Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vienna - Day 2

We debated our options for today.  There are two hop on hop off bus tours running in the city, but they seemed fairly expensive to us.  So we opted for public transportation.  Vienna has commuter trains, subways and the tram.  The trams are great.  They run on city streets in the same lanes as the cars.  We could not figure out how to pay a fare (honest, we looked) so the tram option ended up being a free hop on hop off.
The first place we went was the Belevedere Palace. It was built in the 1600s as a summer palace for Prince Eugene of Savoy.  There are upper and lower palaces.  Being a prince back then required a lot of real estate.  He had the two palaces, a zoo, and huge stables for all of his horses.  It's not as impressive as Versailles, but it's pretty big. The stables have been turned into an art museum.

Look at that person with an over-inflated sense of worth.  He deliberately turned in front of an oncoming tram to let out a passenger.  Then he was unable to complete his U turn.  Two cabs had to leave to give him enough room to get out of the street.  The tram driver was not amused.

We ended up not spending much time at the Belvedere because we saw other interesting stuff on the way out there and we wanted to go look.  This is the Soviet War Memorial.  At the end of WWII Stalin sent soldiers to liberate Austria from the Germans.   Stalin's actual goal was to occupy Austria and add it to his collection of countries that would end up behind the Iron Curtain.  The memorial was built in 1945 during a brutal occupation of the country.  The Austrians don't like it, and there was discussion of tearing it down.  When Putin visited in 2007, he thanked the citizens for leaving it standing.

After the memorial, we got back on the D tram to go to St. Stephan's Cathedral.  However, first there was much retail to navigate.  The street going towards the cathedral has been closed to cars.  There were people everywhere.  There also a lot of high dollar stores there.

This is the cathedral.  It's one of those places that's too big to get a picture of from the street.  I need a drone.  It's hard to see, but the roof is tiled.  Some form of a religious building has been on that site since the early 1100s.  Isn't that amazing?

There's a fence inside to keep people out of most of the church.  One must pay for a tour to see the front section.  There was a significant line waiting to go in so we didn't do it.

It's an old part of Vienna.  Look at the architecture of all of those old buildings.

Why, then, was this ugly hotel allowed to be built looking like this?  Talk about an eyesore and not fitting in with the neighbors.

After this, it was back on the D tram.  My feet were starting to die from walking. We took the tram for one stop and then got off to see what we would see.

We saw this!  It's a conservatory that's attached to someone else's set of palaces.  It's full of  palm trees and butterflies.  We were going to pay money and go in, but it was about 90 degrees and humid, so we bailed.

We had to cut the sight seeing short today.  I was starting to limp on both feet so we headed back to the ranch.  We need to spend some time reorganizing our luggage.  The bike tour starts in the morning, so bike stuff needs to be moved from the bottom of the luggage to the top. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vienna - Day 1

We slept well last night.  I made it to 6:30 am local time, and Jim a little bit longer.  After breakfast there was going to the grocery store for bottled water.  Check out is interesting.  The checker sits and runs your items across a scanner.  The food buyer then puts the food back in the cart.  After paying, you take your cart and bags to a table and then bag the groceries.  It speeds up the process tremendously.  One lady was just hurling her stuff into a cart because she had a very fast checker.
Then we decided to walk to the old part of town, the walled part.  On the way we passed the Church of Votives.  Wikipedia tells us:  Following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, the Emperor's brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian inaugurated a campaign to create a church to thank God for saving the Emperor's life. Funds for construction were solicited from throughout the Empire. The church was dedicated in 1879 on the silver anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Empress Elisabeth. 

It was pretty dark in there, so most of my pictures did not turn out.  It's an interesting congregation, they've installed a lot of avant garde art in the church.  I'm not sure why, the expository information was in German.  This is the place where the priest stands.

This is city hall.  Pretty amazing, eh?

Tomorrow they are having the Life Ball.  It is a very big deal.  The amount of stages and stands and what not being constructed is just extraordinary.  Too bad we forgot to bring our formal attire.  Check out their web site.

This the entrance through which the guests will enter.  There will be a red carpet and everything.  I hope it does not rain on them.  Last year they had Elton John and former president Clinton at the event.  It's every year, and is an AIDS fund raiser.

This is one of the massive old government buildings in the old city.  After perusing the internet I have discovered that it's the Hofburg Palace.

