Category: Tips

Vienna: The Imperial Palaces, Magnificent Museums and Iconic Cafés

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Belvedere

We went to Vienna last weekend for a three day holiday and I was completely blown away by the city. The buildings were magnificent; I’d never seen so many beautiful buildings in such a concentrated area before. Every corner we turned, there was another amazing structure to be awe-struck by – I’m pretty sure we walked around the city centre dragging our jaws along the ground with us!

Vienna or Wien is the capital of Austria and it used to be the imperial capital of the Austrian Empire which was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy. The city is known for its musical and artistic legacy and is considered one of the most livable cities in the world.

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Upper Belevedere

Our hotel was located near the famous Belvedere complex, so naturally we went to check that out first. The Upper and Lower Belvedere are Baroque palaces that were built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was a general in the imperial army.

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Lower Belvedere

The two buildings are used as art museums and have beautifully manicured lawns, fountains and flower gardens surrounding them (look at those perfectly pointy trees!).

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Hall of Grotesques, Lower Belvedere

The Lower Belvedere holds temporary art exhibitions and the Upper Belvedere is home to Austrian art dating back to the middle ages. It is most famous for its huge Gustav Klimt collection including The Kiss. I am still so disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to go into the Upper Belvedere exhibition!

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Karlsplatz

We had perfect weather while we were in Vienna – three days of temperatures over 30 degrees with not a single cloud in the sky! After visiting Belvedere we stumbled upon the fountain at Karlsplatz, which people were swimming in to cool off in the heat.

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Stephansdom

The St. Stephan’s Cathedral or Stephansdom is the most important religious building in Vienna. There is also a Stephansdom in Passau (where I live) which was supposedly built in a similar Gothic style to the Vienna one before it was burnt down in a town fire and rebuilt in Baroque style.

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Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace in the centre of the city was the residence of monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty and also houses the Winter Riding School of the famous Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School. I remember reading a book called The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson when I was younger which featured the Spanish Riding School – does anyone else remember reading that book?

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Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth

In the Hofburg Palace we went to the Sisi museum, which showed the life of the beloved Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary. I found it fascinating to learn about her life and she seemed very modern minded, which was sometimes not taken so well in her own time.

Sisi

Sisi was born in Munich to Bavarian royalty and met Franz Josef when she was fifteen, who became infatuated with her even though it was Sisi’s older sister he was there to meet. They married and Sisi moved to Vienna to start her royal duties. Throughout her life Sisi disliked Viennese court life and preferred to travel and do things on her own. She was famous for her beauty which she kept a strict routine of daily exercises and hours of dressing her long hair to upkeep.

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Imperial Apartment tour

The museum also included an audio tour of the imperial apartments where Franz Josef and Sisi lived. The rooms were gorgeous and rich with detail!

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Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Museum of Fine Arts or Kunsthistoriches Museum holds the Habsburgs’ art collection and it was amazing from the inside and out.

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Inside the museum

Marble staircases and gold leaf decorations adorned the main hallway, along with the huge fresco painted on the ceiling.

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Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The Austrian National Library or Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is also located in the Hofburg and is also another gigantic building which includes four museums and boasts the title of being the largest library in Austria.

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University of Vienna

The University of Vienna is one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe. It really looks more like a palace than a university, doesn’t it?

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Rathaus (City hall)

 

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Austrian Parliament building

 

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Café Central

Vienna is also famous for its traditional coffeehouses, one of the most iconic being Café Central. The café opened in 1876 and famous people of Austria were noted to be regulars there.

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Delectable sweets in Café Central

 

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The arches and columns inside Café Central

A pianist was playing live in the café while we ate and the ambiance was just beautiful.

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Our Vienna Cards (Wien Karte)

When we got to the main train station in Vienna, we went to buy the Vienna Card, which cost 21,90 Euros and it was a great investment for our trip. You can buy the 48 hour card or the 72 hour card (which we got) and it enables you to travel on all public transport for free (buses, trams and subway) and gets you discounts for the main attractions and museums in the city. When every museum or palace costs 10 Euros or more to get in, this card seriously came in handy for a cheaper deal.

