Vienna: Famous Composers, Expansive Palaces, and Twice-Fried Schnitzel

Early on March 6th, after checking out of my Airbnb in Budapest that had quickly felt like home, I headed to the train station to board my 2 hour ride to Vienna, Austria. The station, while it resembled King’s Cross Station, was very unclear and required a walk through a kebab restaurant to enter an information office that was of little help. With a bit of wandering, we found our OBB train heading to Wein (Vienna, in German), and settled in for the ride.

After a short ride of napping and snacking on paprika chips, we arrived in Vienna. A few escalator rides in the station landed us in the middle of an intersection, surrounded by the bustling university neighborhood of the city. A short walk led us to our Airbnb, which was honestly a bit crusty and strange. We tried to ignore the smelly, broken freezer and the toilet seat cover that featured an image of a woman wearing a drindl and clutching her boobs (neither of which were in the description). We got a quick lunch at a cute restaurant down the street called the Burger Bar. Although the name and menus were in English, we had an extremely hard time communicating with staff, but were able to pick out enough words in German to make it through the meal.

We headed back to our Airbnb to freshen up and plan our short stay in Vienna (March 6th to the 8th). Then, we set out to explore the city. After wandering through the arcade of Freyung Passage passage, past shops we’ll never afford, we stopped into Café Central. It was Sigmund Freud’s favorite café, and the beautiful and lavish architecture didn’t make it difficult to understand why. After cringing at the prices, I buckled and ordered a delicious (but €7) chocolate amaretto. We made our way around the city’s large shopping streets, through Graben and Kohlmarkt to Stephansplatz, home of the towering St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The ornate Gothic church was eerie at night, so we were excited to see how different it would feel during the daytime. After a cheap dinner and a long day of traveling, we finally went to sleep.

 

We woke up the next morning to take a long but beautiful walking tour through the city center. We spent a lot of time wandering around Hofburg palace, where we saw the State Opera House as well as the area where the Lipizzan horses relax when they’re not training. Fun fact: the horses in the Spanish Riding School here are government employees, can retire, and even become “professors” when they reach a certain skill level! I also enjoyed seeing the Mozart monument, as well as the treble clef in front of it, which would be covered in flowers in the spring.

After a short break, we continued our tour of the city center. At this point, we had learned a lot about Sisi, or Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was married to Emperor Franz Joseph and wore stars in her hair that cost €4,000 each. We made a stop at the jeweler that still makes them before touring Stephanzplatz, the Jewish Quarter, and learning about Vienna’s famous schnitzel.

After the tour, we decided to try this famous schnitzel ourselves, and we were far from disappointed. The portions were bigger than our heads, and we had grapefruit beer to go with it, which was sweet and delicious. Full and content, we walked back to St. Stephen’s Cathedral to tour it while there was still daylight.

Unfortunately, it had started to rain, so we hopped on the metro to head towards Prater, a large, public amusement park home to the famous Ferris wheel. The whole experience was a bit strange, because the park, itself, reminded me of the Six Flags not far from my home. Since the weather wasn’t too great, the park was mostly closed, and only a few middle school kids roamed around the desolate area. We decided to hop on the Ferris wheel anyway, which gave us a new view of Vienna (which included roller coasters!). A little disappointed, but worth the strange experience, we went back to our Airbnb’s neighborhood to freshen up before dinner.

When we got off the metro, the rain had cleared, so Jenny and I decided to wander around for an hour and a half before heading back to the Airbnb. We saw Sigmund Freud park, the city hall (Rathaus) and Rathausplatz, where a winter festival took place, as well as the Austrian Parliament building, which was inspired by the ancient Greeks.

So far, I was surprised at the calmness of the city, and the overall lack of tourists. For the majority of the time we were here, we wandered the streets independently, free from selfie-stick sellers and giant tour groups. Everyone in Vienna seemed to be going about their days, and the streets became quiet early in the night. It was relaxing to explore a city this way, and different from anywhere else I have traveled.

The next morning, we checked out of our Airbnb and took an adorable tram and a metro ride to Schönbrunn Palace. The palace was the summer residence of the imperial family, complete with a few hundred rooms and expansive gardens. For just €15, we were able to tour 40 rooms of the magnificent palace with an audio guide. Each room was adorned with lavish wall details, lush carpets, and decadent color schemes. There were separate rooms for everything, and we even walked through a banquet room where Mozart performed as a child. In one of the rooms, three young women sat atop a small scaffold as they restored the paintings on the walls with tiny brushes and steady hands. That career sounds like a dream!

We exited the palace to wander through the gardens outside, which could have taken a full day if we had the time. Unfortunately, we were due to catch a bus to Prague in a few hours, so we spent an hour or so exploring before exiting the palace and heading towards the bus station.

Vienna is a clean, efficient, and beautiful city, with an air of importance and purpose all around. While the city was a bit expensive, I had a great time exploring the wide streets and bright architecture during my short stay here. The palace felt like I was walking through the castle from Beauty and the Beast, and the weather was chilly but sunny. Stop two on my spring break adventure was a success! Next: off to Prague!

 

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