Europe 2012: Day 67, Vienna


White buildings and white horses — you know you are in Vienna, Austria!

Sunday, August 12, 2012 

I didn’t wake up because I never really slept.   Eventually the air conditioning kicked in in our tiny sleeper car but it was a pretty weak attempt.   I can only guess that as we moved north into Austria, the climate got cooler and so did the sleeper car.  Sometime during the trip, I even cuddled up with a blanket.

Did I mention that the sleeper cabin is small.   It is even smaller considering we need to share it with our luggage.   I opted to take the upper bunk with the hopes that there is where the air-conditioner fan would be.   This left my HD with the lower bunk.  Overall, this was not a bad place to spend 11 hours.  The cabin was nice in that it had lots of lights and the beds were comfortable.    We slept in our street clothes and kept our shoes nearby in the event we need to use the restroom.

Our train car was fully booked and everyone was civil and quiet.  There were no screaming children or unruly adults to tell stories about.   My DH and I just kept to ourselves, tried to sleep, and waited for cooler weather.

In the morning, the train staff gave us a simple breakfast of bread, cheese, ham, juice, and coffee! It was unexpected and we appreciated it!

We arrived in Vienna on time, 8am on Sunday.   Hoisting our luggage out the train door, we were met with the cool air and the bright sun of Vienna!    The temperature was in the low 70s and the air was crisp!   We stopped for a minute on the train platform just to enjoy the coolness – Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

We found a taxi and we were at our hotel Opera Suites within 10 minutes of our arrival.    The young woman at the desk was very pleasant but said that our room would not be ready until 2pm.   That was okay, we were really in the mood to walk around and enjoy the cool morning anyway.   She made me a coffee (using one of those fancy high-tech coffee machines with the little foil coffee cups – it was good) as my DH hooked up to the internet (an immediate and strong connection).   My DH, the master web-surfer that he is, quickly found a city walking tour that was to begin at 10:30am.  The receptionist made a call and booked us on the tour.

Before the tour, we had time to go to the tourist office to get information on what is happening in Vienna during our stay.  The receptionist loaded us down with brochures and pamphlets of things to do and places to go.   But the best thing, the guy at the tourist office spoke perfect English with a sweet German accent!  He was able to assist us with our train tickets to Prague — nice!

After consulting the map, we walked to Maria-Theresien-Platz Square to meet our tour.   This square is the mother-lode of culture with three major museums located here —  Museumsquartier (a museum of modern arts located in the former Imperial Stables),  the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum), and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (the Art History Museum).    Our tour group is a mix of a dozen young and old travelers.  Our tour guide is a lively gentleman who not only sounds a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but even looks a bit like him.    Here is what our tour is all about:

Walking tour of Vienna (2-1/2 hours)

A fun and informative stroll around the boulevards of Vienna. Get insider info on great restaurants, markets, cool cafes and bars.  Listen to intriguing anecdotes and learn about the unique history of Vienna from an entertaining guide. This tour is designed to educate, inform and orientate you in a way that will keep you entertained throughout the entire tour.   Our guides will give an overview of Vienna and Austria and provide interesting facts about the food, people and culture. They will offer information on places to visit after the tour and the locations of bars, restaurants and cafes famous to Vienna.

Here are a few pictures from our tour:

The Hopfburn Place — Hilter gave a speech from this balcony after he annexed Austria.

This statue is in the Hopfburn Place square. You can’t see it well due to the angle form which the picture was taken but. this statue is special — it is the only bronze statue in Europe that balances on a single leg of a horse (all other statues are stabilized on two or three legs). Another interesting fact — the artist could not explain how he did it.

The Bundesgarden Volksgarden near the place. (Vienna, Austria)

The Vienna Parliament House.

The Vienna City Hall — the site of the Annual Film Festival.

A street in Vienna. Lots of cafes!

Another street in Vienna. Many tall, white buildings leading to other tall, white buildings.

The Minoriten Church in Vienna. It has been built in three distinct styles (a different style after each fire).

Josefsplatz Square in the Royal Palace, Vienna, Austria.

Gate to the Royal Palace and the Spanish Riding School, Vienna, Austria.

Am Graben — one of the famous shopping areas in Vienna. This street offers store after store full of wonderfully luxurious goods and cafes.

St. Peter’s Church, right off of Am Graben Street. Once you finish shopping or eating decadent Austrian pastries, you can ask to be forgiven for your financial or caloric sins.

A “Plague Monument”. Vienna (as with most of Europe) was hit hard by the “Black Plague”. Monuments like this were erected to remember the dead.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. This cathedral is so big I could not fit it all into a single camera frame. Much of the cathedral is covered in scaffolding (to be cleaned) but the roof is brand new.

Overall, the tour was fantastic!    We saw a lot and got a good feel for how the city flows and where everything is at.   We are also hungry!   Without a recommendation for lunch, we chose a place that looked a bit upscale with an “Austrian” menu — not that we really understand German anyway (but we do know that “wurst” is a sausage and “kraut” is a cabbage).  We found a place next to the hotel with a nice patio so to enjoy the afternoon weather.   My DH ordered Pork in Pepper sauce with roasted potatoes (a common goulash in this region).  I ordered a ragu of  mushrooms with a bread dumpling (another common specialty of the region).   Both were yummy and filling!

First lunch in Vienna.

After lunch (around 2pm), we went to the hotel to settle into our room and rest for a bit.    We both checked email.   My DH checked on his feeds.  I did some work on the blog.   We both took a nap.

Around 7pm, we were rested enough to check out Vienna at night.   We have both been to Vienna before and one of the prime spots to go in the evening is Cafe Central.   At the turn of the 20th century, Cafe Central was a popular meeting point for the major players of the world of art, literature, politics and science (such as Arthur Schnitzler, Sigmund Freud, Peter Altenberg and Leo Trotzki).   Today, it is a major tourist attraction with its unique interiors and classic Viennese cuisine (food, coffee, and desserts).   It is a beautiful place, the food is good, and the service is slow.  I ordered an iced coffee, my DH ordered the Sacher torte.   It would have been a better dining experience if we had both gotten our orders at the same time.   By the time my coffee came, we had already snarfed down the dry chocolate torte.

The ceiling of Cafe Central, Vienna, Austria.

Iced coffee and the remains of our Sachertorte.   As we waited for our snacks, we surfed the web on our iPod — Vienna is wired for WiFi everywhere!

The evening was still young, so we decided to check out the Vienna Film Festival by the Vienna City Hall, as was suggested by our tour guide earlier in the day.    The place was packed with people enjoying the beer, food, and movie of the ballet “The Nutcracker” projected onto huge screen in front of the City Hall building.   We wandered around to all the food stalls and watched a bit of the movie.   We promised ourselves that we would come here for dinner some evening when it is less crowded.

Vienna Film Festival in front of the City Hall.

Mmmm — sausages!

Goulash!

Vienna is very international — Japanese and Chinese food have a place here too!

The crowd at the Vienna Film Festival.

By midnight, we were back at the hotel.   So far, Vienna has been a pleasant change from the heat and noise of Venice.   We like it here!

Quote of the day:  “Boom, train!   Boom, taxi!   Boom, hotel!   Boom, tour!   I give this arrival 4 stars!”  — DH

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