Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The All Saints Day (01.11.2008)

The atmosphere wasn't as nostalgic as it usually is in Poland. But a little bit of it was floating somewhere in the air...

The cemeteries weren't as crowded as in Poland. In fact not many people come there. And the graves weren't really decorated, only here and there a candle or two or some flowers appeared. But this is it. Zentralfriedhoff – one of the largest and most beautiful cemeteries in Europe – seems to be the favourite destination for Poles today. Many of them were walking through it, many of them came just to visit the cemetery. Because it's full of monuments. It's were the most famous Austrian composers rest, e.g. Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms. There are also graves of painters and singers. In the middle of the cemetery stands a huge secession church, which houses few gravestones underground.

There is a separate part for small children on the cemetery. The graves are decorated with flowers, toys (e.g. small windmills) and angels. The Zentralfriedhoff is full of eccentric and interesting graves, some are quite modern, others neglected and forgotten.
The area near the church and the Beethoven's grave seem to be the most popular, as the greatest number of people come there. And, of course, there are some food stands in front of the cemetery that attract many people, as well. On the contrary, the stalls with flowers and candles don't attract so many customers.

In the evening I visited the other cemetery, called Hietzinger Friedhoff. This time there were just a few people, maybe because of the time of the day. It's a place of rest for many secession artists, the graves and statues take the various shapes and the whole area is divided in several groups marked with signs. But the order is completely illogical. So if you want to find a grave in a particular group, you may fail to do it.
The candles were a rarity here, silence reigned all around, the day was plunged in darkness...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Details (31.10.08)

You can look at something and fail to see it. Admire, without perceiving...

Few weeks passed before the continuous admiration for the beauty and size of Vienna diminished to such an extent that it revealed a great number of tiny details that form a brilliant unity.

You only have to look up, separate single stimuli and this is it! Done! The city changes in the twinkling of an eye.

These are my discoveries:

More in the album Vienna 2.

26th of October (26.10.08)

... is the National Day in Austria. On this day, in 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was signed and the government declared permanent neutrality.
The main celebrations took place on Heldenplatz. Military equipment was presented, the President gave his speech and an orchestra performed, as well. The most impressive was a possibility to ride down a special line, hung 35 m above the ground, across the Heldenplatz. I really wanted to do it, but I had to give up because of the huge queue.

A lot of people took part in the celebrations and suddenly a large number of food stands appeared on the square. There were stands with Sturm, as well.
What’s the most attractive about this day are the museums. Many of them were free of charge or at reduced price. So, two weeks after the Museums’ Night we had a Museums’ Day.

We used the unique opportunity to visit the chancellor’s office, which was especially attractive because of its green room. That’s were the ministers debate. Each seat was signed with a name, so many visitors sat on the place of a famous politician and took plenty photos. We did it, too.
Then we headed towards the National Library. One of its rooms, the Prunksaal, has been very richly decorated – with columns, frescos, statues, old books. The spirit of history floats in the air. The rich decoration attracts visitors’ attention.
At the end we went to Museum of Technique. But to be honest, to visit its all rooms, you’d have to spend there at least two days. Because there’s everything. From engines of ships, vacuum cleaners, and toilets to food. Why not. It presented variety of interesting details, a lot of old machines, instruments and devices. But you really need a lot of energy to register each detail.

What struck me the most was the... chocolate show. We had a possibility to try various kinds of chocolate (e.g. with chili) and watch the complicated process of preparing sweets (e.g. truffles). Of course, there were plenty interactive exhibitions, but they were not so impressive as the ones I saw in the Museum of Science and Technique in Las Palmas. Anyway, the old telephones, cameras, coffee machines, coaches, cars and bikes alsohappen to be interesting...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Zelezny Brod (22.05.08)

The town is situated near Liberec, was built in XI century and it is modestly hidden in the shade of surrounding mountains. Walking through Zelezny Brod, you will come across slight rises and ascents.
The town is famous for the glass production and wonderful green areas. There’s gallery and theater in the center, there are also 2 schools, empty church, few shops. It’s a good idea to visit the Museum of the Town, which is situated near a historic rout “Travniky”, full of old wooden houses. The museum presents the history of the town and depicts it with various minerals, school furniture, models of a bakery and civil houses...

