Wanna hear something embarrassing? Yes, of course you do. When my family first planned this trip to Vienna to come and see me (that is to say, before I’d even booked my flight to Austria – my mum was a lot more enthusiastic than I was about coming here), I was looking at trains from Rohrbach to Vienna and thought the website was broken because it kept sending me to WIEN instead of VIENNA. Happily, my German has improved since then (my common sense, not so much).
After pulling what is commonly known as a Matt Wilde and forgetting my passport, necessitating a last minute ‘dash’ back to Rohrbach (as much as one can ‘dash’ anywhere on a trip that takes about 2 hours each way), I was on my way to Vienna to meet my mum, stepdad and brother for the first stop of my ‘3 countries in 11 days’ whirlwind tour.
On arriving in Vienna and promptly breaking the law by riding the tram for a good 25 minutes without a ticket, I managed to find my family and make our way back to our hostel – incidentally, the first hostel I’ve ever been in that thinks it’s ok to put the shower in the same room as the beds without any dividing wall. #austria
After dumping our bags, we headed straight to Café Demel – a famous pastry shop and chocolaterie in the centre of Vienna. It was fancy af inside and served amazing Apfelstrudel – so Café Demel became my first serious love affair of the day.
After a quick ride on the tourist tram (oh come on, it had to be done) we went to Schweizerhaus for food, which, despite its name (‘Swiss House’) is actually a very traditionally Viennese restaurant – which of course means air heavy with cigarette smoke. The food and beer were en pointe and, as is routine whenever I leave the house in Austria, I fell briefly in love with a man sitting on the table next to us who my brother decided was probably called Kristoff.
The next day was mostly taken up with a trip to Schloss Schönbrunn, former residence of several generations of the Hapsburg family, which was spectacularly beautiful inside and so interesting, although it probably helps that I’m a bit of a history geek. I’m now mildly obsessed with Kaiserin Sissi, wife of Franz Joseph I, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and general BAE. It was also a beautiful, clear autumn day and perfect weather for wandering around the palace grounds, getting lost in the maze, annoying my brother so much that he told me he was going to “punch me right out of Austria” and taking lots of photos before heading to Figlmüller for schnitzel.
I put my vegetarianism on momentary hold in favour of a cultural experience (I mean, you’re not going to come to Austria and not eat schnitzel, right?) but I was appropriately punished for it by the vegetarian Gods, who conveniently placed a huge screen in the middle of Vienna’s main square showing some cows being slaughtered in an abattoir, complete with screams of pain in surround sound. *shudders and watches Earthlings 3 times in a row*
We spent Saturday alternating between culture and stuffing our faces with sweet Austrian food, beginning with a quick trip to the Hundertwasser house…
…and then straight onto the Staatoper (the Opera House), which I wasn’t expecting to enjoy very much, but our tour guide was really good and the hall itself was gorgeous. I would love to go there to see an opera, specifically Turandot, which we watched illegally in Rome and is the only opera I actually know anything about.
Then we went to Café Sacher for some original Sachertorte, which again, I wasn’t expecting to like – one of my most unpopular opinions is that chocolate cake is overrated and sickly, and Sachertorte is essentially chocolate cake… but when in Rome and all that. I was glad I tried it because it was delicious and had this amazing apricot filling, and also because it gave my brother the chance to make me die laughing when he ordered ‘the Marie Antoinette special’ (cake).
Then it was time for more culture, so we went to Belvedere (an art museum) to see the famous Kuss by Klimt before heading back to Café Demel and eating more sweets – this time Kaiserschmarrn, a dessert my students told me I had to try. It’s basically ripped up pancakes and fruit sauce and is so good.
Messing around in the Belvedere after we lost interest in the art (about 2 minutes before we arrived)
Feeling thoroughly stuffed, we headed to Stephansdom (Vienna’s main cathedral) to see a Mozart concert by an actual live orchestra. I’ve never seen a classical music concert before, and again, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would (this seems to be the theme of the day). I mostly enjoyed it because I felt fancy and sophisticated, but I have since been paying pay more attention to classical music in general and it’s kind of really good – who knew?
On Sunday we paid a visit to Schönbrunn Zoo. Safari has changed my views on zoos forever, and so I didn’t really enjoy it. What I would have previously considered to be big enclosures felt small and cramped, so I distracted myself with learning German vocabulary – rhino is ‘das Nashorn’ (nose horn), hippo is ‘das Flusspferd’ (river horse) and meerkats are ‘die Erdmännchen’ (little earth men) – German is BAE. It was also really cool to see pandas, koalas and polar bears because I’d never seen any of those before.
While my family headed to the famous big wheel in Prater (essentially a permanent funfair), I had to run to catch my train to Prague to meet Bryony, Emma, Charlotte and Martha for Squad Tour!
To be continued…