My favourite city during the whole trip, so little time and money to truly enjoy it! May 22-25, 2006
This was going to be my second visit to Vienna Austria, and I was so looking forward to seeing it again. The train trip from Prague to Vienna was a long and hot one - over 5 hours on a sunny day with no air conditioning. We experienced delays and rerouting because the Danube river had flooded its banks a few weeks earlier and for several passport checks at the border.
While my brother, his girlfriend, and my mom stayed at a Pension in the city centre, I decided to splurge and stay at a hotel nearby on Dorotheergasse, the Graben Hotel. It was right by the popular Graben pedestrian shopping area, and a few blocks from the Stephansdom cathedral. It was well worth it. I was in the city centre, close to the major shopping districts, close to attractions like the Vienna Opera House and Hofburg complex, and the Stephansplatz U-Bahn line. It is also in a relatively safe area of the city, with restaurants and cafes open very late into the evening.
My hotel room at the Graben Hotel was on the top floor, had my very own bathroom, and the most comfortable bed during the whole trip. The only major problem that I had, was I was running out of Euros and I had only two full days to explore Vienna. I would soon regret this oversight.
I had booked a 3 night package with my hotel, which included a few great deals thrown in. One of which was a 3 hour sightseeing tour of Vienna by Cityrama. I took that on the morning of May 23, 2006. I was picked up from my hotel after breakfast and taken by bus to the main depot to get on an English speaking tourbus. I ended up sitting beside a really nice guy from Perth Australia and we started talking.
The tourbus brought us to the Schonbrunn Palace where we had a tour of the inside of this pretty lavish palace. We walked around the palace grounds for a bit until it was time to leave.
When we got back on the bus, he asked me to go for lunch with him even though he knew I had only a few Euros left (or perhaps because of that). We ate on the outdoor patio at the Venezia Italian restaurant on Karntner Strasse near the Stephansdom cathedral. Karntner Strasse is one of the busiest pedestrian shopping streets in Vienna, full of great shops, restaurants and cafes, street buskers, etc. Venezia's had a large varied menu, and their pasta dishes were very good, as well as their coffee. I highly recommend this place.
After lunch, we walked around the streets of Vienna for a while, taking pictures of buildings, statues, etc. until I realized that I only had a few hours left for shopping. I still needed to buy some chocolates, some local artwork, etc. The next day the shops would be closed due to a holiday, and I would be on my way by train to Salzburg to meet up with my family who had gone on ahead the day before. I was still embarassed and worried with the fact that I had no available Euros to spend in Vienna, just my Visa which is not widely accepted here especially in small shops and cafes, that when we parted I just shook hands and said good bye. I should have swallowed by pride and asked if he wanted to at least exchange e-mails to keep in touch.
Schonbrunn Palace and it's extensive grounds are a must see if you visit Vienna. You need at least 2 days to explore everything. The day before, on May 23 2006, I spent most of my day there. Walked past the massive Neptune Fountains and walked up to the Gloriette Pavilion atop the hill to get a great panoramic view of the city and palace below.
Visited the Palmhouse and the Deserthouse, the Tiergarten Zoo, and walked through the gardens and landscaped grounds. Had lunch at the Kutscher Gwolb Restaurant by the Coach Museum, which had a bright enclosed outdoor patio and some really great local cuisine. The menu was extensive and had more to offer than the buffet near the main entrance.
Another wonderful palace and its grounds to explore in Vienna is the Belvedere. This was the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, a very wealthy military commander. It took less than two years to build the Upper Belvedere Palace alone. The palaces today house art galleries and museums. They were open when we arrived, but parts of the gardens and waterfountains were closed due to renovations.
The Stephansdom cathedral is another landmark attraction in Vienna. The first Romanesque church was built on that site in the 1100's. After many additions and renovations over the centuries, the Giant's doorway (main entrance) and the Heathen Towers (twin towers) are the oldest parts of the cathedral today. The main Gothic spire is 450 feet high. The amazingly colourful tiled roof contains about a quarter of a million glazed tiles. In the North Tower hangs the Pummerin Bell or "Boomer", the current one was cast using the remains of the old one which was destroyed during the Second World War. The inside of this church is truly awe inspiring.
The vast Hofburg complex is another main attraction that needs several days of exploring. It includes the former imperial apartments of the Hapsburg dynasty, several museums and churches, gardens, the Austrian National Library, the Winter Riding School, and the President of Austria's offices.
Over 7 centuries of development has created this sprawling complex that we see today. There are over 10 buildings ranging from Gothic architecture to late 19th century design. You can freely wander the courtyards and streets late at night after the museums, treasuries and galleries have closed. Makes for some very interesting night photos.
I would love to come back to Vienna one day, it's charms still draws my attention. The next time I visit I promise myself to stay at least 5 full days, bring plenty of Euros, and a digital camera with lots of memory.