Zelezny Brod is especially charming in winter, when snow covers the serene town, the Old Market id decorated with a huge Christmas tree and the peace floats in the air...

Prague (16.05.08)

They say: the most beautiful! The most charming! It’s described in hundreds various magazines and guidebooks around the world. It attracts tourists from distant places.

Prague. I will always perceive it as silent, modest, not affected by mass tourism, full of charming and interesting spots. I discovered it about 10 years ago, spent there two weeks, living in a student house on a Petrin hill. I visited various places, less and more popular and I breathed the artistic atmosphere of the city. And I did go back there. This time only for few hours, to look at Prague from different point of view, from different height and perspective...

It’s the most beautiful when the sun rises, in a clear, winter morning...

It seems that 8am is not a painfully early hour, even if you need to climb a steep narrow lane and lean forward above the high wall to catch sight of a waking city...

And this is already after the sunrise, but still very charming...

And now my favourite fountain:

Kahlenberg (26.10.08)

That’s the hill (484m.a.s.), from which Sobieski gave instructions to his army in the battle with Turkey. Now there’s a church with an information board on it. It says that the king prayed here before the battle. The Pope Jon Paul II also visited this church, as the board informs.

The hill is situated on the outskirts of the city. The journey from the center took about 1 hour by underground and bus. But it was worth it. The view from the top is marvellous! The next place to admire the panorama of the city. Well, it is somehow affected by mass tourism – there’s a hotel, cafe and a souvenir shop on the hill. At least it wasn’t crowded, as it is not the most popular time of the year for visiting such places. It was quite cold, foggy and windy, but I enjoyed it.

On our way down from the hill, we visited an old cemetery, which was quite neglected, by the way. The autumn played for us a colorful, silent performance, showing its beauty and pride. But it failed to dispel the fog, so the panorama pics weren’t that impressing.
The path lead us to a winery, which presents a wonderful view on the Donau River. The nearby Heuriger (a special wine house that sells its own young wines, Heurigers are very popular in Austria) sells good wine and grape juice. We ordered a delicious apple cake, even two kinds of it.
Leading the path, we finally reached the sign with the writing „Wien”. So we entered the border of the city. Nice and charming homes stretched along the narrow street and the whole area was mysteriously silent. Then we arrived to Kahlenberger Strasse and discovered the statue of Beethoven from XIX century. Few meters further we found a composer’s home and then... the next composer’s home.

More and more Heurigers emerged on the street and finally we reached the 19th Bezirk (district) and got on a dreamy tram that took us back home...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mariahilferstrasse and Haus des Meeres (25.10.08)

Almost like in Oxford Street and almost under water...

Mariahilferstrasse is famous of the huge number of shops. You’ll find everything here, each brand that has its shops in other places in the city. Very often the street is described as an equivalent of Oxford Street in London. Well, it’s a bit too much, if you ask me, but whatever...
Of course, the shops attract crowds of tourists and the street is especially crowded at weekends and in afternoons. Near Mariahilferstrasse there’s Haus des Meeres (Oceanarium), which is situated in a very strange building. It’s a kind of high tower that was used to protect the city during Nazi times. There were rockets inside, too.

The Oceanarium consists of 11 floors. The top one is a viewing terrace that presents a wonderful panorama of the city. Next 3 floors house an exhibition of security towers in Vienna and then on 8 floor the real Oceanarium begins (well, it begins on ground floor, of course, but it’s recommended to visit the building from top to down and that’s the order in which I describe it). In fact, the decent number of floors doesn’t mean there is a huge number of animals. The floors are quite narrow and, for example, the biggest aquarium stretches through 2 floors. But it’s a home for many various fish. There are sharks, colorful small fish, huge turtle. Other floors are dwelled by colorful birds, butterflies, insects and reptiles. Not very “oceanic” as for an Oceanarium.