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As you can probably tell, there was A LOT to see in Vienna – almost too much! There is so much fascinating history there, especially involving the Habsburgs that what we saw was just the tiniest tip of the Viennese ice berg. Three days was definitely not long enough!

I already have a mental list of things I missed that I want to see when I go back there, starting with the Upper Belvedere art collection, Albertina, inside the National Library, National History Museum and maybe even a show at the Spanish Riding School.

I’m really looking forward to going back there sometime!


So, did you enjoy my Vienna post? 

Watch this space for my next Vienna post about Schönbrunn Palace!


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21 Important Life Lessons I Learnt At 21 (As A Recent Graduate)

Looking out over Auckland from Rangitoto Island, New Zealand

At 21, I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed recent graduate who was ready to take on real life and a full time job in the ‘adult world’. But as it turned out, the ‘adult world’ was equally ready to squash me and my naïve soul flat into the ground.

Here are 21 things no adult ever tells you about breaking into ‘their’ world:

 

1. Getting qualifications doesn’t equal a good job

I don’t know why this always comes as a shock to us recent graduates, but studying for years and finally getting your qualifications does not guarantee you a great full time job afterwards. Somehow we expect employers to be fighting over us as soon as we cross the graduation line but that is usually not the case. If anything, we are fighting to get just one call back, or get noticed at all.

2. You may be unemployed for quite a while

Congratulations, you have graduated! If you’re part of the majority of people who don’t have a company taking them on prior to graduation, trying to find a full-time job is now your new full-time job. And it’s not going to be easy. Prepare to spend a lot of time sending out C.Vs and E-mails and a lot of time of waiting for one reply.

3. Connections are more important than you think

Everyone says that the best way to get a job is through connections and they’re probably right. Employers are much more likely to hire you if they know about you already from a trusted colleague, friend or family member. So sift through your contacts and ask around if anyone knows someone that’s hiring.

4. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is

When a job description sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Exercise caution when job hunting!

5. Minimum wage is still your pay

I know you studied all of those years so you don’t have to earn minimum wage anymore, but the truth is that most employers will still only pay you minimum wage at the start. You have to show your ‘worthiness’ to the company to finally get a pay raise and even then, you may have to fight for it.

6. People will use your age against you

In two completely different job interviews for completely different positions, I was basically told that I was too young for it. I mean, what was I supposed to with that? Was I supposed to go away and gulp down an ageing potion like the Weasley twins?

Sure, they probably wanted people with more ‘experience’, but there could definitely be older people who lacked the right experience that they were looking for too. No need to blame age for it.

7. All they want is experience

One of the most frustrating things about job hunting was that everyone wanted ‘experience’ from you. How was any recent grad supposed to have one or two years work experience prior to the job? The best you can do is apply for and/or work internships whilst studying but sometimes that isn’t even enough ‘experience’ to satisfy them.

8. A lot of bosses are not good leaders

I think this image pretty much sums it up:

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9. Given the chance, people will take advantage of you

Since you’re the young rookie at work, people will dump extra jobs on you that you will take on because you don’t know any better. They will also keep you in the dark as long as possible about the higher wage that you should actually be getting paid but are not – because you don’t know any better.

10. The work force can be full of sad, angry adults

One thing you have to remember in life is that the way someone treats you is a reflection of their character, not yours. With my stint in full-time work, I came across a lot of sad and angry adults.

These adults were stuck in a job that they’d been too long at, stuck somewhere where they’d never envisaged themselves being. They hated the job and they hated themselves for not getting themselves out of it, which lead to this hate being released on other people – mainly the staff that worked under them, including me.