This is Parliament.

I knew their weather had been bad here, but I didn't know it was so bad the rose gardens were not safe.

That's city hall on the right and a statue of somebody foreground.  The clouds were pretty spectacular, but the camera didn't really do them justice.

Jim forgot his knee warmers, and given how cold it was today, we decided new ones must be acquired.  We stopped in a travel agency, found someone who spoke English and inquired about bike shops.  Miracle of miracles, someone in there was able to direct us to a shopping mall with an enormous sporting goods store.  They did carry them, and they were on sale.  I enjoyed giving Jim a bunch of static about his bad packing until I discovered I'd forgotten the charger for my point and shoot camera battery.  We located a camera store, and they sold us a universal battery charger.  It charges everything   It was much cheaper than buying a new camera.
As I am typing this, I can hear protesters chanting something in front of the US Embassy, which is just next door.  It's not in English so we don't know what they're saying.  I tried to take a picture of the building this morning, but the Austrian police told me it was forbidden. It's a lovely building.  They've put up a stout fence around it, two guard houses and vehicle barriers that can move up and down.  All cars must stop, open the hoods and be inspected.  They use the mirrors on a pole to check under the cars.  It's fairly elaborate.  It's odd, there are no Marines, security is provided by Austrian police. This picture, taken while walking away is not great, but gives you a flavor of the place.

Here is a much prettier picture taken before the scaffolding and the security measures went up.

Our feet are tired.  We walked a long way today.  It didn't rain on us, so that was good. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sleeping With Strangers - or Not

Did I grab your attention with my mildly salacious title?  We're in Vienna, where it's raining.  I've been awake for a very long time.  We flew business class on Austria Airlines.  They have updated their seats to the new flat sleeping pods.  Jim and I were unable to sit next to each other, so I was literally sleeping next to a stranger.  Except, of course, for the fact that I was unable to sleep.  It's 4 hours Seattle to Toronto, and then another 8 from Toronto to Vienna.  I dropped off to sleep, but then something woke me up and I was done for. 
The flight was tedious.  When we checked in to Seattle, the Canada Air gate agent said he could not give us a boarding pass for the second leg of the flight.  This is odd, we've never had a code share tell us that.  When we arrived in Toronto, we were forced to clear customs, rescreen at security, and then go to the check in counter to get boarding passes.  There we discovered that our checked luggage was not in their system.  We had time to deal with it, but code shares should not make you roam the airport trying to get a boarding pass. If done correctly, we never would have left the secure part of the airport.
When we arrived at our gate, we discovered a terrible line in front of the two gate agents.  Apparently our flight was seriously overbooked  In retrospect, we might have spent less time roaming the airport than standing in the line for a boarding pass.  It just annoys me; this is poorly written ticketing software and the airlines should fix it.
On the bright side, our two suitcases did arrive in Vienna, and were the first two bags off the plane.

We're at the Hotel Boltzmann.  We're across from the University of Vienna.  We're here because this is where the REI tour starts and we didn't want to have to relocate.  It's an ok room, it's small, but most hotel rooms in Europe are small.
Today was some sort of national holiday and just about everything was closed.  We did find a pizza place that was open, so we have pizza and salad for dinner.  Things could be worse, we could be eating energy bars and Cliff blocks.
We forgot to bring washcloths and a 3 way power tap for the voltage converter.  The toothbrushes and the razor will have to be charged serially instead of in parallel.  Note to self for future packing.  I do not understand why hotels here don't have washcloths.  What is up with that?
We're pretty tired, I am totally rummy since I didn't sleep.  One has to remember that there is always an ebb and flow to long trips, and they usually start at low ebb until one is firmly in the new time zone.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Diamond Hill RV Park

We have spent 12 days at the Diamond Hill RV Park.  It's an ex-KOA that is showing its age.  I think we are the only transients in the park, the rest are permanent residents.


