Viennese Train Adventures
As crazy as it sounds, one of the best experiences I had in Vienna, Austria, was catching the train. Catching the train was a process I had to make peace with, but in the end, it was very rewarding. At first, figuring out the system was difficult. I grew up in a rural county ruled by tractors and pickup trucks, so I never had any exposure to how the process worked.
My second day in Vienna, I decided that I wanted to check in early for the European Geoscience Assembly, where I would be presenting my research. Taking the train was the most convenient transportation to get there. After fumbling around with the train ticket kiosk, I grabbed my ticket and eagerly disappeared from the long line I had created.
The real fun began when I reached the platform. I was immediately overwhelmed by all the signs in German and the rushing crowds of people. Google Maps was my guide, but the lack of wifi prevented me from receiving constant and accurate updates. One word of advice is to definitely to get an international phone plan with internet because depending on free wifi, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Also, familiarize yourself with the language of the country you are visiting. Although many Viennese people speak English, it helps to know basic conversation in German. With these factors combined, I was stranded at the station for about an hour. It wasn’t until I had the courage to ask others for directions, did I catch the correct train. Thanks to a nice elderly lady who helped me, I was able to leave that station of confusion. Another word of advice is don’t be afraid to ask for directions especially if you are not familiar with the area you’re traveling in. The people in Vienna were really nice and welcoming. They never made me feel like a tourist despite how obvious it was.
After that scary adventure, my feeling towards the train changed. I reached the center, checked in, and met up with one of my mentors. We then decided to go sightseeing which strengthened my ability to navigate the city. I could finally understand the routes and effectively seek my destinations. This ability was such as confidence boost; I felt like I was in a movie starring as the strong independent lead who learns to navigate the city and her life (haha). Mastering the train allowed me to go where ever I wanted in the city, and that was a fantastic feeling. Most of Vienna’s historical sites were only a couple miles away from my hotel and the conference center. As a result, I visited a ridiculous amount of museums and historical sites.
The train allowed me to visit Mozart’s apartment, where I learned about his life story, lovers, and extravagant habits. It also enabled me to visit St. Peter’s Catholic Church, whose architecture was exquisite and catacombs rich with Popes and plague victims. The best place the train lead me was the Belvedere Palace. Once the summer home for the Prince Eugene of Savoy, the palace was acquired by Empress Maria Teresa’s who turned part of it into a museum for art. The museum contains some of the world’s most renowned art pieces. One of the most famous pieces it has is Gustav Klimt’s “Kiss.” When I figured this out, I couldn’t believe my luck. I had seen the piece in several movies and never though I would see it in real life. The craziest part about going to see the art was that there was an actual wedding taking place in front of it. I witnessed a bride and groom marry and kiss under the ‘Kiss.” If that is romantic and amazing, I don’t know what is.
So I appreciated how the train allowed me to navigate the city. Although I struggled with it at first, its benefit of convenience really made a difference in my experience. It gave me a sense of independence and adventure. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to make real-life connections with Vienna people and their culture. So next time you are in a new place or city, take the train because you’ll never know what adventures or lessons it could hold.