11. Sexism is very much alive and well

This comes as no surprise to most women, but sexism is still rampant in workplaces. The boss would shout at me from the other side of the office to make his tea and other drinks and personally deliver them to him, as if he couldn’t do it himself (what was this, the 1950s?!).

He would also go around the young women of the office and massage their shoulders every morning (yes, it was as gross and as creepy as it sounds). So let me state this: no man or woman anywhere should be touching any other person without consent and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is ANYONE allowed to touch you without your permission – especially not disgusting, misogynistic bosses older than your dad.

12. Workplace gossip can be ruthless

I thought I had left all of this petty gossip and backstabbing behind in high school but boy, was I wrong. The majority of the staff gossiped about the other members of staff like you would not believe. Especially if new staff members started, the more ‘experienced’ staff would relay all of the mistakes they had made, laugh about it and even rate who was best at the job so far.

13. No, you haven’t left high school behind – or kindergarten

I was also shocked to find that some of the people (high up in the hierarchy) sometimes acted like children in the workplace by shouting, throwing tantrums and picking favourites among the staff. They acted like children but they were so much worse because kids don’t know any better, but these fully grown adults most definitely did.

14. Not being able to trust your workmates is bad…really bad

Since there was so much gossiping and backstabbing going on, I had trust issues with the other staff. I couldn’t sincerely trust any of them because I never knew if they were relaying things I did or said to the other staff. This was a problem because I started to get paranoid and read too much into what they were saying – or not saying.

15. Some people will not treat you like a real person

Some people that are older than you and higher up the food chain will cease to treat you like a real person. One manager I had would use shame tactics when she told off new members of staff. Instead of taking me aside and telling me one-on-one what mistake I had made, she shamed me in front of all of the staff members and humiliated me. There is a vital difference between constructive criticism and point blank insulting.

16. Hypocrisy and double standards are everywhere

This was the last straw for me in my last job. I always try and stand for equality and fairness in all situations, but I didn’t find that in this workplace, at all. There would be a lot of things that managers told us never to do, and then we’d turn around and they would be the ones doing it – with no punishment, of course.

There was also shocking double standards where I would do something that I’d get told off for, and then another more favoured staff member would do exactly the same thing and not one word would be said.

17. No one wants to be the scapegoat

At one of my jobs there were a lot of situations I was deeply unhappy with. No one spoke up about any of it and no one tried to change it. Everyone avoided confrontation because no one wanted to be the scapegoat. Was this the way adults acted in ‘professional’ environments? Were we supposed to just put up with this all day, everyday? In the end I couldn’t take it anymore and I was so sick of staying silent…so I confronted (and quit the next day).

18. Make sure you know all of your rights as an employee

This one is really important. Before you even begin a new job, make sure you know all of your rights as an employee. Make sure you know your employee rights according to what country you’re in and make sure you read through your new job’s Employment Contract properly before you sign. You should be allowed to take it home and look over it without any pressure to sign it right away. And make sure you GET an Employment Contract too! (I worked at a law firm and I was’t even given one – this is against the law, ironically enough. I used this fact against them in the bitter end).

19. You are allowed to say NO

I know you’re at your new job and you want to be setting a good impression to everyone, but just remember that you are always allowed to say NO. You are not Jim Carrey in Yes Man – if you’re already swamped out with too much work, you can refuse to take on more work an older colleague is trying to dump on you.

You can also say no to jobs in interviews – there is no job that you have to take, no matter how much the employer is trying to pressure you into it. You’ve always got the power (cue ‘I’ve got the power’ scene from Bruce Almighty).

20. Never ever ignore your gut instinct

After the first training day at one of my jobs, I already knew deep in my gut that I didn’t want to take the job, but I did anyway. I still wish I could go back and undo that decision. Your gut always knows best, so don’t ignore it.

