Our first stop was Madrid, which was a seven-hour plane trip. To pass the time I ate both dinner and breakfast –– which was provided –– watched movies, slept, read my book, talked to my neighbors and then participated in a game from my childhood called “MASH”.   

While in Madrid, we were not allowed the leave the airport, but I did have my first adventure with purchasing food in a foreign country and using my first ever Euro. I tried to talk slowly and point to the pictures of what I wanted, so as to avoid confusion. I tell you, I know the person I was talking to was an intelligent being and so was I, but the language barrier made both of us seem as if we had the comprehension and communication skills of five year olds. I tried not to laugh in order to avoid seeming condescending and rude, but I couldn’t help but think that from an outsiders point of view how funny this encounter looked.   

From Madrid we flew to Austria. Now due to the time difference, the first and second days kind of became one. Once we deplaned, all three teams plus coaches went to get our bags. Sadly out of all 40 bags that were supposed to be on our flight, only one did not make it, and no it was not mine; but it would not surprise you if it had would it? 

Anyways, it was my teammate from Los Angeles who lost her bag, so she had all her cute clothes, make-up and most importantly money folded and packed safely in her suitcase. 

After the airport, we walked to our tour bus and met our charismatic bus driver “Nikki”. His real name was Nicholas something that I cannot pronounce let alone spell; he was from Romania so we just left it at Nikki!  

Next he drove us to our hotel, the Hotel Zentral, where we checked-in but did not stay.  (Note: we still have not slept really, nor eaten real food in about 12 hours.) We checked in, changed and had only 10 minutes to get ready for our city tour of Vienna. 

Despite our low energy and fuel intake, we all made it for the most part pleasantly through the tour of the great City of Vienna. We were shown the Imperial palace, town hall and St. Stephan’s church. 

In the city center, the girls and I had our first Austrian meal and gelato. Oh my goodness was gelato good. I have found my new favorite food besides steak, and that would be the cookie gelato. It was only 1.50 euro, which in American money is like $2. 

Throughout the course of the day I met many Austrians, which seemed to me to be very welcoming and nice. Despite this fact I still remained very paranoid and on my guard for pickpockets and sported a very stylish, nude colored, under the clothes flat fanny pack.  Yes, a fanny pack, I, Mackenzie Angner, wore a fanny pack, and surprisingly I liked it.  It was comfortable and convenient and no one could tell it was there.  It did get sweaty on occasion but that was the only set back ☺

Anyways, after our tour we went to eat an authentic Austrian dinner “wiener schnitzel and apple straddle”. Which was our American version of chicken stripes but wider not thicker strips and theirs is made of pork and not chicken (breaded pork strips). 

Then we, as in all three teams, went back to the hotel grabbed our practice stuff and all of us went to our first and last ever two hour practice. To say the least, we were all very, very tired and sweaty afterwards. 

The plan was to go out our first night and celebrate but only a few actually made it. Most of us ended up calling it an early night after our showers. I do not even remember falling asleep, I just remember packing my bag for the next day talking to my teammates/roommates, and next thing I knew it was lights out.  

I believe when we calculated it, we went 18-19 hours without sleep, it was a good first day in Europe, I can’t believe we made it through.

Mackenzie Angner

Angner and the rest of the team at the airport

Outside of the hotel in Vienna, Austria

A picture of "The Plague Monument" with an explanation courtesy of about.com

Vienna's location on the Danube made it a travel hub during the seventeenth century. However, river ships brought plague-bearing rats. In addition, the city did not have an effective way of disposing of garbage, which exacerbated the situation.

People did not understand that plague came from fleas on these rats. They thought it was a punishment from God, so they tried to bribe God with ornate monuments such as this one, which was designed to thank God.

This monument was built by Emperor Leopold in about 1690.