Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ticket to Awesome

I have decided that this summer, I'm going to do something extraordinary. 

Something that is cool, no matter how well or how poorly you do it. 
Something that I'm pretty sure everyone secretly wants to do. 
Something that changes your status from average Joe to coolest person in the room.
Something I have been wanting to learn for years.

I'm talking about break dancing. 

Oh yeah. 

These fellas hang out in front of the Stephansdom and put on quite a show. A part of me wants to just jump out there and show them what I've got. Then I remember. I've got nothing. Better change that.

Break dancing instantly makes people awesome. Imagine if I could break dance. I could be awesome, too. And when you reach a certain unquantifiable unit of awesome, you can spin on your head. Awesome.

Friday, March 23, 2012


I went to the Hundertwasserhaus.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser is the architect of this building. He loved bright colors. He opposed straight lines, opting for a more "organic" approach in architecture. Like the ground of the earth is not perfectly level and flat, so the floors in these apartments are not level and flat. He believed that all windows do not need to be the same size. He also loved to use ceramic tiles as accents.

When Hundertwasser was born, his real name was Friedrich Stowasser. Sto, or "сто," in slavic languages, such as Russian, means one hundred. He simply replaced sto with the German word for one hundred, hundert. I'm not sure why he made the change. Early on in his career, he just started signing his paintings and works as Hundertwasser instead of Stowasser. He also changed his first name from Friedrich to Friedensreich. Later he also added two more middle names. Who knows why. He's an artist/architect so we don't need to ask questions. Also, his family was Jewish, so the change may have been prompted to hide from Hitler and his men. That sounds like a good reason.

It was pretty cool to walk up to this apartment complex. At first you see the crazy colors, the funky architecture and then the sidewalk.

I love all of the colors that he uses. I also love what he does with plain and boring walls. It is something so simply, yet it really gives the wall some character. Photo shoot, anyone?

Oh wait... a photo shoot totally happened (Thanks for tagging along Julia). She could totally use this as a recital poster/facebook profile/dating card. Something like this is destined to happen when you hang out with me. Also, that'll be 50 Euro, Julia.

I'm pretty sure it is impossible to not be happy here. All of these little details just makes one smile and feel and little bit younger inside.

And when you feel a little bit younger inside, you are able to do cool things...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Church

I finally visited a church I have been wanting to visit since I got to Vienna. The Church of the Most Holy Trinity. It was just as cool as I imagined it in my head. It is constructed entirely of slabs of concrete that are basically just stacked together in no apparent pattern. So cool. I just love it. All of the gaps and spaces between the blocks are covered with glass.

I really wanted to climb all over it. It was just asking me to do it. Fortunately, for them, they made the cement blocks way bigger than me and I couldn't get up there. 
This easily is one of my favorite churches in all of Vienna just because it is not like any of the other churches to which I have been. I could not stop thinking about how cool it would be if my church meeting house looked like this. This would just be fantastic! Even cooler, what if this was what my future home looked like. 

I like that idea much better...

*note to my future wife*
Can our house please look like this? Please? 
That's all I'll ever ask of you.
...and a kitchen with lots of carbon fiber.
That's all.
I'll still love you forever if you say no.

Best of all, I'd never have to get a calendar or wear a nasty watch. There's a built-in sundial and solar calendar right behind.

The pillar with the circle at the top is how you tell what month it is. When the sun is at its highest, at noon, it casts a shadow on the ground where there are several plates indicating what time of year/month it is. Pretty neat.

Yes, I was there exactly at 1:08pm. This thing really does work! It starts at 5:00 and goes to 19:00. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The best part about doing a study abroad in Vienna is that I get to stay with the most amazing Viennese family ever. Not only are they awesome, but they also know of cool places outside of Vienna and they take us there on little excursions.

Sunday afternoon, we headed to a place called Wachau. There used to be a huge castle, Dürnstein Castle, that stood there. It is now mostly ruins as it was almost entirely destroyed by the Swedish Empire in the mid-17th century. This castle is where King Richard I "Lionheart" of England was held prisoner in 1192.

This has a large part in the Robin Hood legend that many of us heard as children. King Richard was captured during the Crusades. His brother John assumes the throne and taxes and terrorizes the people. Robin Hood comes in and steals from the rich to give to the poor and strongly opposes John and awaits the return of the good King Richard. Pretty cool stuff.

Now if I were to be imprisoned somewhere, Dürnstein Castle would be at the top of my list. I mean, look at this!

I know, right? This place was beautiful and it was an amazing day. This place was meant to have some legends attached to it.

No spot in the ruins is off limits. You can go anywhere and climb on anything you want. They have basically left it as it is with no safety railings or fenced off areas. The only thing they have is a small sign.

Down below the castle is a small town that is encompassed by the castle walls.

Thanks to my amazing host family for taking me and my roommate there. It was so much fun. They are such an adorable little family.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beneath the Surface of Prague

One of the oldest cities in Europe is Prague. It epitomizes the stereotypical "large city in Europe." There are huge towering Gothic churches and plenty of orange roof tops. The landscape is almost entirely orange from above.

For my first few hours in Prague, I was a little disappointed to be honest. It was hustling and bustling with tons of tourists. I know that I was a tourist there, so I shouldn't be one to talk, but at least I wasn't lugging around a fanny pack, hawaiian shirt, water bottle and baseball cap. I at least try to blend in with my environment.

After being in the city for a while, I decided that I didn't like this place and that I couldn't wait for the next day to come so we could go back to Vienna. Quickly, I realized that I was looking at this city the wrong way. If I was to have a good and unique experience, I needed to look for the Prague that all the tourists weren't seeing. This all started with nighttime (I love nighttime in Europe. It's magical).

This was the front, top half of a church. It could easily be a castle. This was actually in the city center. There weren't as many people running around because the sun had gone down. I really wanted to make it over to the Danube to see what it had to offer me. Of course, this river never fails to deliver.

Beautiful bridges, bright lights and placid reflections. Absolutely gorgeous. In our travels, we even ran into the mini-Eiffel Tower.

I just wish that it was open all day and night. Then we could have climbed up there. I didn't want to imagine how many people would be up here during the day.

The next day, I was more excited to go out with my new perspective on what I should be looking for. I still didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but I think I found some things that made my trip very, very enjoyable.

This little group started off the morning. Who thought to put a bass, accordion, bassoon and a soprano sax-ish instrument together in an ensemble? Very charming sounds and they were very good players.

We saw them on our way up to Prague Castle. Inside of the castle was a very beautiful church. You could climb up one of the towers but had to pay a fee in order to do so. I decided that it would probably be the last time that I will ever be in Prague, so I went ahead and did it. My action was rewarded with two hundred ninety-something stairs, a great workout, a beautiful view and a sweet collectable coin. This is where I got the panorama from at the beginning of the post. Everyone looked like a bunch of ants running around.

Afterwards, we headed towards Charles' Bridge. On our way there, I found this.

A wonderful old lady making friends with the ducks. I should have bought some bread and done the same. She must have just finished her shopping. Her green, environmentally friendly bag was filled with her goods and I guess she just wanted to take a relaxing detour home.

We eventually made it to the famous Charles' Bridge, but I didn't really take any pictures of it. It was crawling with vendors and people. I could hardly see the bridge. It was a very beautiful bridge. I did manage to catch a little shot of it. You probably can't tell that it's a bridge, but I'm definitely standing on it.

A very rare window of opportunity opened this scene to me and I'm glad that I was ready when it happened. The bridge has several beautiful sculptures along the sides. This is just one of them.

Prague turned out to be very lovely and charming. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Budapest on the Light Side

This is Budapest. It is quite lovely there.

I went with 5 others from my group. It was a blast! I'd like for you to meet their backsides.

left to right :: Teancum, Lucy, Kristen, Julia's backpack and Julia

"Wait! Zach, didn't you say you went with 5 people?
Learn to count."

I know how to count.
There's a much better picture to introduce the other with."

"This better be good."

"Don't worry. 
In fact, I'll still only introduce her by her backside like I did the rest."

"That sounds fair enough...
I'd hate to see any special treatment of persons on this blog."

This is Michelle, working the shore of the Danube. Model.

I mentioned most of the things I loved in my previous post about Budapest. There was something magical about this place. Something I haven't felt in other places that I have been. It just felt good to be there. I'm probably a little biased, but that's okay. Everyone has their biases in life. Budapest is just on my good list.

Proof that I was actually in Budapest. 

Now, I'm sure that you were all enthralled by getting to know my friends by their backsides. I'll introduce them for who they really are.

left to right :: Teancum, Michelle, Julia, Kristen and Lucy

Friday, March 16, 2012

Vitamin D

There are very few things that can top just sitting in the sun.

Feeling its warmth
and its radiance.

I think today I'll just have a seat under the sun.

Sometimes it's nice to just simply relax.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jewish Memorials

*A note in advance: This is a heavy post. It weighs heavily on the emotions and contains subject matter from a very hard and sad time in European history. Read at your discretion.

I have had a chance to visit two Jewish memorials: one in Berlin and another in Budapest. The Holocaust is something that is rarely talked about in Europe, yet they don't ignore the fact that it happened. Memorials stand everywhere throughout Europe in memory of the innocent victims of this tragedy. 

The first memorial I went to was in Berlin. It has a name but no description, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The name of the architect that created it, Peter Eisenman. He gives no insight into what it means. He leaves that up to us.

This monument takes up an entire block in Berlin and is simply just large blocks of concrete arranged in rows and columns. Visitors are welcome to walk through and choose any path they would like. As I started my journey in, I could easily see where I was going and could make decisions as to what path I wanted to take. As I progressed deeper into the monument, the concrete blocks grew taller and taller.

They were easily twice as tall as me and before I knew it, I couldn't see much and it got much darker. Not only that, my two friends that I was with decided to take different paths and were not seen again until we exited the monument. Essentially, I could see in front of me and I could here the voices of others echoing through the corridors. 

For me, this was a representation of the Jews being taken to the gas chambers or other modes of execution. They were quickly separated from loved ones knowing their fate that awaited. It was shocking to experience even such a minuscule  part of that.

There is a museum that is at one end of the monument that tells the stories of some of the victims. Some survivors. Some taken by the events. The most difficult room to enter had several letters to family members or pages from journals/diaries describing the events. Their feelings they expressed we so tangible and real. Fear. Distress. Sadness. Hopelessness. Despair. Terror. 

The second memorial I went to was by accident. It is placed right along the Danube in Budapest and we just happened to stumble upon it. The memorial is titled Shoes on the Danube Promenade

This is one of the sites where the Jews from Budapest were taken, shot and then dumped into the river. This was the work of the Arrow Cross Militiamen. Shoes were first removed before execution because they were valuable possessions. The saddest part of this monument was seeing the different kinds of shoes from male to female and toddler to adult. The only criteria for execution was to have some kind of association with the Jewish faith.

The most important thing that these memorials do for me is to serve as a voice of warning. Nothing like this should ever happen. It's hard enough to think to myself "how could something as horrid as this even happen?" This is why we can not take anything for granted and we should always fight for the things in this world that are good and uplifting. The fact is, something like this could happen again. It is a disgusting and revolting thought but I believe that there is enough good in this world that would never allow this kind of evil to happen again.