21. Your own happiness and health is much more important than a ‘great’ job

If the worst comes to worst and your job is badly affecting your health and state of mind (like mine was) – QUIT IT NOW. It was the best decision I ever made. Although it may not seem like it, there are a lot of other jobs out there and no job is worth trading your health or happiness for. This is precious time in your life that you’re never getting back – make sure it’s worth it.

 

To all recent graduates:

To all recent graduates, or anyone for that matter, I just want you to remember that you all have a choice. You always have a choice. Do not let other people or what you are ‘expected’ to do ever get in your way.

When you’re choosing a job, take your time and be careful. Ask questions, always. Challenge ideas that you think are wrong, no matter who’s ideas they are. Don’t stay silent and let it crush you, like it crushed me.

I wish I’d never had to experience these awful jobs, but I know that I learned a lot of important lessons from them. People write about relationships and heartbreak all the time, but no one ever talks about how a job can break you.

We’re all taught the tired old mantra of superheroes saving the day since we’re little and we believe it, to an extent. But in real life, sometimes there’s no one there to realise you’re in trouble. You can be in too deep for anyone to hear your cries for help.

Sometimes, you have to be your own hero.

Finally free!

Has anyone else been through/going through this at the moment?

Do you have any other things to add to the list?


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How to Survive the Dreaded Long Distance Relationship

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Universal Studios Osaka, Japan

After our exchange year in Japan ended, I had to head back to New Zealand and my Schnucki had to go back to Germany. We both had the last year of our degrees to finish off back at our own universities, so one of us following the other home wasn’t an option at the time. We were apart for more than a year…and I don’t ever want to have to repeat that again.

Here are my tips on how to survive the dreaded Long Distance Relationship and I’m not going to lie – sometimes it was really, really, really hard.

Keep Busy

I know that it will feel like there’s a gaping hole in your chest and I know that all you’ll want to do is to curl up into a weeping ball of self-pity, but you HAVE to keep busy! If you don’t, that tsunami wave of loneliness is just going to swallow you up whole…and you really don’t want that.

Luckily, it was my last year of university so I was really busy anyway, and distracting myself also made it feel like the time was going faster. So just go out with friends, try new things and avoid sitting alone at home as much as possible.

Use Skype…A LOT!

This one is a no brainer and I am SO grateful that we live in the age that has Skype. It would have been so much harder if we had lived in the times of no internet and snail mail – heck, I don’t even know if we could have even reunited in that scenario!

Germany and New Zealand are literally on opposite sides of the world, so the time difference was around 12 hours apart. We would usually Skype after he’d got up in the morning and before I headed off to bed. Have a Skype routine and try to stick to it!

Make a Private Blog

This one was a saviour. We had already decided in Japan that we would create a private blog that only we could access and it was the best idea, ever. If we missed each other on Skype, we could always post messages and photos to each other about our day and then we would leave comments to each other about the posts.

I always looked forward to checking the blog (or Schnuckiblog as we called it) to see if he had left me any messages. It was a really good way for the us to keep in touch and if either of us was having a hard time, it was sometimes easier to write things down rather than say them aloud.

Be Better at the Relationship

You know how you’re in a relationship? Yeah, well you have to be EVEN BETTER at being in a relationship while you’re on long distance. People say that communication is the key to any relationship and it really, truly is…especially if you’re on opposite sides of the world. It seems obvious, but you really have to amp up your communication/talking game because you don’t have the physical aspects to fall back on anymore.

You have to be honest about things that are happening and you have to let him know when it’s killing you, because chances are he’s feeling the exact same way. You also have to swallow any jealousy when he talks about people you don’t know and you have to put your pride in the back seat – otherwise it will drive you crazy. You will not survive.

Don’t Ever Leave a Fight Unresolved 

This goes for any relationship, but the consequences can be really bad if you leave a fight unresolved when you’re on a long distance relationship. It could even break you up. When you’re both lonely and stressed, you can end up taking it out on each other but DO NOT hang up that Skype call during a fight. Even if one of you does, call them back right away and solve that problem – no matter how long it takes.

