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.

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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.

Zürich to Buchs

When I first started planning this trip, I was pretty sure that I would not spend the whole of it in Switzerland. It would be very easy to spend 10 or more days in the country and see plenty, but since I was in the area of lots of countries I had not visited, I figured I would jump at the chance to see some of them.

The Principality of Liechtenstein has been a place I have always been interested in. In the pre-internet days, it was a very hard place to get any info about. Your best sources would be almanacs and books about stamps. The information age has not ruined the attraction for me; it just confirmed that there was much to see there.

I did a bit of research and found the hotels in Liechtenstein to be a bit pricey for my tastes, and when I found on that would work for me in Werdenburg, just across the border in Switzerland, I figured I’d take the bus and save about 50 Swiss francs a night. You could even walk there (well, YOU could, I’d only walk as far as Buchs to catch the bus over).

I took two trains from Zürich to arrive at Buchs and the ride was short but very scenic. It went along the shore of Lake Zürich and then along Lake Walensee with mountains all around it. Postcard quality scenery! As we were approaching Buchs, I spied a castle up on a mountain that looked very familiar. It was Vaduz Castle the home of Prince Hans-Adam II.

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I arrived in Buchs around noon and found a bus that would take me the short distance to where I was staying. The room was ready early so I dropped my stuff off and decided to head over to Liechtenstein to pick up a museum/bus pass I found out about online. Well, that’s a half-truth. I sent them an email requesting info and figured they would reply via email. Instead, they mailed me a lovely info packet that gave me all the details!

One of the best deals they have is for 25 CHF (CHF is code for Swiss francs) you can get a Liechtenstein Museum Pass the pass also doubles as a bus pass. With a return trip to Buchs being 7 CHF and entrance to the national museum 10 CHF you only have to find 8 more CHF in discounts to make it pay and that is pretty easy to do. They can be purchased at the tourist info office in the center of town. After getting mine and buying some postcards and souvenirs, I took the bus back to Buchs and plotted my full day in Vaduz.

Zürich Day Zwei

After my marathon sleep from the night before, I was ready to get an early start and see some of Zürich. My hotel was a short walk from a S-Bahn train station that would take to to the main train station in Zürich in about 15 mins. I can’t say enough good things about the Swiss trains and transport in general. It can be a bit pricey, like almost everything else in Switzerland, but if you get a Zürich Card transit is included.

Maybe it’s because I’ve only been in the big cities in Switzerland so far, but things seem to be VERY expensive. Here’s a good example: a baguette that cost 1 euro in Paris last month, 0.50 euro in Barcelona this month, was priced at 5 Swiss francs or about 4.20 euro here in Zürich. How is a man supposed live the lifestyle that he is accustomed to in Europe at such prices? I won’t complain too much since I really like it here. I got a great deal on the flight and hotels, but Barcelona gave me more bang for my buck.

The Zürich Hauptbahnhof has a tourist info office and was across from the Swiss National Museum, which was my main goal for the day. Anxious to make up for yesterday I got there very early. So early that nothing was open yet. It is a neat, old station.

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I did not see a clock that was not working.

 

I figured that heading down to the lake for some early morning photos would be cool. I grabbed a tram and rode down to the lake.

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I’ve never seen swans fly. It seems odd to me for some reason.

After taking in the sights, I took the tram back to the train station and dropped by the tourist office. I grabbed a few souvenirs and found out that most museums would be closed tomorrow not because it was New Year’s Day but because it was Monday. D’oh! If I had done some advance planning I’d have known this. Well, that was tomorrow, today the Swiss National Museum was open.

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I know almost nothing of Swiss history, so anything I picked up here would be appreciated. Trying to cover thousands of years of  the history of a place is not easy.  After a few hours there, I came away with the idea that Switzerland is a lot like Canada. Canada kind of exists because a group of people are united in not wanting to be American. Switzerland is a lot like that in that they are more united by what they do not want to be than what they are. They have three national languages after all. (I don’t speak one of them. Sigh.) I need to get a good book on Swiss history and see if I can figure it out better.

I made reservations for lunch to have some Swiss food and it did not disappoint. I had a plate of cured meats and fondue. I’m not sure why I’m having chest pains today. It was a place called Swiss Chuchi and it was small, but packed. It had a line out the door when I left.

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I wandered around the old part of town for a while with no real plan. I saw a cool sundial on the side of a building. I’ve never seen one on the side of a building like this.

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I’m sure it would still work if they hadn’t built that building across the street that was throwing shade on it. How would they have known way back in the 18th Century?

My next plan was to visit the Pavillon Le Corbusier which is a museum to some of  Le Corbusier’s works. The building was actually designed by him. It was not meant to be. It is being renovated. This info was news to me. None of the websites that I looked at mentioned that. Lucky for me, it is in a park on the lake so I got to see some fantastic views.

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It was getting late in the afternoon, and despite the excessive amount of sleep i was starting to feel very tired. I decided to skip the fireworks by the lake at midnight and head back to the hotel. I grabbed some small bottles of Swiss wine at a shop along the way and celebrated early by watching Warner Bros. cartoons on German TV. It was a good night.