On to the Next Adventure…

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So, right after being out until almost 4am and then taking a brutal German final we were bound for Germany on a week-long trip.  Let’s just say that waking up at 6:45am to get to the bus on time was not the easiest task.  Plus, the fact that we had eaten ourselves out of our fridge in preparation for being gone a week left us with no breakfast…and all the bakeries were closed that early on a Saturday morning.  But, luckily my friend Emily is always prepared with food and was gracious enough to share it all.  Breakfast problem was solved.  Now for the other problem: the incredible lack of sleep.  Well, that was taken care of fairly soon as I drifted off into dreamland almost as soon as the wheels began to turn.

It was the perfect dIMG_0453ay for travel; rain-filled, dark clouds loomed over us all asIMG_0456 we boarded our bus.  Thankfully, this made it much easier to fall asleep and not feel bad about missing the beauty of the sun shining on the sights on our way to Germany.

We stopped first in Prague.  We had a few hours to grab lunch and sight-see before getting back on the bIMG_0459us and heading to Dresden.  The giant working metronome, which replaced a massive statue of Stalin torn down in 1962, ticked it’s hand back and forth as we hopped off the bus and hurried over the bridge and down the street to the center of the old town.

The Prague Astronomical clock, of course, is one of the main attractions in the Old Town Square.  Installed in 1410, this clock is the oldest of its kind still working and in regular use.  EvIMG_0461ery hour the clock goes off with music filling the main square and IMG_0463people gather on the cobblestone square to listen and marvel at the clock’s intricate moving figures.

As this part of the IMG_0484square attracts tourists for the clock and historical feel for the Old Town, the square bustles with people, markets, restaurants, and street performers.  Two men dressed as 18th century nobles taking pictures with anyone willing is a normal sight to see.IMG_0471

My favorite part of the Old Town is a permanent market that began in 1232.  Havelske trziste (Havel’s Market) has booths for everything from wooden carved toys to beautiful paintings of Prague.  Produce, as well, is sold here along witIMG_0482h baked goods and everything else you could possibly imagine.  I only wish we had more time to wander around.  We unfortunately had to get back on the bus to drive to our real destination in Germany.  Not, however, without first marveling at a couple of swans delightfully swimming around the banks of the riveIMG_0498r where our bus waited patiently for our return.  After only three hours we said goodbye to Prague and our bus roared off to Dresden.  I couldn’t wait toIMG_0493 get to Dresden; it would be my first time in Germany.  Only a few hours on the bus stood between me and my next adventure.  Until then, sleep enveloped me, thank goodness, and the trip seemed to go by much faster than expected.  And suddenly, we were there…

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The TU Ball

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What a whirlwind.  I couldn’t believe that I was to attend a real ball.  I mean, I wasn’t in Cotillion, I hardly went to any dances in high school and Prom was really a lot of fuss over nothing.  But, I was so excited for a real, high society ball in Vienna, Austria.

After hemming my dress with shocking success, I was ready to go.  But then I realized: I never even thought about what how I would do my hair or what jewlery I would wear or how my makeup would look.  Of course, these are minor details in relation to actually having a dress to wear.  Oh well, at this point I was just ready to go.  IMG_0423

Our oh-so-classy pre-ball extravaganza began with frozen pizza and the ever-classy paper Getting ready!towel napkin.  We were starting the night off right.

Regardless, dressing up is always fun in a group.  We fussed over each other’s dresses and took pictures to last a lifetime.  Getting dolled up after a stressful day at school was the perfect way to let go and have some fun. And, of course what would a pre-ball party be without a photo shoot?

I'm ready for the ballBeing sexy TU ballRoommate hug!

