|What do you mean I can't pay for parking in Vienna with a San Francisco Bart card?|
Tuesday we left our stuff at the hotel and drove to Vienna. When you enter the city it looks a lot like Budapest but a little more modernized in the outer districts. In order to avoid the exorbitant parking costs in the city center (also known as the Zentrum), we found parking in a public structure on the outskirts and opted for public transport. After tracking down a day pass for the city's public transportation (buses, street cars, and metro; all of which were cleaner than the ones in Budapest) at a tobacco shop, we hopped a bus to the metro station (ironically it was called Philadelphia Bridge). After a quick metro transfer from the U6 to the U4 we got off at Karlsplatz and walked to Schönbrunn Palace, the 1400 room imperial residence of Emperor Franz Joseph.
Unfortunately no picture taking is allowed inside so you only get a couple exterior shots.
Grampa took one look at the place and decided he wouldn't make it. So he and Kris kicked back at the palace cafe near the front gate. Gabby and I continued on and took the tour. Since we had them waiting for us we didn't get to see the gardens or the terrace, both which I briefly saw through the windows and were beautiful. Maybe some other day...
From the palace we headed out in search of food and the Hofburg Palace. We ended up little outdoor cafe/bar and after a quick look at the menu I ordered a rissoto and everyone else ordered hamburgers. I was the only person satisfied with his meal, there was some strange spice in the burgers that made them taste funny. Kris has been through Austria on the way to Germany before, he said even the food at McDonald's tastes funny. He ordered a chicken sandwich once and it had a sauce that looked like ketchup, but wasn't. Folks, don't order burgers in Austria, it's not safe.
Now, I should mention at this point that the moment we hit Austria, I somehow became the defacto speaker and navigator (for everything off the highway, the GPS took care of all highway navigation). It seems that while I can't speak Hungarian or German, I seem to be the best equipped to communicate with people in broken English. I don't know if it has something to do with a decade of tech support experience in Hawaii and having to figure out what customers problems are through context. That and my travel companions can't seem to find their way out of a paper bag, make 2 left turns and they have no idea which way we came from. Actually, Kris seemed to be relatively on top of it but was letting me handle things; I think he was getting a kick out of it. To make matters worse, my grandfather questioned EVERY SINGLE directional choice I made even when I explained the logic of it to him. Very frustrating.
After I puzzled out some directions from our waiter we headed off on public transport again to the Hofburg palace. This place is huge and contains about 17 different museums. There was no way we would be able to get through everything so we decided we would go and check out the arms and armor museum. And just our luck, it was under renovation.
We didn't feel like searching for another exhibit so we strolled across the street took a couple more pictures and made our way back to the car.
Getting back to the car was an adventure. I knew where we had to get to and I'm fairly good with maps and metro/bus/cable car route diagrams so I was able to plot out a decent course. Unfortunately, since I don't speak German I had no way to know the announcement over the radio on our metro line was saying that the was no service between several of the stations on our route. I had to figure this to when we were 4 stops away and suddenly started going backwards. After a quick look at the route map I was able to reset our course but we had to take a longer route. By the time we got back to the garage my brain was fried.
When we had entered the parking structure I took the parking ticket from Kris so he would have both hand free to drive (the car is standard), and I stuck it in my back pocket. When we got back to the garage I pulled out what I thought was the parking ticket and handed it to Kris so he could use the parking machine to pay. For some reason the machine wouldn't read the ticket, and the message in German on the screen was no help in telling us what was up. We figured maybe the parking was free and would try to get out. Kris drove up to the gate and I walked up to the machine and inserted the ticket, no go. Kris backed out and parked on the side while Gabby and I went back to the parking machine. I pressed the service button and got an operator who passed me to a supervisor that spoke English. The supervisor asked us to try another machine, looking around I didn't see another machine; we ended up having to go the the next floor down. This one also didn't want to read the ticket, luckily before I could press the service button again a lady came out of the elevator. I stepped to the side so she could pay and she took the ticket from me and tried to help. This is when I realized something didn't look right. Apparently my San Fransisco Bart pass had fallen out of my wallet and was right next to the parking ticket...
Thankfully everyone thought this was hilarious once we realized what had happened. Of course, I was thoroughly embarrassed. That was 10 minutes of our lives we'll never have back.