Have an End Date

I cannot stress how important it is to have an end date to the long distance because during the time that you’re both apart, that end date is the only thing that keeps you going. I don’t even think I would have survived if we didn’t already know from the start that we would reunite in March the next year. Even if it’s not an actual end date, plan to meet up at some point because no one is built to handle a long distance relationship indefinitely.

Keep in Touch

This may seem like a strange thing to say, but you have to keep in touch especially when times are tough. They are far away from you and they do not know that you’re having a bad day unless you tell them. If I was having a bad day or upset over something, there were times when I would just shut off and not tell him anything and he would get really worried – and this was not the way to do it.

It is so much harder to know if someone is upset over messages or video calls because it’s just not as obvious as it is if you were in the same room as them and could read their body language. So be upfront about your feelings. Even though you know that you can’t get a reassuring hug afterwards, you’ll get some comforting words from your partner and that’s better than nothing.

Don’t Let the Guilt Get to You

I remember I always used to let the Long Distance Relationship Guilt get to me. This was when I would block off my feelings of missing my Schnucki because I felt like I didn’t deserve to feel bad. I had an amazing partner who just happened to be living far away from me for a year, that was all…right? I would tell myself that I couldn’t feel sad over this, I couldn’t feel this devastating heartache. But I did. I really, really did. My heart literally ached.

Even though I tried really hard not to show it, it was really ripping me up inside. I passed it off as no big deal in front of my friends and family, but being so far away from your love for so long is a really big deal. It’s just that no one realises how big until they experience it for themselves. So don’t let the guilt get to you and don’t let yourself, or anyone else, dismiss the pain that you’re feeling. Because the pain is real.

Make Use of the Time Apart

Since circumstances has you apart for the time being, make sure it wasn’t in vain! This is the time to focus on yourself and what you love to do. Keep yourself happy by doing the things that make you happy and make sure you have some projects to work on.

If you feel like you’re running out of things to talk about, take this chance to get to know your partner better. Ask questions you’ve never asked before; about their childhood memories, fears and the like (or just be lazy by looking up questions on Google) and you might just discover something new!

Throughout the year we were apart, I also made a scrapbook full of photos from our adventures in Japan and sent it to my Schnucki for Christmas and he loved it. So keep busy and keep positive! You can survive this!

You Will Know if it is Worth It

Even though we’d only been going out for less than a year when we had to start the long distance relationship, we both knew we were in it to win it. That stubborn determination we both had to beat the odds was the drive that kept us going.

Although there were rough patches, especially in the first half of the year, and there were nights I just cried myself to sleep from missing him so much, we made it through and we came out stronger than ever before. And the reunion was pure bliss.

If you can survive a long distance relationship together, I think you can survive anything. True love conquers any distance!

 


Have you been in or are you currently in a Long Distance Relationship?

What else would you add to this list?


 

Auckland: Why You Should NOT Live In The Central City

We have been living in central Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city) for the past year now and looking back in hindsight, I don’t think I would do it again – here’s why.

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Auckland City from the Fuller’s ferry

Expensive Living

I already knew that Auckland was among the world’s most expensive cities, but I guess I didn’t realise the full extent of that statement until I was actually living here myself.

My Schnucki and I have been living in a one bedroom apartment (it is literally just one bedroom with a toilet and balcony attached) right in the city centre and it costs us $300 NZD per week to live here (try converting that into your own currency!). That price doesn’t even cover internet, electricity or water bills which we have to pay separately per month. I really want to cry at how much money has gone out of the window at renting this apartment the past year.

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I really feel ya, Dean.

And don’t even get me started on grocery shopping. I’m a New Zealander and yet the price of basic products at the supermarket never fail to astound me. I go in there to buy about one or two days worth of food and I always come out having spent at least $60 NZD, or more. I just don’t understand how milk, cheese and butter can be so expensive when we are the main producers of this stuff. Why, New Zealand, why?

