Vienna, Austria

John Harris and I in Stephansplatz-He is quite possibly the coolest man that has ever lived…seriously!

May 30-31, 2007

Ok, so about Austria….I guess the best way to put it is when I grow up, I want to be simply, John Harris!! We had such an amazing time in Vienna. John was kind enough to meet us at the train station when we came in, and I cannot tell you how nice it was not to be the tourist staring at a city map trying to figure out where in God’s green earth our hotel was! Then, on top of that, there was no subway, bus, or cab hunting, which was a pleasant change of pace!  John took us around Vienna and showed us the parts of Vienna that were enclosed by the walls of the city until the last century. It was really cool to here a city described by someone that is local. (Also, there was not a smelly dog in John’s back seat, which was another added bonus! 🙂 ) John took us to his flat in the middle of the city, which was completely ours for a couple of days.

The Hotel Imperial in Vienna. Coincidentally, Condoleezza Rice was there when we were there.

Then, we went on a little walking tour of Vienna. So far, it is by far my favorite city. The inner-city area is basically car, bus, and, most importantly, scooter free. So, that gives it a more laid-back feel. The people were not rustling around like in Paris and London, and I was not in fear of getting killed by a SmartCar! Then, we went back to the apartment to wait on Matt to come in. (I don’t know if I told you or not, but Matt had some more bad luck…He got snowed-in in the Swiss Alps!!! For a couple of days there were no trains leaving the little city that he was in. We were worried if he was going to make it to Vienna. Nonetheless, he made it out and got to Vienna around 6:30pm). When Matt got there, we grabbed some dinner and walked around the city some more. It was a great day!

The next day in Vienna was probably my most favorite day in the Great Ideas Tour so far. John was kind enough to get us our own tour guide of the city. She came and picked us up around 9am and took us to every part of the city that we wanted to go. Gabbi, our guide, shared with us some really interesting history of the city, and we were able to see the big sites in only a few hours because we weren’t the schmucks wandering around with maps and brochures like we have been the rest of the trip. Again, it was a nice change of pace for us! 🙂

Dover and I in the Inner Stadt of Vienna

We concluded our tour by having a nice big bratwurst in a park in the middle of the city. It was really neat to just sit in the middle of such a historic city, have an awesome hot dog, and just soak it in. Sometimes on this trip, I have these “eureka” moments where it hits me that, man, I am actually here.

I love those moments, and I cannot thank you enough for giving them to me. Well, Gabbi was able to get rid of us, and John picked us up for an evening of fun and adventure. We drove out to his and Susanne’s BEAUTIFUL house outside the city. That is another thing that I loved about Vienna. You can be literally in the middle of a huge city, and within a 15 minute drive, you can be in the foothills of the Alps. John asked us if we were up for a bike ride, and Matt and I agreed (Dad thought that he would hang back and guard the fort….he was definitely the smart one!).

Mountain Biking Excursion with fitness guru, John Harris

A few minutes later, Matt and I found ourselves in John Harris Fitness t-shirts and shorts, sweating profusely, pushing our bikes up the biggest hill that I have ever seen, while the in-shape John Harris peddled along with seemingly no effort at all!! I guess most 22-year-olds have this sense of youthful pride and invincibility…mine is now demolished!!! John Harris spanked our tails all the way up that mountain like sissy little girls, and there is no other way that I can put it!! Once we got to the top of the mountain, though, it was definitely worth all of the pain getting up there. It was the most beautiful landscape that my eyes have ever seen.

A view from John’s place just outside Vienna.

It was like the scenery of The Sound of Music on steroids!!  Meadows, mountains, valleys, dense forests all thrown together in a picture that only God could paint… It was amazing! Luckily, the downhill part of the journey was a little more “user-friendly” and we weren’t quite as behind of John as we were on the way up.

After we got back and jumped in the pool, it was dinner time. John prepared us a meal fit for kings…salad, peppers, bread, fried chicken (yes, fried chicken!), grilled chicken, pork, pinto beans, cornbread, fruit, and some great Austrian beer and wine. I am ashamed of how much we ate, but I could not help myself. As we sat on John and Susanne’s patio, ate like kings, enjoyed more of the breathtaking Austrian scenery, and talked about a number of fun topics, I definitely had another one of those “eureka” moments! It is a meal and experience that I will NEVER forget! John could not have been any nicer to us, and I am so happy that we came through Vienna!