Phil's Vienna blog
While Suzannah had to go into work during the week, I took a chance to sneak down to Vienna for a few days of sight seeing by myself. After taking public transport to the main train station, I found that I really didn’t need to leave 90 minutes early, as they don’t announce your platform until about 10 minutes before the train arrives. It is a 4.5 hour train ride through rolling countryside down to Vienna which was really relaxing and quiet. Upon arrival I decided to walk the 10 km or so from the train station to my hotel. Great idea, but true to form I started walking in the wrong direction and my phone didn’t have data in Austria. Finally get my bearings and started off in the right direction. I then proceeded to walk exactly 1 street over from huge palaces and monuments so I didn’t even see them. I made it to the hotel, changed into my running gear and head out for a run.
My run was in a park that was once a Royal garden with large trees and paths crisscrossing through it. Contrasted from this beauty are two massive concrete structures left over from WW2 that house anti aircraft guns and radio facilities. On my way back I walked past a restaurant that had a very “local” feel to it and so after my shower I walked back to have dinner. It was a pleasant evening, and I found the owner/waiter and asked for a seat. He spoke no English so he sent his daughter out to take my order. An authentic veal schnitzel and some great beer capped off day 1.
Day 2 started off with a ride on the metro system out to Schonnenborg Palace. This is the crown jewel of palaces in Vienna and is still in use by the Prime Minister for their offices. Its pale yellow exterior, amazing flower gardens, and fountains are a sight to be seen, but there is some amazing history in the interior. The palace tour is self guided and comes with its own audio guide. It got a bit cramped with larger tour groups, but was nice to be able to wander through at my own pace. Behind the palace is the large palacial gardens. Huge fountains, amazing views at the top of the hill, and a gorgeous summer day made this something I will never forget. From there I took a wander around the museum district to get a plan for the following day. Everywhere I went, I was treated to amazing architecture and scenery.
As soon as Suzannah suggested Vienna, I start looking to see if there were opera tickets available. Since I was by myself, I found a ticket close to the stage/orchestra to see Rigoletto. I booked a table at a really nice restaurant for 5pm thinking it would give me plenty of time to walk to the opera house. The restaurant had a 4 course “tour of Austria” with wine pairings, so I said what hell. The food was fantastic, however I was running out of time to make it to the opera house. I quickly paid the bill and almost had to run to get there, in fact I was the last person allowed in through the doors. Just in time! The opera was extremely beautiful (and tragic). After the show I took a long walk back, even finding an “Aussie” bar in the city center where I stopped in and watched neon kangaroos hop across the wall, while they played Midnight Oil, AC/DC and Powderfinger songs on the stereo. Day 2 was packed full of awesome.
Day 3 was spent in the museum quarter and the library. A quick train into the heart of the city and I soon found the library. This section of the building has been used since the 1700s and is lined with old leather bound books and artifacts. The history is palpable. Although the space isn’t very large, it is very impressive. From there I walked over to the Kartensplatz museum. This museum has a massive collection of Baroque paintings. This style of artwork focused on the spread of Christianity throughout Europe and the paintings were commissioned for churches, royalty, and also taught to students by some of the great masters. I saw a lot of Jesus on day 3. Baby Jesus, teenage Jesus, Jesus hanging with J.T.B., angry Jesus, crucified Jesus, Jesus 2.0, etc. I spent hours wandering through the gallery with only a handful of other people. From there I found my way to Belvedere Palace that I had walked right past (1 street over) on day 1. More amazing gardens, paintings, plus a microbrewery. That night I booked into another nice restaurant that was hidden away down a narrow alley. There is something really relaxing about having a fine meal by yourself. This meal lasted over 2 hours and as I was leaving the waiter warned me that the next day was a holiday so some things may be closed for Corpus Christi.
My final day was meant to be spent at the main cathedral in the center of Vienna. After a quick walk, I arrived to find a large crowd gathered all around the cathedral. Flash back to last night's dinner where I was informed there was a religious holiday happening and then it made a bit more sense. I was able to go into the cathedral but as there was a special mass being held, I couldn’t go all the way in. They had security at the gate turning people away who weren’t there for mass. I could hear the priest speaking in Latin and then it became very still and quiet. The organ started to play and then the choir started. It was the Vienna Boys choir and it sounded like nothing I have ever heard before. I was standing there taking in the moment, when the security guard motioned me over and allowed me through to sit on one of the seats off to the side. As I was walking past he looked me straight in the eye and said “no pictures”. So for the next 45 minutes I was able to sit in an old gothic cathedral, attending mass that I hadn’t planned on (I’ve been to mass 4 times in my life, and 2 of those have been unplanned and at massive cathedrals). Afterwards there was a procession through town and the whole church went.
I know I only had 3 days in Vienna, but it felt like much longer. Honestly, I can’t wait to, and hope I get the opportunity to, go back again.