Sightseeing, Schnitzel and Sweat!
Trip Start May 04, 2013
21Trip End Jul 07, 2013
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After leaving Eisenerz – or Greg's version – eyes an’ ears, we headed for Vienna. This city has been on our 'to visit’ list for many years. We decided to stay for 3 nights to give us 2 full days to explore. Luckily, we arrived at lunchtime on Tuesday so we really had 2 ½ days to explore – and we needed every minute of it. Vienna is a large city of monuments, museums and magnificent buildings both old and new.
Our hotel was within walking distance of the main sights and had a tram stop right outside our door. The first afternoon we decided to walk – BIG mistake! The temperature was 35 degrees when we arrived so we were already hot – the walk only made it worse.
Armed with our map we headed for the State Opera as we knew we could get a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour there. It took us about 40 minutes for the walk trying to stay in the shade the whole way. The 27 Euro bus ticket turned out to be a great investment as it gave us our transport for the rest of our stay as well as discounts to some attractions that were situated along the three routes of the bus. Wasting no time we got on the bus, as much for the rest as the sightseeing!
The red route took us on the Ring – the main road around Vienna. We sat on the bus snapping away as we passed Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square), Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), Hofburg, Parliament, The University and Schwedenplatz (restaurant and shopping area).
There were no performances scheduled for the Lipizzaner Horses but we were able to get tickets to see these magnificent horses go through their training routines the following morning – a bargain, 2 ½ hours for 14 Euro. We also secured tickets to a concert of Mozart and Strauss music for the following night at the Konzerthaus– we were offered Senior’s rates so we accepted as it saved us 20 Euro each – I guess the grey, beard and silver streaked hair are not so bad after all. Kerrie was sent off to collect the tickets because Greg and Chris had spotted a military parade about to take place.
A visiting V.I.P was being given the General Salute by a contingent of Austrian soldiers accompanied by a military band – definitely more interesting than collecting concert tickets! Tickets secured, we returned to our hotel for a much needed shower and rest.
Tuesday morning we headed off to watch the Lipizzaner. These beautiful animals were put through their paces prancing and high stepping – beautiful, noble creatures that were guided by the slightest movement of their riders hands.
We then decided to take Blue route on our bus tour. To our delight, after walking to State Opera again, we discovered this bus was enclosed and air conditioned. This route took about 1 ½ hours and showed us the Prater a huge park and amusement area in the city including the Giant Ferris Wheel built for the Vienna exhibition in the 1870’s as a temporary structure – still there today as it was too expensive to dismantle! This route also took us over the Danube River where we saw many River Cruise ships docked to allow passengers to explore the city. This part of the city included UNO City – the modern section of town where the United Nations has one of its 3 main headquarters (as well as those in New York and Geneva). Back at State Opera after the bus trip, we decided to take the third route straight away as it was too hot to do much else.
This route took us further away from the city center to Schloss Schonbrunn Palace – home of the Hapsburgs, passed the Heeresgesch, Museum of Military History and Schloss Belvedere Palace before returning to State Opera again. Having driven around Vienna for almost 3 hours, we returned to our hotel to rest up before the concert at 8:30. This time, we took a tram back to our hotel – smart move! The temperature was still about 35 degrees even though it was now after 5pm.
The concert by the Vienna Hofburg Orchestra was the highlight of the visit to Vienna for Kerrie. The music of Strauss has always been a favourite of hers since she first learnt to play the Blue Danube Waltz on the piano as a young girl. No doubt she enjoyed the music as she swayed and smiled throughout the performance. It must have been good, because even Greg stayed awake for the whole time. The 30 members of the orchestra were joined by five opera singers to perform music from Die Fledermaus and The Barber of Seville by Rossini. The favourites though were The Radetzky March and Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss. Still warm when we left the Konzerthaus, we took the tram back to the hotel, still humming some of the tunes from the concert.
Wednesday was the day to go back on the bus to sights we had decided to explore in more detail. The first was Schloss Schonbrunn Palace, the ancestral home of the Hapsburg Family. This palace is magnificent. The tour we took had us visit 40 rooms in the palace where it was easy to see the magnificence of the lifestyle. Greg said that the family would probably be horrified to see so many peasants wandering through their magnificent home! No photos were allowed inside but we did manage a few through the louvers looking towards the magnificent gardens outside.
Next stop was The Museum of Military History. We often find these on our itinerary during holidays – I guess Greg’s previous occupations might have some influence on this! For Greg, this was definitely the highlight of his trip to Vienna. One of the exhibits was the car that Archduke Ferdinand (Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and his wife, Princess Sophie were travelling in when shot and killed in June 1914 in Sarajevo, Bosnia. This incident sparked the beginning of World War One. The clothes that Archduke Ferdinand was wearing at the time were also on display, complete with the bullet hole and blood!
Back on the bus for our return to the city we found a cool shopping center for a drink and rest. After a stroll down one of the pedestrian streets it was time for a schnitzel dinner just opposite St Stephen’s Cathedral. We then took the long way home to our hotel through Swedenplatz and along the Danube Canal.
Our visit to Vienna had been well worth the wait. The buildings are majestic and well maintained. Transport around this large city is efficient whether by tram, underground or bus. There is an abundant selection of tourist attractions to suit all tastes – even a display of Linda McCartney’s photographs at one of the museums. This city would be one we could easily visit again.
We now head towards Poland for another much anticipated visit – to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim.