The Arrival Nightmare
My original plan was to start my daily travel journal as soon as I get here. But here’s been almost a week since I got to this place and let me tell you, time flies!
What started out as a simple organized 15 hour airplane trip with two short transits has ended up a nightmarish 31 hour madness. Starting out with my carrier handing me a boarding pass with the wrong gate and time which resulted in me missing my flight in Nashville, an approximately 3.5 hour delay in Chicago airport due to a brake malfunction, a rough landing in London due to fog and clouds, a heavy cavity search in London with only a 45 minute layaway, and a missing bag in Vienna. Luckily they had an English speaking package claim offices at the airport with the ability to instantly track your bags and ship it right to your doorstep once it’s been found. A few lessons to be learned when travelling internationally.
First few days in Vienna were easy other than the lack of sleep and stomach problems due to the difference in climate and time. I was received by a German speaking family residents so I had no problems finding my home, other than being inspected for tickets and having a minor misunderstand with a not-so-friendly ticket inspector. Lucky for me my family had already bought me what is called a “Monatskarte” or a monthly card, which should allow access to all public transporation for the price of 48,20 Euros. Not bad compared to the 200+ dollars per month I used to spend on gas back in good ol’ Tennessee. (I assume Monats means month and Karte means card in German). Speaking of which, I’ve noticed that many German words are relatively close to their English corresponding terms. However, reading was a lot easier for me that listening, and speaking is as of yet my biggest obstacle. On the bright side, many significant points of interest have English instructions and many people do speak English in case you need help. Although their English skills aren’t perfect but it’s still better than my German. XD
Vienna is a charming place. The cultural variety is quite staggering. In case you are looking for a place where Eastern & Western European cultures collide, this is where you would want to come. People are generally friendly in public. Although it seems that the concept of personal space is a little bit different here i.e. people walk too close from one other, not much yielding among pedestrians, and you can easily get your foot stomped on if you’re not careful.
When it comes to things to do, this place is full of them. And you can easily travel around the city using public transportation once you get a good hand of it. Make sure you keep your home address on a piece of paper in your pocket (I had my written on the back of my Monatskarte.
Voltage & Plugging
In case you did not know, Vienna uses the European electric system (220V with metric plugging). This means in order to charge electronic appliances such as your laptop computer, mobile phone, etc.. you will need 1. A voltage converter (if needed. some electronic appliances work with 220V), and you’ll definitely need a plug adapter. In my case I have purchased an adapter from a Turkish store for about 9 Euros which I use to power supply my laptop computer and charge my cell & tablet via usb. Problem solved.
Smartphones are extremely important for newcomers. Even if you do not own an Austrian sim card, you can still connect to WiFi and use various apps such as maps, viber, skype, facebook, etc. At some point though you may want to purchase a sim. In my case I’ve got what’s called a Vectone which is a prepaid sim card. (Ensure your phone is unlocked for international usage).
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’m the kind of person who likes to invest his time doing something useful. And while I’m in a foreign country without much knowledge of their customs & language, the best thing to do is to learn their language. Not only this will give you a much better form of communication overtime, but it will also provide you with the opportunity to make new connections and be introduced to new cultures. There are various language courses to choose from. In my case, I ended up going with a monthly course via Deutsch Akademie which costs about 250 Euros per level plus 19 Euros per books & materials.
There’s a huge variety of the things you can eat around this place. You can pretty much find anything. There are plenty of restaurants with a large number of cafes and small convenient stores to pick from.
Shopping & Money
Shopping centers aren’t hard to find here. One thing I have noticed is that here tax is included in the price. In other words if something was for say 20 Euros you simply pay 20 Euros. I adore this system because it’s easy to pay and your total will not come to 22.87 or another complex number. Many places accept Visa and Master Cards and there are ATMS you can use to withdraw money if your card is open internationally (you may wanna check with your bank prior to your departure). In my case I had my bank activate my card here and I can now withdraw my money in both Euro and USD with no conversion fee. Alternatively, you may use an exchange agency to change your money but those may charge a fee.
Overall, this place is certainly different, but things get easier after a while. So do not be discouraged. If you have any personal experiences or comments feel free to post them below and stay tuned for more stories of this voyage!