Greetings from Vienna!  I have officially moved into my apartment in Margaretenstrasse, the 5th district of Vienna, after a weekend in a beautiful town called Mariazell, located in the foothills of the Alps.

My journey began with a 6:25pm flight from Washington D.C. Dulles International Airport, where I took a six hour flight to London.  The flight was actually quite enjoyable as British Airways accommodated passengers with a great selection of movies (including Thor which I still hadn’t seen yet) as well as complimentary wine with dinner.  I met Jamie Leff in London, where we had a 3 hour layover before taking our second flight- only two hours this time- to Vienna!  On the plane I sat next to a really nice old couple who was acquainted with Austria, and they gave me some good tips on what to check out in Vienna and some nice cities surrounding Vienna that are easy to travel to!

Jamie and I landed in London just before 1:00pm, where we quickly made it though customs, security, etc. and met up with our IES people for the very first time!  People were super friendly from the very beginning, and as we took a bus to Mariazell for our 4-day orientation outside of Vienna, we continued to meet new people and make new friends!  Also, as we made our way on the 3 hour bus drive to Mariazell the hills slowly became more and more mountainy, which only helped to build the overall excitement level of our bus!

In Mariazell, we finally met up with Ross, who we were supposed to have met up with in London (Ross’ transfer flight got changed to Brussels instead of London)!  In Mariazell we stayed in a youth hostel, which was comprised of nearly all IES people during our stay, and had a chance to meet the students we’ll be spending the next 4 months with!  There are about 130 IES students I would say (approximately), which is split into about 2/3 music students and 1/3 European studies students.

Throughout the weekend, we took part in many orientation sessions, from topics about how to adjust to the culture of Austria, info about Vienna as a city, what Austrians are like (apparently they like to stare a lot), and a “basic survival sessions” on speaking German.  As I speak absolutely no German, I gladly enrolled in Elementary German I, which starts tomorrow morning!

Also to top off the weekend, we were treated to absolutely delicious meals- with plenty of Wiener Schnitzel and new soups to try with every meal!  The meat there was particularly exceptional, and I’m really looking forward to trying actual Vienna food!!

Mariazell also presented us with a “traditional Austrian evening” one night, where we watched and took part in traditional Austrian dances, which actually did turn out to be a lot of fun. Especially watching the people who were more than a little intoxicated fail miserably at dancing…! heh.

Other than that, the weekend was full of meeting new people, going on hikes, swimming, avoiding the saunas (where full nudity is not only encouraged but required), going Kegelbahnning (Austrian form of bowling that apparently even Mozart used to do!), and making a trip to the downtown area of Mariazell where we had DELICIOUS gelato (for really cheap too!) and saw a magnificent church with stunning ornamentations.

After lunch today we packed up our stuff, said a fond farewell to Mariazell, and made our way to Vienna!  We met with our landlord just a couple of hours ago, and I’m very excited to be finally settled into my actual apartment in the city! On that note, it’s time that I go and explore the actual city of Vienna!  Vienna here I come!