Waltzing around Vienna
After being back in Dusseldorf for a mere 48 hours, it was time for another of my adventures which meant getting up early on Wednesday morning, packing my bag and returning to the airport. I had timed it just right and had enough time to go through security stress free and even had time to enjoy a chapter or two of my book before boarding my Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna.
When stepping onto the plane, I was greeted with the charming sound of classical Viennese music which amused me greatly and I was even more pleased to find out I practically had my own three seater sofa to myself, meaning I was able to enjoy the short flight in comfort. Being the big kid that I am, I was of course sat next to the window and spent almost the entire flight looking out for mountains and snow..! After about an hour and fifteen minutes we touched down in Vienna International, where I was met by my friend Fiona, along with a friend of hers who was kind enough to drive us back into the city.
Once settled in Fiona’s cute little flat, her friend made us a yummy lunch before we set off for an afternoon tour of the Innenstadt (town centre). It wasn’t my first time in Vienna but Fiona and Anna took me on an interesting tour full of insider knowledge and took me along some of the pretty little side streets that the regular tourist wouldn’t necessarily find. We started off by visiting the University main building, which definitely put that of Southampton’s to shame with its majestic staircase inside and pure flair.
From the University we headed back into the main centre, past cute little buildings such as this Engel-Apotheke (Angel Pharmacy)…
the renowned Hotel Sacher, where the famous Sachertorte originates from, the Albertina museum and many more impressive buildings. Finally we were right in the heart of the city and went to explore the area around Stefansplatz, where the wonderful cathedral Stefansdom stands. Since I was last in Vienna, it was noticeable that they had done a fair bit of cleaning work, as the cathedral use to be so dirty, it was practically black.
Fiona and Anna took me up Graben, now one of the city’s main shopping streets which can be traced back thousands of years to when it was simply a ditch around the old Roman settlement.
At the top of Graben we popped into luxury food store Julius Meinl, where we took in the vast array of different foods from all over the world, before heading down Kohlmarkt (Coal Market), another of Vienna’s oldest streets with an eclectic array of historical buildings and upmarket shops including Chanel, LV as well as famous jewellery stores such as Cartier or Tiffanys. At the end of the street is chocolate lovers paradise, Demel, known to be one of, if not the best chocolate shops in Vienna. Demel’s window displays are also stunning and featured this life size lady who is made entirely from sugar.
Past Demel we walked up to the Hofburg and then went to pay the horses of the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) a visit.
After our little walking tour we ended up hunting down a new cafe called Cafe Neko, definitely one for cat lovers. Anna was keen to investigate and she was not disappointed as in the cafe were indeed a number of free roaming cats, their baskets and wall mounted runways for them. It was a strange experience but one that seems to be popular with the locals.
In the evening we had been invited to a soiree where Fiona’s same friend cooked us a rather interesting meal.. ‘cola huhn’ (cola chicken). You may think that is a rather strange name, because surely the recipe doesn’t contain cola.. well, you’re wrong. I, amongst others, was rather sceptical but was pleasantly surprised as it turned out to taste much like a sweet and sour chinese sauce.
The following day we completed our city tour with a walk around Ringstrasse (Ring Road), that encircles the Innenstadt. Along Ringstrasse are many beautiful and historical buildings and include the Viennese State Opera, Austrian Parliament Building, Rathaus (Town/ city hall) as well as the University.
We also went inside the State Library into what was called the Prunksaal, or the State Hall. And wow, it was wonderful inside!
After that it was time for a refreshment break and where else to go but the aforementioned cafe, Demel. Just the shop itself is stunningly beautiful with extravagant pastries, cakes and biscuits in pretty cabinets and gift boxes. The cafe stretches back into the building and you can even look through a glass wall and watch the chefs preparing and decorating all the delicious things whilst enjoying a piece of cake. The decor is also lovely with chandeliers and antique furnishings. Once we had found a table upstairs, we ordered and very quickly our cakes arrived. I went for the famous Sachertorte – a dense chocolate sponge, with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated with dark chocolate icing. It was very good but incredibly rich!
In the evening we also went out for dinner in restaurant that I am told is Vienna’s ‘It’ place for Schnitzels, in other words Figlmueller (http://www.figlmueller.at/en/). For anyone who visits Vienna this is definitely a must but unless you have a huge appetite I would advise sharing a Scnhitzel as they have a diameter of at least 30cm. However, it was delicious and great value!
Now we come to Friday which compared to the last two days of sightseeing was rather more relaxed. Fiona had to start off by organising her University courses for second semester so by the time we got on with our day it was lunchtime. For lunch we headed down the road to Vienna’s best known and most popular market, Naschmarkt. We enjoyed a tasty, organic lunch in restaurant Tewa (http://tewa-naschmarkt.at/) and another top tip, order the Ice Tea, it’s amazing!!
Following on from lunch we did something a little different and visited a museum exhibition, but not any old exhibition. We visited the Dialog im Dunkeln (Dialogue in the dark) http://www.imdunkeln.at where there is absolutely nothing to be seen. Basically in small groups you are assigned to a blind, or visually impaired guide who takes you through everyday situations in their world of darkness. We were a little anxious about how we would feel, being unable to see and in the pitch black for over an hour but after being provided with a blind stick and introduced to our lovely guide we began our tour and soon felt calm and in safe hands. The tour was so fantastic and our guide took us through situations such as a walk through the park, a boat trip, crossing a road in the city as well as going shopping and finally the tour ended with a trip to the bar in complete darkness. I would highly recommend this as it was an amazing insight into something that we all take for granted. After our adventure in the dark we opted for some relaxtion and jumped on the metro and then the tram to the thermal spa in Oberlaa.
Eventually my last full day in Vienna was upon me and it had been arranged to visit Fiona’s lovely grandparents. Her grandpa picked us up and first we made a little trip to the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetry) which is one of the largest in the World and also the resting place for a huge number of famous people and musicians, including Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. It was a fascinating place to wander round and despite knowing of its size, was still astonished by how big it actually was.
We then also made a quick trip to the Friedhof der Namenlosen (Cemetery of the Nameless), located in a small area near the Harbour. This cemetery was made for those found dead in the Danube river between 1900 and 1935. Despite being small, the cemetery was very touching.
To cheer ourselves up we then went back to Fiona’s grandparents house where I met their ridiculously cute dog Abigail and enjoyed a wonderful bowl of Goulash, not a typical Austrian dish but originates from Hungary which is just across the border. We had a nice afternoon of chatting, which also was great practice for my German – although the Austrian accent took a bit of getting used to. On the way back to Fiona’s flat we stopped off in the Donauzentrum (Danube Centre), a large shopping mall, as Fiona was on the search for shoes and then once we were back in town also picked up a Krapfen, a sort of doughnut.
Sunday morning came round far too quickly and I was sad that my time in Vienna was over. I had a great time, not only experiencing Vienna from more of an insider perspective but also catching up with my friend. You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun!