Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Viennese Affair

Who ya gonna call? Only in Vienna...

The facade of St Stephansdom

The roof of St Stephansdom - rebuilt after the war

The Schoenbrunn Palace

These were everywhere, not entirely sure what it is

Fountain at Parliament with the Rathaus in the background

The Rathaus at night, with the carnival in front (just figured out how to take night shots with my camera, woohoo)

Fountain in front of the Parliament

The Burgtheatre

Statue in front of what I think is the Hofburg Palace

The Maria Theresa monument

Fountain in MariaTheresienPlatz

Statue in front of the KunsthistorischesMuseum

Statue in MariaTheresienPlatz

Sorry Prague, I'm seeing someone else...
I arrived in Vienna probably feeling the most lost I've ever felt. I speak maybe half a dozen words of German (Ja, nien, guten tag, danke, schiesser kopf {spellling? sorry struggling with German keyboard setup], achtung and auf wiederschen) so although I had directions on what bus to take to the hostel, emerging from the train station and finding the bus (even with assistance from the information desk) was a major challenge. When I did finally find the bus, I was panicked the entire time because I had no ticket and no obvious means of procuring one, plus I had foolishely announced my touristy presence to the bus driver by asking if it was the right bus. But as the astute members of my little audience will have realised, it all turned out okay and I got to the hostel in the end.
The hostel is possibly the dodgiest place you've ever seen. I think it advertises itself as being in 'a romantic 19th century building' or something along those lines. Make that an unrenovated 19th century building - seriously, at least from the hallway-eye view it's the most unprepossessing place you'll ever be unlucky enough to wander into. From the inside it's not *too* bad, although I got landed with the middle bunk (yes, the middle of three stories) and there's no steps up into it, so I have to do an undignified clamber and then be trapped inside my narrow cot all night. The floor squeaks, the beds squeak, there's a beam of light conveniently located as to shine straight on to my bed, although the actual light in the room doesn't serve to illuminate my little corner, so no chance of reading there, and the traffic outside is noisy. But c'est la vie, it's close to everything and that's the main thing.

Anyway, it was about 4 pm yesterday before I was finally able to venture out and see a few of the sights of Vienna (please stop me if I write Venice, I'm always only one step away from doing it I swear), so I just elected to wander around the streets in MuseumsQuartier etc. And that's where I fell in love instantly. Seriously, Maria-Theresia Platz is so gorgeous I had to remind myself to keep breathing. Add in the fact that today and yesterday we've had the most amazing weather (20 degrees at c. 3 pm today, according to a thingy in the metro) and it's not surprising that I love the place. Much as I hate to be disloyal to Prague (where are your claws, indeed?) Vienna blew me away in a way Prague never quite did. I love Prague, but it's more a city of small surprises around every corner, whereas Vienna has that monumental, formal architecture that just takes your breath away. It seems a lot more planned and structured than Prague, which isn't necessarily a good thing - I suppose it takes away some of the charm - but it adds to the wow factor when everything's laid out just so.
So I wandered about, took in various buildings from the outside and mosied around some parks, then headed back up in the direction of the hostel when it was getting dark, stopped for a drink then decided to go back the way I came, since the guidebook said some of the buildings were lit up and looked pretty wicked by night. Which they did. The Rathaus (heh heh) - town hall - was particularly pretty, and it has some sort of a carnival set up in front of it at the moment, so there were all sorts of stalls selling food and stuff. The whole place smelt like donuts frying mmm, although I wasn't actually able to locate any donuts for sale, so I got some apple strudel instead. Shortly thereafter, I realised that it was actually Kaiserschmarrn - thick pancakes - that smelled so nice, so I actually went back and had some this evening, and they were mighty fine, too.

Today I had planned to go to the Kunstmuseum, which apparently has an amazing art collection, but one of the guys in the hostel waxed lyrical about the Schonbrunn Palace, so seeing as the weather was good, I thought I should take it in today, then if it all goes bad tomorrow I won't mind being inside. The palace was pretty amazing, although choked with tourists. It had a free audio guide as well, which was handy, although those things are always irritating when you're forced to hang around in a crowded room to try and finish listening to its long-winded explanations. Unfortunately you're not allowed to take pictures inside, but check out to get an idea. It also has wonderful gardens, with lovely views of the palace (finally somewhere where you can get enough perspective to take a decent photo) and the city, fountains, a maze (which was fun for about a minute, and then frustrating) and various other little things. Also there's the world's oldest zoo there, but I didn't go in. The ticket also covered the 'Applestrudel Show' - I had no idea what this entailed, turns out you get to watch someone make Apple strudels. Sound lame to you? Get out of town! It was great! They stretch the dough so thin you can (as the woman demonstrated) read a piece of paper through it. I was, however, thankful that I'd already eaten my free strudel sample before I learned that the dough is kept in a bath of oil for about 20 minutes before they start rolling it. Gross! The best part of it was the immortal line, "If you have any questions, please ask, or on your recipe pamphlet there's a phone number which will connect you to the strudel hotline". Ahahahahaha.

After that, I headed back into the city and went to Stephansdom, the cathedral. Amazingly, it's free to enter, but they managed to wily 8 euros out of me for a tour and to go up the tower. The tour was interesting, but brief and the guy spoke about a million miles a minute in heavily-accented English, so not quite sure I caught all of it. Turns out Mozart was married there though, interesting. The trip up the tower I would give a miss if I had my time again. Vienna, like Prague, is not her best from above. I think a city needs some proper water to really look good from above. Auckland comes out above Vienna or Prague in those stakes, at least. Toronto was also pretty nice from up the CN Tower. Vienna is all just rooftops as far as the eye can see - at least Prague has the Vltava (still don't know how to spell that). (PS Where's the Danube, people?)

For dinner I had bratwurst from a street vendor - dodgy, I know, but it seemed ineffably Viennese, and cheap besides. They put the baguette thing on this steel pole to hollow out the insides, then squirt the sauce and mustard in and finally stick the sausage in, cool! Plus it was pretty damn tasty.

Oh yeah, I forgot, I went to the bank this morning and had a cold chill run down my spine when I realised none of my travellers' cheques were in my money belt. Reasoning that no thief worth his salt would steal travellers' cheques and leave cash and a passport, I think I cleverly left them behind in Prague, dammit. However, I had some Australian money some good fairy gave me which I changed, plus I got cash out on my card (shudder to think how much that cost me) so all is not lost. Fingers crossed I find the travellers' cheques again.

Apologies for the super-long post, tomorrow to the Kunstmuseum, and I shall be very sorry to leave Vienna behind again on Saturday. The best thing about heading back to Prague, though, is catching up with all my buddies again. Don't mind tooling about Vienna by myself in the day, but not such a fan of going to bars or restaurants alone, I miss my instant dinner dates in Prague!


  1. You're tu meke, biatch

  2. Great blog!
    A biased person.

  3. since when would mum say tu meke?

  4. No, not tu meke, 'great blog!' I know the tu meke fiend


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