Borrowing Britain

48 Hours in Vienna

sight: vibrant fruit at the Naschmarkt, gold foil motifs painted by Gustav Klimt, an imperial palace with a magnificent garden
sound: bold overtures from the orchestra at the Vienna Opera House, the cloppety-clop of horse hooves on cobbles, “Tschüss” (sounds like “choos” and German for goodbye)
taste: crispy veal schnitzel, warm Apfelstrudel dusted with sugar, cream-based coffee from some of the oldest coffee houses in the world
smell: beer from the Viennese version of Oktoberfest, rich Sachertorte chocolate, tulips + roses (because it smells like Dutch spirit)
touch: pleasant icy wind, plush velvet seats at the Vienna Opera House, crisp newspapers with black type slightly thicker to the touch

Vienna was the caboose of my 3 week journey, and boy was I glad to see it! It was the perfect balance of sights and serenity, and I was able to accomplish everything on my list without ever feeling overexerted. A big surprise after being in go-mode for the better part of this trip. I stayed in a relatively quiet quarter along the Danube, and since Vienna is huge, having a home base that was pretty central to public transportation was key. Between the metro and the tram, I was able to give my feet a little R + R.

My first stop was the Hundertwasserhaus – a Dali inspired facade with drippy mosaics in shiny, rich colors. The architecture was unbound by rules and unbent by expectations. I loved seeing this playful design that embodied the rule of thought, “Just more pretty, please.” After take a gazillion pics, I opted to stroll towards my next destination so that I could take the city in.

When I finally arrived at Hofburg Palace, I was transported to a different era. One that was ruled by top hats and horse-drawn carriages. I saw Heaven in the blue-green dome, the open square that holds so much history and the crown jewels that live here. Instinct led me towards the museum across the way next: Kunsthistorisches Museum. Here my brain was awakened at the sight of Renaissance and Baroque art. You’ll find such famous pieces as The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel and Summer by Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Because #YOLO, I had schnitzel for dinner (who’s counting?) at Restaurant Plachutta Gasthaus. With heaters, people watching and a cozy atmosphere, I’d definitely recommend it!

Having waited too long to buy tickets to the ballet, I ended up scalping one on the street << B I G M I S T A K E. I was feeling pretty good about myself when I walked into a private box with an excellent view next to the stage. Well, turns out it wasn’t so private as I was supposed to share this tiny box with 4 other people. I did welcome this until I found out that only 3 people could sit in the front row, which already had limited viewing as is. My seat number was in the back row, next to the wall, that was next to the stage. So my view wasn’t obstructed, it was nonexistent! I couldn’t believe they sold seats that had no view at all, and I didn’t want to miss experiencing the Viennese ballet, Giselle, that I had been dreaming about. Thankfully the staff was understanding and allowed me to watch the first half in the Gallery (on a screen) and the second from standing-room only in the nosebleeds. Totally worth the transition, and the ballet was a masterpiece! So moral of the story, buy your tickets early, never trust a scalper and don’t even think about sitting somewhere with a “limited view.”

The next morning, I rose bright and early for a visit to the famous ice skating rink in front of the Rathaus. I wandered in circles probably 3 times before learning that the ice skating rink was a seasonal installation that would not arrive until November. There goes my trust for websites ever again! I was a little bit bummed I wouldn’t get to experience it this time around, but at least you couldn’t beat the view.

I quickly recovered with a visit to the flea market called Naschmarkt and was so glad I saved it for Saturday. It was overflowing with shiny fruits, vintage stamps and antique goods from locals long past. I spent hours here, and it was well worth it! Afterwards, I skedaddled towards Schonbrunn Palace where Marie Antoinette was actually raised. Allow 3-4 hours for this visit, and purchase tickets in advance! The gardens feature manicured hedges in spiral motifs, red + yellow petals bursting with life and an Orangery that looks as good as it smells. A long path behind the palace leads you towards the Gloriette, where I logged in all of my steps for the day. So worth it for the view of magnificent Vienna!

With this stop under my belt, it was time for a snick-snack. Cafe Landtmann was calling my name, and my original plan for latte + strudel turned into a (you-guessed it) schnitzel lunch with these goodies for dessert. I loved the ambiance here. Newspaper racks built towards Heaven, ritzy waiters and soft light bulbs at the end of every table. The staff moved in a choreographed dance, speaking telepathically and moving with grace I’ll be honest I know not. Think penguin segment in Mary Poppins. It was that swift, and that entertaining to watch.

Now that I was fully energized, it was time to see some Gustav Klimt. The Belvedere is home to his largest collection of works, and the pleasure was all mine. This is where you’ll find his famous Kiss and ever-so-striking Judith. I love the way he plays with patterns, gold leaf and Egyptian motif. The lines are blurred between realism and symbolism, and each of his pieces has layers of depth I can hardly fathom.

As the sun began to set, I decided it was time for the ferris wheel ride. What I didn’t realize was the Riesenrad is just one part of the larger Prater – a whole amusement park full of rides, games and fried food. It was also next to Wienfest which had all the same components of Oktoberfest except for scale. I was a little sad I left my dirndl at home, but at least I got to watch from the top of the ferris wheel!

My heart was full and my mind was happy. And somehow I was already hungry again. So I headed towards Zum Schwarzen Kameel for dinner and marveled at St. Stephen’s Cathedral along the way. Dior and Prada were kind enough to let me window shop along my walk towards the restaurant, and it quickly became clear that I was in one of the best parts of town. In case you were wondering, there is such a thing as too much schnitzel, so I’m not ashamed to say I ordered spaghetti for dinner. And it was divine! The perfect conclusion to a 10/10 vacation.

Vienna, I’ll come back soon!