Thursday, April 8, 2010

Internet Anytime, Anywhere—in Austria Anyway

By Claire
We packed a lunch and the computer, hoping against hope that we would somehow manage to get the Internet stick to work for us. I woke up realizing that Herr Hubar would probably be unable to help us since he most likely would not have WiFi in his shop and we needed to go online in order to register so we could go online. Definitely, a Catch-22.

However, we decided that our day in Vienna was more important and we wanted to get to the Hofburg Palace to see the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Silver and Porcelain Collection. I must say, it really is great to arrive early and in off season--we met very few people as we made our way through the Palace. It’s cold in the morning so it was a good time to be indoors.

We started with the silver and porcelain. I didn’t know it was possible to have so many different china patterns or silverware or goldware. This exhibit went on for some time—personally, I was ready to move on before it ended and wished later that we have moved through this part a little faster. However, the designs were gorgeous and impressive. This centerpiece could extend 30 meters. It probably came in handly for those family holiday gatherings.

I especially liked this display of napkin folding. Apparently the technique is a state secret.

You know those towel animals you always see in the cruise ads? Well guess where they started?

Napkin art

We finally made it to the Sisi Museum and the private apartments. This was fantastic and we were both so glad we decided to do this tour. It came with an audio guide (also included in the porcelain exhibit) and it was just right. I knew nothing about Empress Elizabeth, called Sisi by her family, and the exhibit was fascinating about this very misunderstood, beautiful woman. She is sometimes compared to Princess Diana. Her hair hung to her ankles and was her pride and joy. It took 3 hours every day to dress her hair and an entire day to wash it in egg yolks and cognac. She had a tragic life, losing her first born daughter at age 2 and her grown son to suicide. Then, at age 61, she was assassinated.

The private apartments were opulent and quite interesting. The porcelain stoves used to heat the rooms were tended behind the wall so that soot and smoke would not get into the room. She had her own exercise equipment and her own bathtub—she was the first Habsburg to have running water in her bathroom. This room also had the first linoleum ever used in Vienna, c. 1880.

We decided on the Burggarten, just outside the palace, as a good spot for lunch. We spent a lot yesterday, so we’re back to picnics, which saves us at least €15. It was lunch time and we weren’t sure anyone would be available to help us, but we decided to carry on. We stopped first at T-Mobile to talk to Herr Hubar. He really couldn’t help us but suggested we speak with the guy next door at Orange since they have a partnership with Yesss!, the service provider. This guy was nice, but unable to help in any way. Everyone said it would be complicated and difficult and at this point, I was ready to try and return the thing. We decided to try an Internet café, hoping to find someone young and knowledgeable who could help us. We found these places all over Turkey.

We managed to find the street where Big Net was located but couldn’t find the location. We looked and looked at the numbers but it just didn’t make sense. Finally, spotting two young guys sitting outside Nescafé Net Café, I decided to ask if they knew where Big Net was. Nescafé was just a coffee place that happened to have computers you could use with no real expertise available.

How is it that Chuck and I get so lucky all the time? Andreas and Daniel, who turned out to be brothers on their annual visit together, did everything they could to help us. It was hard for us to explain just exactly what our problem was but they finally got it. Andreas uses Yesss! and called his provider to see if they could explain what we needed to do. They did and he suggested we take the SIM card out of the stick and put it in his mobile phone so he could register it for us. It worked! He entered the pin number that was in our paperwork and with high hope, I asked the man in the café if we could use his electrical plug so we could use our computer there (he did not have WiFi, only computers). The great news is, IT WORKED! We were online in minutes. In theory, we will have this anywhere we are. The headache for the future will be moving from country to country and having to find a mobile store to buy a SIM card for that country. We’re hoping we don’t have to go through this rigmarole every time. We are thrilled and so grateful to Andreas and Daniel. Besides their kindness, we really enjoyed talking with them. Turns out, they were exactly what we were looking for.

Andreas and Daniel

Our magic mobile Internet stick

We caught up on email for a short time then decided to check out the Naschmarkt. The man at the café saw us looking at our map and came over to see if we needed help. He showed us where it was and told us how to get there. We're glad we went and enjoyed the walk to get there. It is a lively and bustling place with lots and lots of ethnic restaurants and markets. We bought some great tasting cheese after a few samples, Chuck got a pastry and coffee and we enjoyed strolling around.

Classy fire hydrant

What's this? No people? No kids with balls? No cars? No houses?

Karlskirche, where I met up with my son, Mathew, on a visit 21 years ago while he was an exchange student here.

Cheese seller

Note the Dragon fruit

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop (620 BC - 560 BC), The Lion and the Mouse

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