A Half (Well, Maybe A Quarter) A Day In Bratislava

My day in Vienna was just a sampler of what will hopefully be a future trip of much more substance. If I was going to spend a day on the train to get to Vienna, I was certainly going to spend a little over an hour on a train to go to Bratislava, Slovakia and scout that out, right?

From the Vienna Central station, the Austrian Federal Railway (or ÖBB) ran a train to Bratislava each way every hour. I grabbed one early in the morning and figured I’d spend the day in Bratislava and see what it had to offer, and still make it back to Vienna in time to pack for my trip back to Switzerland on Sunday.

After a short, foggy but scenic ride I arrived at the train station in Bratislava. As soon as you arrive you are aware that you are in a different part of Europe than just an hour ago. The station has a huge mosaic from the communist era when Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia, complete with a Sputnik!

Bratislava Mural

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The Sputnik is my favorite part of this.

Walking our of the station I had a sensation I have not had yet in my travels, it can best be described as “Uh, now what?” I didn’t really have a plan for Bratislava. I don’t speak any Slovak. I had read that there were things to see in the old city, but the train station was a bit outside of the center of town. Google maps to the rescue! It was a quick bus ride from the station to the old city. I had read in Vienna that my return train ticket would also act as a transit pass for the day in Bratislava but didn’t want to risk it so I bought a bus ticket from a machine at the stop.

Two stops later I was in the old city and I decided to head to the tourist office to see what there was to see in town. As I walked through the scenic and winding streets I was struck by how quiet it was for a Saturday morning. The tourist office was open but not much else because it was Epiphany, which is not really observed in the US in any way outside of a church event here and there. The theme for this whole trip seems to be: plan better next time.

I grabbed a lunch of Slovak food and Slovak beer and wandered around the old city. There were just enough souvenir shops open that I was able to fill my quota for the folks back home and one was even able to sell me stamps for my postcards since, because of course the post office was closed for Epiphany!

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I declined ice skating in favor of continuing to walk without a limp.
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No joke, I saw exactly two non-working public clocks in Europe.

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Pozor!
Maybe my favorite image from the trip, aside from the Sputnik.

 

While waiting for the bus back to the train station, I spotted this:

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A vending machine full of Slovak dairy items! If I didn’t have to travel back to Vienna, I would have totally bought some cheese. Next trip to Bratislava I am going to start here!

 

A Full Day In Vienna

How does a person decide how to spend a day in one of the greatest cities in the world? My plan was to travel back to the main Vienna train station and get some info at their tourist office there. I had a bit of an idea of my options ahead of time, but anything I got there would help me make up mind.

Vienna, like many other European cities I’ve been to has it’s own museum card, the Vienna City Card. While it didn’t offer many free admissions, it did give some slight discounts. The most attractive feature is the free transit on city buses, trams, and the metro. A day pass is 8€ and a 24 hour Vienna City Card was 13.90€, so  if I hit a few museums, it would pay off.

I decided the three things I wanted to be sure to do in Vienna were Vienna Central Cemetery, The Esperanto Museum, and the Globe Museum. I should be able to cram all three of those sights in a day. I hopped on the tram to ride out to the cemetery.

I have a thing for cemeteries, it’s not because I’m a goth (I am very pale though) it mostly has to do with the history of them. It is also a great reminder that no matter what, you going to die. It’s unavoidable. You can put it off, but in the end, you will end up dead. If you can read this, you have 100 years at the most left on this planet, and most of us will have a lot less than that.

All I knew about Vienna Central Cemetery before my arrival in Vienna (or Wien as the locals call it. Shouldn’t we call it that too? I mean if that’s what they call their city, shouldn’t we take their lead? Just saying….) was that Falco was buried there.

I used to say that if I was ever in Vienna, I would visit Falco’s grave. With only 24 hours in the city, would it be the best use of my time to do that just to see his grave?

Probably not. As I mentioned a bit back, I am well aware that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so to spend so much time to make that one pilgrimage wouldn’t make much sense. However, not only is Vienna Central Cemetery the final resting place of Falco, it also is the final resting place of many other famous people and has a funeral museum. Now it makes much more sense to visit on my only full day in Vienna.

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The grave of Falco and Falco’s mom

Vienna Central Museum is huge. It holds the remains of 3,000,000 people. It has four tram stops and a city bus line runs through it with stops inside. Lucky for us, they tended to group the famous dead in the same areas of honor. While in route to seeing the graves of the famous who have merged with the infinite, you get to marvel at some amazing monuments to people you have never heard of.

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It’s hard to top this one

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No caption needed either

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I was struck by the “etc. etc. etc.” line in his bio.

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I love the factory in the background
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I’m guessing a famous mountaineer

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I love the mourning statues. I’d like one on my grave of a beautiful angel or woman just shrugging her shoulders.

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This was more than likely modeled after the wife of the deceased

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Anybody have any idea what’s going o here?!?!?

There is a colossal church in the center that is worth peeking into if you are a fan of churches. They have free maps that point out the main areas of the grounds. They do have guided tours, and an app that you can download. I used a paper map they gave me at the funeral museum as my guide.

I saw what I came to see, but would like to spend another day there in the future. I grabbed the tram to head to my next stops which were in the same building at the Austrian National Library.

