Category: Photography


Eiffel Tower

The following morning my father and I went to the Eiffel Tower early to try and reach the top before it got too crowded. Even though I had seen the Moulin Rouge the day before, I still wasn’t really convinced that I was in Paris. Walking along the streets felt different than any other city I’d been to so far, but it still hadn’t really hit me that I was in Paris.

We came from the northwest side of the city and rounded the Palais de Chaillot, which provided a dramatic lead-up to the tower’s unveiling. It was only after I was standing in front of the tower that I truly felt like I was in Paris. It was an impressive view and a site I had never really imagined seeing in person. I’ve seen Paris in movies, read about it in books and seen it in pictures, but there’s nothing like actually standing in front of the Eiffel Tower to put in perspective how lucky I am.

The Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Chaillot. The sun was just rising, but already the entire place was covered in tourists!

Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Chaillot

Tower in the Morning

As we walked towards the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t stop thinking, “I’m in Paris!”. It was really surreal and I almost couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Eiffel Tower Silhouet

The tower from below.

Under the Tower

We reached the tower and then frantically searched for the quickest way to the top. Maybe I’m spoiling the secret, although I feel like it’s really not that huge of a secret, but the Eiffel Tower can be climbed! That one or two-hour long line that you’re waiting in, well just go around the corner and it takes a minute to buy a ticket and start the climb. This is what we did and it was actually really nice. There was no line, the staircase has a number of informational posters and along the way you get to admire the incredible infrastructure of the tower. I can’t even imagine how Eiffel (the tower is named after its architect, he also built the Statue of Liberty) could conceive such a massive tower of steel.

Some fun facts about the Eiffel Tower. It was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1889. It was finished in only a little over 2 years and it reaches the height of 324 meters or 1,063 feet. There are 704 steps to the second floor.

Steel

Almost there!

Climbing Up

As far as I know no one is allowed to climb to the very top of the tower, but we were able to make it to the first and second levels. It really wasn’t that bad of a climb and once we reached the top we were able to snag some tickets to ride the final elevator to the summit.

The view from the summit looking out over Paris and the park, Champ de Mars.

Lookout

Paris from Above

The Sacred Heart Basilica, which we visited the other day.

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre

The L’hôtel des Invalides really stands out on the Paris skyline. It sparkles among all the short grey buildings.

L'hôtel des Invalides

The metro station in the vicinity of our apartment. The entrances to the stations are done in the Art Nouveau style, painted green with swirling arches and curves. It’s really beautiful, but sometimes makes it difficult to find the station entrances among the busy streets and buildings.

Metro

After visiting the Eiffel Tower we picked up my mother and sister at the apartment and then headed to the Arc de Triomphe. This arch is surrounded by the world’s largest roundabout. We witnessed a few daring (or stupid) people running across the roundabout, but there is of course a safer way in an underground tunnel.

The Arc was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to celebrate his victories, but it was not finished until 1836. The Germans and Allies took turns marching through this arch at different periods in time. First the Germans marched through in 1871, then the Allies in 1919. During World War II the Germans marched through the arch again in 1940 and at the end of the war in 1944 the Allies marched through.

Arc de Triomphe

Looking out over the tomb of an unknown soldier from WW I. The flame burns for the lives lost during WW I and WW II.

Eternal Flame

The ceiling of the arch.

Under the Arc

After touring the arch we turned towards the Avenue Des Champs-Élysées, which lines up perfectly with the tomb of the unknown soldier and the arch. This avenue is full of big-name stores, Christmas stalls, people and cars.

Champ Elysee

At the opposite end of the Champs-Élysées is the Place de la Concorde, one of the larger squares in Paris. Situated in the center of it is the Grande Roue de Paris, the ferris wheel, and the Luxor Obelisk. The Obelisk used to be at the Luxor Temple in Egypt, but was offered to France as a gift.

Grande Roue de Paris and Luxor Obelisk

One of the fountains on the Place de la Concorde.

Place de la Concorde

From the Concorde we headed towards the river Seine so that we could walk back towards the Eiffel Tower along the river. We crossed the Seine on the famous Pont Alexandre III bridge, which is decorated with a number of statues, some completely gold and also intricate lamps. The view of the Eiffel Tower from the bridge is beautiful.

Pont Alexandre III

As we headed back to our apartment the sun was beginning to set and the Eiffel Tower was lit.

Eiffel Tower at Night

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First Day In Paris

We left Vienna early in the morning, taking a two-hour flight across Europe to Paris. When we landed the sun hadn’t even brightened the sky, so we got to the see the twinkling lights of the city below. Once we had gotten all our luggage we jumped on a train to get to the Guard du Nord (one of the train stations). It was nice arriving early in the morning, but we were not allowed to check in to our apartment until four in the afternoon. Despite this setback we found a locker room after some searching and left our bags at the station for the day.

The Guard du Nord.

The Train Station

Our first view of the streets of Paris.

We ate at a little cafe just across from the train station. The food was amazing and the waiter served us our meal with a “voilà!”

