Let's just say I have high hopes of this being a long entry, but I have not slept since I woke up at 8:30 Thursday morning (USA Time). Regardless, I'm here. I'm safe. And I'm sleepy.
Some Thoughts From the Airport:
1. I don't care how fancy and "fine-dining" they try to make it be, I don't think I will ever eat airport sushi. It sounds like the second cousin of gas station sushi.
2. Spotted my first European Man Purse of the Trip:
I also didn't notice how skin tight his jeans were until just now.
3. While eating dinner in the terminal and enjoying my first beer as a 3L law student, I started talking to these sisters sitting next to me. They were going on a 3.5 week African safari (these ladies were late 50s at their youngest), and one of them was the arbitrator for the city of NYC, dealing with the PD and FD Unions. We talked for a long time, and though we didn't exchange emails, I'm 100% confident I can track her down (she's a current law professor at Albany...)
4. It's still weird to see men wearing capris. For some reason, European men love to.\
5. A big NASCAR looking guy walking a little chiuahaha looking dog through the terminal had to stop and pick up the giant poop the dog took in the middle of the floor.
6. I found a magazine called "iPhone Life." I think I should probably subscribe to it.
The Flight from HELLI love to fly. I do. I get all excited and emotional at take-offs, no matter how miserable. Unfortunately, I sat next to a commercial pilot flying to Europe for a three week tour of duty. All he talked about was how much he hated trans-Atlantic flights, how he wished they would fly him first class, uniform, liquids, blah blah blah. Pretty much a downer. This was the first sign I should have taken that offer at the gate to upgrade to first class for $120.
Before we even start to taxi, the lady sitting in front of my is full-reclined (against regulations I might add!) And with the seat leaned back, no matter what I did, my knees were pressed into the hard plastic backing of the chair. I had flashbacks to that awful 17 hour bus ride (both ways) with my knees similarly crammed and the resulting bruises. Funny, both trips were to Amsterdam. She stayed reclined like this until the plane landed!
I will say that KLM (Delta's Central Europe partner) seems to be a pretty classy airline. The movie selection was superb (even if I screwed up the selection) and they kept bringing us free stuff: drinks, warm towels, snack, drinks, meals, snacks, drinks. I wanted to remind the lady that I wasn't sitting in first class, but didn't want to jinx it. However, one thing they could beef up is their comfort. All these Dutch ladies are taller than I am! Don't they want to fit in the seat without their knees jamming? And, I love window seats mainly because you can use the window as a psuedo head-rest. KLM says no and has about a six inch gap between the window seat and the actual wall of the plain. Might as well have been aisle. And finally, the seats were AWFUL! No padding whatsoever (on either this flight or my connecting flight later in the day.) I thought I was going to get bed soars.
Combine this with the screaming toddlers, especially the one that kicked my seat, raised and lowered my window shade at will, and slapped me a couple of times the ENTIRE TRIP!, all the snoring-mcsnoresons on the flight, and the screaming babies about six hours in waking up for the day, and I got zero sleep. Twice, about an hour and a half apart, I dozed off for about thirty minutes - so short lived. The whole thing made me realize that as much as I ADORE the children in my family, I really don't like other people's kids. Maybe because they aren't as awesome as the one's in my family and this annoys me.
This was also the very first flight EVER where the cabin was unbearably hot at cruising altitude. When skinny little girls you know are cold natured can sleep in their tank top sun dresses without so much as a blanket, you know the rest of us are hot. They made us close our window shades so that the sun wouldn't wake people up, but I kept sneaking breaks so that I could press my face to the cold, -70 degree window! On one such reprieve, I noticed something pretty cool. I looked out and it looked like when they remake a WWII movie and a huge air strike is about to go down at night. The stars were HUGE - like fellow bomber plains swarming all around us. And there were THOUSANDS of them. I stared at them like an idiot for a good 20 minutes while cooling myself. I guess those Canadians that get to see that do have something pretty cool!
I'm a Security Threat
By the time we touched down in Amsterdam, I was all Mom-hand-on-face ready to go postal. And to top it off, we were in terminal F and my connecting flight was in terminal B (there was no A.) And there's no tram. So there goes my lay-over. I get to walk the ENTIRE airport. Which wouldn't have been so bad; afterall, I was pretty sick of being cramped up. But then bam, right in the middle of the airport, a customs security check. I got my passport stamped with a Dutch visa (just to go to Terminal B) and had to go through security all over again, throwing away all the free bottles of water I'd collected from the nice ladies constantly giving free stuff out on the plane.