After all that fun was over it was time to leave.  we bundled up in our winter coats, gloves, and scarfs and were on our way.  What better mode of transportation to a classy ball than public transportation?  Who really needs a horse-drawn carriage or a car?  So here we are, in floor-length ball gowns, clambering onto the U-Bahn to attend our very first ball.  At least we took off our long gloves so we didn’t look too ridiculous.  One thing we didn’t think about: wind from the train approaching.  My roommate, Heidi, was a little overprotective of hers…

Travelling to the ball

Not only were we a spectacle on the train, but we also decided to go all out and be American tourists, taking photos on the ride.  Totally worth it…besides we’re getting used to the way everyone in Vienna stares during everyday travel on the U-Bahn; it’s accepted.Bus to TU Ball

After finally getting on our way, we realized we had no idea where we were going.  I mean, we knew the general area and the building, but we had no idea where to go inside.  Our solution?  Follow the Viennese couple on the U-Bahn, wearing a tux and a ball gown, from the train to, hopefully, the ball.  Who knew that eight people wouldn’t be very stealthy in their stalking skills.  Oh well, lesson learned.  But, we arrived at our destination…and what a destination it was: The Hofburg Palace. IMG_0441

Expensive cars were pulling up to the main entrance as we hopped over puddles through the square.  Women in beautiful dresses and men dressed in tuxedos surrounded the front doors.  We hopped around them and entered the building to be greeted with a beautiful baroque interior.  Large chandeliers hung from the ceilings, the marble floors shone under our wet shoes and the intricate decoration on the walls made it feel like a dream.  We rushed as fast as we could to find a spot to see the opening ceremony, but the place was packed.  We stood, crowded among others who desperately wanted to see the spectacle that was the debutantes and their escorts performing the first few waltzes before the dance floor was open to the public.  It was beautiful; a sea of white and black twirling around the beautifully lit marble dance floor.  The live orchestra playing waltIMG_0443zes, my favorites by Strauss, sounded impeccable and filled the room.  Finally, when the debutantes were finished with their presentation, the announcement was made for the opening of the ball and the first public waltz was played.  Couples from every corner of the spectator’s seats flooded onto the dance floor and began their first waltz.  The flow of colored dresses, white gloves, and black tuxes filled the hall with delight.

Aside from the main ball room the ball included smaller themed rooms including a Jazz, Salsa/Tango, Folk, and a Modern room downstairs where many younger people hung out.  I explored everything, trying some folk dances, which include a lot of stomping, some swing and jazz, and evTango!en some salsa.  We all had fun dancing together to all different kinds of music.  Who needs a gentleman to dance with you when you have awesome friends?

Something I learned: everyone goes to these balls.  They are open to the public as long as you purchase a ticket.  Each ball in Vienna during ball season has a different theme, hosted by different companies or Universities in the city.  I had a conversation with my German professor and her husband early in the evening and saw many other people from my program, including professors and administrators.  There were people from all over the world and of all ages; there was something for everyone.

TU ball 8For me, the highlight of the evening was dancing in the main ballroom.  My friend Myron and I waltzed together to the big band playing a rendition of “Hello Dolly.”  I couldn’t pass that up.  It was wonderful, although my waltzing skills are enormously sub-par.TU Ball 6

Aside from dancing it was mesmerizing to sit and watch everyone else dance.  There were couples of all different dancing skills; some were incredible, others were laughable.  But the point of the evening was to have fun, not to be the best dancer in the room.  Much later in the evening, around 2am, the traditional “line dancing” began.  We had perfect seating to watch everyone attempt the dances.  They were similar to square dancing, with the announcer shouting instructions over the mic so everyone could participate.  It was fun to watch couples gallop down the line in between songs, a tradition to see who can get the farthest down the line and back before the announcer begins instructions for the next song.

After a tiring, but amazing evening, we left the palace, grabbed a taxi, and rode home.  We were in bed by 4am and not looking forward to the next morning when we would all be taking our intensive German finals and then early the morning after that when we would leave for Germany.  Exhausted and happy, I fell asleep immediately, not even to be woken up by two of my roommates arriving back at our apartment after 5am.  I still can’t believe I attenIMG_0445ded a Viennese Ball.  It was all I imagined it to be and more!  I can’t wait to attend another one in the future, because I truly had the night of my life.TU ball 9

Oh, and in the main lobby near the entrance a race car was on display just waiting for me to take a picture.  That one’s for you, Papa.  I couldn’t resist.

