*A shout out to all my U.S readers, you guys are reading my stuff in crazy numbers! So, thank you, and please continue, I’m still an amateur at this.*
The best thing about having lived in London during my university years is the spectrum of diverse people I met. I’ve managed to stay in contact with the majority of my continental European friends, and have used my travel time as a great reason to visit them. One such place where I got to reunite with old friends was the Austrian capital, Vienna.
Having people from the city take you around is great. Not only will they show you the best and most famous places, but they’ll take you places popular with locals, and you can really experience the vibe of life there.
The first popular spot I was taken to was Vienna aquarium. Packed into a skyscraper, quite oddly, it houses all types of aquatic life that you would expect from the best marines including, my favourites, giant turtles. An annex to the back of the building contains a mini ecosystem, and is a home for tropical birds, lemurs and jungle plants. There’s even monkey feeding sessions, if you can handle the screech of these primates and you’re able to hold live crickets without feeling queazy. These mites are super fast at getting their grub so have your camera for the photo opportunity, you won’t have long trust me!
Once you reach the summit of the building (you may wanna skip the café floors and take the lift to catch a breath) you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city, as well as the chance to pet some tortoise. The view surprised me somewhat; I was expecting a much smaller, alpine feel to it. Although you can still se the beautiful Alps mountain range surrounding the outskirts, a mixture of old and new buildings in the city spread out in a great metropolis, showing that Vienna is one of Europe’s most historic and beautiful cities.
Of course, with great metropolises comes amazing architecture. Central was full of beautiful buildings, from renaissance to art nouveau. Notable buildings of beauty were the former bank buildings right by the Cathedral, and the City’s grand opera house. For Vienna to be a great city, it needs a memorable Cathedral, and Stephansdom is exactly that.
Famous for being Austria’s most eminent Gothic edifice, this cathedral holds a wealth of art treasures, some of which can only be seen during a guided tour. Its location right in the heart of the city likens it to a gothic needle from which the rest of the city spins. Having survived so many wars, the Viennese see it as a symbol of Austria’s freedom.
After a brisk tour of the centre of town, I was whisked off on a subway to the old Royal Palace. Schönbrunn, former home to the Habsbergs and other imperial royals, is a majestic and impressive site, reminiscent of Versailles (read about my visit to there in my Paris post). Built in a baroque style, the palace is regarded as one of the most important cultural monuments in the country. A visit here is enough to make anyone aware of the power the Austro-Hungarian kingdom used to have.
Accompanying the Palace are the sprawling gardens, a beautiful place to come for a walk or run. At the bottom of the gardens I found a labyrinth, which I was delighted to explore, having been disappointed at the lack of one at Versailles (every royal palace needs one IMO). The pleasant weather left clear skies, and an amazing view of the whole grounds. Looking down from the Schönbrunn chapel, main picture, at the top of the hill (another royal essential:private place of worship) gives an amazing vantage point to take in this stunning residence.
Like I said, I was being shown around by friends, and they spent plenty of time helping
me explore Austrian cuisine. Our main food of choice for the day was Putenschnitzel, a battered turkey steak and served with potatoes and vegetables.
It was delicious, but i’m surprised everyone doesn’t have sky high cholesterol with this all this fried food. Accompany this meal with a local beer, and you’ll feel truly Viennese!
For something sweet, I was taken across the city to its most famous dessert parlour, Tichy. Opened in the 1950s and with the same interior maintained, and staff in traditional uniform, I felt like I was transported back in time. Here I got to try Viennese delicacies: Eisknödel. Little balls of pastry with ice cream in the centre that are fried and rolled in crumble and nuts, so the centre is gooey and the whole things soft.I went to pastry heaven with all the different tastes, and they are a very filling dessert. it’s worth a return trip to the city just for this place! A little treasure for the locals and not overly popular with tourists, this is a great spot to sit back and watch the local life.
Vienna was a lovely surprise for me. Catching up with friends, and changing my perspective of how this city would be. Rather than the log cabin life I expected, the traditional alpine elements have mixed with modernities, and created a nicely balanced city, full of friendly, harmonious and cultured crowds.
Waltzing around Vienna Day 29 *A shout out to all my U.S readers, you guys are reading my stuff in crazy numbers!