End of the Year Appreciation

With today being December 31st, it is no secret that people nationwide are making last minute attempts at creating New Years Resolutions and fine-tuning their goals for the upcoming year. What I find interesting (even though I’m guilty of it as well) is that so many of us wait until January 1st to begin to follow through with ways we believe will better us. If our resolutions don’t work, or if we simply cannot stick to the plan we set out for ourselves, well, there’s always next January 1st for us to try again.

If we could move past the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, we could work on continuously trying to better ourselves. Moreover, we’ll have an entire year to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, rather than just waiting for a “re-do” twelve months from now. What is important for us to remember during these upcoming weeks of “resolutioning” (a new verb that’s quite fitting for this time of year) is that one minor setback is not a failure; we must not allow ourselves to get discouraged if things do not go according to plan. There is always tomorrow to wake up refreshed and begin from where we last left off. If we can view New Year’s Resolutions as the Year’s Resolutions, maybe we won’t be so harsh on ourselves. And maybe we’ll realize that our goals can be fought for at any given moment of any given day—not just for the first few days in January.

With that being said, one goal that I set for myself this past year was to continue blogging, since I had taken an extended break before the year began. Just this year alone, individuals from all around the world stopped by my site to read what I had to say. To me, there would be nothing more rewarding than knowing that one person (not including my mother) occasionally glances through my site. However, to find out that more than 2,000 visitors from sixty-nine different countries read my thoughts, experiences, and stories throughout the year is beyond overwhelming.

Just this year alone, my blog has had more visitors than the last three years combined. To my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends from 2015, I extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude for your support. (In the tag section of this post, I’ve included the country of each visitor throughout this past year as a special way of saying thank you since it’s much easier than hand-written notes).

May 2016 be a year to remember, and may all of our resolutions come to fruition, regardless of any potential setbacks we may experience along the way. Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you, once again.


Last Day In Vienna, Austria

Today was our last day in Vienna, so we made sure to see whatever parts of the city we hadn’t yet seen. On our way out of the hotel, a collection of rare cars were actually driving past us on their way to a parade, so we got our own private a sneak peek!

We walked around the city, and came across a beautiful memorial, called Heldendenkmal, or the Soviet War Memorial built by the Soviets upon the liberation of Austria. In 1945, this memorial was built by the Soviet Army to commemorate the 17,000 Soviet soldiers who died during World War II in the Battle for Vienna. In 1955 when the troops withdrew and Austria became independent, a treaty was signed that included the fact that Heldendenkmal had to be maintained and could never be taken down. There have been various attempts to dismantle the memorial, but at the end of the day, historians have a point when they say that Heldendenkmal is important in remembering Vienna’s history.

We then walked through Stadtpark which is a beautiful park in the city, opened in 1862, making it Vienna’s first public park. Stadtpark has been called the richest park in Vienna due to the numerous monuments and statues that can be found throughout. The most well known monument in the park is one that commemorates Johann Strauss, an Austrian composer born near Vienna. One of his most famous works is “The Blue Danube,” which is the European Union’s longest river, found in Central and Eastern Europe. Other monuments in Stadtpark include ones for Franz Schubert, Franz Lehar and Robert Stolz, a marble statue of the painter, Hans Makart, bronze busts of composer, Anton Bruckner, Vienna Mayor, Andreas Zelinka, under whose governance the Stadtpark was laid out, and many more (http://www.wien.info).

After walking around the city, our group went out to dinner to celebrate our last night in the city, which also happened to be my last night on the trip before having to return home. Everyone else traveled to Prague the following day, but I had to fly back before school started. Luckily for us, this night was a part of a Viennese three-day harvest festival from Friday until Sunday at midnight. During this time, locals wear colorful dresses, short pants, and high-socks and celebrate with one another, which was evident since all the bars were packed! There is also a wine festival celebrated in Vienna which takes place during the first Sunday of October, but unfortunately we weren’t going to be there to celebrate.

A side note/interesting fact that we learned was that there is a pipeline system that comes to Vienna from the alps, which is why the water is so pure. This makes the taste of the water much more delicious and it is said to be softer water too, which can be noted when taking a shower. Since the water is so pure, no purification systems are needed, and one can drink straight from the tap!

Our dinner consisted of all traditional Viennese food including traditional salads, spreads, wine and beer, chicken and veal schnitzel, and of course apple strudel for dessert! This was the perfect way to end an incredible trip to Poland, Hungary, and Austria, all throughout Central Europe.

Day 1 In Vienna, Austria Continued

After our morning tour of Vienna, we drove around the city and continued our tour by bus. In 1898, a new art movement called Art Nouveau gained popularity, as its aim was to modernize design. Two of the first buildings in the city to be designed based off Art Nouveau can be seen pictured below. Green, white, and golden ornaments tended to be some of the more popular designs of this movement. And as you can see with the apartment buildings having been the first to undergo this movement, it is because 82 percent of the Viennese population live in apartments, so these buildings play an important role in the city.

The next building pictured below is also one from the Art Nouveau movement that is nicknamed the Golden Cabbage Head of Vienna. At first, people didn’t like Art Nouveau because it was so new and there was a conflict of the generations, so this nickname came about to spite the movement.  You can see how this movement began to sweep the city, by the coffee-house and subway, both in art nouveau style.

