VIENNA, Austria -
Goodbye Bratislava, Hello Vienna! After a great final evening in Bratislava, we ate breakfast at the buffet at the hotel at 9:30 a.m., loaded the bus at 10:30 and hit the open European roads at 11.
I have two comments about breakfast: 1.) Samantha Woods ordered an omelet, like a majority of us did, but when they delivered hers, it was a plate full of eggs sunny side up with cheese and meat sprinkled on it. It may have been a body builder's dream breakfast, but it was not the dream of this American girl. 2.) Throughout the trip I have noticed that there is no chocolate milk in Europe (or at least I haven't found it yet). I guess the chocolate cows from America haven't been shipped to this side of the world.
Thankfully, this was a shorter bus ride than the one from Prague - it took just over an hour - and the team played the card game Mafia, which has become a team classic.
Our first stop in Vienna on Saturday was at the Schonbrunn Palace, which was ginormous. The palace, just outside of downtown, was the summer palace for the Hapsburgs. It was much more impressive than the castle in Bratislava, where the best part was playing on the playground at a park just down a path from the castle.
At Schonbrunn, we toured about 40 rooms inside the 100 room palace (I wouldn't want to be the one to clean!). We listened to an English tour by holding a black handheld thing to our ear that was like a cell phone. I'm glad it wasn't a cell phone, because my phone bill would have been outrageous by the end of the tour! We were free to go at our own pace through the palace, which was a nice feature. One of the rooms in the palace marked the spot where Mozart played music for the Hapsburgs when he was just six-years-old.
The rooms of the palace were filled with gold. It was all over the walls, the ceilings, the floor, the furnishings and decorations. There were many amazing paintings, and the garden outside cannot be described in words (but I'll try). It was bigger than most parks, immaculately landscaped and full of flowers.
Since food is always a priority with our group, I can't leave out the snacks available for purchase. Many of us took advantage of the delicious pastries, mouthwatering donuts and jumbo pretzels.
I can't imagine living in a palace. I'll stick with the simple life, a small town and some backcountry roads.
We checked into our hotel in Vienna and many of the players took naps or just chilled, but Sam Woods, Liza Clemons and I rented bikes and ventured around the city near the hotel. A really cool feature of Vienna is that they have these bikes for rent and the first hour is free. Then, after you return the bike, if you wait 15 minutes you can rent for another free hour. Vienna has the most legit bike trails, entire paved paths just for bikes. I have never seen anything like it. These Austrian people are serious about their biking too. There were bikers all over! They don't just go out for a nice Sunday afternoon bike ride either; they are go-getters, young Lance Armstrongs. Our bike adventure was quite interesting. We broke every bike law in Vienna and road our bikes American style. We road where we wanted to ride our bikes, and that meant on the sidewalk. We were yelled at by many Austrians to get off the sidewalk, to which Woods would reply "We Foreign!"
Brittany Rayburn picked out the food for our pre-ordered dinner for that night, and she did a mighty fine job. When we got to the restaurant, they had our food to us within the first 10 minutes and we devoured it like a bunch of scavengers within 15 minutes. The menu: ribs, a pasta dish that was like lasagna but with ham and cheese and no red sauce, pork snitzel (a traditional local dish) and sliced, roast pork with gravy with some sort of cabbage side dish. For dessert, a chocolate cake with whip cream and chocolate sauce (YUM!) and apple strudel.
After dinner we went to the Vienna version of a Six Flags, Kings Island or Cedar Point. The amusement park was called Prater. Instead of paying a flat rate at the entrance and getting a bracelet to ride any of the rides, at Prater you got into the amusement park for free and paid for each ride individually. The average price was five Euros, which is a little more than five U.S. dollars. I don't think this would go over well in the States, at all.
The first thing that everyone in our travel party went on was a famous wooden Ferris wheel that was built in 1897 (the amusement park dates back to the late 1700s) and at the time was the largest Ferris wheel in the whole wide world. There was a beautiful view of the entire city from up there. The carts that we got in were like little sheds or small train cars and our whole team was able to ride in one cart along with four strangers. Woods was entertaining with her screaming, and the cart in front of us had two people sharing a candlelight dinner (boys take notes!).
