Let me begin by saying that I was extraordinarily lucky to have experienced this absolutely magical last weekend in Austria. I fell in love with the cities, the people, the countryside, the language, the food, and really everything about the country! We were fortunate enough to travel with one of our close friends here named Nadia, who is from Graz. This was FANTASTIC because it helps to have someone German-speaking along, especially who knows the area extremely well. Unfortunately, we only had about a day in Vienna before we had to take the train to Graz for the ball (yes, the ball...) which was just not enough time. Since we covered A LOT of ground over the weekend, I am splitting the posts into one shorter one about Vienna and one longer one next week about Graz- I don't want to miss a thing! And I'm serious, stay tuned for the ball- it was beyond epic.
Vienna was beyond magical. What I loved most about it was that the entire city felt as if it had been built in the peak of the Holy Roman Empire, and essentially untouched since then! It felt mysterious and ancient, and the architecture was GORGEOUS. Nadia had to catch an earlier train than we did, but we had no trouble navigating the city even though we didn't speak any German. As long as you have a city map with you, the underground is very clear and easy to figure out. WE bought a day pass for 5.70 euro, which ended up being a great decision! It was also a very inexpensive city (although I think every city in the world is most likely less expensive than Ireland...) so that was a pleasant surprise as well! As I said, we will absolutely return to Vienna as we did not get to experience nearly everything we wanted to- we could have spent at least another three days just in the city. At the end of the trip, we took the underground to Wien Meidling train station and hopped the three-hour train through the countryside to Graz-something I would also highly recommend doing. Here's what we saw, what we wished we'd seen, and most importantly...what we ate. Kidding...kind of.
HOW WE GOT THERE: We took our classic three-hour bus ride to Dublin and hopped the two hour Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Vienna. Once we arrived in Vienna, it was only about a sixteen-minute train ride on the U4 to the Kettenbruckegasse station to get to our hostel (which was located extremely close to the city center).
WHERE WE STAYED: Our hostel was actually one of my favorite hostels we've stayed in yet, and it was only ELEVEN EUROS a night (thank you, Vienna)! There's a network of them around Vienna, Munich, and Berlin, and they are named Wombat's! The location was amazing as it was right outside the Naschmarkt, it was extremely clean, and the staff was very informative and friendly. Also, they give you a free drink in the Wombar upon check-in...just saying.
FIRST STOP: Schonbrunn Palace, which I had visited as a child but didn't have very clear memories of- so it was an absolute blast to return! We took the U4 from Kettenbruckegasse station to the Schonbrunn station, which was only about a fifteen minute ride- very convenient. Schonbrunn was one of the Habsburg residences that was once a hunting lodge, turned into their summer palace and it was absolutely gorgeous. We did not take a tour of the inside (as prices varied from 9.50 euro to 13 euro and we are broke college students, sorry!) but we spent an hour or two walking around the gardens, maze, and fountains in the back of the palace, which were never-ending and breathtaking! It was also very lovely that we were there in autumn; there were no flowers but the spectacular color of the trees made up for that and more. Even though it looks daunting, make sure you hike up the hill in the back all the way to the top- you will be rewarded with incredible views of the palace as well as the city. We found it was well worth our time to visit, even without taking the guided tour. Not a bad backyard, right?
Next Up: We took the U-Bahn from Schonbrunn to Stephensplatz, home to a massive shopping district and the beautiful cathedral of St. Stephens. After taking a small tour of St. Stephens, we walked through the Graben (antique shopping district) which is fantastic as no vehicles are allowed. Eventually, we stumbled upon the Hofburg Palace and Spanish riding school where the Lipizzaner stallions are trained- both of which are absolutely stunning!
WHAT WE ATE: Our favorite place during our short stay in Vienna to find food was the Naschmarkt, essentially a giant amalgam of restaurants, street food stands, stores with clothes and accessories, and the largest amount of delicious looking food in one space I've ever seen! We ended up settling upon Lebanese food, and also purchased some baked goods while we were there. Most cities in Europe tend to have a great street market, but this was the best one I've ever been lucky enough to go to! I'll detail Austrian foods that we ate in more depth in the Graz post, but other Vienna specialties we loved included melange (strong Austrian coffee with milk- delicious!) and Ottakringer beer (the best beer I've ever had!)
WHAT WE WISH WE'D SEEN: When we walked through the MuseumQuartier (filled with fantastic art history and Sigmund Freud museums) we were kicking ourselves for not alloting more time! Next time, we'll definitely spend some time taking tours of all those great museums. We'd also love to see an opera and a Lipizzaner stallion show- both of which are supposed to be incredible! On our next trip, I would also like to visit the University of Vienna, where my father spent his year abroad! We could have easily filled days and weeks spent in Vienna, so we are looking forward to returning already.
Stay tuned for the next post, beginning with our beautiful train ride to Graz!