This weekend Jason and I were able to travel to Vienna, Austria without the kids thanks to Pop & NéeNée who watched them while we got out of town. Vienna is a city that neither Jason nor I had been to before which always works out well for us. No one feels like they are leading each other around and we get to discover it together. I had been told that Vienna is much larger than you think and the two days we were spending there wouldn’t even get a majority of Vienna “seen”. That was definitely true advice. We both had such a nice time there though it is on our short list of cities to return to again.
We hoped into our cab after our early morning flight and met Helmut. He was a happy guy who liked to preach about positive attitudes and the power of anti-oxidant pills. He had two daughters from his first marriage that he didn’t see much anymore but had a dog who loves walks in the forest.
At first blush Vienna looks like most European cities. Beautiful buildings, pedestrian closed streets, outdoor cafés serving spaghetti bolognese and ridiculous amounts of shopping.
And lots of love of the word Wiener (You probably already know fact: the word “Wiener”means “Viennese”, since the actual German name for Vienna is Wien)
But as you dig down and get to see more of the city open up you are struck by its beauty. The Viennese have a love for classical architecture and romantic style. As a city with so much history it makes you wonder why you didn’t learn more about it in school, other than the basic Austrian-Hungarian blurbs.
The building on your right above is the Opera house. However during World War II an American pilot mistook it for a train station and unleashed a bombing raid. He missed the Opera House but hit an apartment building to the left and it collapsed onto the 200 citizens who were hiding in the basement entombing them underneath.
These statues are built upon that site to remind all of the horrific nature of war.
I’m sure the four rivers fountain would have been prettier without this guy in it.
Like our tour book said, if you look above all the mainstream stores (H&M, Zara, GAP, etc) you can imagine what central Vienna used to look like in its days of grandure.
Another thing I liked about Vienna were its churches. I like my churches good and gothic, the more ornate and ridiculous the better. In Italy I found most of the Renaissance churches completely disappointing and dull (save the Sistine Chapel of course). But here in Vienna, they were gorgeous.
After visiting central Vienna we walked to the Hofburg Palace.
And see kids, this is why you have to learn all that “pointless” stuff in school. One day you will be presented with life in front of you and the ability to understand/recognize it leaves quite the feeling of satisfaction. The Hapsburg Royal Family loved Greek Mythology and had the 12 labors of Hercules presented as statues along the palace walls. I was only able to find 8 of them. Either there are only 8 or there are 4 hiding somewhere else that I couldn’t see.
The view from the side of the palace towards City hall.
The famous balcony from which Hitler addressed the Viennese people after capturing Austria.
For the second half of the first day, we took a bike tour around Vienna and got a true picture of how large the city is. Three hours of near constant biking, my legs were so exhausted I almost didn’t make it to dinner but I’m glad I pushed through. We ate at the Palais Coburg where I ate almost enough to replace the calories burned that day.
Random picture. The public bathrooms in Vienna are fantastic. Just an FYI here. They also aren’t annoyed with restrooms in general like most other cities. Almost every place you walk into the restrooms are clearly marked and it is no big deal if you have to use them. In Paris (and Brussels), you practically need a map to find one, then have to beg to use it and it is never a pleasant experience.
The next morning we awoke to a drop in temperature (about 30 degrees worth!) and rain.
We planned to go back to some of the sights we saw on our bike tour (since I didn’t bring my camera on the tour) and take a few pictures and see things in more detail. However, the cold rain and chilly wind forced us to have a change of plans.
Instead we spent the day in and out of several Viennese coffee houses and restaurants. A relaxing and much better plan. I finished a book cover to cover and dined on crisp apple strudels with cream, fried potatoes and lots of tea/coffee/wine/beer.
The city, much like every other city on the planet has its downfalls. The rise of kitsch, commercialism, immigration tensions, and economic strife, but all in all I have to say I sort of fell in love with Vienna. Laid back with class, happy people, and fantastic food.
If you wear six inch heels on streets with uneven surfaces, cobblestone and look like a wounded deer trying to maneuver in them, I’m going to take your picture.
Also if you make amazing chocolate cakes right in front of me and ask me not to take a picture, I’m going to have to break that rule.
As you can tell by the quality of these pics, I chose not to bring my large camera on this trip. Instead I opted for my pocket camera. Sometimes you just need a break from seeing a city through a lens pressed up against your face the whole time. It was rather freeing and my neck is also thankful.
I dumped all the pics I took into this slideshow, take a gander if you have the time.
We had a great trip and it was good to get away. It was also great to come home to my babies and celebrate Mother’s Day. Pop & NéeNée hoped on a plane Sunday morning to Italy and I’ve spent the day doing a whole lot of nothing.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mommy and all the other moms out there. Hope your weekend was grand!
*Zane and Lily pics thanks to NéeNée