Exploring Vienna

The train ride from Prague to Vienna was a four hour uneventful journey.  The landscape is beautiful and the time flew by quickly as I nodded off while gazing out the window.  I arrived in the main train station and had to switch to another train to get to my hotel.  After becoming comfortable with the German train system, the Austrian setup was pretty similar and I was easily on my way.

I remembered my guide book saying the station I needed was one stop from the airport, so without looking up or thinking I hopped off at the first stop.  As the train pulled away, I saw the sign and realized I had gotten off too early.  Thankfully the trains come by every 5 minutes and I was soon on my way again.

I reach Karlsplatz, my intended destination, and try to get my bearings.  These train stations are big and can exit on a whole bunch of different streets. Google maps is once again having trouble pinpointing my position so I just have to do things the old fashioned way and figure it out on my own.  I spend some time taking the wrong exits before finally figuring out which way I need to go.

It’s a short walk to the hotel and I’m surprised how great a spot I picked.  My hotel is right across the street (almost) from the Opera house and the main tourist section.  This is a great location for a budget hotel and less than $100 a night.  Granted, it’s another tiny single room, but that’s all I really need.  Although I don’t enjoy tripping over my luggage trying to get to the bathroom in the morning.

I got in late afternoon and took my now standard recon walk around town, getting the lay of the land and prepping for the next days sightseeing.  For dinner I grab a brat at one of the stands overlooking the main plaza and do some people watching.  I found out the hard way that what I really ordered was a cheese filled sausage when the molten goodness scorched my tongue on first bite.  Good times.

Home of the molten lava hot dogs

The first full day of sightseeing started with a city walk and a self guided tram tour at the suggestion of the guidebook.  The center part of town, where all the sights are located, is encircled by a very handy tram.  Both of these were good for pointing out the sights that I would go back and visit later.  Vienna is a very walkable city and you can get almost everywhere you need without using public transportation.

The following few days I hit the main sites and did some non-stop sightseeing – well, I stopped for the necessities, food and beer.  I’ve been trying to have some local dishes and beers from each city I visit.  In Vienna it is Wiener Schnitzel and Gosser beer.  Both are excellent.

The Albertina Museum

The Albertina was once the residence of the Hapsburg archdukes and archduchesses,  and more recently an art museum with a collection of works from Monet to Picaso.  They’ve preserved the old state rooms, which you can tour before heading into the art museum.  After touring several Hapsburg palaces by this point, they all begin to look the same.  They are impressive, but they also look very similar on the inside.

I’m not much into art.  I do enjoy looking at the masterpieces, but there are very few artists whose work I would recognize other than Picaso and Van Gogh.  This collection had a lot of paintings by artists I’d never heard of before but I know most be quite famous if they are hanging in the Albertina.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

I went by St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is a beautiful church on the main square.  Unfortunately it’s under renovation and parts are covered in scaffolding.  Inside it is very crowed and they only give you access to a small part of the building without buying a ticket.  The free area was enough for me, I had a quick look around and moved on to the next place.

Hofburg Palace

Next up was a tour of the Hapsburg dynasty’s imperial palace.  They only allow pictures in the kitchen, which houses a very impressive collection of china, silver, and gold place settings and serving items.

This is just a small part of the china collection.  The kitchen was huge, but I guess it would have to be to accommodate a palace sized appetite.

The main gold centerpiece was not on display though.  Lots of renovation and restoration going on these days.

The second part of the tour took me through the palace or Royal Apartments, as they are called.  Pretty cool, but again very similar to the other Palaces I’ve visited.

Imperial Treasury

Home to two imperial crowns and one of the largest emeralds in the world, the Imperial Treasury has a fine collection of wealth on display.

The Imperial Crown of Austria, complete with scepter and holy hand grenade. Made in 1602.

The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. Made in the 10th Century.

Emerald vase carved out of a single emerald.  A whopping 2,860 carats, it is as big as my fist.

The Volksgarden

I took a walk around the palace and stumbled across the Volksgarden, which I believe means People’s Garden.  The park was created in 1821 as a private garden for the archdukes, but later turned into a public park.  For me it was a shady respite on a hot summer day in Vienna.

Schönbrunn Palace

The summer palace of the Hapsburg Monarchs is located a good thirty minutes from central Vienna.  I set aside a half day to go and see this palace and was not disappointed.  I need to get myself one of these when I get back to the States.

Once again pictures were not allowed inside, but this was a great tour.  They let you see just about everything in the place instead of just a few state rooms.  The gardens out back are beautiful and extensive.  There is even a hedge maze you can attempt to navigate your way through.

The climb to the top of the hill at the rear of the estate was steep, but well worth the views.

That wraps up the major places I visited in Vienna.  I have a ton of photos to sort through, so maybe I’ll do some future photo updates if I find any good ones.  On to Salzburg!

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