Arriving in Paris

After eating we made our way to the Basilika Sacré-Cœur, which sits on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s actually a lot larger than it looks, because the dome blocks the rest of the church. While we made our way up to the top, we had to dodge these men who were trying to sell something. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it looked like a basic piece of string. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone would give them money, but their tactic was one of intimidation. They would surround one or two people and talk and even grab them to try to get their money. I’ve never seen so many scammers in one place before. In reality, I think it’s a shame that they choose to stand outside a church and hassle people, but what can you do?

Basilika Sacré-Cœur from A Distance

Basilika Sacré-Cœur

After walking through the church we headed back down the hill. Most of the streets were quiet except for one in particular, which was packed with tourists and cheesy shops.

Tourist Shops

The Moulin Rouge was also in the vicinity. It is not the original one, which burnt down, but it was still exciting to see.

The Moulin Rouge

Eventually, we made our way back to the train station and the next few hours were spent hauling our bags all over Paris. The company we booked with decided it was a good idea to switch our apartment and not tell us, so instead of being where we had planned, we were actually another two or three major streets away. Lucky for us there was a nice taxi driver who was willing to flag down a van, which was the only vehicle that could fit all our luggage. We all made it to the newly assigned apartment in one piece, although we were all a little frazzled.

It was a long, but exciting day. My first time in Paris will be an exciting experience. I can already tell that it has a different feel from the other cities that I’ve been to.

My parents arrived early in the morning, so we had the entire day to tour the city and I acted as their personal tour guide. Once we checked into our hotel, they helped me carry all my bags from my host mother’s house to the apartment. It was a little sad leaving the room that I had stayed in for about four months, but at the same time I was ready to leave and have some change in my routine.

Afterwards we headed down to the first district and I showed them the Rathaus with its amazing Christmas Market, it was extremely cold and snowing, so we didn’t want to hang out too long. Just a few days before my family arrived the temperature dropped to freezing and it has been that way ever since, sometimes even getting below freezing, which is pretty with the snow in the streets, but makes for a cold tour of the city.

I also showed them Parliament, Hofburg, and the National Library. We took a tour of the famous Spanish Riding School, which is host to the Lipizzan stallions. They are all white, because the emperor wanted them all to look the same, so they are bred that way. However, the school likes to have one Bay horse, because it is considered good luck.

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The next day was museum day. To get to the first museum we headed out towards the south train station. The Belvedere is on the way, so we stopped to see the palace grounds covered in snow. There is also a Christmas Market outside the Belvedere.

*as an early Christmas present my parents bought me a fisheye lens, which is why the following photos are used with that lens =)

The ponds and fountains surrounding the Belvedere were frozen and the gardens were covered in snow.

Belvedere

Just a few blocks from Belvedere is the HGM (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum), which is a museum about the major wars fought in and around Austria. This includes the Turkish Sieges of Vienna, WW I, and WW II. It is probably one of my favorite museums here in Vienna. The amount of historic artifacts they have is impressive. Inside are a number of different weapons, armor, and other items of significance from influential people in history.

The stairway leading up to the second floor of the museum. The museum itself is a work of art.

The Staircase of the HGM

Weapons of WW II

Hot Air Balloon

The car below belonged to Franz Ferdinand, who was a Habsburg, the next in line under Franz Josef. However, he was assassinated in Sarajevo and because of this Franz Josef declared war. It was to be the beginning of the Great War. On the car are the bullet holes that missed Franz Ferdinand. In the room is also the couch where he died and the suit he died in. His suit had a small hole where the bullet hit.

Franz Ferdinand's Car

Next we headed to the Natural History Museum, which is right across from the Art History Museum. It hosts a number of different animals, minerals, meteors, and dinosaur bones.

The entrance.

Natural History Entrance

The ceiling of the museum.

Natural History Ceiling

Vulture

Giant Bird

Pre-Historic Dinosaur

Pre-Historic Dino

The Christmas market on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Art History and Natural History.

MQ

Winter Lights

Christmas is just around the corner, which means that the lights go up (as well as the electricity bill) in all the homes and around the city. Over the past few weeks the busy streets of Vienna have started to sparkle. The Christmas markets, called Weihnachtsmarktes in German have also popped up everywhere.

The lights on Kärtnerstraße heading away from the center of the city.

Kärtnerstraße2

Kärtnerstraße

Lights on Kärtnerstraße heading towards the Opera House. This is one of the popular shopping streets.

Shopping

A random street.

I like these the most. It looks like it is raining light.

Snowing Lights

Schönbrunn has a Christmas market out front. Every night the building is lit as well as the Christmas tree in front. This is probably my favorite market so far. It’s touristy, but there aren’t too many people, plus the giant palace in the back just adds to the beauty.

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn Christmas Tree

Chandeliers hang from the buildings along the Graben. Both Kärtnerstraße and the Graben were flocking with tourists and Christmas shoppers. It’s worth seeing the lights, but be prepared to do some ducking and dodging.

Graben

The Rathaus. Probably the most crowded place in Vienna at night. This is one of the bigger Christmas markets and it is always packed with people, to the point where it’s almost impossible to move between the Christmas stalls.

