Saturday, May 23, 2015

when in... vienna


Back on a train—which  means I actually  have time to blog as long as my computer doesn’t die on me… which is no assurance, trust me. The struggle with fully charged electronics is second only to the constant struggle to find the wifi. Oh, what I would give to have service everywhere… though I’m not sure I would give up this fantastic trip and return home… JUST YET.

So, currently I’m on a train from Vienna to Budapest with PAT because I am NO LONGER TRAVELLING ALONE. So exciting. It was incredible to see him after all this time and just  pick up right where we left off. And what a city to meet in! I love Vienna—I could spend weeks in it, in the quiet coffee houses and just wandering the beautiful avenues. Walking the streets is like stepping back into time when the emperors were around and Vienna was home to waltzes and palaces galore. And so many museums—already I know I have to come back because I barely even hit the surface.

The first day, we had a nice big lunch near the hotel which was fabulous though the portions were quite large—which I was not really prepared for after months of Italian cuisine. Also, SO MUCH MEAT. Also really not prepared for all that. But, it’s a pleasant surprise. Then we just starting walking. And it turns out Vienna is quite a pleasant place to walk. The architecture is in these beautiful clean colors and very neoclassic. It just fits my romanticized elegant conception of what Vienna was going to be like. Very quickly we hit the Museum Quartier and later just kept walking ducking into this palace (the Kaiserapartments were closed) and that Church and just seeing what we could see.

True travelers we didn’t have any real stop to hit, but since we had limited time, I felt like we should see something “big” so we tried to make our way to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Turns out we followed the wrong steeple at first so we got a little “off track” but just discovered different places instead. Finally we get ot Stefansplatz and we duck in and mass is going on. For sitting reasons we stayed though in all honesty, I did fall asleep in my chair. The German language is so foreign to me. I’m just at a loss. But at least in a chair I could just zone it out and take a brief snooze.

After “church” we decided we wanted to see the beautiful blue danube, so we figured a way to get there and BOOM there it was. Absolutely fantastic. Not very blue, but certainly grand and huge. Never seen a river that big. Worth the hype. After the river, we decided to grab some eats before falling asleep completely exhausted.

I should also mention that the weather is kind of miserable. Cold and rainy which is exhausting in its own way. But I have my umbrella and coat and with a good attitude and some hearty Austrian food all is well. But that is something that we are also up against. Definitely very different than my 90 degree days in Rome. Less sweat is probably good I guess, though all my complaining about the heat in Rome makes me be more careful what I wish for.

I had two main attractions I wanted to see in Budapest—the Schonbrunn Palace and the Freud Museum and we got to see both on Thursday. We woke up, went to breakfast and then headed to the Schloss. It was an Imperial Palace for the Habsburgs and it was absolutely incredible. Huge, spacious, on an enormous property it was an experience. And we got a free audioguide which you know I’m all about. So I learned a little bit about my Austrian emperors which is as probably as useful as all my worthless information about Baroque popes. But, so it goes.

After our time in the Palace, we strolled the gardens, walked to the gloriette, and just took in the incredible view of Vienna you could get at the top of the hill. Just fantastic. Really the estate was just breathtaking to think when you think of how rich and powerful these people were. And the Habsburgs like to put their name on everything. Franz Josef is plastered all over Vienna.

After the Palace, we headed back to the center by the extremely efficient metro (the public trans in Vienna boggled my mind with how good it was) to go to the Freud museum. On our way we stopped into a bakery for a carbs reload before heading to Freud’s. It was really fascinating (another free audio guide) to just walk around his former offices and learn about his career in the place were he lived and worked for almost forty years. Because he was forced to flee from the Nazis, all his stuff isn’t there (NO COUCH, which was disappointing) but they have restored some rooms so you really get an idea of what coming to Freud’s for a consultation would have been like. It’s not complex, it’s a little museum that I really enjoyed.

Then, some more strolling throughout Vienna before dinner at Café Mozart which was super bougie but very nice. We got traditional Viennese food with a highly efficient wait staff. And the surroundings were divine. I also found out that Graham Greene was a client and wrote “The Third Man” there which made me what to go every day just because he’s one of my favorite authors.

We walked a tiny little more before going into a little more casual café for some drinks and a nice sit before heading back. It’s good to mention that the Austrians are very nice people but not necessarily the most friendly. They seemed very reserved and  quite which was certainly a big difference from Italy. Also, their café culture is so different though I really actually kind of like it. All the cafes and bars have newspapers and people go and just sit and drink their coffee or beer and just read their periodicals. Its actually kind of nice, though I’ll be honest, the couple next to us who just came in ordered, said nothing and both sat in silence reading seemed a little weird. I don’t know if the Viennese don’t get newspapers to their house or what but I think it’s actually nice that there’s this strong reading culture and absolutely no stigma to just sit and read in a café for hours. I now understand the Buzzfeed article I read that said Vienna is an excellent city to be on your own in. Though, in all honesty, I’m so much happier that I’m with Pat. These adventures will certainly have a little more spice than the Chalfont ones. Haha.

Then yesterday, Pat really wanted to find some castle ruins. So after much struggle we found that there were two ruins in the town of Baden near Vienna which was very easily accessible by train. So we hopped and train and we to Baden. We really had no idea where anything was which may not have been the best idea but after some struggle we figured it out and came to the bottom of the mountain where Burgruine Rauhenstein was. Then (and don’t laugh) Pat and I had a little hike up the mountain to get to the ruins which were AMAZING. We were the only ones there and we could explore as much as we wanted and there were steps up the keep so we climbed up the tower and took in the view. It was just amazing. And it was even cooler because it was like us and no one else in the world.

We waited in Baden for a while before returning to Vienna because we had a concert at the Goldenersaal in the Musikverin, the home of the Vienna Philharmonic. The only problem was that the world famous Philharmonic was out of town so we booked tickets to a period Mozart orchestra that dressed in costumes. Probably not the most reverent of classical performers and definitely a tourist trap, but it was definitely entertaining and the music was great. It was an experience.

Though my favorite part of the day (after the castle) was that after the concert we went across the street (near a place where I was ATTACKED BY A BIRD, HITCHCOCK STYLE… don’t want to talk about it, still gives me chills) but we went to this Café that was like stepping back through time and we ordered dessert and coffees and there was a pianist and a violinist and they were playing all these great songs (some show tunes which always makes me happy) and it was just quite the experience sitting there and just enjoying this beautiful aspect of Viennese culture in such a beautiful environment. If I ever return, (and I will) I think I’ll just spend my time going to museums and sitting in coffeehouses. That sounds pretty fantastic to me.

But now we’re gone. So goodbye Vienna. I hope to see you soon (well we will for our train transfer to Salzburg) it was great, it was elegant, it was reserved, and it was an amazing place to meet my best friend in Europe.

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