The red building is actually the home of Vienna’s Philharmonic where the Vienna New Year Concert takes place each year. Rumor has it that the concert originally began by the Nazi’s soldiers, but the concert has still survived after World War II. The New Year’s concert has been gaining a lot of popularity, with this year’s concert having been broadcast in over 90 countries worldwide and seen by 50 million people on television. When then passed by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, which is an art school of higher education. You can tell just how important the arts are in this city.

We quickly passed by Cafe Landtmann, which was Sigmund Freud’s favorite cafe, where he would go to study and work. As we continued driving, we passed Votivkirche, also known as the Votive Church Vienna, which took over twenty years to build. The city spends close to 30,000 euros to clean the building with a laser system, so you can bet that some of their prayers include praying for the building to stay clean. While passing the Votive Church, we came across St. Rupert’s Church which is arguably the oldest building in Vienna, dating back to 740. As you can see, the history in Vienna is truly remarkable.

Day 1 In Vienna, Austria

Today was our first day in Vienna, and the first stop in our morning city tour was to the Schönbrunn Palace, roughly translating to the palace of the beautiful fountain. All of the property was destroyed by the Turks but the Habsburg family began the property’s reconstruction in the 18th century (although the property itself belonged to the Habsburg family since the 16th century). It took sixty years to rebuild, and the project was started by the grandfather. He passed the project over to his son after a few years, and his son continued the construction. He then stopped years later as well, and his daughter, Maria Theresa finished the construction. Her father founded the Spanish Riding Center, which will be discussed in a later post, but Marie was 23 when she took over the reign of Austria. Her father had died suddenly, leaving only her and her sister behind. Nobody thought Maria Theresa would be an efficient leader since she was not prepared for such responsibility, but she ended up exceeding expectations.

Maria Theresa had 16 children in total, although some ended up dying at a young age. One passed away at childbirth and a few others during childhood due to smallpox. One of her children was Marie Antoinette, and her other children ended up residing all over Europe. Her granddaughter even ended up marrying Napoleon Bonaparte, so you can tell they were a very influential family, to say the least.

The Schönbrunn Palace has 1441 rooms all together. This particular palace was just a summer home, because clearly 1441 rooms aren’t enough for winter, spring, or fall. Another Habsburg Palace can be found elsewhere in Vienna, which will also be discussed in a later post, but all Habsburg homes were confiscated in 1918 once monarchy ended. The State took over the Schönbrunn Palace and in 1992, two investors took over the palace and renovated its original state, and reopened the palace to the public in 1996. Shortly thereafter, the Palace became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with over 2.7 million visitors a year, which is nearly six or seven thousand people per day!

Tiergarten Schönbrunn, which is the world’s first zoo, established in 1752 can be found behind the property as well, in addition to the beautiful Gardens of Schönbrunn. An interesting and miraculous fact is that with over 200 bombs having been dropped in Vienna during World War II, only one hit the palace. Ironically enough, the bomb hit the ceiling containing a picture of a war, but luckily, the bomb didn’t destroy it!

You can’t take pictures inside of the palace, so three of the pictures I’ve included below were taken from the following link, as were their descriptions (if you click on each individual picture). And if you’re interested in seeing more of the palace’s interior, feel free to click on the link below!


Last Day In Budapest and Night 1 In Vienna, Austria

Before leaving Budapest, we stopped off at Nagy Vasarcsarnok, also known as the Central Market Hall. On the first floor, you can find all kinds of foods, snacks, treats, vegetables, meats, and of course, paprika, the most important spice in Budapest. Clearly Budapest knows its target market too, because the entire second floor is dedicated to tourists, seeing as it’s filled with souvenir shops. Throughout our trip in Budapest, our tour guide told us that Vienna likes to brag about having the best strudel known to man. She mentioned that in Budapest, you can find all kinds of strudel that Vienna can’t even compare to. We had to put the strudel tasting to the test before heading to Vienna, so when we came across a strudel shop in the market, we naturally bought as many different flavors as possible. We bought an apricot-curd cheese strudel, a pumpkin-poppy seed one, a sour cherry-apple one, and a cabbage one too. As surprising as it was, the cabbage strudel was delicious and far exceeded our expectations. Vienna was going to have tough competition in this strudel taste-test.

Upon leaving Budapest, we passed a memorial for the 1956 Revolution, which remembers the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 that played a big role in the Soviet Union’s downfall years later.

Before arriving to our hotel in Vienna, Austria, we passed the Vienna Parliament Building. There is a statue of Pallas Athena in the front of the Parliament House, which is the goddess of wisdom. The running joke is that the only wisdom on the property is just the statue and not the people inside.

When we stopped off at our hotel, we had some downtime to settle into our hotel and change, before our evening excursion. Our excursion was a viewing of the “City of Music” show which featured the classical masterpieces of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss, two of Vienna’s most famous citizens. Mozart was a child prodigy who blossomed into one of history’s greatest composers and Strauss, also known as the Waltz King, composed the Blue Danube, which is the world’s most famous waltz.

Our group sat in the very first row of a small theatre, and to be quite honest, my sister and I thought we would end up falling asleep right in front of the orchestra. However, the music was incredible, and there were opera singers and dancers accompanying each song. There was something special about being in Vienna and hearing the beautiful sounds of Mozart and Strauss. And while I thought maybe the free champagne we received was what made it special, I have to say, listening to such intricate music and knowing that it had originated where we were sitting really made the experience that much more incredible. (But the free champagne definitely helped too!)