Rathaus

An ornament stall at the Rathaus. There are toys, candy, chocolate, ornaments, classic Austrian foods, and of course the famous Glühwein (mulled wine) and punsch (flavored schnapps)!

Ornament Stall

Lights

St. Stephen’s

St. Stephen's

A giant Christmas tree of lights by Schottenring.

X-mas Tree

Even the grocery stores are covered with lights!

Billa

Fall is one of my favorite times. Fall means family and friend time, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate, sitting by the fire and watching movies. Outside it means that the leaves are changing and the trees are at their most beautiful.

When I woke up in the morning it was raining and really not the best day to walk around outside, but the weather will probably only get worse, so it was off to Schönbrunn! Annika and Nick accompanied me this time.

When we arrived, the palace was almost completely deserted and it started to pour, but overall it was a wonderful walk in the gardens.

Later that day Annika and I went shoe shopping and found a great deal, then we all went out to see a movie.

On the way back to my house the rain was coming down hard and it stung my face like sleet. Everyone says it’s supposed to snow tomorrow, so we’ll see!

EDIT: 11/7/12

It did snow the next few days, mostly outside of the center of the city, but I did get to see a few flakes as I was walking to class.

The little snow remaining by the Opera House.

On a nice friday we traveled outside of Vienna to Klosterneuburg and then to castle Kreuzenstein with our professor.

Klosterneuburg is both the site of a palace and a church. The church was built by St. Leopold III of the Babenburg dynasty. He married a woman named Agnes. There is a legend that says on their marriage day, Agnes’ veil was swept away and Leopold promised to build a church wherever it had landed. Eventually, he found the veil and built a church (with his wife’s money) and it became known as Klosterneuburg.

At the time it was built this church was the largest in the country. Klosterneuburg was also the capital of Austria until it was changed to Vienna by Henry II.

To the right of the church is the Baroque palace, which was the residence of Habsburg Charles VI, the last male Habsburg. Charles wanted to style his palace after one that he had seen in Spain and he had a plan to make it three times larger than it is now. Sadly, he died after only a third of it was finished and his daughter, Maria Theresa, wanted nothing to do with the palace, so construction stopped. Maria Theresa prefered Schönbrunn over Klosterneuburg.

The right tower was rebuilt in Gothic because it was damaged, while the left tower was rebuilt in Gothic, but during Baroque times. This is why the stones are different.

The inside of the church was redone in Baroque. Below is just an example of the glass windows lining the corridors outside the church. It is over 600 years old.

An organ made of pewter, which means it’s not used on a regular basis and there is another organ in the church used for everyday occasions.

Also in the church is the Verdun Altar, which was originally placed in front of the pulpit, but after a fire it was moved into the monastery. It now sits below St. Leopold III’s remains. His wife is also buried there with seven of their children, overall they had 17.

After our tour of the church, we made our way back into the Palace, which was quite impressive.

The dining room. The room is surrounded in 300 year old tapestries.

Each room had a giant stove or oven in the corner, which served as a heater and could keep a room warm for weeks with just one use.

One of the many sitting rooms.

The throne room.

Inside the palace is also the treasury. The most important treasure being the crown of Austria.

One of the more interesting treasures was a tusk, which had been carved into 170 figures.

After our tour of Klosterneuburg we traveled about an hour to Kreuzenstein, a medieval castle. It was probably one of the coolest castles I’ve seen and the kind of castle everyone pictures when they think of knights, the Middle Ages, and princesses.

This castle is owned by the Wilczak family. The original owner Count Johann Nepomuk Wilczek was a very rich man and decided that he wanted to rebuild the old medieval castle, which had been almost completely destroyed during the 30 Years War. Although the castle was originally medieval, Wilczek added some personal touches, which would not have originally been in the castle. He added in a library and also a small chapel.

We were lucky enough to get a tour inside the castle, but our professor says it’s become harder to do, because a book was stolen from the library. This also meant that we were not allowed to take photos inside the various rooms. Only the things outside were allowed to be photographed.

Because Wilczak was so rich, he funded his own expedition to the North Pole and has an island in the North Pole named after him. He didn’t hesitate in adding his own personal touches to the castle, by purchasing different things from all over the world that he found appealing.

Another fun fact about the castle is that part of the film The Three Musketeers (the 1993 version) was filmed here.

The outside of the castle was impressive, especially since it had a drawbridge and a moat. The moat was once filled with water, but now it’s been grown over.

A different view of the moat and drawbridge, which even had the metal gate with spikes. The smaller door to the right was used as an entrance after the larger bridge was drawn up. It also made it easier to dispatch anyone attacking the castle.

A catapult which was used to lay siege to the castle in Salzburg.

To the left is a replica of a torture device, luckily it has never been used.

Looking towards the entrance to the castle. This little corridor was my favorite and I could just imagine people walking up and down, going about their daily lives. I especially liked the little platform to the left and the creepy vines growing up the tower on the right.

Before entering the castle we visited the armory, which had a vast array of swords, armor, spears, lances, maces… anything you could possibly think of was there! The collection also included crossbows, which essentially brought an end to the time of the knights, because they could no longer fight their opponents with swords. There were also weapons of the farmers. Pitchforks, scythes, and our professor’s favorite weapon the Morningstar. Which was named as such, because it came from the east, where the sun rises. This weapon was essentially a metal ball, with four-inch long spikes protruding from all sides.

