Home to beautiful buildings and lots of culture
04/19/2014 - 04/21/2014 60 °F
Vienna has got to be the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Stockholm just got knocked off the pedestal. Walking the streets of Vienna, it seems like every corner you turn, you run into another gorgeous building or view. Many of these are old palaces, government buildings, churches, or theatres, but a few buildings that brought my camera out turned out to be just ordinary apartment buildings, or something of the sort.
Vienna is home to 2 castles which, much to my delight, seemed to give more attention to grounds outside the castles than the structures themselves. I always questioned big huge places with hundreds of rooms but no memorable gardens or grounds around it. These in Vienna were just my style. The entrance to the grounds was free, which also seemed to make it one of the more beautiful places you could find to go on a run, which seemed to be very popular:
Schonenborg Castle and grounds (this was my favorite!):
Belvedere Castle and grounds. This place had immaculately sculpted trees and bushes all over:
Then Vienna is also home to numerous historic churches and cathedrals, with some very contrasting styles. Here is St Stephan's Cathedral, the massive temple seemingly standard in many of the big European cities in the western and central Europe. I’ve heard it said often that you can get cathedral’ed out while touring Europe, but I haven’t reached that point yet:
Then you’ve got St Charles Church, a little further from the center of the old city, that to me seemed to have a somewhat mosque-type feel, but I could be totally off on that.
My favourite was actually St Peter's Church, the smallest of these 3. Architecturally impressive from the outside, the true beauty of this is when you walk inside.
This would fill the shock-and-awe factor for most cities, but Vienna piles on top of that too many other statues, squares, and buildings to keep track of. I’ll label the ones that I remember, but whatever they house inside, it makes it a great pleasure to just stroll around Vienna. This is definitely a city that I would not recommend people bike around, just because you would move way too fast to appreciate it. Strangely the first major city that I had traveled to without a free walking tour, I downloaded an audio self-guided walking tour and set out to explore:
I was very glad that Vienna was so stunning to walk around because this was the most anti-social I’ve been on this trip. Booked last minute and over Easter weekend (which apparently is a very popular travel weekend in this part of Europe), I was stuck in a pretty terrible hostel a 25 minute metro ride from the city center. When I asked about a common area (essential place for a solo traveler to meet new friends), they pointed me to a small room with 6 chairs set up around the wall. NOT IDEAL. With no hostel common room, and no free walking tour, I looked for a pub crawl for some human interaction. I wasn’t surprised to see that the pub crawl wasn’t happening on Easter (or any Sunday), but was disappointed to find that it was also canceled for Easter Monday, a widely celebrated holiday in this Catholic city that I had never known about. Where is our extra day off after Easter?
My social highlight of Vienna happened during intermission of the opera show that I went to. Something awesome that I read about on TripAdvisor are the cheap opera tickets. Vienna has a long history of one of the cultural hubs of Europe (at least in my head), famous for their composers, artists, etc. I knew I wanted to check out the opera house, but assumed tickets for a show would be well beyond my price range. To allow people to get exposure to their famous operas on a budget, they well up to 600 standing-room only tickets the day of a performance for 3 or 4 euros each! Considering other places charge you 3 euros just to walk around a famous building like that when nothings going on, this is a great deal!
I already knew that I’m not too much of an opera guy, but I can certainly still appreciate and enjoy them. I’ve seen a few of them and enjoyed them a moderate amount, however this one was thoroughly dull. Perhaps it was the fact that it was in German (English subtitles on a screen at my spot), but not much happened in the plot. I enjoyed the experience, the music and the opera house, but I was actually going to leave at intermission because I was pretty sure that I had gotten everything that I would get out of it. Right as I’m packing up my stuff, a group of 6 very cute girls walk in and they obviously just arrived and were clueless about how the spot-saving worked in the standing-room only section. After explaining everything to them, I found out that they were all Americans studying abroad in Italy, and visiting after a few days in Budapest. With them as company, I stick thru the rest of the show and I finally got to have some good human interaction.
After the show, it was Easter so many things were closed down, but we still managed to hit the main must-get local foods for dinner. Currywurst from a street vendor and then to the very famous Hotel Sacher for the Original Sacher Torte (invented by the guy who started the hotel):
Delicious - a must try for anyone going thru Vienna. During dinner I got all sorts of great suggestions of what to see/do in Prague, Budapest, and Italy. Thanks so much girls!
That’s about all I’ve got for Vienna - on to Prague next!