Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The party bus is coming: Eastern Europe Festive Party Trek - Part 2

Wednesday, 24 December 2014
VIENNA - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve and we had the journey to Vienna ahead of us. Getting on the bus we were greeted by a happy surprise - it had been decorated Christmas-style by Carlos and driver-of-the-year, Chris. Tinsel down the aisles and windows, snowflakes and Christmas lights adorned the ceiling. It had transformed into a Christmassy party bus.

Over the non-discernible border (I mean, really, where are the borders around Europe? They’re drawn on the map, but they could really be anywhere) we paused for another much needed pitstop and grabbed some delicious Austrian pastries.

We passed through Vienna and out the other side to our hostel. It was a little way out of the town and was the least favourite hostel on our trip. We were greeted by the hostel owner - quite a character - with her wobbly chins and her brusque Austrian attitude.

“Get fucking drunk, it’s Christmas!” she boomed and, slightly taken aback, we edged our way towards our dorm rooms.

We had 6 to a room this time, and only one powerpoint (later, as we were packing to leave, we’d find another 3). We unpacked and got ready to explore the area a little bit - get some food and some euro’s out to pay for all the activities we were going to be doing over the remainder of the trip before heading off for the walking tour. As a group we wandered  to the first ATM we found and withdrew the required cash. A few of us became separated from the main group, and so Danielle and I wandered and chatted our way through the streets. As the hostel wasn’t very close to anything of note, nor was anything open, it was simply a walk to be away from the hostel of weirdness.

He's got the whole world in his hands

The walking tour saw us all piling back onto our beloved coach. By now it was 4pm, and pitch black night time. It was surreal doing an afternoon walking tour at night. Here our tour guide showed our shivering frames around Vienna, pointing out the lovely buildings of old and many of the 700 museums that Vienna houses. By now our bellies were grumbling, and back on the bus we hopped ready for our Viennese dinner. Schnitzels with wine was the order of the evening, followed by apple strudel for dessert.

Beauty and the Beast library

Back at the hostel, it was time to get into the spirit and ring in Christmas Day. We put the finishing touches on our Secret Santas, made our way down to the bar and grabbed our first round of drinks. The clock struck midnight and there were sparklers and champagne all around. Hugs abounded, drinks clinked to the chorus of “Prost!” - accompanied by fierce eye contact because no one was wanting to risk 7 years bad sex - and thus it was Christmas Day.

In sauntered a small Christmas tree aka Carlos and an uncomfortable looking Santa Claus the Bus Driver, gathering all the presents and leading us away from the fray into the adjacent room. It was time to distribute the presents! I was worried my Secret Santa would hate hers because I bought something gender neutral back in London, so I bought a small bottle of vodka to supplement it. I think the piece de resistance was her name written on the card with eyebrow pencil (through a severe lack of pens…). From my Secret Santa (I never found out who it was?) I received a very warm pair of gloves and my card was an origami crane - was this from someone how had been listening to me prattle about my Japan adventures? Thank you, none-the-less, elusive Secret Santa.  

Champagne and Christmas cheer    

What followed was a crazy night. I’m not sure how much I can write as this blog is in the public sphere (seriously though, who is going to find my lowly blog?) but let’s just say this was a what-happens-on-tour-stays-on-tour kind of night.

Drinks, laughter, more drinks, Bar’s open, 1 euro!, music and 3am playground adventures in the freezing Vienna night saw my Christmas in with a bang.

Thursday, 25 December 2014
VIENNA - Christmas Day

My alarm sounded, and my head pounded. 8am I was scheduled to FaceTime my family and so I gathered my Christmas jumper, my present from my mum (which I had been carrying around on the tour), my phone charger and a big bottle of water and made my way down to the breakfast room for a bit of peace and quiet (and more importantly, a powerpoint).

Turns out, I’d messed up the time difference. It was 8am here, but only 3pm there. Shit. I can’t do it any later as breakfast is about to start, and then we’ll be off and running for the day. Shit. Shit. Is there anything you can do? As a result, my bro and family and my mum gathered themselves as quickly as possible and we were able to do the chat right then and there. It was amazing seeing all their faces and watching as they opened their little care package from me. I loved seeing the girls running indoors and outdoors with their UV colour changing bracelets, and it was great to chat. I sounded a bit croaky, I’m sure.

My mum posted me a present early in December so I had carefully packed that into my suitcase, ready to be opened on Christmas Day. She sent me some lovely Australian themed earrings and a necklace, and also another pair of gorgeous earrings that are real gum leaves which have been electroplated using copper and nickel. Gorgeous!

I said adieu to my lovely family and crawled back to my room. A group of us headed out into the heart of Vienna in the hopes to visit some of the many museums this old city boasts. Alas, they were all extremely expensive to enter, so instead we found our way to a highly recommended cafe where upon we gorged ourselves on Christmas fare.

Dark chocolate mocha with cream and caramel.
Delicious fresh bruschettas.
And finally, the Emperor’s pancakes.
I’ll let you in on a little secret - I had to undo my jeans button.

Rocked my world. 

Rolling out of the cafe, we visited St Stephen’s Cathedral. It was very beautiful and peaceful inside. Everyone knows that I am not in the least bit religious, but I found being in the church very moving and I felt an intense sense of homesickness in here. I felt very alone.

Tonight we visited the Schnaps Museum. The owner was a hilarious character, warning us of liquids that smelt of nail-polish remover while our tour guide hid his face (remember the Death Juice from the first night?). We learnt how the different liquors were made before…tasting! We each were to receive 3 shots of our choice, but it's Christmas, so who's counting?


I went for the chilli infused vodka, which wasn't spicy - but filled the belly with an incredible warming glow a few seconds after it reached there. Apparently strangely potent and a good mixer with orange juice to really get the party going. Second, I couldn't help myself but to try the absinthe. As some of you may know, many moons ago I used to drink a fair amount of the green fairy, usually with disastrous results. I can honestly say this was the tastiest absinthe I have ever had, without even a hint of a shudder. It was astounding. For my third shot, I chose the orange flavoured vodka with gold flecks (to poop gold?) and it too was delicious, if a little flamboyant. I did go back for a sneaky fourth - can't remember what it was now, but the first three were so incredible I felt compelled to buy something. After much umming and ahhing, I went with the absinthe as it blew my mind.

Christmas dinner, so many ugly sweaters!
Next stop: Christmas dinner, then back to the hostel and down to the bar with all our Christmas attire in full swing. Ugly Christmas sweaters abounded, antlers poked people’s eyes out and there was a particularly impressive light up fireplace complete with smoking chimney hat, modelled and designed by the lovely Tori (who went on to win the Best Dressed prize, naturally). A much quieter affair than Christmas Eve, I sat chatting for hours before giving everyone big squishy hugs with a final “Merry Christmas!” at 11.55pm.


"How do your antlers stay in"?