The drive from Salzburg to Vienna went smoothly. We stopped mid-way for lunch when we saw a sign on the side of the autobarn for an Ikea. Just about everything in the apartments we stay in seems to have been purchased from Ikea whether we are in Spain, France, Italy or Austria. Last week when we went to an Ikea to try to find portable cooking scales we discovered that they have a budget restaurant which does hot dogs for 50 cents, expresso coffee for 50 cents, ice cream for 1 euro … not much else but all the key foods you need. So for lunch today, after eating the good stuff Karen had prepared, we went to Ikea to finish with. Our lunch break was longer than I expected, partly due to a Toys-R-Us store, but it didn’t matter because we had plenty of time. It was a really enjoyable trip. Daniel and Amy started with Maths practice and then Spelling and then Karen read History to us – and it was a Saturday! The rest of the trip I listened to a theology lecture while Karen typed up her blog on the laptop. We arrived in Vienna at the apartment just after 3pm. The last few apartments have been brilliant and this one is just as good perhaps ever better, although we did have problems initially getting hot water to come out of the taps. We got the manager to come back and show us how to work the water and heating system but of course the minute he walked in the door it was all working again.

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On Sunday after having a relaxing morning we dragged the kids out for a walk in the park around the nearby Schönbrunn Palace. If you had heard the protesting made by Daniel you would have thought we were making them walk for three or four hours but it was only 15 minutes away. The official time of the total walk including travelling to and from the park according to Daniel was one hour and 29 minutes – the most excruciating time of his life. From our point of view, the walk around the park was lovely but the soundtrack (of Daniel’s voice) was dated (Mum’s comment: He did have a cold..)

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We woke up just after 6:30am on Monday morning, which is mighty early for me nowadays, so we could get to the Schönbrunn Palace by 8:15am to buy our entrance tickets before the crowds arrived. We almost made it but still ended up getting stuck behind a couple of tour groups. The Classic Pass Plus for our sightseeing included the Grand Tour of the Palace with audioguide, strolling through the Crown Prince Garden, the Gloriette with viewing terrace, the Maze & Labyrinth for the kids to get lost in, and the Apple Strudel Show.

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The Grand Tour of the Palace consisted of walking through 40 rooms and gawking at the splendored decorations. The audioguide was fairly good and had some interesting historical notes. The Habsburg Monarchy ruled from 1526–1918. The second to last emperor, Francis Joseph I who ruled from 1848–1916 came across as a hard working good man who, unlike many rules in world history, seemed to work for the good of his people (well that’s the impression I got anyway). He died during World War I, which incidentally was said to have been started as a result of the assassination of Francis Joseph’s nephew, Franz Ferdinand, who was shot dead in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb. By the way I only just learned, through Karen reading history to the kids, that the Austria-Hungry Empire use to be much much larger pre-World War I and that it was split up after the war as part of the punishment for the war. The Versailles Treaty at the end of the war saw the Austria-Hungry Empire break into separate countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslvia, when the lines on the map were redrawn.

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Back to Schönbrunn Palace, the Grand Tour took about an hour then we walked to the Crown Prince Garden which looked okay mainly due to the Autumn colours but apart from that I didn’t think the garden was anything special. We then made our way to the opposite end of the park to the so called Gloriette which is perched on top of a hill and has great views of the place. It was quite a hike up to it but worth the view … sort of. The thing lacking that would have made this day sweeter was a good coffee at the start of it.

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The highlight of the day of course was the Apple Strudel Show. It was 11:50am and we had to race back over to just past the palace to get to the venue for the Apple Strudel Show by mid-day. Such an important event required us to move very fast and run the last leg of the race but we got our Apple Strudel sample and our seats right on starting time. The cook went through the steps and process of making real Apple Strudel and we enjoyed listening, watching, and tasting. Amy even got to help the cook at the end by shifting the Apple Strudel roll from the bench where it was made and on to the over tray.

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Finally we walk back to the other side of the grounds again to the maze where the kids raced around and played for about an hour.

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It was a pretty good day and overall worth the visit although next time we come to Vienna I’d be happy just going to the Apple Strudel Show while Karen goes around the palace.

It was wet all day Tuesday so that gave us a good opportunity for the kids to do school work. After Karen did maths and spelling I ended up teaching a little geography and economics. Later in the day I walked down to a supermarket to buy a few vegetables and then I came home to work on car parking issues.

We left just after 9am on Wednesday to drive into the city centre. Most car parking sites charge around 3 euros per hour but Karen had managed to locate one building that only charged 7 euros for the day. Once we were out of the car parking building I noticed a landmark that Karen and I had been to 18 years earlier. We walked about 15 minutes to the art gallery (the Kunsthistorisches Museum).

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Our mission was to take a look at the Pieter Bruegel the Elder paintings of which this museum has the largest collection in the world. Eventually, after about an hour of walking around we found the right room. It was room X (as in Roman Numeral 10) not room 10 as one of the museum staff had said. We spent perhaps an hour looking at the Bruegel. Amy had prepared a presentation on the The Tower of Babel (;

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… and Daniel on the The Return of the Herd (

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One of my favorates is the The Hunters in the Snow (

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There was a women painting a copy of this in the gallery and it looked like a very good copy with my eyes.

