Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 6 / Arrival in Vienna

GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
Part # 6 / Arrival in Vienna

Vienna Underground Rail System
Wendy and I led our 18 students from the train platform into the Vienna Rail Station and caught our first real view of the celebrated city of Vienna through the large wall-sized windows of glass.  Our first task was to purchase 24-hour metro passes for each member in our group, as this was the best way to navigate through the expansive city.  The Vienna underground, also known as the U-Bahn or just the plain "U" was located just below the train station for convenience.  I have not always been a fan of the subway ever since my wife and I had a scary experience in New York City when we were still dating.  We entered a subway train car that looked more than a little rough from the outside and got more so when we were inside and the train began to move.  The car only contained a few other passengers, who looked like they had been riding the car nonstop for several weeks.  As we sat down, I quickly noticed a man sprawled out on the center of the floor face down, who appeared to be sleeping.  The two others were seated on either side of him and blocked the way to the next car.  We were dressed up for a day on the Big Apple and I couldn't help but feel more than a little anxious.  My feeling quickly turned to fear when the lights inside the car began flickering on and off into brief periods of pitch-black darkness.  Every time the lights flashed back on, I expected the trio to appear right in front of us with weapons drawn.  Needless to say, we got off at the next stop without incident but decided to walk the considerable distance above ground to our destination rather than experience the excitement of mass-transit again.   

Vienna U-Bahn Transit Map
New York City's subway system is so vast, complex, and quite overwhelming for a small town guy like myself to navigate.  As a result, I haven't been a passenger on a subway again until I traveled to Germany.  On following trips to New York City, I have opted to stay above ground, hailing a yellow taxicab to speed me on my way.  My only other experience on one of America's subway systems was when visiting Washington D.C. one summer.  In that instance, we never got to actually board the train because it broke down before it arrived at our station.  The metro sign was flashing "Fatal Track Error" and that was enough for my family and I to emerge up back out into the summer sun for good! However, I am pleased to report, every subway I have ridden on in Europe were, clean, reliable, well lit, and much easier to navigate.  The color-coded rail-lines were clearly marked and our kids picked up the process of jumping on and off with ease to find their way to targeted locations throughout Vienna.  I'll admit that I continued to be more than a follower than a leader when it came to mapping out our underground route.  The U-Bahn transit map still looked a little intimidating to me, especially when applying it to the real thing where there were no brightly colored tracks.  Like most trains I have been on in Europe, the U-Bahn operates on the honor system, where passengers are randomly spot-checked for ride passes by conductors.  Most abide by the rules as the fare is reasonable and the penalties for jumping a ride, very costly.

The Location of our Hotel
We got off at the stop where our hotel was located, which was near the heart of the city.  It was a short walk but we must have resembled a small caravan with rolling overnight suitcases in tow.  My first impressions of the city matched that of other European cities I have visited over the years in Germany and Austria.  Vienna's urban landscape was clean, white, and free of any imposing tall skyscraper office buildings.  In addition it had a historic feel and expressed an easy-going, pleasant, and warm personality.  The streets were lined with well maintained neat buildings that were uniform in their bright presentation.  The tree-lined streets were void of most automobile traffic, which was replaced by an abundance of bicycles.  It was a beautiful cityscape and easy to see why it was such a popular destination for visitors from around the world.  We found our hotel, which was called the Hotel Terminus, and had an old-world feel.  We took turns ascending up to our rooms in the small elevator that strained to contain three full-sized adults.  It was nice to have a room to myself and it was exactly as I had imagined.  It was small, compact, and efficient in design and simple in style as is customary in many living spaces in Europe.  It was a little tight for a big guy like myself but it was clean and comfortable with a large window, that when opened, brought in a welcome cool breeze.

 Mariahilfer Strauss / West View
We dropped our bags and were quickly on the move, wanting to maximize what we could see of the city during our brief overnight visit.  It was so fortunate that we were so centrally located and just a short distance away from Maria-Theresien Platz, the Hofburg, and Volksgarten.  However, our first order of business was to obtain much needed nourishment and within a few minutes our students had sniffed out a nearby American icon... McDonald's!  When in Vienna?  Come on man!  I later researched to discover Vienna has 17 McDonald's locations within the city.  Good Grief!  I couldn't help but venture inside to check it out and compare the Austrian version to the original back home.  With the World Cup Soccer Tournament in full swing, there were several variations of the quintessential Big Mac advertised on the overhead menu.  The nation's of the remaining teams working their way toward the championship match, each had their own ethnic version available for purchase.  I stayed long enough to use the bathroom and then quickly exited back out into the street, seeking a more foreign food choice that didn't have the McDonald's logo attached.

Mariahilfer Strauss / East View
Directly across the way was a small walk-in eatery called Turkrs Take Away that looked my speed.  I ordered a Turkish-Greek-Hungarian specialty called chicken nudeln, which was a combination of noodles, roasted chicken, and shredded cabbage, mixed with a slightly spicy sauce prepared hot on the grill as I waited.  The friendly server wore a pressed white paper hat and served his culinary creation in a cardboard box container to go.  He spoke English with a very strong accent and asked me where I was from and welcomed me to the city.  I ventured outside and rejoined the rest of my group eating in the outdoor seating area just outside the home of Ronald McDonald.  The city street was so relaxing and I was immediately drawn to the matching rows of tall trees that ran parallel down both sides of the street.  I couldn't identify what kind of trees they were but their tall lien stature with light green foliage suited their surrounding environment perfectly.  They provided some shade but their small fern-like leaves also allowed sun to penetrate down to the street below.  It was a great location to sit, relax, and watch the world pass by...

 Colorful Streets of Vienna
We gathered everyone back together and took a count, one of many roll calls that became standard operating procedure during our adventure.  Each of our students was assigned one of the sites we planned to visit today.  They researched their assigned topic of interest while traveling on the train and would now act as tour guides as we made our way through our planned route.  The city was vast with collections of interconnected buildings but also wide-open spaces that contained museums, government buildings, and beautiful gardens.  There were more pedestrians than vehicles making their way about the city streets, which did not feel crowded like New York and Philadelphia.  In contrast, many American cities can feel claustrophobic with an abundance of people and traffic congesting the streets, wedged between the rows of tall office buildings.  New York City always reminds me of a complex maze with walled in pathways expanding outward in every direction with no escape.  Vienna seemed to be of a much more slower pace with less noise pollution.  It was a beautiful day, a true blessing when scheduling a visit so far in advance.  We arrived at the Hofburg Winter Imperial Palace, where we heard our first student presentation.  Stay tuned for our tour through the streets of history...  

Turkish Chicken Nudeln

Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014

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