Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eurotrip 2011, Day 8: Prague to Vienna via Kutna Hora

On day 8 of our Eurotrip I woke up rested and excited. Vienna was the city I was most looking forward to - partly because of their coffee and cake tradition, but also because I had made reservations for a tour of the Spanish Riding School, home to the famed Lipizzaner stallions! We boarded the bus quite early, as we had a lengthy stop in Kutna Hora on our way to Vienna.

The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora is known as one of the spookiest places in the world, and no wonder - the remains of over 40,000 people piled up here throughout the centuries, and only in 1870 was a local woodcarver hired to create something with them. The result is probably one of the strangest things I've ever seen, and as creepy as it was I'm still glad that we stopped here en route to Vienna.
After exploring the "Bone Church" for a while, the bus dropped us off in "downtown" Kutna Hora for lunch. There wasn't much there, but still...better than a travel center off the highway, I think. We had a crappy lunch at a little cafe, but at least we got to sit outside, enjoy some nice weather, and have time to pick up weird Czech snacks before getting back on the bus to finish the trip to Vienna :)
Paprika flavored crackers FTW!
All in all this was another 6-ish hour trip on the bus with those couple hours in Kutna Hora, so not a bad day. I have to say that I much preferred these short legs on the bus to the many 8+ hour legs I dealt with on my first Contiki tour. I'm not sure my 28-year-old self could handle those long bus rides as well as my 24-year-old self did ;)

Once we arrived in Vienna, we had a short period of time to put our things away and freshen up before our included dinner. We knew we would probably be heading out on our own after the meal, so as usual we checked the day sheet to see just how early we'd be forced out of bed the next day.
During the bus ride to dinner, Kiwi Katie pointed out some landmarks. I'm sad that this is the closest I got to the Votivkirche during our time in Vienna, because it looks gorgeous and was one of the places I'd marked off to see in my guidebook.
Now, I have to say that this included dinner was by far the worst one of the trip. I think we were served something that was supposed to be goulash, but was really just a chunk of tough beef swimming in red sauce and topped with a cold cooked egg. I could have set the egg aside and been okay with the meal had the beef been edible, but it simply wasn't. Of course I don't expect gourmet food from Contiki's included dinners, but this one was up there with the awful sausage and weird tater tots debacle of Lucerne fame on my 2007 Contiki tour. For desert they served these crepe-type things filled with some sort of fruit jam, but they didn't even get those right!
One of these things is not like the other, and the sad part is - that's the one that was cooked properly :-/
Thankfully, we were able to salvage our evening fairly easily. We bowed out of the dinner as soon as we could and wandered away from the restaurant in no particular direction...and were lucky enough to stumble upon an Opera Film Festival (complete with food and bar stalls) in front of the Rathaus!

First things first - yummy snacks to fill up our sadly half-empty and grossed out stomachs.
This totally made up for that crappy dinner.
Once we had enjoyed our waffles, we ordered drinks and sat down to enjoy some opera. Of course we couldn't understand anything that was happening in the film that we were watching, but it was still an absolutely amazing experience. I mean, who could not love a view/"movie theater" like this?
After a good hour of opera and drinks, we made our way to the nearest U-Bahn station and were able to easily find our way back to our hotel. (It helps that Vienna is actually a fairly small city) And after a nearly perfect first night in Vienna (actually, totally perfect if you discount that awful included dinner) we were more than ready to explore the rest of the city the next day!

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