There were a few too many people that touted Vienna as boring for me to be overly hopeful of a wild 22nd (26th) birthday in Austria’s capital. Admittedly it wasn’t my number one choice for my first international birthday but Venice didn’t particularly fit in to plan/route/budget (or lack of) for me to justify the dash across. Vienna it was, and loaded with the sole knowledge that Vienna is home to the original Sacher Torte I could be assured that if nothing else, I would eat decent cake.
After a string of haphazard accommodation booking (reserving 3 different beds for the same night, how this happened is still beyond me and possibly proof that the more you travel the more mistakes you make from lack of care) I arrived in the Naschmarkt district past sunset and was beginning to understand those underwhelming exclamations. It was dead and derelict, a concrete graveyard littered with the trading days remains. A nighttime wander in the search of dinner and drinks also turned to be a difficult task with everything closed excluding a far too romantic and far too overpriced restaurant until stumbling upon the only happening place, a fantastic bar hidden within the Naschmarkt, the appropriatly named Naschmarkt Deli.
If I’ve learnt one thing it’s to never judge a city by its nighttime impressions and I soon found my love for Vienna within the next mornings light, illuminating the beauty and encompassing the buzz of activity hidden by the dark.
If there in one city I can compare Vienna to it is Paris. The beautiful buildings, the art, the history and the shopping but sans Parisiens, the filthy underground and unfortunately the boulangeries (or fortunately as boulangeries are undoubtably the most dangerous European enemy of my vegetarian waistline).
It was a whirlwind 3 days that I afforded myself with time a building pressure (the curse of booking tickets home) and I can only predict that one day I will find myself back here, but for now, this is what I found/loved…
This is a large open air market that sits just to the south of the city centre. It’s the place to find souvenirs and taste the local produce which were a vibrant delight for my vegetable deprived eyes (Europe and fresh produce is often a sad mix). You’ll also find an astounding amount of cheeky deli boys that provide you lunch via far too many felafel samples (and desert of tiramasu almonds). Saturday here provides a bloody decent flea market with all manner of antiques, trinkets and a death emporium of vintage furs.
The Spanish Riding School
It’s a fair assumption to make that my love for ponies is somewhat greater than mosts (calling 2 of the beautiful creatures my best friends back home). The Spanish Riding School is the holy grail of equestrian, with centuries old tradition and horsemanship it’s phenomenal to see wether you’re into horses or not. The performances are housed in an elaborate sunlight flooded hall. The horses are the pure white lipizzaners. Known for their beauty and strength they simply dance across the arena. I won’t pretend for a second I didn’t cry just a few tears with the beauty and grace (and the homesickness for my 4 legged friends back home).
When built the residents of the time couldn’t stand the building and wanted it taken down. It’s only in a few instances we can be glad of the governments lack of concern for the peoples wishes and this stunning Opera theatre remains, glowing perfectly in the evening light. It was here I experienced my first European opera which I would love to attribute to my cultured mind, however it was thanks to the rare treasure of €3 tickets. Yes, that’s almost too good to be true. You find these tickets at the side entrance and admittedly do have to queue 90 minutes prior to the show time, and it is standing only. €3 is how much you pay here for a terrible coffee, spend it on the opera instead.
St. Stephens Cathedral is arguably the most stunning gothic church in Europe. With such a steep pitch the sandstone remains remarkably vibrant, only highlighted with the familiar black that is often the norm for these centuries old statures. The roof is a coloured wonder of almost geometric proportions. Climbing the steps of the tower is the best view of the city and the night time Mozart concerts are something you probably should see. It’s Vienna after all.
If baroque is more your style then St Charles Church is a pristine gem of this more romantic style. Churches are a dominant feature of Vienna, and absolutely worth a wee look.
Again, in all sorts of resemblance to Paris, Vienna is home to the apparent sister of Versalles; Schönbrunn Palace. It is a 1, 441 room Baroque heaven that has all of the opulence, beauty and charm of Versailles with significantly less visitors (and a much more time friendly queue to enter). It screams wealth, especially considering it was only used 6 months of every year, alternating with the winter palace. Of course, Versailles has the gardens; so does Schönbrunn, and only slightly less extravagant. I jumped upon the horse cart awaiting at the front of the Palace (driven by my prince charming that unfortunately didn’t fall for me at first sight, or ever), mulled wine in hand (naturally) to tour the 52 ha. gardens. With the towering hedges, endless trails and superb glasshouse (my love continues) the gardens are a treasure trail of exploration. The view from atop the hill over Vienna is superb and trés romantique for sunset.
All that aside, at the end of the day do find yourself in a traditional Viennese coffee house to sample the far too tempting cakes. Oh Vienna x