We were able to try on the chain mail that a knight would have worn. I only tried on the headpiece, but it was really heavy! Addison tried on both the head piece and the shirt. He looked quite official with the vast array of weapons behind him. Just the chain mail could way 50-60 kilograms or 110-130 pounds! Think about carrying around that weight all the time and then add on the weight of the rest of the armor. I don’t know how they moved!

Inside the castle we visited the chapel, which was very small, but with enough room for a crypt, where the family is buried. One of the reasons Wilczek built it was because he needed a place to bury his family.

We also got a tour of a bedroom, which had a chair-like bed in it. The mattress was sitting halfway up, because people believed that if you slept lying down you were dead and it was a sort of superstitious idea. They also had a board hanging on the side of the bed, so that they could write down any prophetic dreams they had during the night.

One of the rooms we saw was basically the hunting room. It had a giant stuffed boar, which I was not really a fan of, but it also had a fake horse head, with the horn of a narwhal attached. It was supposed to be a unicorn that Wilczek had hunted.

In the next room were a number of tables and one corner was called Wilhelm’s Corner, because it was where Emperor Wilhelm sat when he visited the castle for its grand opening.

Lastly, we were taken to the medieval kitchen, where many of the cookware is original. The table in the kitchen is so large that the entire room had to be built around it, rather than bringing it in after construction.

On our way out of the kitchen we ran across the owner of the castle, also a Wilczek. He was showing his family or friends around the place too.

One of the many cute doors leading into the castle. We only got to visit a few of them.

Like I said before, much of the castle was reconstructed, but it was also adjusted so that it fit Wilczek’s taste. He added in pieces of architecture he liked from all over the world. Windows from Hungary, wood from Germany, stone from Italy.

The section of the wall with the arches below comes from Italy.

Below is part of a church, taken from Slovakia. It is also one of the reasons the archway into the courtyard is so large. Normally, in a medieval castle, it would be much smaller so that it would not be easy for enemies to enter the courtyard and therefore take the castle.

Day 62: Berlin

Berlin is impossible to tackle in only two days.

We were very ambitious though and decided that if we only had two days we were going to make the most of them, from dawn till dusk.

Our first destination was Checkpoint Charlie. It is one of the more famous points of crossing between West Berlin and East Berlin.

The sign says, “You are entering the American Sector. Carrying weapons off duty forbidden. Obey traffic rules”.

Looking towards the East.

We walked up towards the checkpoint coming from the East, which was a good choice, because just before reaching the checkpoint there was an outdoor history exhibit. Learning about history in the safety of a classroom is always informative, but actually standing where the events took place gave me chills. Looking from East to West, I really felt like everything was suddenly put into perspective.

Throughout the city there are different colored bricks laid into the road. These trace the outline of where the wall used to stand. There Checkpoint Charlie museum is just to the left.

The Checkpoint Charlie museum was a little overwhelming. Imagine the entire history of WW II to the end of the Cold War, in four different languages, covering every single wall of the museum from top to bottom. I tried to read everything, but halfway through the first room my eyes were already swimming.

The best part of the museum was actually the stories about how people crossed the wall without getting caught. Some people swam, some people used zip-lines, others dug tunnels, one group actually built an entire hot air balloon and flew across the wall. The most popular seemed to be hiding in cars. The examples went from simply hiding in the trunk, to turning someone into the equivalent of a car seat. It was inspiring to see the lengths people would go to for freedom.

The last Kremlin Flag, hung on the side of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

After Checkpoint Charlie, we headed down the road a little until we came upon the museum called “Topography of Terrors”. Part of the wall has been left up in this area, and below the wall is some of the remnants of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. All along the bottom of the wall is some more history, this time centered more around WW II and the cruelty of the Nazi party.

The museum and the old headquarters is below street level, while the wall is above.

A part of the wall left standing just above the headquarters.

Next we walked to the Jewish Museum, which is a must see for anyone who goes to Berlin. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

The first part of the museum is the most moving. It was built by Daniel Libeskind, who had a vision for the museum as a place where not only the things inside the building are important, but the building itself is critical to the understanding of Jewish history.

Upon entering the museum we had to walk down a flight of stairs that opened up into a crisscrossing of distorting hallways. Although the ceiling of these hallways are level, the floor is not. This made it seem as if the further I walked down the hall, the smaller it was getting. Libeskind calls these hallways Axis. There is the Axis of the Holocaust, Axis of Exile and Axis of Continuity.

The Axis of the Holocaust is a hallway with stories of those who had been influenced by the Holocaust. At the end of the hallway is an almost invisible door that leads into the Holocaust Tower. The Holocaust Tower is something I will never forget. The walls of the tower are completely smooth and there is nothing at all inside except for a small slit in the roof that allows only the faintest amount of daylight into the tower. The walls of the tower slope in until they reach a point directly under the light, which allowed me to stand between two of the walls and feel them pressing in on me. It was quite except for the hush of cars outside on the street. Standing there in the dark is hopefully the closest I will ever come to knowing what it was like to be trapped, to know that you were probably going to die, and yet the world is moving on without you and doesn’t even know or care that you exist.