But it is worth visiting, even if it’s only to see how the animals approach people. We had a real close encounter with a bird with orange beak and a small monkey that was staring at us for a long time...
And one more interesting thing about shopping. Neubaugasse. It connects Mariahilferstrasse with our neighborhood. And it’s an Indian-Paradise: Indian shops, restaurants... but it lacks temples:) And the real Indian prices:)

Simultaneous interpreting (20.10.08)

...something that does not exist at my home university in Poland...

During my studies at University in Poznań all we found out about the simultaneous interpreting was that there is something like that. Of course, there was some theory as well, but that's it. Nothing more. Here, in Vienna, we have a possibility to do the real simultaneous interpreting .

First of all, the rooms are excellently well equipped. The interpreting is taught in one room only, which has 6 special cabins, each for 2 interpreters. As in real life situations. I thought it would be extremely difficult to listen and interpret at the same time. But our genius teacher does all to make it easier and harmless for us. Today, for example, we did shadowing all the time. It consists in simultaneous listening and repeating. In the same language, of course. At the beginning we shadowed very slow texts that were prepared for beginners. But then we did the real speeches, which was not so easy anymore. Especially, when it was in German and extremely fast.
Well, I must admit I like working in the cabin. All the technique, buttons, devices, no one watches me, no audience. The only disadvantage is that you really need thorough knowledge on variety of subjects. And the resilience to stress is important, too. Well, we’ll see. And maybe one day we’ll have similar equipment at our uni in Poznań...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Comparative analysis or why UW is better than UAM (20.10.08)

Vienna University is different than Poznań University... almost in every respect. I dare say that everything is better here. Well, maybe there is one little exception. The way the studies are being modernized (the division into BA and MA studies) is quite strange, seems to take a lot of time and it’s unnecessarily complicated. Maybe there are few more exceptions, can’t think of them now...
First of all – the building. The Vienna University resembles a museum. It’s richly decorated, with wonderful columns, pictures, marble, statues and, my favourite one, a huge courtyard with green grass and plenty deckchairs. The other buildings are impressing, too. Each has computer rooms with free Internet access, canteens, large libraries and self-service photocopiers. If you want to use them, you need to buy a special card first.
The building where we have our classes is also much better than the HCP (that’s the name of the building which houses the Applied Linguistics in Poznań). One of the entries is situated in a park. So, if you wish to, the way to the Uni can lead through the green and flowered area. The rooms inside are quite well marked, which is a good solution, because... they’re not logically numbered and situated and a lot of time passes since you finally find your way through this big chaotic maze.

As it comes to the library, I only visited the reading room. But it is fine. The only stupid thing about it, is that you need to leave all your belongings in a special locker, before coming in. And the lockers are on a floor beneath the library. The lazybones leave their jackets and bags in front of the entry, near the window.
Oh, and one more disadvantage. There’s really few Polish-German dictionaries in the reading room. In this respect our Polish library wins the competition. But there are plenty other languages here.
As I’ve already mentioned, the rooms are equipped very well, contrary to the interiors of the HCP building in Poznań. The lecture rooms are real lecture rooms, the multimedia rooms are much better, as well. I don’t know anything about other faculties in Vienna. Maybe the science faculties at UAM doesn’t fall behind the UW at all...
Oh yes, and the classes. UW teaches how to become a real translator/interpreter. I don’t claim that UAM fails to do that, but the classes at UW are much more interesting than the classes at my faculty in Poznań. Simultaneous interpreting, translation of subtitles, web sides and documents, project management, terminology connected with various area, translation memory tools, rhetoric and many other interesting subjects. And what’s the most important – our teachers are not only qualified lecturers but also experienced translators or interpreters, helpful and friendly. I don’t claim we lack such people in Poznań, it’s just more common here...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Heute (20.10.08)

... it'a a free newspaper, similar to Polish 'Metro' or 'Echo miasta':)

But it's not handed out. It just lays on special stands near underground stations. And it's off very quickly. About 11 a.m. there's usually none left.

