Guten tag... Greetings from Vienna! To pick up where I left off, I felt like a million bucks after our first night at Austria Trend Hotel Schloss Wilhelminenberg Wien (phew, what a mouthful). We ate breakfast at the hotel with a view of Vienna below. Gorgeous. Our breakfast selection had the most variety out of any of the hotels I have ever stayed at (rightly so, considering it cost us an additional €30 at checkout). Niki got the bus/metro information from the front desk and we set out to explore Vienna.
Because of our disastrous travel sage the day before, Niki and I had to make the most out of our one day in Vienna. So, after a short bus and metro ride, we ascended the escalator up to the city center. I was absolutely awestruck once we reached ground level. Directly to my right was St. Stephen's cathedral. The Gothic style cathedral (c.1300-1450) is known for its 450-foot south tower and its colorful roof. When it was built, it was a huge church for what was then a tiny town, and it helped put the undeveloped city on the map (thank you Rick Steves). Rick was also kind enough to provide us with another guided walking tour. After a quick stop at the first Starbucks that I had seen since arriving in Europe (don't judge... there is only so much Italian espresso a girl can take before a mental breakdown. Btw, my latte was fabulous, thanks for asking), we skipped across the street to the Opera.
If Vienna is the world capital of classical music, this building is its throne room, one of the planet's premier houses of music. It's typical of Vienna's 19th-century buildings in that it features a revival style-Neo-Renaissance- with arched windows, half-columns, and the sloping, copper mansard roof typical of French Renaissance châteaux. Since the structure was built in 1869, almost all of the opera world's luminaries have passed through here. Its former musical directors include Gustav Mahler, Herbert von Karajan, Domingo, and many other greats have sung from its stage.
Unfortunately, seats had already been sold out long before we got to the Opera. It would have been possible for us to purchase admission to the standing room only, but this was only our first stop of many for the day. We decided that we would just see how we felt that evening. Luckily, we were able to tour the lobby at the Opera and got a few good photos!
Next stop on the walking tour was at Cafe Sacher. This is the home of the world's classiest chocolate cake, the Sacher-Torte: two layers of cake separated by apricot jam and covered in dark-chocolate icing, served with whipped cream. There was already a line out the entrance to the Cafe when we arrived. Thank goodness it's a fairly large restaurant and we only had to wait about 5 minutes. The hostess whisked us down a long hallway where they took our coats in exchange for a number. We were then taken into one of the many, elaborately decorated, dinning rooms and then seated at a table for two. The cafe was so beautiful with walls lined in red, satin-looking wallpaper. The ceilings were draped with crystal chandeliers and the walls decorated with 16th/17th century style portraits. Granted, this cafe is incredibly touristy, but I ate up every second of it... literally. We ordered a piece of the Sacher-Torte to share and two glasses of procecco to wash it all down with. After our dainty little snack, we hit the ladies room and then went to gather our belongings. We turned in our number and our coats were returned to us... for a small fee of €3. Might I add that upon entry into this establishment, no one mentions anything about a fee and they make it seem as though hanging up your coat is simply protocol. Rick Steves also failed to mention this little tidbit. So, for you future travelers, you have been warned :).
After satisfying our sweet-tooth, we made our way to Albertinaplatz/Albertina Museum. We decided not to go inside the museum to save time and, instead, made our primary focus the Monument Against War and Fascism, which commemorates the dark years when Austria came under Nazi rule (1938-1945). I will post pictures with detailed descriptions of this monument on FB if you are interested. We then made our way back towards St. Stephen's Cathedral to take a tour of the inside. Once again... amazing. I won't bore you with my own inadequate description, but take a look at some of my pictures and, for goodness sake, go there if you ever get the chance! We left St. Stephen's and wandered through the streets of Vienna until we found, in my opinion to be, the most glorious church in Europe... St. Peter's.
Leopold I ordered this church to be built as a thank-you for surviving the 1679 plague. The church stands on the site of a much older church that may have been Vienna's first (or second) Christian church. St. Peter's shows Vienna at its Baroque best (Rick Steves). We partook in one of the churches free organ concerts and attempted to capture its incredible beauty in our photographs... this was not possible. We spent at least 30 minutes gazing at the walls, dripped with gold, pastel colored frescos and life-like statues. Wow, how could we possibly top this moment?
Our next stop was the Hofburg palace. On our way, we were delighted with the scene of a slow-setting sun and millions of Christmas lights strung from one side of the street to the other; every street with its own theme. The street leading directly to the Hofburg palace is called Kohlmarkt -aka- Vienna's most elegant and unaffordable shopping street. After making our way through endless amounts of Cartier, Armani, Gucci, and Tiffany we arrived at the emperor's palace. We by-passed the museum/attractions of the Hofburg to save a little time and cash and just walked through the archways to appreciate the New-Baroque facade and architecture on the opposite side. We strolled through a nearby park and stumbled, luckily, onto the Wiener Christkindlmarkt or Vienna Christmas market. This market is the largest Christmas market in Vienna with over 200 stalls selling candy, handmade goodies, delicious food and, my personal favorite, mulled wine! The backdrop for this magical market is the gothic style Rathaus. The Rathaus is a building in Vienna which serves as the seat both of the mayor and city council of the city of Vienna. The town hall also serves, in personal union, as Governor and Assembly (Landtag) of the State of Vienna, a state with the Austrian federal system. Somedays it was difficult exploring each destination in the cold weather, but getting to experience each location during the Christmas season is something that I encourage everyone to do if you are able.
To wrap up the day, we decided to consult Rick for an authentic Austrian dinner. He suggested we try Reinthaler's Beisl- a time warp the serves simple, traditional Beisl fare all day. Score! An order of homemade dumplings, sauerkraut, pork steak and one large Gösser Bier later and I was ready for bed :) So tasty! Another successful day in Europe! Tomorrow... off to Prague!