The Axis of Exile led outside to a garden filled with blocks of stone. The ground was tilted and the stones were also angled, just enough to make it hard to walk without getting dizzy. Again, I could almost feel what it must have been like to be kicked out of your country, to flee, and to feel as if you were in exile. Sometimes I would see other people in the garden, but then they would disappear and it was like they had never been there in the first place.

However, there are trees growing on top of these stones, in which I felt represented hope and a new opportunity.

Lastly was the Axis of Continuity. This lead up the Sackler Staircase, which from the bottom looked as if it went on forever. This axis leads to two millennia of German Jewish history. However, before reaching the history exhibit, Libeskind forces everyone to walk through what he calls a Void. Voids are areas of the museum with nothing in them. They are painted completely white and there are many of them throughout the museum, but only one is open to the public. They represent death, which can’t really be represented by anything in this world. I felt like these voids really allowed each person who entered to fill it with their own feelings and beliefs about death. For everyone death is something different and therefore it shouldn’t be represented in any particular way.

Sackler Staircase from the top.

Walking through the only open void, the Memory Void, led us to an exhibit created by Menashe Kadishman. This exhibit is created out of 10,000 faces welded out of pieces of metal and dedicated to all the victims of war and violence. They are scattered on the floor and those who would like to can walk upon them, but not quietly. As people walked on the faces the clang of sharp metal rang throughout the entire void. I believe it was created to show people that no matter how carefully you might step your actions will still effect those around you.

The faces of the Memory Void.

The last and final axis was the Axis of Continuity. It was the permanent exhibit about Jewish history, culture and traditions.

After the museum we were all starving, so we went out to search for a little known restaurant called Zur Letzten Instanzwhich one of Addison’s roommates from Berlin had suggested. Allegedly, Napoleon Bonaparte ate there at one point, but really the food itself was worth the visit. The dishes were on the more expensive side, but the portions were large and it was probably one of the best meals I’ve had so far at a restaurant.

The restaurant is tucked into a side street, keeping it off the main track.

Inside was very cute and cozy. We were probably one of the few tourists there. The plaque on the table shows where Napoleon supposedly sat.

After lunch we still had half a day left, so we went to the DDR museum. This was another of my favorite museums. Unlike most museums, this one allowed you to interact with everything. There was nothing you couldn’t play with and although it did have some interesting history, it mostly talked about how people lived in the DDR, which I find really interesting.

By the time we left the museum it was dark and everything was closed, so we caught a tram back to our hostel, stopping briefly to check out the left over festivities from Oktoberfest.

The fest was located on Alexanderplatz. It wasn’t very crowded, but most of the stands were still out.

The Radio Tower.

Ari and I couldn’t resist the smell coming from the candy/popcorn stand, so we bought chocolate covered strawberries.

Day 59: Jungfraujoch

I had never heard of Interlaken before going there, so it was all thanks to Ari that I even made it there in the first place! It’s almost a given that if you go to Switzerland there are going to be mountains, and big ones none the less, so I wasn’t surprised when Ari informed us that just an hour from Interlaken was one of the highest train stations in Europe.

The station is called Jungfraujoch and it stands 3,454 meters high or 11,333 feet.

The night before we had asked one of the employees at the hostel, which day was going to be nicer. She told us immediately to go on Monday, because the following day was going to have horrible weather.

Monday morning, after a fitful night of sleep (mostly everyone in the room was snoring that night), we woke up to a bright day. There were a few clouds in the sky that covered the mountains, but even before we had finished breakfast they had begun to clear away.

There are multiple ways to reach Jungfraujoch. All throughout the little valleys there are a number of small villages, all of which are connected by train. Admittedly, getting to Jungfraujoch was pretty expensive (over 100 swiss francs), but we got to ride on the train the entire way up and none of the destinations points at the top cost any money. However, not everyone who visits Jungfraujoch has to take the trains all the way up. If we had had more time in Interlaken, hiking part of the way up would have been wonderful. There are plenty of hiking trails around the area that make it pretty simple, but as it was, we traveled by train all the way up, from Interlaken, to Lauterbrunnen, switched trains to Kleine Scheidigg, and finally boarded one last train to Jungfraujoch.

The entire journey from bottom to top is amazing and breathtaking. At first we were low in the mountains and our view consisted of rolling hills overshadowed by giant craggy cliffs, but as we climbed up the side of the mountain the world began to unfold around us. Suddenly we could see hundreds of peaks stretching out and many small villages tucked safely inside the valleys.

Looking back down the hill from where we came, all we could see was bright green grass and trees, but looking ahead, the landscape drastically changed and suddenly all I could see was snow, crumbling rocks and barren land.

About half way up we were able to spot the end station, it’s so high and yet it still doesn’t reach the summit! On the right of the Jungfraujoch station is Jungfrau at 4,158 meters or 13,642 feet. To the left of the station is Mönch, which is a little shorter at 4,107 meters or 13,475 feet.

