded a train, and were on our way into Vienna.

We made it to our stop and lugged our baggage to Kathryn's cute little apartment. After hearing about her place for so long, it was great to see the real deal. We dropped off our stuff and sat down to not only catch our breath, but to take in the fact that we had actually made it to Vienna! I couldn't believe that just 4 days ago I had been in Mexico, and now I was in Vienna on the other side of the world.

After relaxing for a bit, we went out to find some traditional Austrian dinner and found just that right near Kathryn's apartment. A few beers and schnitzel later, we were off on a walking tour of downtown Vienna at night, which is just a beautiful sight. Kathryn gave us the full on tour, and we were eager to get to see everything during the day.

Back at Kathryn's apartment, jet lag was finally settling in and I couldn't wait to get to sleep and to the zoo in the morning. Luckily sleep wasn't far away, and before I knew it, it was time to get up!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tucson, Arizona--Day 130

I've made it back to Tucson for a little rest and relaxation as well as seeing my family and friends for a few days before going to Vienna tomorrow. The weather is hot and its great to be able to spend just a few days back in a familiar place!

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Guadalajara, Mexico--Day 127

Today I woke up and when I went downstairs for breakfast, realized what all the hype was about last night (the celebrations going on in the street late at night and the big soccer match on TV that EVERYONE was watching). Turns out it was a huge match last night and the team, Las Chivas, finally made it into the finals (of what I still don’t know) for the first time in 10 years. To top it off, the Chivas are staying at my hotel!! So I woke up this morning and went to breakfast and found very pleasant company of an entire professional soccer team to gawk at while I tried not to drool my corn flakes. Anyways, it was quite funny and there was security everywhere--I even was escorted to my taxi after I finished my breakfast!

So I braved the pouring rain and got a cab over to where I thought the ballet was going to be, but it turned out to NOT be there. While I stood around waiting with several other tourists, I asked a man who appeared to be working around the area as a security guard and asked if the ballet was going to be there and he told me no. Luckily I had another address where the ballet might have been given to my by William yesterday. I told the others waiting, who weren’t so sure of my idea to go somewhere else (one girl from Georgia gave me lots of attitude, “well, I was here last year and THIS is where it is at, so there”) so I jumped in a cab solo and several wrong tursn later, was at the right place for the ballet.

I bought my ticket and found William, Cory, Swati and Maria Elena. Cory, William and Swati are all in Mexico for an immersion program for two weeks and Maria Elena is their teacher, who has accompanied them from Washington D.C. for the immersion. It was wonderful to have Maria Elena along not only because she is so fun to talk to, but also because it was like having your own private Spanish teacher to help you out, even me! She would encourage us to talk and then correct our mistakes, and since I haven’t had any Spanish lessons for quite a while now, the help was much needed and much appreciated!

At the ballet I also saw the tourist group who I gave the new address to coming up to buy tickets behind me (I was right! I have to admit that I was worried that the new address could have been wrong, but glad that they listened to me!). Soon thereafter the auditorium opened up and we were seated. The performance lasted about two hours and was just fantastic. I was really impressed by the Ballet Folklorico and definitely recommend anyone going when they are in Guadalajara.

After the ballet, the group of us decided to catch a bus to Tlaquepaque which is just about a thirty minute bus ride from downtown Guadalajara. Dodging puddles and praying for it not to start pouring again, we walked down the road to where we were supposed to catch the bus.

We got on the special blue bus (it was nice to have a group of us instead of trying to figure all of this out on my own!) and headed towards Tlaquepaque. It didn’t take long for us to get there and we got off the bus a few blocks away (the bus stopped and the driver yelled “Tlaquepaque!” for us American tourists) and we walked a few blocks to the main square. Tlaquepaque was really neat because it felt like a small town, almost European, and didn’t feel at all like we were so close to Guadalajara. We spent the afternoon having a great long lunch. It was funny because the whole main square area is lined with restaurants, all seemingly the same, just with different table cloths on their tables. We walked around the square trying to decide where to go and when we finally decided, oh, let’s just go here, we were in the middle of two restaurants. About five men jumped at the chance to seat us and we found ourselves torn and literally standing in the middle of two restaurants that were both eager to help us. We were being beckoned with menus and the lot, and finally one restaurant surrendered us to the other restaurant. It was pretty funny.

After lunch we walked around the stores and little booths, as well as a big, dark and dusty marketplace that was on the third floor of this huge warehouse. The rain came and went (va y viene) and by the time we were ready to leave the sun had come out and it was actually quite warm. We found where to wait for the bus to take us back to Guadalajara and boarded it and made it back to Guadalajara’s central square. This is where we all said our goodbyes, and William and I headed back in a taxi to the area that we both are staying in. I was in for the rest of the night, getting things ready to go back to Tucson tomorrow for a few short days!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.