We're on a paved site that is very level.  Utilities are side by side, but since there are few people in our section of the park it's not an issue.  We're actually occupying two sites, so we can park behind the RV.
The restrooms are clean.  The laundry is less clean.  If doing laundry, take damp paper towels with you so you can wipe down the folding tables.
We have excellent 4G coverage and satellite since there are no pesky trees.
There is freeway noise at night from I5.  It's weird, some nights it's worse than others.
If you're having work done at Elite RV, this is the closest park; unless Riverbend re-opens.  Riverbend is within walking distance of Erik.
I don't think we would come back here.  We have not felt unsafe, the office staff are very pleasant, but we're uncomfortable sitting here in our big fat Class A in the midst of people who are clearly down on their luck.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Departing Oregon

Oy!  It's been a day.  We have spent hours laying out clothing for the upcoming trip to Vienna, and then stuffing it into our new luggage which we don't like.  Then we spent time wrapping the electronics in plastic and looking for places to put them.  That was followed by taking stuff out of the RV and shoving it in to the basement.  There was also defrosting the freezer and then picking up a car at the Eugene airport.  I know I should be censured for complaining about packing for a major trip, but still....  
Tomorrow we have to dump the tanks so they will be pristine for the gate valve replacing.  The truck must be taken to storage in Junction City.  Since we have four bikes in the bed of the truck, we decided that indoor locked manned (personed?) storage was preferable to airport parking.  After dropping the RV at Elite, we'll drive the rental car to Seattle.
Our flight leaves at 0800 hours, so we have to be up early on Wednesday.  It'll be good to BE in Vienna, rather than GOING to Vienna.

So, I leave you with two more pictures of the agricultural pulchritude that is Oregon.  Once we depart the US, I have no idea of how much internet we'll have.  Stand by for burst transmissions from the continent.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Corvallis and Oregon State Campus

This morning I was standing on the stairs of the RV, surveying the weather and confirming that no, I did not want to ride in a windy marine push.  That's the problem with wintering in Tucson, the weather is so often good, that a person gets out of the habit of riding in crappy weather.  As I have.  Anyway, this cat came scooting out from under the RV.  He stood and looked at me for a little, and then did the most luxurious roll on the pavement.

We ended up driving north to Albany to visit another Target.  A couple of years ago we replaced all of our TSA locks with locks that all used the same key.  Do you think we can find them?  No.  We don't live in that large of a space - where does stuff go?  Anyway, more locks had to be obtained since we had none.  After Albany we went into Corvallis.  They have done a bang up job of keeping their downtown alive.  There are many cute businesses and restaurants.  People ride their bikes down the middle of the lane, suggesting that the car drivers are nice.

We had lunch here.  If you're in town, eat here.  Good, really good and very reasonably priced.

This is the courthouse.  It's the oldest building in Oregon still performing its original function. It's from 1888.

A Presbyterian church in town.  We were entranced by its round shape.

We headed out to the Oregon State campus.  It is just lovely. Jim spent his first two years of college in Eugene at University of Oregon.  He came here many decades ago for basketball games.  I'm really surprised the building still stands.

Waldo Hall, dating from 1902.

This is Weatherford Residential College.  It appears to be a center for teaching entrepreneurship.

Isn't this a lovely building?

If you can't read the plaque, it says "Coed Cottage."  I guess this is where they put the early women students.

We had a good walk for a couple of hours.  The clouds did clear, so things are better for the weekend campers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rain, Towing and Walking

It's the eve of Memorial Day Weekend in the Great Pacific NorthWest.  And what does that mean?  Rain!  It means rain!  When we lived in Seattle, we always assumed as a matter of course that it would rain for the weekend.  This morning did not disappoint.  We saw so many pickups towing travel trailers with little bicycles and folding chairs in the bed of the truck.  We feel bad for these people.  Would it be asking so much for them to get a decent weekend?

After what is hopefully our last trip to the Lowes in Eugene we came home for lunch.  We kept hearing strange sounds, like tires dragging.  This is why.  This is not something you see everyday.

This is a pickup towing an ancient Beaver with chains.  If we'd had our wits about us we would have jumped into the truck to see where they took it.  But we didn't.

We think this is from the 90's, but we're guessing.

 By late afternoon it cleared up so we drove into Harrisburg for a walk.  These roses are so beautiful every year.

This yard becomes more overgrown every year, but the roses continue to bloom.  Oregon roses are just the best.

We can't tell if the house is under renovation or abandoned.

The weather forecast in Vienna continues to be depressingly damp.  We're watching this morning's  Giro d'Italia where it has been hailing.  It's so heavy it looks like snow by the side of the road.   See all of the white?  Hail!