Austrian Countryside, Kutna Hora, and Vienna’s Prater (Day 17)

Friday, May 17, 2013

After I got back into my room the night before, I did all of the appropriate, personal hygiene tasks. I also decided to have a fun time while I repacked my bags: I pulled up a ‘house music’ playlist on my tablet, put on the sassy, Russian hat that I bought earlier in the afternoon, and wore my rain boots  while I danced all about; folding, organizing and trying to do anything that might make the morning run more smoothly.

Everything's fine. Nothing  to  see here. Move along.

Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Morning came with some very sad goodbyes. The loss of the three Canadian Amigos and the implosion of the bromance between Julian, Greg and Anup was hard on everyone! We made it to the bus after hugs on hugs on hugs and everyone got settled in for the drive to Vienna. I still wasn’t feeling quite tip-top, as wine always makes me feel poorly… even in very small amounts. I curled up to sleep but I never could get to feeling well. I decided it was maybe a bit of motion sickness, so I moved up to the front of the bus to sit between Lucian and Levi.

Lucian told us a bit about the training to be a tour manager and a driver and Levi explained all about how hard driving those crazy, big  coaches can be. They talked about their coolest and scariest experiences working with Contiki, but I won’t share them here. It was probably an hour or 90 minutes that I spent up there, joined by Dani. We had such a fun time. I probably would’ve done well to sleep, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. I laughed to the point of tears more than once!

One thing I really loved about the drive was how much the lower countryside of Austria really felt like home to me. It was kind of a bizarre experience to be so far away from the familiar, but to feel so close at the same time. If you’ve ever driven through the farm land and the horse country in Kentucky, you might think that home is where the picture below was taken:

My Old Kentucky Home,  hey?

My Old Kentucky Home,
hey?

After a bit we got to this lovely little town called Kutna Hora. The city lies in central Austria and has a really vivacious history, having competed economically with Prague for nearly 300 years. We stopped here for two reasons:
1) Viewing of the world-renowned Sedlec Ossuary or the Bone Church
2) We had to stop for at least an hour for Levi’s driver’s restrictions.

So the Ossuary was absolutely incredible in a slightly morbid, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of human bones kind of way. The former Roman Catholic chapel is said to contain as many as 65,000 human skeletons, which were exhumed and formed into furniture and decor. The exhumation of the skeletons was made necessary when mass graves of victims for the Black Death were opened when rebuilding part of the chapel, the lower level of which was made into a storage area for the bones. They were reformed artistically, as they are found today, in 1870 by Frantisek Rint. Here are my pictures of the grizzly awesomeness:

DSC00233

Nothing is spiritually uplifting quite like a crucifix of bones.

DSC00234

No flowers in the vase?

Chandelier containing at least 1 of each of the 206 bones that comprise the human body.

Chandelier containing at least 1 of each of the 206 bones that comprise the human body.

The Schwarzenburg family crest (who hired Rint)

The Schwarzenburg family crest (who hired Rint)

DSC00237

Garlands of bones.

Garlands of bones.

DSC00239

mhmmmm

mhmmmm

Rint's signature, of course, in bones.

Rint’s signature, of course, in bones.

Heart warming, eh?

After that we walked around Kutna Hora proper. Julian napped on a park bench after a long night of bidding farewell to his bffs of the trip. We got ice cream from a man who had, literally, the biggest hands I have ever seen in my life. We weren’t even sure how he managed to hold the cones without breaking them all. I had a hard time not laughing, because it was comparable to watching Shrek try to do a cross-stitch pillow.

Imagine this dude, but less buff, delicately scooping ice cream.

Imagine this dude, but less buff, delicately scooping ice cream.

After we got our noms, we proceeded to walk around halfheartedly looking for the Cathedral that sat on a hill above the town. We hit several dead-end streets and never quite managed to get all the way up to it, but the view up the hill was still lovely.

kutna_hora

We left there after a bit of wandering and good conversation with my usuals, peeled Julian off of his bench, and got on the road, on to Vienna.

The hotel was a pretty, old Victorian-esque building with a very elegant entrance. The elevators were teeny and when they got to the desired floor, you had to actually open the door… which was admittedly, kind of cool. I took the steps almost every time, because they were so small that there was always a line. I got to practice my German again, asking the concierge for the closest ATM and actually understanding his directions (given in German) enough to find it.

We had a dinner of schnitzel, which was okay… but wayyyy too big. My tummy was still a bit sour so I didn’t really eat much. That happened to be a good decision. BECAUSEEEEEE. After dinner we went to Prater, a free, public amusement park. We did bumper cars with a huge chunk of our group and then, being adrenaline junkies, Tavis and I ran around to anything and everything that looked scary. It was SUCH a good time. There were zero lines!

L to R: Leticia, Akhil, Tavis and Yours Truly

L to R: Leticia, Akhil, Tavis and Yours Truly

We got back on the bus after maybe 90 minutes or so and poor Brianne got a bit queasy. I think we all thought that she had a touch of motion sickness from the rides. After that it was a quiet night of friends hanging out in the hotel lobby. This was a pretty mild day, but still full of great memories with great people!

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