10 August 2007

Nachmittag in Wien

I finally have some time to write about my trip, so I will start with the short time (~10:30 to 07:00 the next day) in Vienna two weeks ago. But first—as Ryan likes to do—let’s talk about the Washington Dulles International Airport. Amazingly, I had a great experience this time. My arriving flight from Columbia and departing flight to Frankfurt were both in the A/B concourse, and I found the (newly discovered—for me) B concourse to be the most pleasant part of the airport to kill a few hours of a layover. The Frankfurt bound Lufthansa flight (or was it United—I can’t remember due the pervasiveness of code-sharing) was initially delayed at the gate because of a problem with the APU (which also meant the A/C wasn’t working.) Eventually the mechanics gave up and we fired up the mains with a promise from the captain that we would make up the delay in the air. As we landed in Frankfurt the next morning, I nervously looked at the time and wondered if I could make the Vienna bound flight to meet Mirena at the airport as planned. Then, as we were taxing to the gate, we stopped for what turned out to be 20-30 minutes because another plane was in our gate (and was not supposed to be there!) As soon as I disembarked, I began sprinting to what seemed like the other end of the airport. Having been seated for 9 hours and missing a night of sleep, this was quite a feat—overcoming a nasty leg cramp & fighting crowds in the terminal. Incredibly, I made it to the departing gate without a minute to spare!

Mirena’s flight from Sofia and my flight from Frankfurt arrived within minutes of each other, and—in fact—our flights were assigned to the same baggage claim belts, where I met her. After a joyful embrace and claiming her bag, we sadly came to the realization that my bag had not made it. Usually, I have found that baggage travels faster through a terminal than passengers, but apparently I had been able to out-run my bag in Frankfurt. Thankfully, the bag did eventually arrive later that day and was delivered to us in the city.

High Speed Sightseeing

By the time we took the train into town, it was nearly noon, so if I was going to show Mirena around town, it was going to have to be quick. We strolled down Kartner Strasse to Stephansdom, had lunch at Austria’s ubiquitous fast-food seafood restaurant, Nordsee, and coffee, Sacher torte, and ice cream in one of the numerous sidewalk cafes found inside the “ring.” Below is Mirena enjoying the liegewiese in Stadtpark, which is still as meticulously maintained as I remembered from 3 years ago.

In the evening, we went to the Prater to see the sights, ride the rides (including, of course, the Riesenrad,) and eat schweinsstelze at Schweizerhaus—which, at 2 kilos, we were sadly not able to finish.

Early the next morning we caught SkyEurope’s bus to Bratislava, passing through rural Niederösterreich where it seems the fasting growing crop is wind farms. I’m really starting to wonder how much power these produce and if they are really economically feasible without special government subsidies—interestingly enough one of my shipmates, Ken, was actually an expert on the subject and we discussed this topic while sailing. So, stay tuned this and other tales from the sailing vessel Kučarin.
Mirena in StadtparkObservation: Flying over northern Virginia, it seems all you can see is suburban sprawl (from Washington DC.) Everything is either shopping centers, apartments, tract houses, or mansionettes on 1+ acre lots; all tied together by crisscrossing 4-lane highways. This is in stark contrast to the landscape that unfolds as you fly into Frankfurt. Here compact little villages are surrounded by vast stretches of forest or croplands despite the overall higher population density. I know Micah is going to rag me for this, but thinking about where I would rather live, Germany looks a lot better from the air than the typical American sprawl.
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