Once we reached Kleine Scheidegg the train basically dissapears into the mountain and the rest of the way up we had no view. There are, however, two spots where the train stops and we were allowed to leave the train to see the view. One of the stops was called Eigerwand (Eiger Wall) and the other Eismeer (Sea of Ice).

View from Eigerwand.

As we climbed it was easy to feel the difference in temperature, luckily the train was heated, although the one before hadn’t been. After about an hour and a half of riding we finally arrived at Jungfraujoch. The tunnel we arrived in was long and dark and as I stepped out of the train, it hadn’t quite hit me just how high up in the mountains I was.

At Jungfraujoch there are a number of things people can do, but in general people stick to the “guided” tour. I say guided, but really there were only signs telling us where to go. After exiting the train we had to walk down a long tunnel until we came to the Jungfrau Panorama. Basically this is a giant room with wonky projector screens that show you what you’re going to see outside. It was kinda cool, but at the same time I would have liked to keep the view a surprise. However, the projections of the view, as you can probably imagine, are nothing like the actual view itself.

To get to the very top of Jungfraujoch we had to take an elevator to the Sphinx. The Sphinx is the platform outside on the mountain. It has a inside viewing area with two levels and then an outside viewing area with a large deck. It was one of the most amazing and absolutely freezing views I have ever experienced. I had dressed appropriately for going to Switzerland, but I hadn’t realized that we would actually be going so high into the mountains and I forgot a hat or a scarf. Despite my lack of hat and scarf, when I stepped outside I completely forgot about how cold I was.

The Aletsch Glacier

Standing there I felt so insignificant, just looking at the Aletsch Glacier and imagining the sheer power it must take to carve through mountains. I took so many pictures of the same view that my fingers were beginning to hurt from the cold and I could already feel my ears turning red and my cheeks stinging, but we must have stayed out there for at least twenty minutes. We had been completely lucky and there were barely any clouds in the sky, so we could see for miles and miles on end. It was the perfect day.

From the Sphinx we were apparently suppose to be able to see France, Germany and Italy, although I was all turned around and really couldn’t tell which way each country was.

A helicopter far off in the distance. There were also a few jets flying overhead. They would circle the mountain and then come around and fly over Jungfraujoch, probably showing off for the tourists.

On the opposite side from the glacier. One of my favorite things was the low-lying clouds hiding in the valleys.

After we had officially all frozen into icicles we decided to head back inside and check out the rest of the area.

Exiting the Sphinx, the tour signs led us down a long hallway that came out in a room with a giant snowglobe. This part of Jungfraujoch is called Alpine Sensation. Basically, it was a long tunnel full of lights and music, and some history.

The giant snowglobe that would change from day to night and then through the seasons too.

The second thing I was most looking forward to at Jungfraujoch, after the view, was the Ice Palace. To enter the palace we had to walk down a flight of stairs and then step into a very long tunnel completely made of ice. It was really exciting and fun to slide around on the ice with our shoes and walk through little tunnels made completely of ice.

The entrance to the palace.

A small ice tunnel that I could basically touch the roof of with my head if I stood up straight.

An example of the ice sculptures that were placed throughout the palace.

After goofing around in the ice palace we headed to the last stop on the tour, the Plateau. The Plateau is off to the side of the Berghaus, or the main building, and it allows people to walk out onto the mountain. There were ropes on either side of the Plateau, but it was actually a little precarious walking out there, because it was so slippery. Right outside the door the snow sloped up to the Plateau, so we had to shuffle our way inch by inch until we could reach flat ground. It was hilarious seeing so many people shuffling along up the hill. Luckily no one slipped.

The small hill everyone had to climb to reach the Plateau. It wasn’t actually that steep, but ice makes everything tricky.

After we took some photos Ari and I decided to have a race down the hill, so we both sat down and using our hands pushed ourselves down the hill on our butt. It was a safer and much more fun way of getting down.

Completely frozen and exhausted from the altitude, we decided to get lunch at one of the restaurants in the Berghaus. We were lucky, because after we were done eating the Plateau was closed, maybe because it was too icy.

We ended the day by traveling back down the mountain. This time we went through Grindewald instead of Lauterbrunnen, because Ari and I wanted to explore some of the smaller villages. We stopped for a half hour in Grindelwald, giving us just enough time to walk down the main street and enjoy the disappearing sun.

Walking the small streets of Grindelwald.

We arrived back at the hostel late that night and thanks to a special deal we had with the hostel we were served a three course meal at one of the local restaurants called Des Alpes. It was so delicious that we decided to return the following night. For one of my dinners I ate Rösti, which is a traditional Swiss dish made out of potatoes, onions, cheese and bacon. Yum!

All in all our trip to Jungfraujoch was a day that fell perfectly into place. We got lucky with the weather, we were able to walk out onto the Plateau before it closed, and we were served a cheap and delicious dinner.

St. Stephens is a central point in Vienna. There is nowhere you can go in the first district and not see the South Tower looming above the rest of the buildings. Therefore, I thought I would dedicate an entire post to St. Stephens Cathedral.

