Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eurotrip 2015 - Day 9 (7/5/2015) - (Wearily) To Vienna

Boarding for the flight to Athens happened an hour later than planned, and in the meantime I voluntarily checked in my backpack for free at the request to reduce demand for overhead bin space.  It was closer to 1:30 by the time we boarded the busses, and then the plane, and then took off.  Consequently, we arrived in Athens around 2:15, and hour later than scheduled.  After picking up my backpack from baggage claim, I found an open group of 4 consecutive seats without separating armrests in the area, where I was able to lie down and rest my head on my bag.  I got some sleep for a while, but it was not of decent quality.  Sometime around 5, a couple of airport officials came by and woke up the guy sleeping in a similar fashion on the chairs directly behind me and told him that sleeping there was not permitted and that he should leave the baggage claim area.  I took that cue to get up and leave myself, politely "thanking" the officials for providing that information.

There were open seats in the arrival hall outside baggage claim, but none in groups without armrests that allowed lying down the the way that I had previously been; there were also a lot more people out there.  I grabbed a seat in a corner and tried to nod off as best I could (slouching and resting my feet on my bag seemed to work the best), but this sleep was of even worse quality than previously.  I also charged up my phone at a nearby outlet for a bit, in anticipation of needing it to find my hotel once I arrived in Vienna.

Around 7:00, I headed up to the departures hall to check in for my Aegean Airlines flight to Vienna.  On the way to the gate I realized that I was still pretty early (the flight didn't leave until 8:55), and I stopped to nap and charge for another 20 minutes or so.  I eventually went through security (they have security on the concourse, with a checkpoint for each of 3 groups of gates), found the gate, and waited.  Once again, the airline called for voluntary (free) bag checkers, and again I volunteered - it means that I don't have to worry about finding a space for my big backpack in the overhead bins, and so I can take my time boarding, but at the expense of having to later wait to claim the bag off the conveyor.  The 2h20m flight to Vienna was pretty much on time and uneventful, though they did serve a breakfast of a heated cheese pastry and yogurt with honey.

After claiming my bag in Vienna, I came across signs and ticket kiosks for the City-Airport Train (CAT), which is an express train that runs between (you guessed it) the city and the airport.  I didn't immediately buy a ticket, wanting to weigh my options, but once I left baggage claim and saw the regular train schedule I walked over to the CAT ticket office and bought a one-way ticket for €12.  I also stopped by an ATM and withdrew some cash (thank you Capital One for not charging ATM fees and for providing a great exchange rate!).  I then boarded the CAT and took the 16 minute ride to Wien-Mitte.  At the adjoining U-Bahn station I bought a 72-hour metro pass, and then took the U3 (orange) line to Neubaugasse, where I was able to walk to and find Hotel Fürst Metternich pretty easily (with help from my phone).

My room was ready for me when I arrived at the hotel, which was unexpected since it was just before noon.  When I went up to put my bags away, I noticed that the room was pretty warm.  After looking around, I realized that there was no air conditioning.  I immediately begin regretting booking this place, as it was significantly warmer in Vienna (high 80s, low 90s, F) than it had been in either Istanbul or Santorini.  Other than that, the room was fairly well appointed, and the location was pretty good (it's just off Mariahilfer Straße, which is a main shopping pedestrian boulevard, and close to 2 stops on the U3 line).  It would probably be a good place to stay in any other season but summer.
After a change of clothes, I ventured out toward the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) to catch the 1:00 English tour of the building.  The walk only took about 20 minutes, but it may have been a mistake (vs the U-Bahn), as I was visibly sweaty by the time I arrived.  I arrived 10 minutes early, so I tried my best to cool off beforehand, but the lobby was not all that cool either - I don't know if air conditioning is a big thing in this city.  The tour started about 5 minutes past the hour and lasted about 40 minutes, taking us through the intermission rooms, the seating area, and backstage.

After the tour, I walked over to Stephansplatz and found a Japanese noodle bar named Japanika (probably a chain, but I don't know) to have lunch  - I figured it was a good bet for vegetarian options compared to the other things I was seeing around there.  I couldn't read the German menu, but I could tell that there was a vegetarian section and I ordered what I think was noodles with vegetables and tofu.  The dish turned out to be pretty forgettable, with dry noodles and suboptimal tofu.
I went to Stephansdom (St. Stephens Cathedral) thinking that I would be able to catch the 3:00 English guided tour, only to find that the English guided tour occurs daily at 10:30.  In any case, I paid for the audio guide for the main level, neglecting the package that included extras such as a view from the north tower.  The audio tour was at least worth being able to get inside the area that was gated off from those who didn't pay - i.e., most of the main level.

Next on the agenda was Karlskirche, the other major church in Vienna.  Karlsplatz is only one stop from Stephansplatz on the U1 (red line), which I took.  This church was less grand (or at least smaller), but was perhaps more finely furnished - I'm not sure if that is due to recent restoration work that was still ongoing.  The audio tour included a trip up the elevator that was added with the restoration scaffolding (I'm not sure if they will eventually take it down), as well as a staircase to a deck in the tower that yields a nice view of the city.

After Karlschirche, I took the U-Bahn back to the hotel.  There, I looked up nearby laundromats, as I was not eager to pay the outrageous prices that the hotel would charge to launder items (e.g., €6.60 for a t-shirt and €3.40 for a pair of underwear).  I found a place named Waschsalon Höln that wasn't too far (2 U-Bahn stops, including 1 transfer @ Westbahnof) and was open until midnight, so I took my clothes there.  The place provides pretty good instructions on how to use their machines in both German and English; though that didn't stop me from kinda screwing up the step that involved getting laundry detergent; and I didn't quite understand what kind of wash I was picking with the 30 degrees C (i.e., "cold") wash, which seemed shorter than I would guess a normal wash is.

While the wash was going, I walked to a nearby kebap place (Nesil Kebap & Pizza) and ordered out their Felafelbox and a bottle of Rauch Apple Sprizz (a fizzy apple soft drink), which I took back to the laundromat to eat.  Back at the laundromat, I did the spin dry intermediate step before throwing the clothes in the dryer.  The clothes weren't completely dry after the 20 minutes that each Euro coin brings (partially because I first selected the middle heat level before increasing it after a check halfway through), so I put most of them through for another cycle.  In the end, I spent €8.50 on the load (€5.50 wash, €1 spin dry, €1 each for 2 dryer cycles), which was less than what washing 1 shirt and 1 pair of underwear would have cost at the hotel (I had at least 8 of each, plus shorts and pants).
I took the finished laundry back to the hotel the same way I came.  After putting it away, I walked out in search of a convenience store to buy some water since it was still pretty warm in the room even after dark.  I ended up walking all the way to the Westbahnof U-Bahn stop and buying the drinks at the market on the middle level.  I then took the train back to Zieglergasse, and stopped for a small frozen yogurt (yes, I have willpower now) before returning to the hotel.  I was pretty tired at this point, after not getting any decent sleep the previous night in airports, so it wasn't too long before I passed out, even despite the heat.  I did, however, discover that Netflix works in Austria - it did not in Turkey nor Greece.

One more random note...  The U-Bahn works on an honor system similar to the Metrolink in St. Louis - there are no turnstiles preventing you from entering without a valid ticked, and you're supposed to validate your ticket at the timestamp machine before entering/boarding.


An album of all my favorite photos from the trip can be found here:
Google Photos (no photo spheres)
Google+ Photos (includes photo sphere functionality)

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