Our first activity in Vienna, as it is in most train stations, is to find the WC. Yes, the trains all have them…but for a variety of reasons…someone always has to “go.” And I’m only mentioning this now because we have seen a first in Vienna. By now the boys are used to forking over ½ of an euro to use the facilities…but the ones in the train station in Vienna are more than worth it. In fact, if I have time and can remember…I’ll video what I’m about to tell you. The toilets in the Vienna station are self-cleaning. You push a button on the back of the tank labeled “service” and the seat completely turns around in this wand device that sprays and wipes clean the toilet seat. And after finishing your business, it repeats the process automatically. Now that’s an invention we could all use!
So after this excitement and some more food in the train station (which is more like a shopping mall complete with food court) we got together and made plans for the day. It was early in Vienna and our hotel rooms wouldn’t be ready until 3. We decided to store our luggage in lockers at the station and take an hour-long train ride using our Eurail passes to go to Bratislava, Slovakia. Why? Just because we could. Slovakia is a fairly new country, having been formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is in the European Union (uses euro, etc.), but is definitely poorer than the countries in Western Europe. And definitely has a different “Cold War” feel. We found English-speaking people to help with directions, but it’s definitely not as wide-spoken as it has been.
We walked first to a World War II monument which was built in memory and honor of the Russian Army and their efforts to liberate several area cities. There are three hundred marked graves and unmarked mass graves of over 6,000 Soviet soldiers. We walked up to the monument itself and then toured the grounds. The monument sits high on a hill with great views of the city. It was a pretty tough hike up.
We hiked back down and found a market where we purchased food for lunch. Most boys have never really picked up lunch in a market before and enjoyed the shopping experience. Prices were amazingly low compared to the rest of Europe. After lunch we walked to the Bratislava Castle, which goes by several names. This castle itself was closed this day (souvenir shop was open, of course) but we got to walk around a bit and again see some incredible views of the city built along the Danube River. We descended into the old part of town which was wonderful. The boys and leaders all enjoy when we leave more modern parts of cities and enter the old city or city center parts of the places we’ve visited. We took a sit-down break to enjoy a soft drink before heading back to the train station for Vienna.
Seventy minutes later we were back in Vienna, collected our bags, took two subway lines, and found our hotel. Checked in and then went out looking for traditional Austrian food for dinner. We found a place and enjoyed trying to explain to our waitress what we wanted to eat. She spoke very little English. It was fun “and” tasty.
Back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep and in fact, a rare chance to get to sleep in late. It was another amazing day.