First up was the Esperanto Museum. I have been aware of Esperanto for a while and am always fascinated by an attempt to make communication easier. The main problem I have with Esperanto is that like all other languages besides English, I don’t speak it. The idea behind it was noble, to bring the world together by increasing communication. I’m not sure it will ever happen. Maybe a future of nothing but emojis will come close, but that doesn’t solve the problem of speech.

Espertanto CongressLabor Olympics

 

The museum is small, but has some very cool items in its exhibits. It has info not only on Esperanto but also other created languages. It is an interesting stop if you are interested in languages.

In the same building and on the same ticket (along with the Papyrus Museum at another location I didn’t get to this trip) is the Globe Museum. It has more globes in one location that I have seen in my entire life and I have a geography degree. If you are a history or geography nerd, you need to see this!

The sun goes down early at this time of year, so when I was done with the globes, I made my way back to the area around my hotel to find some dinner and other supplies and plan for the next day which would take me to Slovakia for the day.

 

 

 

 

Buchs To Vienna By Train

I decided since I was going to be so close to Austria while visiting Liechtenstein, I would use the opportunity to visit Vienna. It would be a quick trip, just and day and would require a full day of travel from Buchs in Switzerland, but I considered it a fact-finding mission for a future trip.

The train left from Buchs and traveled through Liechtenstein and then to Austria. As we got into the mountains of Austria it was snowing and the route for the next hour or so turned into a live action Xmas card. Living most of my life in the American South, snow is always a novelty. It is even more appreciated when I don’t have to drive or work in it.

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The train slowed a bit in the mountains, I’m not sure if the snow had anything to do with it, but we arrived in Innsbruck a few minutes late. It has been my experience that European trains run on time. I wasn’t really thinking about transferring between trains in Innsbruck when I booked this trip. The window of transfer was very small. By the time I got off of my train and found the car I was supposed to be in, I was surprised to find that the door wouldn’t open. I soon realized the reason was that it was leaving without me.

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This was not the train that left me. 

In most parts of America missing a train will mean waiting another 12-24 hours for the next one. Since I was in Europe, there was another leaving for Vienna in about an hour. I got booked on that one and grabbed lunch at the station while I waited for my new train.

The next train arrived on time and the journey to Vienna continued without any delays. I arrived early in the evening and made my way to the hotel. I checked in, walked to the neighborhood store for supplies, and plotted how to attack my full day in Vienna.

The Austrian Federal Railways trains were fairly modern, clean, and comfortable. All of this was good since I spent about 8 hours that day on them. In hindsight, I probably should have not spent so much time on the rails for such a short trip, but this was all brand new for me. The trip from Buchs to Innsbruck through the mountains was scenic enough to make it worth it. I only wished I had gotten better photos from the train.

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

It was a cold rainy day and I got up early to get over to Vaduz for the day. The first museums opened at 10:00am and I wanted to be there as soon as they opened to spend as much time there as possible. The buses were full with what I’m assuming were commuters heading from Buchs to Schaan in Liechtenstein. From there, I switched to the bus that took me to the capital, Vaduz.

The first stop was the Liechtenstein Postage Stamp Museum. It was small, but interesting.  Places like Liechtenstein and Andorra starting in the mid part of the 20th Century made lots of stamps. Stamp collectors buy them and don’t use them to send mail, so aside from the printing costs, it’s all profit. It’s a good source of income for small countries, probably not as lucrative as it was when more people collected stamps, but still good money.

Right next door to the stamp museum is Treasure Chamber of the National Museum. You have to get a token from the people at the stamp museum to gain entrance. It has a mixture of old paintings, prints, many jeweled Easter eggs, old guns, knives, and moon rocks.

The main part of the day was spent at the Liechtenstein National Museum. For such a small country, they have put together a great museum. It covers the entire history of humans in the area that would become the principality. It even has a wing devoted to the natural history of the area with exhibits on the geology and flora and fauna. There is also nice sections on how the principality came into being, as well as on the current and past Princes of Liechtenstein.

I grabbed some lunch at a place and then decided to visit the The Princely Wine Cellars of the Prince of Liechtenstein in Vaduz.  It was winter, cold, and raining so I had the place to myself. They offer a tasting of the three wines produced there and I enjoyed all three (that’s not a really high bar as I am a fan of almost all wines). I purchased two small bottles to take back home. I had purchased a larger bottle at the COOP store in town.

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After the winery, I headed by bus back to Buchs to grab my dinner and get ready for the train the next day for Vienna.

Zürich Day Drei

Well, it turns out almost everything in Zürich is closed New Year’s Day. It makes sense, so I can’t blame stores for not opening. I made my way to town anyway because there was one thing I knew was open and I wanted to tour it anyway.

When I read that Zürich is home to one of the largest collections of succulent plants in the world, I added it to my list of things to see. It did not disappoint. Some of these could give Dr. Seuss some ideas on what otherworldly plants would look like. They are all in greenhouses sorted by continent. Free admission, but worth paying to see. (Don’t tell them it was my idea to charge a fee).

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With all of the good shops closed for New Year’s, it was up to me to grab a few souvenirs and food for the next two days at the train station. The McDonald’s was open across the street, but I didn’t come to Europe to eat at McDonald’s. They do have a Swiss only McRaclette burger that both terrifies and intrigues me. I’ll think about it and maybe gab one another day.

I grabbed some excellent cheese, some other snacks, and a small bottle of Swiss wine and headed back to the hotel. I had to pack and prepare for my journey the next day to the borderland with Liechtenstein.