St. Stephens was built in 1137, during the rule of the Babenbergers. Originally it was built in the Romanesque style, but later it was rebuilt in the Gothic style and also Baroque.

I’ve visited St. Stephens a number of times already, simply because there is so much to do in the area. St. Stephens sits right in the middle of a huge shopping street called Kärntnerstraße. All around the cathedral are clothes shops, food stands, restaurants, ice cream, and always plenty of tourists. On a nice day, I’ve often walked from the Institute past St. Stephens and eventually I’m only one U-Bahn station away from my apartment.

The front of St. Stephens.

The lower part of the front is Romanesque, but the upper part, including the small towers, is Gothic.

Inside of St. Stephens, much of the front section is Gothic. It’s easy to tell, because of the intricate details carved from stone.

I love the criss-crossing lines on the ceiling. I think they add so much character to the building and make the ceiling look like it was put together like a puzzle.

The pillar supporting the pulpit. It was like a maze of interlocking pillars filled with small swirls and tiny sculptures. I can’t even begin to image the skill and steady hand it must have taken to create such a masterpiece.

Below is the architect, named Anton Pilgram. He can be seen just under the pulpit, peeking out from a small window.

The main altar of St. Stephens. It was redone in Baroque.

To the right of the central nave is Friedrich III. He was Holy Roman Emperor and also Archduke of Austria. He was the last emperor to be crowned in Rome by the Pope. Friedrich III, along with his son Maximilian I, gained a lot of territory for empire through marriage. Also buried in St. Stephens are, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Rudolf IV, and some victims of the Black Plague.

St. Stephens has two towers, but there is a huge difference between them. The South Tower is much higher than the North Tower. In 1359 Rudolf I * ordered the construction of the South Tower. It instantly became a symbol of Vienna. Later on the construction of the North Tower was initiated, but it was never finished.

Legend goes that one of the masons, working on St. Stephen’s North Tower, was in love with the architect’s daughter. Her name was Maria. The mason asked her father for his approval, but the father said that the mason could only marry Maria if he could make the North Tower just as high and as beautiful as the South Tower in one year. As the year progressed the mason realized he would never complete the tower in time and so he made a deal with the devil. The devil promised to help if the mason didn’t speak any holy names. The mason agreed, but one day, in excitement, he called his love’s name. Therefore, he was struck on the head by a scaffold and the North Tower was never finished.

In reality, most people believe that the architect just ran out of money, but the legend sounds cooler.

 The South Tower

The North Tower

Anyone can get to the top of both towers. From what I’ve heard, the North Tower has an elevator, but I decided to brave the South Tower and climb all the way to the top, step by step. Annika and Addison also came with me and together we made the climb.

It was actually a very intense workout. The staircase was always spiraling to the right, which made for a dizzying climb and the steps weren’t large enough for my entire foot to step on. The other tourists climbing the tower made for a difficult climb too. I often had to stop and squish against the wall so that others could pass and for some reason there were a lot of people who thought it would be a good idea to bring ALL their shopping bags up to the top with them. It wasn’t.

Climbing all that way was very claustrophobic. The stairs never seemed to end, there were hardly any windows and our voices echoed off the walls, making it hard to tell if there were people above or below. At one point, I felt like I had been climbing forever and that I would have to keep climbing forever. It was a little nerve-racking.

Our first resting point.

We emerged from the stairs, into a room full of windows. I’m assuming a bell used to hang there, but the room was empty except for a few gargoyles. Off to the right the stairs continued to the top.

The view was worth the exhausting climb. One of the things I love about St. Stephens is the tiled roof. I’ve never seen anything like it on a church before and I think the zig-zags are really fun and bright.

The Prater ferris wheel.

From St. Stephens it probably takes 15 minutes to get to the Prater by U-Bahn.

One of the decorations on top of the church. It looks like it might be the symbol for the Habsburgs, the two-headed eagle.

The roof of the church had a row of these cute little windows.

Climbing down the tower was just as hard, but mostly because I got really dizzy. I was constantly turning in a circle, but to my eyes it looked like I was never getting anywhere, because the steps never changed.

The back section of the roof has tiles that create the two-headed eagle of the Habsburgs.

The back of St. Stephens. This is where all the carriages wait for tourists.

Detail on the North Tower. You can also go to the top of this tower, this one has an elevator, so there’s no need to climb.

There are a number of gargoyles all along the outside of St. Stephens. Some of them are still in really good shape, while others might be missing a head. Many of the statues from St. Stephens and the original glass windows are now in the Wien Museum.

On one of our excursions our professor said that St. Stephens is always being worked on and there’s hardly ever a time when you can see the entire building. Right now the South Tower is being spiffed up, so much of the bottom half is covered. Often you can see workers up on the very top of the steeple.

EDIT 10/17/12: I’m still learning about all the Habsburgs and since they’re all named basically the same thing sometimes I get confused. Rudolf I was the first Habsburg ruler, but Rudolf IV was actually the one called “The Founder”.

EDIT 11/10/12:

Addison and I decided to visit the crypt under St. Stephens, which is a guided tour only. The first half we were in the “new” part of the crypt, which had the sarcophagi of Rudolf IV. Many of the Habsburg’s organs are also kept in the crypt separate from their bodies, which are in the Imperial Crypt just a few blocks away.

