The bus to Vienna was shorter than our trip into Slovenia, but not particularly comfortable and we were relieved when we arrived. We had to take the underground across town to the hostel where we were meeting Bryony’s school friend Mel and Hayden. Luckily we have improved at reading the maps since Frankfurt.
We managed to arrange a hostel together, although we had one additional guest who was altogether strange. He had washed all his clothes in the bathroom and was drying them in the room when we got back from dinner which made the whole place feel a little like a sauna. Even worse was the smell of cigarette smoke though. He was moved after the first night, and we made sure we didn’t bump into him again!
On New Year’s eve we took the tram out to Schonbrunn palace. There was an enormous queue for tickets to the inside of the palace (if we were going inside, booking ahead would have been a great idea). We just skipped this and went around to explore the gardens in front of the palace. It was a huge facility and had a great view from the gates at the top of the hill. There was a lot of Franz Joseph era architecture around including many frozen fountains which would have looked spectacular in the summer but were off because of the frozen water.
In the evening we ventured to the outdoor market that created a big trail through the center of Vienna for some gluwein and people watching, but it was too cold to spend the whole evening outdoors, so for lack of any other idea we found a corner in the Irish bar and spent most of the night yarning. We almost forgot to go out at midnight and by the time we realised it was 10 to 12 we had to motor our way through back streets to find a spot in front of the huge city hall just in time for the waltz underneath the fireworks.
Mel and Hayden left early on New Year’s day and we had a whole day before we could check in to our Air B&B apartment in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was -7 degrees, at which temperature being outside is kind of unpleasant, especially with the icy wind to go with it. So after a little walking tour interspersed with underground trips to warm up we found our Irish bar and had a very long lunch there.
There seem to be more grand old buildings in Vienna than we’d seen elsewhere, and we really enjoyed walking and exploring the streets. We visited a few museums including the Globe museum, which has a huge collection of very old globes showing how our understanding of the world developed over time. Included in the ticket price was an exhibition about Esperanto which was fascinating. Our visit coincided with a Tuesday night, which is the evening that the Museum of Applied Arts is free, so we spent a whole evening there, although it wasn’t long enough to explore all of the exhibits. We visited an exhibition on ancient Japanese pornography, the permanent exhibitions of lace and very old furniture (although it was called something more historical sounding) and displays of a design student poster competition. Bryony especially enjoyed the last exhibit we visited on the evolution of handicrafts. For the period of the exhibition four different craftspeople have set up a workshop in the corner so we could watch people making violins (and if we were able to speak German could have asked them about it).
Our train to Frankfurt wasn’t until the afternoon so we stored our bags at the station and went out to visit the buildings made by Friedensreich Hundertwasse. He is the artist who shifted to New Zealand in the later part of his life and was responsible for the design of the public toilets in Kawakawa. There is a quite expensive museum dedicated to his art, but by chance we carried on walking and found the Hundertwasse village, and an apartment building designed by him. The village is an indoor space with shops and a bar so we got a beer and soaked up the crazy shaped building. On our way back to the station it was trying very hard to snow.
We took the train to Frankfurt where we arrived very late to stay with Max (Rohan being at home with her family in New Zealand) and left the next morning to Utrecht to arrive after dark. We only stopped for two nights in Utrecht, with the prime goal being to apply for working holiday visas. This scheme is only for a few countries, but would allow us to work in any job, not just in science where we would have to qualify for a special visa. The process was relatively easy, the only hiccup being that we needed to both show that we had enough money in our own bank accounts to cover the cost of flights home if we needed it (even though Bryony had more than enough to pay for us both). Some speedy internet banking to switch some money around and find a bank statement meant we could still come away with our temporary work permit allowing us to live and work here for 6 months, hopefully to be followed by a real one soon.
It snowed overnight in Utrecht and we slipped our way to the train station to catch a ride back down to Aalst. In our absence Lander had found a big new house to move into, complete with a spare bedroom which he offered to us for as long as we needed so that we could have an affordable base to apply for jobs and spend some more time with him.