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  • Writer's pictureKiah May

Castles, Wiener Philharmoniker, and a Perfect Day



Hallo (Norwegian), Hallo (German), and Ahoj (Slovak) again friends! I hope all is well.


The last two weeks consisted of 3 new countries and tons of new memories. School is still picking up, but I am happy to report that I am getting better at writing essays in Spanish. I'm looking forward to enjoying a weekend at home this weekend, hanging out with friends and more exploration of Madrid. Anyway, without further ado...


Tromso, Norway

Perfect days don't come along very often, I will be the first to admit that, but when they do, they are magical.

Awaking to a snowy paradise, I set out on an adventure around the small fjords of Sommarøy and Hillesøy. About 10 minutes into my walk, I got caught in a very Colorado-like hail storm that beat down for about 5 minutes then cleared completely. I then headed up the Hillesøy "mountain". I think that the small size of the hill may have given me a little too much confidence as I will say that the hike was one of the hardest I've ever done. The uphill portion mostly consisted of pulling myself up with the ropes along the trail. Along the way, I had the good fortune of meeting a Norwegian man and his daughter who offered to show me an easier and more beautiful route down the mountain. "More beautiful" doesn't nearly do the view justice. It was breathtaking. Below are a bunch of photos of the wilderness, most from the hike, but a couple from other places.

Beach at the end of the hike

View from the top of the hike

Looking over the Fjords on the hike

Bay in Tromsø City

Looking over the Fjords on the hike

Reindeer Friend found along the drive


After a safe descent, about 50% of which was done sliding down the hill on my butt, I made it back to the hotel and had a lovely cup of tea to warm up a bit. It was then a slight trek through the snow to the outdoor jacuzzi which was lovely until I had to run back inside barefoot because it was too cold to get my shoes back on. After warming up, I had a lovely dinner which consisted of halibut and raspberry tart. After hanging out reading for a bit, we heard that the northern lights might peek out from behind the clouds. Bundled up again, I grabbed another cup of tea and headed out into the frozen tundra. After about an hour of waiting (and multiple runs back inside to warm up) the sky turned a very slight shade of green. Over the next 20 minutes, the colors showed their true magic. It was incredible.


The Northern Lights


Norway was amazing! In addition to the incredible views and northern lights, the food was also delicious. I love seafood and Norway had some of the best salmon and halibut that I've ever had. In addition, my chocolate addiction was satisfied with an amazing chocolate cake.


Incredible food from Norway including Salmon, Reindeer, and Halibut


Next up, my current favorite city:

Vienna, Austria

My day started with a really nice brunch at The Good Coffee Society after which I headed to the Prater Amusement Park. As it was winter, most of the rides were closed, however I was able to ride the Prater Ferris Wheel and got a spectacular of the entire city!

One of the joys of solo travel is the people we meet along the way. In this case, I met a really nice girl from Sweden and we explored the city together. After taking the train to the city center, we came across the Votivkirche (church) and then took a beautiful stroll through the city towards the Jewish Museum. On the way, we passed by the Sisi Museum and the Palace. The museum was obviously challenging, but interesting to gain an understanding of the Jewish history specific to Vienna (more on this later). After the museum, we headed to St. Stephen's Cathedral which was beautiful. On the way back to the hotel, I got schnitzel, which was amazing!

Votivkirche

Sisi Museum at the Hofburg Palace

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Charles Church (I saw it on the way to the concert)


After an amazing day exploring the city, I had the incredible opportunity to see the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein. The concert was absolutely stunning. It was wonderful to listen to the incredible musicians in such a storied venue.