In Austria tabloids belong to the most popular papers. Every day over 1 mln people read 'Kronen Zeitung' and it is said that it's the most often read newspaper in the world. And 'Heute' is the most popular free paper. At least in Vienna. If yuo really want to catch up on the latest world news, you won't find much in 'Heute'. It contains a lot of gossips and unimportant items. But it does inform a bit about the most important events in Austria and in other countries. For example since Joerg Heider's death (the president of Land Kaernten, leader of BZO union, very controversial politician, who opposed EU and spread nationalist ideas) 'Heute' publishes articles about him every day. About his accident, about all the mysteries and riddles connected with it (he was drunk and drove 170 km/h), about his funeral, about bequest, and so on and on... It seems it's a topic number 1 now. Oh, yes, there is some news about the recession, news from Vienna and a short discription of upcoming cultural events. And the other pages are all about gossips, ads and unimportant things. It's a kind of light reading, ideal for five-minute-travel by underground. That's exactly the distance we cover daily to get to our university...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hundertwasserhaus and Donauturm (19.10.08)

or: magic of colours and shapes. And then 200 meters above the ground...

In a place where Kegelgasse and Lowengasse cross something strange towers above the ground. It's a house designed by Master Hundertwasser. But all we can do with it, is to admire the building from outside. This is now a normal living house so the entrance is restricted. Unless you live inside.

The house really is amazing with its crooked lines, intensive colours, various shapes of windows and balconies... There's a fountain, as well. And opposite the house there's a next Hundertwasser's miracle, Kalke-Village. The old Michellin factory. Now it's transformed into a typical tourist attraction: cafés, souvenir shops and a “modernistic toilet”. Quite an interesting place.

Hundertwasserhaus is of course constantly surrounded by crowds of tourists, photographers, guided tours... I do feel sorry for the people who live here. Their house is on thousands of photos and there's almost always someone staring at their windows...

We visited Donaturm, as well. It's a 252 meters high tower, the highest building in the city. The viewing terrace is at 152 meters and it offers a wonderful panorama of Vienna and tempts with bungee jumping. Fortunately, it was closed. I'm afraid I would be brave enough to jump...
20 meters above the viewing terrace there's a restaurant that moves around, very slowly, 1 meter per hour. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get inside. It's already booked for the next several months. But there's a cafe below it.

Our Sunday trip finished in a traditional way. In a restaurant. This time opposite the City Hall we ate delicious Knodle with eggs. An Austrian meal. It was so satiating that it was hard to get up and climb up few meters towards our student house.

Jaipur (28.02.08)

From Ajmer to Jaipur it's only 2 hours by train.
The very first thing we do after the arrival is the long search for some decent accommodation. Well, in fact we've already found it in the guidebook. Now we need to get there, which is not so easy. The map really sucks. We ask a policeman about the way. He tries to help us, but in vain. Crowds of people on the streets, noise, dust... The pure India.

Finally we get to the hotel. Evergreen Guest House. But there's something wrong. It's 300 rupees for a room. No, thank you. It's not worth it. So we walk along narrow streets, asking for another rooms. 400 rupees – they must be kidding!
Ashiyana Hotel. Phew, we're back to the decent prices. 200 without bathroom, 250 – with it. We haggle with the owner and he lets us stay in the room with a bathroom for 200 r. It's not as good as in Pushkar (well, nothing will be as good as Pushkar to be honest), but it's not too lousy. The walls are dirty, there's no hot water. But we have 2 beds, a chair, table... Do we need anything more?
Well, maybe a bit of calm. But there's no time to relax. We set off to discover the charms of Jaipur.

