I’m planning to go back home for a couple of months this summer so, to put it mildly, finances are tight right now. I tried to fend off travel urges but I felt entitled to a vacation outside Spain after 9 months of overseas travel hiatus. Calming the itch was no easy task, although, I kept my sanity by going on quick domestic getaways. But I couldn’t help but get into the Christmas spirit of splurging anyway so why not spend all my savings on a trip to one of Europe’s most posh cities.
FLIGHT + AIRBNB
We scored a 30€ Ryanair flight from Madrid to Bratislava since the first plan was a trip to the grand capitals of the Danube River – Bratislava, Vienna, and Budapest. In the end, we had to ditch Bratislava because we didn’t feel like cramming a lot of trips in one week.
Our flight arrived in Bratislava at 9 PM and we hopped on the Slovak Lines bus waiting for us just outside BTS mini-airport at 9:30. Before we knew it, we were already in the city center of Vienna. We bought 2-day tickets at the Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna central station) and we rushed to our AirBnb via tram. One of the many reasons we chose this private room was that the hosts allowed late check-ins. They were a nice Austrian couple with 2 kids but we didn’t get to meet them on our first day since they were already sleeping. They just left the keys in a secret spot and we let ourselves in, took a shower and called it a night.
Ever since I saw Inglourious Basterds, I’ve lusted after the “not so terrible” apple strudel Col. Hans Landa ate so provocatively. I didn’t wait any longer, I had to get a taste of it. Although a little intimidated by the name and the fact that it was beneath Hotel Sacher, we ventured out of our comfort zone (and beyond our budget) to fully immerse ourselves in the Viennese café culture… and partake of a long-awaited strudel.
I like starting exploring a city with a pay-what-you-want tour to orient myself with the city. We had booked a 10 AM tour in English with Good Vienna Tours but ended up joining the Spanish group. Our meeting point was in front of Albertina, just across Hotel Sacher.
The Hofburg Palace houses the imperial crown, the Imperial regalia of the Holy Roman Empire and the agate bowl (the largest carved stone bowl in the world that some believe to be the holy grail).
A statue of Franz Joseph I in Burggarten, the long-ruling Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
Mozart is definitely one of the best-known names connected with Vienna and Austria. It’s not surprising at all to see his face in the Imperial Gardens or in any other place in Vienna for that matter. A statue of Josef II at Josefplatz, one of Europe’s enlightened despots. He abolished serfdom, issued an edict of religious tolerance, and paved the way for more reforms.
Another famous attraction in Vienna is the Spanish Riding School. It’s basically a ballet show of white stallions. We figured it was expensive and just didn’t bother. We’re happy looking at horses doing normal stuff horses do.
The walking tour lasted 3 hours with a 25-minute intermission.
TIP: Wear proper winter shoes!!! Or else you’re gonna need more intermissions to prevent losing your toes to frostbite.
We searched for an authentic wiener schnitzel, a must-eat in Vienna or so we’ve heard. I’m not sure why this meal should be so pricey. It’s just fried meat chop and fries. Our guide told us that one meal usually ranges from 22-25 euros so when we saw a restaurant with a menu outside that said it was just 17 €, we rubbed our chins in contemplation. A persuasive waiter convinced us to go in and try their schnitzel. Turns out, it was a Greek restaurant, hence the name “Achilleus”. They offered us the “authentic” wiener schnitzel for 17€ and a copy cat schnitzel for 12€. We ordered one of each to compare and, forgive our uncultured taste buds, but we couldn’t tell the difference.
STREET WANDERING AND ARCHITECTURE SPOTTING
Two of my favorite activities when I travel! I had this idyllic image in my head of how fun it would be to sit on a park bench or in a coffee house and just sketch in my Moleskine and document the trip through drawings but the sub-zero temperature didn’t allow it and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it in public. Okay, I’m going to put this on my bucket list.
Speaking of architecture, I discovered two of my favorite buildings here in Vienna – Karlskirche and Der Wiener Stephansdom.
It’s free to enter Stephansdom like how all churches should be (amirite?) but going up the towers costs money. We chose to climb the North tower because it was accessible via a lift. That set us back 5,50 euros, which in my opinion was totally worth it. Panoramic views of cities are always worth the extra bucks for me.
The nights may be long and cold in winter in this side of Europe (sun sets at 4 PM) but the good thing is Christmas night markets can be found all over the city. We braved our first chilly winter’s night and headed to Naschmarkt, a popular all-year night market and to a Xmas market in Maria-Theresien-Platz. The boyfriend and I strolled through a festive ambiance while on the lookout for trinkets and street food to take away. We also watched how some freshly-baked pastries were prepared but we ended up sharing a brätwurst sandwich and a cup of glüwhein. It was the perfect way to cap the night off.
I got the impression that Austrians have a very early bedtime since days are short. Or was it just our Airbnb hosts? Or that I was just used to the Spanish timetable? Anyway, we got home by 7 PM to seek refuge from the cold and the wifilessness.
Stay tuned for Part 2 if you want more ramblings about our trip to Vienna!