Noisy Neighbourhood

Obviously any city centre has a lot of people and you can expect a lot of noise, but it really is noisy all the time here.

Sometimes it’s not even worth keeping the window open on a hot Summer’s night because the street noise from below will just keep me awake anyway. And it doesn’t help that we live next to the Worst Neighbours In The World. Seriously, we have a psychopath living next door. We had to call the police on him once and we’ve been more than  tempted to again many times since.

More Opportunities?

I moved up to Auckland from Christchurch with the naïve thought that ‘a bigger city = bigger opportunities’ and we would both be able to get jobs quickly and easily. It turns out that this was not the case for us. My Schnucki struggled to land a job for months with his working holiday visa and I had to provide for both of us during that time at the worst job I have ever worked at. It was not a fun time.

A big city means a lot of jobs…but also a lot of competition. I definitely found out the reality of this fact the hard way.

Air conditioners, anyone?

I don’t know what it is about Auckland, but it seems like air conditioners never made it here. We don’t have any sort of heating (or cooling) facility in our apartment, which makes it chilly in winter and stifling hot in summer. It’s not just us though – my friend living in the North Shore told me her HOUSE doesn’t have any air conditioner or heater either and that is just too weird. Step up your A.C act, Auckland!

Auckland Lantern Festival, Albert Park

Of course, living in Auckland central is not all boo and hoo – it definitely has had its perks too. (Now I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it!)


Walking Distance

The biggest perk of living in the centre of everything, is that everything is close to you.

Everywhere is in walking distance and when big events are on in the city, you can be there in the front row without ever having to worry about where to park or enduring any over crowded public transport to get there (SO good!). Work was in walking distance too, though I would opt for the 4 minute bus ride instead, because yes, I am that lazy and I would rather pay 90 cents to bus each way than walking 20 minutes.

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Winter is coming…or not

When the rest of the country was suffering through the mid-Winter blizzards, we were bracing ourselves for the blast too…which never came. Okay, well, there was one week where it really felt like Winter (the week my family came up to visit haha) but after that, nothing.

It was just one really long-and-balmy-sort-of-Autumn-like time and  then it was all over. I never had to put on more than two layers…which was GREAT! When Aucklanders would complain about how cold it was, I would scoff, “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”

No Bug Heaven

This one may be a small perk to some people, but it’s a big one to me. The whole time I’ve been in Auckland, I have not seen one spider, anywhere. Not just spiders, but no moths, flies, ants or any other sort of creepy crawly has ever set one foot or wing into our apartment, as far as I know.

We can leave the balcony door open all night, with the light on, and no unwelcome visitors will come in. This is a stark contrast with my house in Christchurch where we get all of the above even with the lights out and all of the doors and windows shut tight.

Good Transport

I have to say I’ve been pretty impressed with the Auckland transport, thus far. Buses and trains are frequent and come on time (pick up your act, Christchurch buses!), and the Airport Bus which runs 24/7 is particularly handy for those flights at godforsaken hours. When you sign up for the free transport card called the HOP Card, it allows you to travel on any Auckland transport (even ferries) at discounted prices.

The really nice thing about the city is that if you take a 12 minute ferry ride to Devonport, or a 10-15 minute bus ride to Mission Bay, St. Helier’s Bay or the North Shore, you can feel worlds away from the fast-paced and noisy city centre. It’s a great escape for when you’ve had enough of living in the central city, like me.

Mission Bay looking out towards Rangitoto Island

All in all, living in Auckland central has been an interesting experience and if you are planning to live here, I strongly recommend living in the suburbs outside the CBD, rather than the CBD itself. Places like Mt. Eden, Mt. Roskill, Parnell and the North Shore are all good recommendations. Also, avoid Queen Street at night (or in general) if you know what’s good for you!


Is anyone planning to live in Auckland/already is? Let me know how it’s going for you!