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After the art gallery we headed toward the center of the old city taking note of various landmarks along the way although not really paying that much attention to the details. We looked both St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche) and St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) along the way.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was completed in 1147AD and is of a Romanesque, Gothic style. I remembered the gigantic roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral from our O.E. trip. Here it is:

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Although a church has been on the site of St Peter’s since the Early Middle Ages the current church was built in the 1700’s and is of a baroque style. Here is St. Peter’s Church:

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The highlight of our walk around to me was finding Griechenbeisl, one of vienna’s oldest inns, now restaurant, where artists, musicians, scholars and politicians would congregate. I asked one of the staff if we could take a look at the wall which is autographed by notable figures. I was starstuck seeing signatures of Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Strauss, Brahms, and Mozart! Mark Twain’s autograph was there as well and contemporary singers such as Phil Collins.

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On Thursday we made a brief stop in two new countries. We went to McDonalds in Slovakia and later to McDonalds in Hungary. We drove to the east of Austria to a small town called Kittsee where we stopped to buy morning tea and then headed to the city of Bratislava in Slovakia avoiding the autobann so we could save paying for a 10euro day toll. It only took about 15 minutes from Kittsee in Austria to reach our destination, the Aupark shopping centre. While the car parking building looked how I imagined it would in an eastern European country, the shopping centre itself and the people in it looked classy, luxurious, and ultra-modern. We walked through the shopping centre to the other side noting how good the coffee shops and pricing was compared to the rest of Europe. Just outside the shopping centre was the Novy Most bridge with its UFO looking restaurant perched on the top of two pillars. This is actually a unique bridge, “the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge to have one pylon and one cable-stayed plane.” Take a look at the details here

Interestingly, the Czech Republic, which we will be going to on Saturday, and Slovakia came into existence as separate entities in 1993 out of the old Czechoslovak which was formed after WWI in 1918. Enough history! Unlike most days we had nothing planned in our sightseeing but our first stop was at an ice cream shop and then later after walking around we went to the Greentree Caffe ( where we scored two coffees and delicious cakes for only 5.50 euros. Aside from the pricing the café has a brilliant atmosphere and I really love the wall-to-wall book shelves full of books you can read. I should have taken a photo of the books.

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After walking around the historical centre of Bratislava we headed back over the bridge to the shopping centre to buy lunch, sorry I hate to admit it, at McDonalds, and then a few stationery items along with printing out our cruise tickets (only two weeks or so away)!

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By the time we got back to the car it was 3pm and we were getting tired. After a quick vote we decided we would still drive on to Hungary so I set the GPS for a small town called Mosonmagyaróvár which again we drove to avoiding toll roads. It only took about 45 minutes and was a pleasant drive. The housing change was quite noticeable. In Bratislava and to the edges of Slovakia the place was covered large apartment buildings but then as soon as we were over the border in Hungary the housing was more like you might find in New Zealand, mainly single and a few two level houses with a bit of land around them. Admittedly we were driving through the country-side with small villages but the point is that from edge to edge in Slovakia where we drove there were just apartment buildings yet 20 minutes down the road in Hungary you had pleasant non-apartment dwellings.

Somehow I had set my GPS to take us to McDonalds in Mosonmagyaróvár which we found was located in a small shopping street. First we walked around the shops comparing prices. We spent far too long in a clothing store and came away empty handed despite my efforts to convince Karen to buy a really slick looking black leather jacket. Next we got a late afternoon tea at McDonalds.

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They also had a capachinno and cake deal for just 450 ft, which by my calculation was only about 1.70 euros. I could get use to this … but I would put on too much weight. In the end I also had to help Daniel finish a Milkshake so by the time I walked out the door I had had enough sugar and bad stuff for the day. Shame on us but we didn’t go sightseeing in Mosonmagyaróvár except for this shopping centre which really could have been anywhere in Europe. We did try to muster up strength to drive through town but failed to overcome the momentum of heading back toward Vienna. The sun is setting much earlier now, around 6pm, so we had a lovely sunset on the way home and the traffic wasn’t too bad until we reached Vienna. Karen read 39-clues to us most of the way so we only have two small chapters left by the time we arrived.

We stayed Friday at home on Friday except just after 7:30am I had to go out and move the car. We had been told that it was free to park outside anywhere we wanted to however after speaking with a Parking Officer I leaned that as from the 1stOctober you had to pay one euro per 30 minutes between 9am and 7pm at night and even then you could only park for a maximum of three hours! I had figured out that there were a few car parks out of this zone not too far away so I drove there and then had a refreshing walk back to the apartment in the cool air. Just before dinner Amy and I walked down to the Lidl supermarket to buy some chocolate – I ended up going to a café trying a Latte Macchiato Nougat which was really amazing but it didn’t really taste like coffee.

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Then around 7pm Daniel and I walked to where I had parked the car and brought it back closer to home. It sure is dark much earlier at night and also I think in Vienna it was the first time I really felt the cold outside since Spain in February. Vienna is a giant city, pleasant enough but I think I like the smaller cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck more however overall , I really like Austria as a country. The next day we drove into the Czech Republic to one of our favourite cities, Prague.

(Week 35: Saturday, 13 October 2012 – Saturday, 20 October 2012)