GDT20: Oh Vienna!

Vienna (not just an Ultravox hit!) has been a very enjoyable and exciting city for our delegation, as we travel north through Europe in the latter half of our tour. Here are some highlights from some of our delegates!

SHANNON MCLEAN: City landmarks and highlights

After the experience of the overnight train, we arrived in the slightly colder climate of Vienna. Even when we first stepped off the metro we stumbled across various artistic pieces of architecture. In this case it was not our hostel but a church. 

The city’s landmarks were greatly commentated by Patrick’s guide where we can not forget to mention the brilliant dad jokes. We passed through the ‘Museum Quarter’ (yes it’s a thing) and saw a huge statue of Queen Victoria. 

We also happened to be in Vienna on National Remembrance Day and came across a park of trees with potato sacks covering them as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. This was definitely something that made us aware of where we were and how much history each country has. 

Our last stop on Patrick’s Tour was the St Stephen’s Cathedral, another stunning piece of architecture. Standing tall and goth like it was nothing quite like we’d seen before. It showed harsh tones and sharp edges but inside gave out the feeling of warmth and elegance. 

Because of the rain on the 28th of January we decided it wasn’t worth the visit to Schonbrunn. However the resilient Directors, (especially noting Virginia, logistic Queen here) managed to fit in a visit to this unique Palace before Aspern. I personally didn’t know what to expect from the Palace, but upon arriving I was greatly surprised. There were some unique features such as the yellow colour, the huge columned statue on the hill overlooking the Palace, a desert zoo, a greenhouse full of palm trees and endless paths of stone connecting gardens. I think it would be safe to say that we all gained a bit of architectural appreciation in Vienna and will remember these landmarks due to their design. 

GWYNETH PALLARAG: Non-educational activities

Before even stepping foot in Vienna, our overnight train from Rome was an adventure in itself. Rooms were three bunks high and a suitcase wide, yet still big enough for the delegation to yarn through the night. 

Then came out hostel, which was right beside the famous Naschmarkt, a huge market with 16th-century origins. It was a symphony for the senses, and they sold everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, exotic herbs, traditional cheese and bread, with cute vintage stalls and tourist shops dotted around. Novelty enough for some delegates to lose all concept of money and spend €10 for a hundred gram bad of nuts.

Nothing says winter in Vienna like some nighttime ice skating, which Rathausplatz surely delivered. The trees were lit up, we vibed to the music, the view of the neo-gothic style city hall was gorgeous, and the atmosphere was magical. Though our delegates had physical lows, with a record tripe, falls and stumbles, it was undoubtedly a high point of our trip. 

Our coldest city yet, the two degree Viennese weather proved no match for this delegation. We trekked from meeting to meeting, platz to platz, refuelling every so often with a cup of rich, creamy coffee, and a classic Austrian apple strudel. Temperatures may have been low, but our spirits sure were high. 

BELLA GREIG: Educational Meetings

In Vienna, we were very lucky to have three very different meetings. On Tuesday, we travelled to Vienna’s United Nations Headquarters. Here, we had our meeting with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). This organisation was founded in 1957 and works to develop international peace and security through its intergovernmental platform for partnership and cooperation in the nuclear field: both with weaponry and tools.

This meeting began with a speaker who gave us an in depth description of how the study of isotopes in the earth’s soil can determine things such as the amount of erosion of soil, and the age of underground water sources. We then heard from two speakers who gave a more general overview of the IAEA and the work they do. It was very interesting to learn the definitions of the three main pillars of the organisation. These pillars were Science and Technology, Safety and Security and Safeguards and Verification. 

The next day, we met with the Smart City Vienna Agency, a think tank initiative which focuses on finding contemporary and effective responses to the drastic shortage of natural resources and climate change. In a nutshell, the Smart City Vienna Agency has an approach which puts citizens first, and views quality of life as an imperative pillar of current and future work and research. Some of the agency’s most memorable projects included ‘Smart Traffic Lights’ and ‘Heat from Waffles’. The Smart Traffic Lights initiative aims to use combined sensors for more efficient traffic flow, thus increasing environmental health. Heat from Waffles was a second very interesting project which aims for smart usage from waste heat (from the production of waffles). This left the delegates thinking of sustainable practises in new and very innovative ways!

The Aspern tour was the final educational meeting held in Vienna. To get there, we travelled about 40 minutes out of the centre of Vienna to reach the smart city construction site. We learnt that in addition to being one of Europe’s fastest growing urban developments, it has been planned to enhance the quality of life for citizens and the performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. It was interesting to learn that one of the main challenges this city faces is finding businesses to relocate to the new urban campus. 

Thanks Vienna for some fantastic meetings and bring on Berlin!

MEGHAN TEMPLETON: What’s next for the tour

Time has been flying by for the GDT 2020 crew, and it is safe to say that every single one of the delegation is making the most of all the opportunities being given to us. 

Stop number Five for us is Berlin. Nine times the size of Paris, home to more canals than Amsterdam and Venice and many many museums, shops and hidden streets to explore, Berlin is definitely shaping up to be a highlight on tour. 

I promise that shopping and sightseeing isn’t all we are doing though! The delegation is very excited for the multiple meetings that await us in this vibrant city. First up is a meeting with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and GPPI (Global Public Policy Institute). I am sure that both meetings will be very thought provoking and provide interesting discussion. 

Unfortunately we are no longer meeting with Ecosia which is disappointing as the delegation was definitely looking forward to learning about such an innovative use of technology. However, we have been so fortunate with the many other creative organisations and companies that we have talked with. 

All in all it is fair to say, that despite a bit of tiredness, we are all filled with excitement to explore – and learn from – everything Berlin has to offer.