After the Ferris wheel we split up into a few groups and experienced the park for about two hours. Highlights: Antionette throwing a ball at one of the carnival stands and completely missing everything (the worst throw I've ever witnessed on a carnival game), Chantel screaming on the Super8 roller coaster, KK, Dee Dee, Sam O, Ashley Hudson, Woods and I riding the slingshot which is a bench type thing attached to bungee cords that goes really high and then drops back down (and Woods screaming the whole entire time; hysterical!), but the best highlight of the night can be read next....
The plan was to meet at the bus at 10 p.m. to go back to the hotel. At 9:55 p.m. Torrie Thornton, Chantel Poston, Drey Mingo, KK Houser and Liza Clemons had a rough fourth quarter at Prater Amusement Park and were defeated by the ride called "Ecstasy". What a name for a ride, right? The final score: Ecstasy -5, Purdue women's basketball players-0.
"Right from the very beginning it attacks your stomach," junior guard Chantel Poston said, "And then you are raised up and start spinning (imagine how you feel spinning in a chair for a long time), and then they add music, and then they add flashing lights, and finally they lower you back down and you think you are finished, but no! They take you back up but upside-down and spinning, lights are flashing, music is blaring."
The aftermath of the ride was worthy of a top play on Sports Center, and is in the race for the ESPY, "Best Team Moment." At the end of the ride, those five exited with pale faces, had trouble walking and looked absolutely miserable. I do have to give props to assistant coach Nadine Morgan who also got on the ride because Chantel had begged her to go with her. We found out later that coach Morgan had ridden it with coach Versyp and others earlier in the evening, so she not only survived that experience but got on and survived round two as well.
We were leaving the park at 10 p.m. so Ecstasy was the last ride, and we loaded the bus, but quickly unloaded before we even started the engine. It all started when plastic bags were handed out to those who went on the ride. I am sure glad we had two athletic trainers and the team doctor on the trip with us. I bet they never thought they would need to assist the players because of an amusement park ride. Imagine this: three players outside the bus getting sick, two players on the bus unable to sit upright. What an awful experience for Chantel, Drey, Torrie, Liza and KK, but what an enjoyable comedy for the rest of us. We tried to be quiet and respectful, but after awhile the rest of us could not contain ourselves and started taking pictures and laughing at not the Fab 5, but the Sick 5. When we arrived back at the hotel the Sick 5 walked into the lobby and laid right down on the couches and chairs in the lobby. What a sight. I had the privilege to ride the elevator with Drey and she was silent the whole ride up, looking miserable. Once the elevator doors opened she finally spoke "I've got to get to my room or I'm about to throw up in this hallway," and then she sprinted away.
The plan for after the amusement park was to go dancing with the coaches, but a few of the Sick 5 were not feeling up to going with us and planned to stayed back to sleep and recover from their Ecstasy experience (the ride of course!) Woods, Chantel (pushing through the sickness), and Nette went to rally the other four of the Sick 5, so that the whole team would be together for the experience. I mean, how many times do you get to go out dancing with your coaches and team in Europe?!? When Nette, Woods, and Chantel arrived on the floor where Liza and Drey were staying, this is what they found: Drey and Liza's door wide open and they were both sleeping on their beds. The persuasive team representatives were able to rally all of the sick ones to go out, and together as a team - coaching staff, athletic trainers, team doctor, communications director and managers set out by foot around 11:30 p.m. We went to a dance club with Latino music and get your chips out, because we did salsa dancing! We had an amazing time, but we eventually got full from the salsa and chips and found a place with American hip-hop. Not long after that we were ready to call it a night.
