Vienna was the next stop on our trip. Our first view of the city was from the top of Karlenbergerdorf Hill where the city was splayed out below us and the Alps edged the horizon behind a curtain of haze. The air was balmy, the valley green. We all agreed that it was very reminiscent of California. We walked down the hill passing vineyard after vineyard and ate at a restaurant at the bottom. Our first taste of Austria: pumpkin soup (amazing!), potato salad, pork schnitzel (too dry, but we ate so much), and the most wonderful white wine made from grapes from the surrounding vineyards. Kat and I wanted to buy some to bring back and braced ourselves for the price tag, assuming a loss of maybe $50 (Austria is on the Euro – Toto, we’re not in crown land anymore). We were excited to find out a bottle was only 10.40 E!
We settled into our hotel for the night. The place was again adorable, very retro 50’s European, and then set out on a city walk.
Opulence underlies Vienna everywhere. The streets are quiet and polite. The buildings are all white or pale pastel. The parks are pristine and balanced perfectly between manicured elegance and natural beauty. The residents seem to have happy, important lives. There are some areas that made me think of Chicago, actually.
We got to Stephansplatz (St. Stephan’s Place/Square) and some of the more famous and touristy areas. The entire area was dripping in elegance. The stores were upscale and posh, horse carriages rolled through the streets, the architecture was flawless. Many of my fellow travelers were turned off by this richness and because of it, didn’t like Vienna. I disagree, despite such an overwhelming atmosphere of affluence, I couldn’t deny Vienna it’s pure beauty. I absolutely LOVED my time spent in those streets, not being able to afford anything but the priceless sights, which were better than any thing I could have bought anyways.
We got to the Museum Quarter of the city and continued to be overtaken by Vienna’s magnificence and splendor. Every 1st Saturday of the month is Museum Night in the city, meaning all 100+ museums in the city stay open until 1 am. A ticket costing 11 Euros gets you admission to all of them AND access to public transportation, it was such a good deal.
Arica and I hurried off to buy tickets and get into the Natural History Museum before dinnertime. The exhibits were fantastic of course and I would have paid to just see the building itself, it was so beautiful. Then we set out to navigate the city by foot, metro, and tram – successfully! – to get to Kat’s aunt’s house for dinner. We were very proud of this feat. Dinner was fantastic. Her aunt, who lives here now is from California and reminded me a lot of my own worldly aunt. Her and her husband made us hamburgers, onion rings, and fries – how nice! Then they bought us beers at a very cool dive bar in the neighborhood. They live in Vienna’s residential area, so we were surrounded by locals with not a tourist (but us) in sight.
We still had a couple hours until the museums closed for the night, so we went back to the Natural History Museum to admire the geology exhibits and the dinosaurs. We peaked inside the Fine Art Museum really quick and saw the Egyptian Art exhibit before they began closing.
The next morning I woke up two hours early to do some solo wandering and see the city just by myself. It was perfectly solitary and contemplative enhanced by the fact that nothing in Vienna is open at 7 am on a Sunday morning except the occasional bakery that begins to waft scents of warm bread and cinnamon down the streets at 8. It was grey and drizzly – weather that I actually love so I was perfectly content strolling the quiet streets of Vienna on a rainy Sunday morning by myself.
Our group met to go to the Belvedere Art museum (Italian: “beautiful sight”). What an incredible collection of art. The museum houses everything from Medieval to Contemporary, Impressionism to Expressionism. I only made it around three quarters of the Upper Palace before I was saturated with art and totally satisfied. I saw “The Kiss” by Egon Schiele and many more of his lesser famous but better (in my opinion) works, Monets, Renoirs, van Goghs, and so many more. It was incredible. Impressionism is definitely my favorite style.
We had a little bit of time after the museum so I took off again solo to see more of the historical area of Vienna. Losing track of time amidst the sights (St. Stephan’s Cathedral, a luxury chocolate factory, and Café Central – where you could once see the likes of Sigmund Freud, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky, although Adolf Hitler would be found standing outside, as he couldn’t afford it apparently) and having map troubles (mostly due to my pride and refusal to consult my map and look like a tourist after two ladies approached me in German asking where to go) I found the bus and boarded with no time to spare.
I feel like I really savored Vienna and wasted no time in the day and a half I was there. Luckily, next weekend I will return with Kat so I can experience the city at a slower pace and luxuriate in its splendor. Surprisingly, I only spent 22 Euros there (11 for the wine, 11 for the museum pass). I’m happy to discover I can enjoy someplace so much without going broke doing so – and a city as rich as Vienna at that!