Today was pretty much everything a little kid would want on their birthday…and since it was Kristin’s birthday and she is practically a 6 year-old, this was perfect. You are about to read about a day full of castles, cake, trains & dinosaurs. Feel free to let your inner 6 year old out and be overly-excited about all of this etchings along with us 🙂
Our plan for the morning was to go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We hopped on the metro and got off right outside huge, old-looking, stone, twin buildings. Our museum wasn’t open yet so we wandered through the open area between it and it’s mirror image. That’s when we noticed the sign…”The Dinosaurs are Back!” We dare any of you to see such a sign and not be intrigued! It turns out that the twin building also held a museum, a Museum of Natural History. By now even our new, we-don’t-actually-know-them-in-real-life followers should know that this would catch our attention way more than a museum full of art…plus it was alredy open! Needless to say, we changed our plans and visited the Natural History Museum.
The first floor of the museum was an evolutionary look at our planet from the beginning. It started with rocks…lots and lots of rocks…and minerals….and such…They were very pretty to look at, but being as we wouldn’t have known most of the names in English we were extra lost in German. We needed a GeoPhys to help us out…where are you Mr. Styan!?
We then progressed through small marine critters, up to more complex & giant marine critters. In this phase we saw a lot of fossils, and aren’t fossils just the coolest things?!? They are millions of years old and yet have a perfectly preserved image of something that doesn’t even exist anymore in them! Super cool!
Next animals got legs and came ashore and from here we get those large reptiles that once roamed our planet: dinosaurs! Yeah, Dinosaurs! There aren’t even words for how cool they are!
After pulling Kristin away from the dinosaurs we came upon the emergence of mammals. Justine loves the mammals from this time. All the cool mammals lived during the Pleistocene. Sabertooth kitties, wooly mammoths, giant sloths and wooly rhinos…basically things that exist now but in a bigger, scarier, hairier version…sounds awesome!
The second floor focussed on the animals on the planet today. We began with the invertebrates in the ocean. Beginning here Justine tried to remember what she has learned in all of her animal classes. She doesn’t know any German but she did have to learn many of these words in Latin. Latin is universal and helped her identify things she knew! However, the marine organisms of the North Pacific are not the same as the ones in the Mediterranean. Next came the insects and many legged critters. The beetles were the most interesting thing here. They come in so many colors and patterns! In general it is amazing how many different types of insects there are out there (there are over a million known insect species!). Moving on to vertebrates we came to way more fish and birds than we would have liked. We did see some cool birds that we didn’t know actually existed….and one that doesn’t exist anymore, the dodo bird. He was awfully funny looking. While looking at owls we picked the ones we would have had as pets if we went to Hogwarts.
Amphibians and reptiles consisted of many little and cute frogs and salamanders but also giant lizards and snakes. Kristin found these interesting, Justine looked the other direction. The many alligators in the center were also frightening. Mammals was the most enjoyable part, and what Justine knew most about. Though she doesn’t know that Latin names of Austrian mammal species…zoology 408 only taught her the mammals in Alberta. We liked scoping out the things that reminded us of home, along with the guys who were totally weird & exotic.
There was also a really cool, interactive exhibit dealing with extremes. We learned about how animals survive in places where it is very hot, cold, dark or there is a lack of oxygen. It was really effective because there were things for you to look at, touch and hear everywhere.
When we’d finished being educated we set off in search of lunch. We ended up getting a hot dog from a street stall…but don’t think for a second that this would be a disappointing birthday lunch for Kristin…it was sausage! The hot dog was made in an interesting fashion; they cut the top off the bun, squirt in the ketchup & mustard and then shove in the sausage. This way your wiener & condiments are enclosed within the bun so its very neat & tidy…great for walking and eating. But we did not do that. Instead we found a bench in a nearby park and enjoyed the view of some random old stony building. This city is full of these great looking places. There are just too many to keep track of!
We followed lunch up with dessert. Don’t judge, everyone deserves cake on their birthday! Plus it was our third day in Vienna, on our third trip to Austria and we still hadn’t tried the famous Sacher torte. Sacher torte was invented by Franz Sacher in Vienna in 1832. The cake consists of two layers of dense, not overly sweet chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. The only place where the Original Sacher Torte is available outside of Austria is in the Sacher shop in Bolzen, Italy. There was a slight tanginess from the marmalade & the ganache was tasty that we guess set it apart a little. But, in our opinion, it tasted like chocolate cake…good chocolate cake, but chocolate cake all the same.
Now comes the ever exciting part of our day where we ride a train. We are sure you are sick of it by now so we will make it quick…We went to the hostel, grabbed our bags. We then took the metro to the right station and hopped on the train. For the first time on the continent we actually had to buy a train ticket. Slovakia is not covered by our Eurail passes for some unknown reason. We were good girls and bought the ticket, but being as it only needed to be from the last train stop in Austria to Bratislava it only cost €4. Lucky we did, they actually checked our tickets on this stretch of the ride. Just over an hour later we arrived in Bratislava where we walked the couple of blocks to our hostel. Easy-peasy! The hostel is ok. We are in a 6 person room that is a little squishy, one of those rooms where the jam in as many beds as possible and leave little room for walking. The bathroom is nice though and there is a kitchen for us to use if we want…which we actually might do this time.
Do you not know anything about Slovakia? We didn’t really either…that is until Justine pulled our her handy Wikipedia app and informed us. How about she does the same for you!
Slovakia has been a part of many countries and kingdoms since Slavs first arrived here in the 5th century. Slovakia has been part of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the First World War Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia with the Czech Republic. This country fell apart during WWII, but otherwise lasted from 1918 to 1993. After the war, Czechoslovakia fell under Communist rule until 1989. Today Slovakia is an independent state. In recently joined the EU and in 2009 the country adopted the Euro. There are 6 World Heritage Sites in Slovakia! Though, unfortunately, we don’t think we’re not going to see any.
We walked to the Old Town center for supper. After examining a few menus displayed on the street, we picked a place. We had to walk down an alley, down some stairs into a basement, go down a hallway, through a door and past a bathroom area, but we eventually got into the restaurant. The trip was worth it. The food was delicious and the beer was cheap (as was the food). We both had a dish that combined meat cooked in beef broth with a spatzle-like noodle. Kristin paired it with a Slovakian beer she can’t pronounce and Justine had a Radler.
Post dinner Kristin was exceptionally hyper. We are talking seriously giddy, to the extreme. She was bouncing off the walls in the restaurant, pointing out every countries embassy on our city map…and all of the tennis courts, which Bratislavans have went to the trouble of labeling for us.
On the walk home Kristin almost died. Ok in reality she tripped a little on a dip in the sidewalk…and we are talking a little; she didn’t even fall down. But in the moment she saw herself falling into the street & being hit by a bus, so her whole life flashed before her eyes. Her conclusion after seeing a replay of her first 24 years: she’s pretty much awesome.
Things We Learned Today:
– Look at this photo.. Did you ever realize how small the volume of the atmosphere is in comparison to the volume of the Earth!?!?
– Weiner Schnitzel is just German for Schnitzel Viennese style…this just hit us today…Weiner is Viennese…just as Wein is Vienna…all this time we’ve been eating Weiner Schnitzel and we’ve never made that connection…
Love, Luck & Lions, Tiger & Bears…oh my!