No, the buildings aren’t fake, but it starts to seem that way because a city can’t possibly have a beyond beautiful building on every corner. But Vienna really does! Check some of these out:
Anyway, walking around the city it seemed like every time I turned a corner there was another amazing building, so I spent my first two days mainly just wandering the city using Vienna’s super clean, efficient U-Baun system, munching on pre-made sandwiches from Spar supermarkets (yeah, turns out Vienna is much more expensive than I expected/budgeted for), and recovering my voice from too much fun in Prague.
I had some grand plans to go to an Opera, maybe see the Vienna Boy’s Choir at Sunday Mass, but turns out the Viennese are planners, and these things need to be booked pretty far in advance, and I didn’t get my act together enough to line up hours in advance for standing room tickets. But I certainly don’t feel like I missed out.
One of my favorite attractions, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, was the hedge maze at Schönbrunn Palace. If you recall, I was beyond excited to find a not even real hedges/not even real maze at Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm (if you don’t remember, re-read my post Prepare to be aMAZEd). Well, Schönbrunn Palace has a real maze with real hedges and it was everything I hoped for and well worth the €5,50. The hedges were well above 6 feet high, and the prize at the center was a raised platform where you could watch the people still struggling through the maze. It took me about 10 minutes to solve (felt longer) and I probably ran into about 10 dead ends before I did.
I didn’t actually go in the palace but I walked most of the garden grounds and enjoyed an excellent view while I ate my supermarket cheddar cheese bagel sandwich. The sun even came out for about 10 minutes! Here are some photos from Schönbrunn Palace:
I also had a great time riding the Ferris Wheel (the Wiener Riesenrad), which is in the Wurstelprater amusement park, the oldest amusement park in the world.
Before I left for my trip I got to meet my old boss’s sister, Elysa, who was in town visiting but currently lives in Vienna with her partner Laura. They were so kind to let me stay with them over the weekend and get some much cherished snore-less sleep, do laundry, and provide some really great insights into the Viennese culture. Thank you both so much!!
Here are some other observations I had about the city:
- The Viennese aren’t especially welcoming to tourists. There’s not much written in English and they generally don’t attempt to use English when speaking to you.
- There are a lot of rules and they are strictly followed. People don’t really jaywalk, if you are sick with a cold and go to the doctor the doctor might restrict you from going to work for as much as 2 weeks, during which time you are only allowed to walk to the nearest supermarket, the free walking tour guides are required to be locally licensed, which means a 2 year training course followed by a final exam, in the U-Bahn stations everyone actually stands on the right and walks on the left of the escalator, and boarding passengers actually move to the sides to let people get off the train before getting on (take note BART users!), and reservations/advance planning are required for a lot of things, including the free walking tour!
- Mozart was Austrian and had 13 apartments around Vienna and was a close friend of the Habsburgs. It is said that he had so many apartments because his neighbors would get annoyed with him composing music at all hours of the night so he would rotate apartments to give the neighbors a break.
- Of the 900+ synagogues that existed prior to WWII, only one remains, and it is hardly noticeable as in the later times of the Habsburg dynasty, Judaism was tolerated so long as it wasn’t seen. While there is a Holocaust memorial and a small Jewish museum, Vienna doesn’t seem to put too much attention on the Holocaust, at least in comparison to places like Prague, which have a similar history of harsh treatment of the Jews during this time. This got me thinking that maybe it’s a bit taken for granted that so many European cities, like Prague and Berlin, which have such depressing WWII histories, have done such a thoughtful job of finding ways to memorialize and teach about the horrible things that happened there. Then I think about the US, where slavery ended 80 years prior to the end of WWII, and Americans are still fighting to keep up statues of confederate generals.
I did a poor job of taking photos of my meals here…but I did have some traditional Austrian food, mainly consisting of various forms of sausages wrapped in bread, oh and I also had some Thai food (which was great!):
A couple of days ago also marked my first month abroad, so I thought it would be fun to note a few firsts along the trip:
- First meal: Norwegian airlines, beef and veggies, it was so-so.
- First heart sinking moment: realizing my iPhone 7 headphones didn’t fit the in-flight entertainment jack on my flight to Stockholm.
- First purchase: Norwegian airlines headphones, $3.
- First person I met: Simon, Australian in my first Stockholm hostel.
- First lost item: my face wash, left in the bathroom for 5 minutes and it was gone.
- First injury: Flying over my bicycle handlebars in Stockholm. Some bruises and scratches, mostly just embarrassing. The French couple who sort of caused the crash said to me in their broken English “That did not look enjoyable?”
I am now in Budapest, I have successfully checked in to my hostel, played some drinking games, and went to a ruin bar, so I’d say so far so good!