But then I set off the metal detector. I did at ATL, too. No problem, then - the guy just had me take off my belt and try again. But not in Amsterdam. Nope, I set of the metal detector and I get frisked. The even skipped the little wand phase. They went straight to the hands down the (sweaty-underweared) pants, feel your bra frisking. Right there in front of everyone. And, apparently my bags were suspicious too. They emptied EVERY SINGLE BAG OUT AND RAN EACH ITEM INDIVIDUALLY! Every make-up bag, jewelery box, tampon bag, and pair of panties went through the scanner individually. It took forever and was horrifyingly embarrassing!
I finally got to my gate 30 minutes before boarding and promptly spent 20 minutes in the bathroom recovering. I changed clothes, brushed teeth, put deoderant on, and contemplated removing Amsterdam from my Top 5 Cities. I felt like a new person after that 20 minutes though! I even was able to find something that made me laugh. In the Amsterdam airport, you can through away your paper, your waste, and your pets.The connecting flight went uneventfully and I was able to arrive in Vienna with no incident. I still didn't sleep, but I was in better spirits. Like when I arrived in Cardiff, Wales, I never went through customs. I tried my hardest but couldn't find an agent to stamp me a visa and make me legal. Once again, I guess I'm an illegal alien. But don't worry, Amsterdam airport said I could be here. And then violated me.
Vienna to Linz
I wish I could tell you more about Vienna. It was about a 20-30 minutes bus ride from the airport to the train station and I kept nodding off. For the most part, I think this was best because the few times I was awake, I could tell the busdriver's driving skills were making me car sick.
It took about two hours on the train to get to Linz, and that journey was indescribably stunning. Everything is green like Ireland, mountainous like the Rockies, and quaint/historic looking like the middle ages. I tried to snap pictures, but unfortunately none of them came out well or even remotely captured the beauty of Austria. Even with the stunning beauty, I found myself nodding off every now and then and terrified I would miss my stop. I just wanted to get to the lodgings, shower, and go to bed.
I will say that sometimes planning ahead costs you. I tried to book my train ticket online before I left (but it wouldn't let me because I waited to late to do it) and it would have cost me $50+. I talked with the little train ticket guy and he gave me a 50% discount off the student rate. I got the whole ride for $20.
I Arrive in the [Not So] Big City
Linz isn't a big city. Most of the Austrian guide books don't even bother mentioning it when there's so much other great stuff in Austria. And after two hours of stunning scenery, I almost cried as the train approach the Linz stop. It looked like what that part of New Jersey looks like when Tony Soprano is driving home during the opening credits of the Sopranos, rather, a dump. However, my fears were short lived. The "subway" system in Linz is really a system of adorable cable cars that take you all over the city. I hopped on one at the train station to take me to the exact opposite end of town where the University (and our lodgings) are located.
I fell in love. The town is ADORABLE! All the buildings in the city center are historic and there are very few cars and it's all the quaint Austria you could possibly want. The city area is pretty flat, but a few miles in any direction and there are the mountainous hills. We are staying in a 12 story building on the North-North-East part of town. To my surprise and delight, when I got here and checked in, my boss/professor had arranged for me to have a private room (as opposed to having to have a dorm-style roommate) on the TENTH FLOOR! I have a stunning view of the entire town - including the hills and all the old monastery-looking building nestled in them. I can't wait to explore! The room is small but comfortable and is the same size as the one's most people are sharing with others. (People could pay a lot extra to not share - PROF. LANIER IS AWESOME FOR GIVING IT TO ME!!) I'm really glad I get it to myself. And not to sound like an old fart, but it's on the hall with the other professors, so I don't have to put up with the shennanigans. Most of the students here are a lot younger than me. This way I can go hang out when I want, but still have a quiet place when I need it.
I didn't have time to snap pictures of my view because to my surprise, I found the energy to be social when I got here. As I was checking in, a large group of the other students were leaving to go to dinner up the street. I threw on some deoderant, again, and joined them for pizza and a few beers. We had to split up into three tables and I found myself by accident sitting at the one table not full of 22-year-olds. I think I made a great group of friends for the trip. So to summarize: 16+ hours of mostly miserable traveling, beautiful city we're staying in, amazing surprise bonus from my boss, new friends.
Yeah, I'm pretty tired but the next few weeks have settled in and I'm finally finding time to be excited about it! We're doing a city tour tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have some real pictures to post. And like I said, this is a long post. I don't make promises (or threats) that everyday will be this long!