December is only 3 days a way! It seems only yesterday we were just meeting at the airport, freaking out about the size of Vienna, and hiking the alps in Dorfgastein. I'm looking forward to reading back through my blog entries and creating a scrapbook of this semester when I get home, but I'm also not excited about saying goodbye to the friends I've made here and leaving Europe!
In this blog entry I will talk about the rest of our adventures in November including Budapest and going on tours with our professors as well as on our own. Then I will talk about the glorious Christmas markets in Wien and Kelly's birthday surprise!
The next weekend on Friday the 16th of November, all five of us made a a day trip to Budapest, Hungary. Obviously, we didn't have a lot of time to see a lot of things, but we were all very excited to have the opportunity to see another country. Budapest was originally two cities separated by a river: Buda and Pest. We spent the day walking around the streets, following the Burger Kings (of which there were more than a dozen), and being confused by the Hungarian signs. We went to the castle in Budapest and had a nice lunch at a pretty cheap restaurant. Everything in Hungary seemed so cheap in comparison to Vienna! A piece of cake that would be 3 Euros in Vienna was 1.50 in Budapest.
After lunch we looked at the view across the river and the Parliament. I found the parliament especially pretty and we waited until sunset to take night pictures.
We've been counting how many countries we've been lucky enough to visit during our time here in Vienna. By the end of this year, the five of us will have been to: Austria, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the UK....and the magical land of Canada. As our professors here would say “Wir sind sehr brav!”
Throughout the month we have gone on some really interesting tours in Vienna: the Belvedere Palace and Museum, the US Embassy, parliament, the Austrian National Library, and ESRA.
ESRA is the Jewish union in Vienna dedicated to supporting survivors of the Holocaust as well as the Jewish community in general. At the US Embassy we learned about different internship opportunities and what the role of the US Embassy is in Vienna.
I enjoy how our professors integrate all these interesting places into our classes and I believe I have seen so much of Vienna in just one semester!
On Thanksgiving my friend Tracy who is studying abroad in Plymouth, England this semester came to Vienna to visit for the weekend. She joined me at Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant/bar 1516 where the Institute celebrated with our professors, conversation partners, and other people that work at the Institute. My conversation partner is Lui, a close friend I have made here in Vienna, and I was so happy she was also able to make it. I can proudly say I also got her obsessed with pumpkin soup.
Over the weekend we went to several Christmas markets. So far I've been to the ones at Belvedere, City Hall, between the Art and Natural History museums, and Spitelberg which is near my house. At the Christmas markets they have dozens of huts where people sell jewelry, scarves, candles, soups, trinkets, food, Gluehwein, and Punsch. Christmas markets are so beautiful; they are completely decorated to the very last hut, and the food and drink are very tasty. Gluehwein is a hot red wine with a sort of orange taste. Punsch is schnapps with your choice of flavors and sometimes whipped cream on top. It is very delicious, and there are over 200 Punsch huts around Vienna this year apparently (according to Heute, a free newspaper you can find in the subways).
On the 24th, a Saturday, Annika, Kelly, Tracy and I went to the UN. There are 3 main UN headquarters, one of which is here in Vienna. This particular headquarters is most well known for hosting the International Atomic Energy Agency. The UN headquarters is not considered one of the top 10 tourist destinations, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the tour. It was really interesting to learn how the UN functions in regard to the multi-language issue. There are three official languages of the UN: English, French, and Arabic. There are also a couple dozen interpreters who specialize in certain languages and it takes years for them to reach such a level of proficiency (basically mother-tongue proficiency) to be able to work at the UN.
On Saturday we also threw Kelly a surprise birthday party with birthday money from her dad. We met at a Christmas market, had some punsch, and then took her to a restaurant with traditional Austrian food called: Haubraeu. We all had Wiener Schnitzel (except for Tracy, who's a vegetarian, who had a traditional dumpling dish with a mushroom cream sauce).
Afterwards we surprised her again by taking her to the English theatre where we'd already gotten tickets to see “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which we all thoroughly enjoyed!
Our final days in Vienna are upon us...we only have one more day of classes and finals next week. 9 days. I know everyone says this, but it's true how fast the time flies. Tonight we are going to the Musikverein and see an orchestra concert. We have one more tour with Professor Heuberger, our Ethnic Diversity teacher, and we'll be going to a Bosnian Mosque for a double-class period. Addison and I are also planning on doing a short day trip to another city in Austria because we have one more day on our EUrail cards.
We're trying to get in as much as possible this last week before we leave, but the days are going faster than we wish they would! I will probably have only one blog after this, and then we'll be back in the United States of America. Our time here has been so special and I know I'll never forget the classes we had, the excursions and adventures we went on, or the friends I've made this semester.