In Austria, we started our journey with Vienna and sadly, it didn’t start well.
We were travelling to Vienna from Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic) and had booked a shared shuttle for this part of the journey. This shuttle was to pick us up from our hostel, pick a couple of other people from other hotels and then leave for Vienna. At the scheduled time, the shuttle picked us up first and then went to pick a group of 3 chinese tourists.
However one amongst them thought that the price that the shuttle was charging was too high and he had to negotiate. These negotiations went on for like an hour and he just refused to budge. Ultimately he decided that he did not want to take this expensive shuttle and asked his friends to go ahead, which they did. After 10 minutes his friends got a call from him that he is ready to come with us and is ok with the price, so can we go back and pick him up? Frankly I would have loved to leave him there (was so irritated), but I guess the driver had his fee to collect so we went ahead and picked him up. Thus the day started late and we reached Vienna that much later. 😦
Anyways, we finally reached Vienna by mid-day and checked in into our hostel. We saw Vienna after Prague and were slightly disappointed that unlike the Vltava, Danube does not run through the city in Vienna. You have to go slightly towards the outskirts of the city to see it. Also, Prague has a very romantic feel with an old world charm to it with beautiful old lanes, castles and the Charles bridge whereas Vienna seems very sophisticated and charming with its newer palaces and museums.
We started the day with a trip to the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Habsburgs. This is a huge palace with even larger palace grounds, a green house, a zoo, a cafe and a Gloriette. A trip to this palace can take upto half a day easily as there are numerous things to see here. This palace also has an Indian room, where the royal family members have taken Mughal art pictures from India, cut each into small pieces and decorated the walls with it. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside and hence could click pictures of this room.
After a tour of this palace we decided to hit the city centre and eat, hence landed at the Naschmarkt. This is a long lane where you get all kinds of organic products from food to wine to soaps, perfumes etc. This lane also has restaurants of all cuisines and one can eat whatever they like at any time of the day. But my sis and I fought here on some trivial thing and decided to make up with a Sacher Torte. What’s a Sacher Torte? Well watch this space for additonal posts on this. 🙂
We then generally walked around the city centre and saw the Straatsoper Opera House and met numerous Mozarts’. They were numerous artists dressed as Mozart and selling tickets for their show. We walked along this area and also saw the Rathaus, the Parliament and the Karlskirche. We then walked along the Innere Stadt and Mariahilfer Strasse and admired all the high end fashionable shops and clothes available. Sadly we couldn’t buy anything here as the price of a single item was at most times more than cost of half my trip. 😦
We started the second day with a visit to the Stephansdom, a beautiful church with prominent latticework spire and geometric patterned roof tiles. I recommend that you visit this church as early in the day as possible as it starts to get very crowded after a while.
The next on our list was a visit to the Hofburg Palace, the winter palace with a mix of architectural styles. This palace has a large collection of the royal crockery, furniture , artifects, paintings and the Sisi Museum. It also houses the Treasury which has the royal crown and other silverware.
Around this palace we also visited the Albertina, Royal Chapel, ruins of the old city, the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Boys Choir. Sadly, the Vienna Boys choir were on leave due to the holiday season, hence we couldn’t hear them. Around this square there are numerous horse carts available that one can hire and go for a ride along that area.
We then hit a traditional coffee shop in Vienna for the favorite Viennese past time – a long break over a cup of coffee. The best part was our conversation with the waiter –
SJ – opening the menu which is completely in German – “So what’s vegetarian?”
Waiter – “hhhhmmmm” flipping pages 1, pages 2, pages 3 till the last 10th page and then says “ahhh here, toast. That’s it. Else its pastries and coffee”.
So we ordered a coffee, a pastry and an apfelstrudel and had a nice hour long break while watching the locals in these coffee shops. These coffee shops have a life of their own in Vienna and have been very important in shaping the Viennese culture. Per an article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viennese_coffee_house) since October 2011 the “Viennese Coffee House Culture” is listed as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in the Austrian inventory of the “National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage”, a part of UNESCO. The Viennese coffee house is described in this inventory as a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill. And I feel its quite true. My recommendation here is that avoid the touristy cafe shops and visit one that the locals visit. There is a world of difference in the atmosphere of both.
After the coffee rejuvenation we decided to explore the various gardens in Vienna and the famous Meseums Quartier. This is an area which has all museums in Vienna and believe me there are quite a few museums here. We hung around here all evening and saw the various monuments in the gardens.
Due to a delayed start and less time, we missed quite a few things that we would have like to do in Vienna but as my friend Archi says that – whenever you travel you should always leave something to see / to do in a city. That means you hope to go back and see it someday.
Tip for the Trip – Vienna is an expensive city so decide beforehand on what you want to see. There are numerous museums and palaces and all are good, but in case you are traveling budget, short list 1 or 2 that you want to see as entry tickets are quite steep.