I spent the day walking around Venice, which was rainy but still quite pleasant, and full of cafes where you can stop for a cappuchino when you get too cold and wet (I had three). Then after taking a night train, I met with Janak and his friend Peter in Vienna the next morning. Peter, by the way, was in shorts and a t-shirt despite it being close to zero degree C weather. This is apparently usual for him. When I asked if he was cold, he just said “I AM the cold!” Anyways,he spent the day showing us around Vienna. We walked his dog, got lunch, saw a huge old cathedral, went to another Christmas market (and got another huge pretzel for Janak), walked around the extensive and snow covered grounds of a castle, threw snowballs at a small patch of dirt from on top of a hill for more than an hour (Janak finally hit it in the center), and then walked back to Peter’s apartment. We met his brother Michael there, and made spatzle for dinner. This involved making little noodles by letting a batter drip through a colander into boiling water, and then covering these noodles with cheese and cooking them even more in the oven. They turned out remarkably well.
The next day we all went to the big Rathaus Christmas market (Janak and I split a langos, which was like a big fried piece of bread with garlic) and then to a nearby cafe (amazing coffee). Janak, Peter, and Michael walked around the area for a while, and I went back to the Christmas market for hot mulled wine and chestnuts. That night we went to Peter and Michael’s father’s apartment for dinner, since it was Christmas eve. It was a pretty relaxed and pleasant day.
On Christmas, we had a huge brunch back at Dddr Langmayr’s apartment (he has three PhDs, so he gets a pretty sweet title), after which we went and played Starcraft all day, ordered Indian food for dinner and ate it while watching Avatar, and then played more Starcraft. At some point in there we also went up onto the roof of the apartment building for a great view of the city. An even more relaxed day than the last.
On our last day in Vienna, we actually went to Bratislava, which isn’t too far away, so we could visit yet another country in our Europe trip. We got some excellent hot chocolate there, saw a castle, ate Chinese food, played some intense games of Go on Peter’s phone, had more hot chocolate (it was so cold there that even Peter admitted it was a bit chilly, so it was nice to sit in the cafe with something hot), and then drove back to the airport in Vienna to pick up their sister. Then they saw us off at the train station and we took a night train back to Venice. From Venice we caught a ferry to Greece. It was a nice enough trip, and the weather was beautiful, but it was a looooong ride of more than thirty hours. Since we had the Eurrail pass, deck passage was free for us, so we just slept on the couches in the main lounge/dining area. We did get a chance to shower, though, since a man who was getting off at an earlier stop than us was nice enough to give us the key to his room. Thus we arrived, reasonably clean and well rested, at five in the morning in Patras, where we caught an early bus, then train, then metro into Athens.