Until next time! Bis später!

How to Attend a Ball

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All right, everyone, here are the fool-proof steps to prepare for a posh ball in Vienna. (Subject to personal outcome, of course)

Step 1-Buy your ticket

Ok, so this one is pretty simple…if you know where to buy the ticket.  Speaking German helps.  Also a good sense of direction.  It all worked out in the end.  I mean, people don’t really complain when you’re giving them money.

Now that the easy part is finished:

Step 2-Buy a dress

Searching for a ball gown in Vienna is ten times easier than prom dress shopping in the states.  There are small boutiques everywhere with dresses of all shapes and sizes, specifically tailored to the proper dress code for each ball.  My friend Emily and I went out the Saturday before the ball in search of the perfect, and cheap, ball gowns.  While finding a proper dress for the ball was simple I ran into my constant problem…fitting into it lengthwise.  The saleswomen proved their incredible knowledge of this tradition by buttoning, zipping, and tying us both into the many dresses we tried on.  And, of course, every gown saleswoman knows what is appropriate for which ball; not surprisingly, having your dress almost a foot too long is kind of inappropriate.

They kept giving me a pair of incredibly tall heels to put on with each grossly long dress I put on.  Even with the ugly red heels, the dresses were all still 5 inches too long.  In the end, I accepted the inevitable-that anything I tried on would be too long-and chose the dress I loved, paid for it, and walked out of the store, content in my purchase.

Now to deal with how to actually wear it…

Step 3-Figure out how to wear a dress a foot too long

So, after choosing the dress I was on a shopper’s high-very rare for me-and the concern of how to even wear the dress in public flew out of my mind and into the voided space I shoved all other thoughts of doing well on the German final the day after the ball.

But the reality of a dress the length of the Great Wall of China soon came rushing back.  Buying the dress a week before the ball left me with few choices.  Finding a seamstress and having it hemmed in less than three days was highly difficult, not to mention rude.  So, I decided to take it upon myself to fix the dress…whatever way possible.  Seeing as I have barely used a needle and thread before, the prospect of hemming the dress myself was nerve-racking.  I think the Skype conversation with my mom sums it up:Hemming my Ball Gown

“You’re going to hem your own dress?”

“Yep.”

“Have you ever sown on a button before?”

“Nope.”

“Have you ever even picked up a needle and thread before?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, then.”

Regardless of her reality reminder, I decided to challenge myself and try. And what a challenge it was.  First of all, I could not have chosen a more complicated dress. It had three layers, with pleats in the front and back that flowed down into the full skirt.  Whatever.  It was either hem the skirt or not go to the ball…and the latter was NOT an option.  So, with my roommates’ generous help, I pinned the dress and began to hem.  it took forever! Making sure the hemline was straight and all the layers matched up was frustrating.  Also, with my lack of experience, the thread kept breaking and I would accidentally go through too many layers…numerous times.  But, in the end it was SO worth it.  I was so exhausted when I finished, but the moment of truth was still imminent.

The night before the ball I finally tried on my dress…and it fit!  The hem was (rather) straight and was the perfect length.  I was so relieved.  Here’s the moral of the story: Buy a dress enough in advance that you can perhaps get it professionally hemmed.  However, if this is not possible, sometimes you may discover a hidden talent.  The feeling of accomplishment and success is the best in the world and made me even more excited to attend with the perfect dress.  Now for the ball…

Updates and Apologies!

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Hello friends and family,

I apologize for my lack of posts over the past two weeks.  However, I have had many amazing experiences-enough to fill many pages of fun stories and pictures.  These posts are sure to come within the next few days; I apologize in advance for the internet bombardment soon to come.

In case you want a preview, here are a few topics to be discussed through the next few posts:IMG_0739

  • Viennese Ball
  • My Adventures with Sewing
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Leipzig, Germany
  • The Berlin Wall
  • Hostels
  • Berlinale Film Festival
  • The Holocaust Memorial
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Food

And much, much more!

Thanks for sticking with me through my neglect.  Fun things still to come!