First the Old City, called also the Pink City. We get there after 15 minutes, struggling through the dusty and crowded streets, trying not to get angry at annoying vendors.
Finally, the gate. Should be pink. Everything should be pink here. Am I blind or is it really orange? Or orange-ish. The walls of the Old City are decorated with white ornaments.
There are some fruit stalls next to the gate, so we buy some mandarins and something like plums. Few beggars are preparing their mobile beds near the gate. We head towards the main street, walking along narrow streets, towards the famous bazaars. Well, either it's too late or we're too tired... but it seems that this city is really overrated. The bazaars are not impressive at all – there are just usual products, saris, scarfs, nothing special. Maybe we've got to the wrong place. We''ll come back here tomorrow to find the real charm of the city. It must be somewhere, we must have missed it.
Streets in Jaipur make me feel extremely exhausted. Especially in the evening. Horns are on all the time, dust pushes into my tired eyes. Now we're looking for a restaurant. But the main street offers only the posh ones. There's also a lot of jewellery shops, fashion shops, luxurious hotels. No place for typical cheap Indian bars. Finally we find one. But there's lassi only. Well, it seems there's only McDonald with veg meals left. Yes, I'm not a fan of McDonald (to be honest I dislike it strongly) but... seems I have no choice. At least it offers plenty vegetarian items. And a normal toilet. And a shelter from ever-watching Indians.
At the end of the day we visit an Internet Café. Quite expensive but at least the connection is not as slow as in Delhi.
Back in hotel I try to relax and forget about the noise, get rid of the dust. Plans for tonight? Sure: cure my cough and fever. And get ready for the cold night...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Karlskirche, flea market and colourful houses (19.10.08)

Although we've been here for 3 weeks only, we already have our Sunday tradition. Each week we attend the Holy Mass in a different church. And then we eat a traditional Austrian dish in a restaurant. Of course – each time it's a different one.

Today we went to Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church). So far it's our favourite. We like it more than the Cathedral and the Church in our district (Piaristenkirche). And I mean here both aspects – the Mass and the interior. The latter is really interesting. Baroque. With colourful frescos on the ceiling, huge statue of St. Charles above the altar surrounded by golden rays. When the sun shines, the rays reflect its light and the altar looks amazing.

In front of the church there is a water basin with the statue of Henry Moore in it. And next to it there is a strange red kiosk with the writing “the room of the night” on it. The idea is that you have to go inside and look through the dark windows. And that's how the Karlskirche and Karlsplatz look at night. Night view during a day. Why not.

Then we headed towards Naschmarkt to see what we failed to notice last time: colourful and original buildings constructed by Otto Wagner in XIX century. One of them is called Majolikahaus. The other has no name. And both are situated on the Linke Wienzeile Street, number 40 and 38.

We met a woman that attends the same classes as we do and found out that there's a flea market few subway stations from where we were. So we went there.
But it wasn't that impressive... Antiques, books, cups, dishes, jewellery, various unnecessary things. I heard that flea markets are very popular in Vienna and sometimes you can even get a bike for 10 Euro! I need to check it.

And afterwards we finally visited a house constructed by Hundertwasser. But that's in the next post:)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Opera (18.10.08)

Vienna is a real concert city. And an opera city. That's why a visit to the opera is a must...

and we did it today. The price was only 3 Euro, because we bought standing places. Otherwise we would have to pay at least 50 times more. But to save this money you need to spend a lot of time in a queue and then fight for the best place. Endurance and patience are indispensable.
Maybe it is quite tiring to stand almost 3 hours, but it is worth it.

The interior of opera house is even more amazing than the building from outside. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera with me, but soon I'll upload some pics in the albums below. Cos' we're goinr there again! Asap!

Standing places are normally occupied by students, tourists, and those who didn't manage to buy the seating ones. The way people are dressed is really diversified. From smart, elegant dresses (usually in the seating area) to jeans or sportswear (standing area).
It's really good that there is a standing area at all. With special bars and screens with subtitles.
Now, the play itself:
it was in Italian, of course, “La Traviatta” by Verdi and each seat was equipped with a small screen with subtitles. There were to languages to choose from – German or English. We saw the English subtitles in the row in before us and the German – just in front of us. So I could compare the translation in these two languages. The German was quite complicated – with difficult, old words. The English was much clearer.
Of course I did like the play – the singers, the decoration, everything was just perfect.
The only disadvantage was the lack of air-condition, so it was quite hot. But I know it's becaouse of the singers, well, because of their voice. And one more thing – there was a guy with a terrible breath behind us... Completely unadequate the the opera...