Musikverein

Wiener Philharmoniker


After an amazing concert and a good nights sleep, I headed through the city to join a walking tour. On the way, I saw the gorgeous State Opera House. The tour started outside the Albertina museum, which I didn't have the opportunity to visit, but definitely will when I return to Vienna. The tour took us through the garden at the Hapsburgs' Winter Palace (Hofburg) (The Hapsburgs had two palaces in Vienna the other is the Schönbrunn slightly outside the city, which I want to visit on a return trip as well). The garden showcased a modest statue of Francis Joseph (in juxtaposition with other statues of the Hapsburg rulers that are shown as Roman gods) as well as a statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The tour then continued to the front of the Palace to Hero's Square which contains statues of Archduke Karl, the first person to defeat Napoleon and Price Eugene of Savoy, a renowned military commander. We walked through the courtyard of the palace, seeing one of the ostentatious Roman God-like statues. During a small snack break I tried Kaiserschmarrn (literal translation "Emperor’s nonsense") which is a scrambled pancake dish with fruit and marmalade. The story goes that the dish was made for Empress Elisabeth of Austria who wanted a new food to impress her guests. She didn't like the food, so Francis Joseph finished it, asking the Empress to "pass that nonsense". And so the Kaiserschmarrn was born. After our quick snack break, we saw the Spanish riding school which is dedicated to the training of Lipizzaner horses. The tour ended at St. Stephen's cathedral again. This time I climbed the 343 steps up the south tower for a beautiful 360° view of the city. Afterwards, I headed to the parliament building and the city hall. The buildings were pretty, but nothing particularly special. The one thing that did stick out was the massive ice rink near the city hall with tons of different tracks and 2 stories. I had a couple minutes before my next tour, so I got some Original Sacher Torte, which was good, but a little dry.


Roman God-like statue of one of the Hapsburgs

Original Sacher Torte


Now chocolate filled, I headed on a "Hitler in Vienna Tour". The tour was an interesting history lesson, but definitely difficult to hear. The first stop was a plaza where an apartment used to stand--It was bombed during the war. It now holds a couple statues, one of which commemorates the Jews that were forced to scrub the streets to clean them. We walked past the opera house, where Hitler watched the opera. Hitler spend a lot of time in Vienna, even homeless for some of it. Further, he wanted to attend The Academy of Fine Arts, but was rejected twice. We also went back to the Hofburg Palace, where Hitler announced the reacquisition of Austria into the German Reich on March 15, 1938. Hitler spent many years in Vienna and it is hard to capture all of it here so if you're interested, here is an article on him: https://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/homeless.htm

Seeing history, especially of this caliber and this horror is incredibly difficult. There was so much to process here. I will be the first to admit that I will never be able to do it justice here. Vienna is an incredible city and I will definitely be returning, if for no other reason that to give myself an opportunity to compartmentalize the history a little bit more.

Vienna State Opera House

Hofburg Palace


After a quick train ride from Vienna, I arrived in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. On the train in, the rolling hills gave me a hint of Golden, Colorado which made me smile. I do really miss home and all of you. After dropping my stuff off at the hotel, I headed to Devín Castle, the remains of a stone castle at the confluence of the Danube and Moravia rivers, just on the Slovakian side of the border. The castle its self was very interesting, but the surroundings and the rivers truly made the experience. I then headed to the Slavín memorial Which commemorates the Soldiers of the Red Army that gave their lives liberating Bratislava from the Nazis. Next up were the Grassalkovich Palace and the Blue Church and I was able to see a lot of the city in the process. Afterwards, I went to the top of the UFO tower (similar to the Space Needle), getting a great view of the city. However the best view of the Bratislava Castle was on the walk on the bridge that crossed the Danube. I then headed for dinner. I'm all for trying local food, but I must Say that Slovakian food is horrible. I had pierogies (like dumplings filled with potatoes) and two other types of potatoes (one with a bryndza, a sheep milk cheese, and the other with sauerkraut and some other sauce that I couldn't identify), none of which were good. After a 25000 step day, I finally got to chill for a bit, ready for tomorrow's adventure.

Overlooking the Danube at Devín Castle

Devín Castle

Devín Castle

Slavín Memorial

Grassalkovich Palace

Blue Church

Bratislava Castle


I woke up and set out for the Bratislava Castle which was interesting and a contrast to the extravagance of the Hapsburgs' palaces in Vienna. The inside was simpler despite still housing Maria Theresa at times. Not to say it was drab, just not flamboyant. I then went on a walking tour that encapsulated much of the history of the City. We saw the famous Set of Statues, the Old Town and its town hall, and Primate's palace. Finally we say the Holocaust memorial and St. Martin's Cathedral. Overall, Bratislava wasn't my favorite, it could never compete with the charm of Vienna, but it had its moments and would make a good day trip if you have more than 4 days in the Vienna area.

Inside Bratislava Castle

Gate at the Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Statues

Holocaust Memorial

St. Martin's Cathedral

Old Town Hall

Primate's Palace


I spent this weekend at home, recovering a bit and compartmentalizing everything from the last month. I love Madrid and will be exploring Spain a bit over the next month.

That's all from this side of the pond.

Love you and miss you all.

Con mucho amor,

Kiah


Activity Recommendations:

Good Vienna Tours

Bratislava Card (free entrance to some activities and free public transit)

Devín Castle (Bratislava)



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