Quite unfortunate that I couldn’t put the facts together to realize that Vienna is known as “Wien” in other countries until Krissy pointed it out to me on the train ride. At least I was aware that Austria spoke German and made use of the Euro! While the rest of the ride was an uneventful one, I had managed to get through more of my Kindle reading, which was comprised of The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It and Water for Elephants: A Novel; both of which I recommend. It was mid-afternoon when we pulled into Vienna, but we had several hours to kill before we could meet up with our next couchsurfing host, René, who would be at work until 18h00. So we opted to set our bags down and pay a visit to the Haus der Musik (9€ for students and 1€ for coat check), which houses exhibits on the Vienna Philharmonic, the science behind sound through interactive exhibits, and the lives of iconic composers (a free audio-guide is provided for this exhibit), including Beethoven and Mozart.
When we later found ourselves waiting for René to pick us up at Karlsplatz, we discovered Anker, a Vienna-based bakery chain similar to Paul in France but cheaper, better and with a wider selection, and stayed there until its closing at 19h00. Now, I did mention that our dear host was to have finished work at 18h00, and one would figure to have picked us up by then, but he wound up being pulled in for a last minute meeting. After exchanging hellos and apologies, we hopped onto the tram to our home for the next two evenings for a quick meal of pizza and wine (very Austrian, I know). Instead of calling it for a night, Krissy and I decided to go out for drinks with friends of hers that were coincidentally also on vacation in Vienna (we had ran into them earlier at Karlsplatz); René suggested Kunsthalle, whose atmosphere is reminiscent of any yuppie hang-out, which one can find in the Museumsquartier. As you can perhaps figure out, Vienna seems to present far more opportunities for the museum-inclined and coffee/pastry monger than Prague.
In spite of the fact that the metro system works quite well in the Vienna, I usually choose to walk as much as I can to see the city and to blend into the crowds consisting of locals and tourists. In comparison to Prague, the wider streets of Vienna lend to a a more relaxed atmosphere, along with fewer tourists and more locals at this time of the year. To add, the fewer cobble-stoned paths Vienna’s city-centre provide a feeling of modernization; however the older buildings maintain the fact that the city has aged well throughout the centuries. Along with touring the city’s avenues, I ducked into museums and cafés frequently, and would like to share two highlights:
Hofburg Palace: The website can be quite confusing, but for (the student price of) 8,90€ , one can gain access into the Sisi Museum, Imperial Apartments, and Silver Collection, as well as pick up an audio-guide. If you only have time for one museum in Vienna, this is perhaps the one not to miss. While the silver collection doesn’t cater specifically to the lives of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth, it does illustrate the grand eating habits of not only them, but also of their relatives. The most captivating part of this three-part exhibit, though, would have to be the museum dedicated to Elisabeth of Bavaria, which displays carefully kept belongings and articles of clothing. The apartments, themselves, provide a better visualization of the times in which they lived, but may tire one out since it is the last leg of the exhibit.
Hofburg – Michaelerkuppel
Café Sperl: More so for the atmosphere than anything, this café, which Krissy’s former flatmate took us to, is a jewel with its decently priced menu, delicious treats, array of beverages, and pool tables in tow. The sachertorte and apfelstrudel, along with cups of hot chocolate made for an excellent afternoon snack while exchanging conversations on our lives in Europe. With that said, it may be hard to find a table during meal or tea times when immediately entering the venue; but wait a little bit, and you’ll be able to snag a spot quick enough.
Gumpendorfer Straße 11
A – 1060 Wien
Telephone: +43 – 1 – 586 41 58
Edit: turns out that I’ve been spelling Wien wrong, and have been saying “wine” the whole time – whoops!