We got up Sunday morning and realized we were "slowly approaching" - one of our tour guide, Janka's, favorite phrases - the end of this wonderful trip, but we had one more day to "get off the bus quickly" (another Jankaism) and enjoy a final day in Europe. We ate breakfast around 9:45 a.m., and no offense but the waffles in Vienna put American waffles to shame. Delicious! At 10 a.m. we took a bus tour of Vienna (so happy we did not have to walk). We learned from our wonderful, smart tour guide, Janka that Vienna is full of museums, palaces, has an opera house and has pretty rad architecture. I believe many of us on the bus can confess that we may have dozed off once or twice because we are exhausted from all of the fun we have had on the trip, and some of us also could not manage another history lesson.
We were able to get off the bus at the Hundertwasserhaus, with beautifully-built, colorful buildings that were created to represent nature and reminded me of hobbit dwellings. Check out the photo gallery for pictures. Many of us spent our Euro here because it's such a tourist attraction there were many shops open. On Sundays, most of the shops in Vienna are closed and many are closed on Saturday too - they have a five day work week. I got a good deal on some scarves that will be used as gifts, and I also got one for myself so I can step up my European scarf swag game.
Then we drove to an area along the river where the team and coaching staff got of the buss for a team bonding session. It was a beautiful day outside, one of the hottest and sunniest of the trip. We sat in chairs on a "boardwalk" along the river and individually spoke about what we had learned about ourselves on the trip and how we felt we performed in our three games. It was definitely one of the top moments of my time in Europe.
We went back to the hotel and had free time until 6 p.m. One group enjoyed American food and free water refills at a restaurant Champions in our hotel, while another group enjoyed sushi. I personally tried the sushi and had my first piece of caviar (fish eggs), which tasted like the ocean. Rayburn, an animal science major, pointed out that you could see the fish embryo! Gross! After lunch, many of us got our Lance Armstrong on and road bikes around Vienna, enjoying the wonderful weather. Chelsea Jones and I went to a EuroCafe and had the tastiest, most well-presented desserts I have had in a very long time.
For dinner we went by bus to a restaurant near a marina on the Danube River. We sat outside and ate. The downside is there were spiders all around us (and KK had our waiter kill one). We had a breathtaking view of the river and an interesting bridge. There were also people zip lining near us.
As for the menu, we had two options for appetizers: an antipasti salad or a goat cheese salad. The main dish was filet mignon, chicken or salmon. I had the salmon, which was also accompanied with the most delicious spinach I've ever had. Coach V gave a toast to the family who had been guiding us around. Johnny, the father and Janka, the daughter and main guide also gave toasts, and we celebrated Janka's birthday with singing and cake! We also sang happy birthday over the cell phone to Coach Smith - hope you had a happy birthday coach! We got a picture with the two cute waiters. We were sad (especially Woods), when we found out the cutest one was only 17 years old. It was a great last dinner together in Europe to end a beyond-amazing trip. We leave the hotel at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, which is 12:30 a.m. in the U.S., so my plan is to stay up as long as I can tonight so I can sleep on the plane tomorrow and start adjusting my body to the time difference.
Final random thoughts:
-Be thankful for the little things. For example: not having to pay to go to the bathroom, free water and soda refills, polite people and SMOKE-FREE RESTAURAUNTS AND PUBLIC AREAS!
- A lot of places in Europe use glass not plastic bottles. I kind of like that, it's more eco-friendly.
-You can take your dog anywhere, and they aren't always on leashes. I can't imagine people taking their dogs to the mall in America! And people really do carry their dogs around in purses like in Legally Blonde. Oh, and the dogs may also go to the bathroom wherever they would like because they have stations throughout the city with plastic bags for the owners to clean up the dog do-do and throw it away. One night, a dog just pooped right on a busy sidewalk strip in Vienna, and the owner cleaned it up.
-We have a great group of young woman, coaching staff and support staff. What an amazing, fun time. You can't have fun and an enjoyable experience/vacation without great people. It's amazing how sports can bring people of different cultures together. With sports, there is no language barrier. I'm happy that our two freshmen were able to come on the trip with us!
-Gelato is far better than ice cream.
I'd like to finish by saying thank you to those who made this trip possible, you know who you are. This was an unforgettable experience, to start off an unforgettable new school year. Boiler Up!