We then headed further down into the ground to the older part of the crypt, which is where victims of the plague are buried. We walked down a long dark tunnel until we came to the first open room. The room we stood in was completely surrounded in stone, and during WW II it was used as a bomb shelter. The creepy thing is that it was once a room that held bodies and in the floor were still some bones that had been ground into the dirt.

There was a small room just to the left of that, which we could see through an grated window. In the room were piles of bones and the last remnants of some coffins. People actually used to pay to be buried in this room, but over time their coffins rotted away and now it’s mostly bones.

Next we made our way past an open hole in the ground where they threw the bodies of plague victims. It astounds me that they buried people right in the center of the city. The bones completely filled the hole and were beginning to pile up to the opening. Last we came to another room, where they had begun to stack the bones making a wall of skeletons, so that more people could be buried there.

It was an interesting, yet morbid tour.

As a part of our program we have to do some community service work. Lucky for us, the Institute has some good connections and Friday we were given the chance to work in a vineyard run by Josef Regner.

We woke up early that morning so that we could catch a train that would take us about 45 minutes outside of Vienna to the Weinviertel, which means wine quarter. It was promising to be a good day, but we were all a little nervous about what we would be doing. From what I’ve heard, harvesting grapes is a delicate process and so I thought that perhaps we might only get to watch as the professional workers picked the grapes.

As soon as we arrived, I realized that I had been dead wrong. In a rush, we all piled into a van, which was driven by Josef’s wife Anita and co-piloted by her dog, Lila. She drove us directly to the field. Right as we got out we were given clippers for the vines, quickly shown how to cut the grapes and then we were off!

The first field we worked in.

It was one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a Friday. The sun was shinning, we had a wonderful view, and every once in a while we were able to taste the delicious grapes. All around us were other workers, some were from Austria, but others were also from Slovakia and Hungary. We ended up working for about two hours straight and probably got around six rows done. It was really soothing to stand out in the sun and cut grapes, just working with our hands and not really thinking about much else.

By the end of the first session my hands were completely covered in grape juice and super sticky. Everyone piled around the van and we all took turns rinsing off our hands with water from a bucket.

All the grapes we picked! With everyone working together we must have gotten at least three wagons full of grapes by the end of the day.

We all had to pile into the back of the van, which was really dark and had a tiny lightbulb in the corner that lit only a portion of the van. While we drove, I talked to a couple who lived one town over. They were really interested in the wine grown in Oregon and also about our stay in Austria. Soon we arrived at the Heuriger, which is a small specialized tavern in Austria and serves new wines. When we arrived Anita had cooked us pumpkin soup, lasagna and a variation of vegetable salads.

Below is only a portion of the Heuriger. There is a house to the left and also a little shop out of sight. The actual dinning area was quite large and could have probably fit 50 to 60 people, but we were all able to fit at one table. They also had a little garden with pigs in a pen.

After lunch we headed back out to work, this time we worked up on a hill, which gave us a wonderful view of the entire valley. While we worked, Anita’s grandfather kept us company, telling us about friends and family he had in America and also scaring us with a giant grasshopper. He was the perfect example of a cute old Austrian man. He wore a little hat with a feather in the side and he was a little hunched from all the long years working in the fields.

From our vantage point we could see a little bit of Vienna off in the distance, but mostly our view consisted of rolling fields of grass and pumpkins.

After another hour or two of work we headed back to the Heuriger, finished with the day’s work. We had a delicious cake for dessert and afterwards, when everyone else had left, the grandfather was kind enough to show us around the town. We walked up the one hill in the entire town, passing by the school (which is apparently where he was born) and headed towards the wine cellar.

To get to the wine cellars all we had to do was walk down Kellergasse, which means cellar alley.

When we arrived the owner of the vineyard, Josef, was a little busy cleaning the cellar, so the grandfather led us around the back. As soon as I rounded the corner I felt like I had been placed on the set of The Hobbit, we were led up a small pebbled trail towards a tiny door placed in the side of a hill. Once we went inside we walked down steep stone steeps to go down into the cellar.

The entire cellar was made completely out of dirt. I touched one of the walls and it was moist and earthy. The tunnels leading to each individual cellar we small, long and dark, only lit by little bulbs at our feet.

We were led through the different sections of the cellar, one had fermenting tanks, one with barrels full of wine, one was a room with a giant table, a fireplace and a cool midlevel looking chandelier and another had bottled wine just waiting to be tasted. Eventually, we reached another flight of steps leading back outside and I was surprised to find that we had basically walked through the entire hill.

  After entering the cellar at a completely different spot, we came out of the ground using the door through the second house on the left.

We then got to taste test Sturm, which is wine stopped early in the fermentation process. Sturm is one of Austria’s specialties. It is low in alcohol content, looks a little foggy, and can either be sweet or sour. While we drank we watched the grapes we picked go into the cellar.

After test-tasting we thanked both Josef and the grandfather and headed to the train station. To our surprise it was already 5 in the afternoon! We were all exhausted, but full of delicious food, Sturm, and the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.