I was lucky enough to be able to visit Vienna by myself during the second-to-last week of my study abroad adventure. I kept a travel journal, which I have transcribed and edited into a blog below. The only thing I really knew about Vienna before visiting was that Billy Joel has a song about it, simply called “Vienna”. If you’re not familiar, I strongly recommend. This song was the sole inspiration for my solo travel to the city, and I absolutely loved it.
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To Vienna – Day 1
After painfully setting my alarm for 4:40AM (a fact made more excruciating by a 1AM bedtime), I finished packing and had a quick sleep/nap before catching a flight to Vienna. Why Vienna? I don’t really know, I mostly chose this destination because of the Elton John song; aptly named “Vienna”. Ironically, I didn’t meet a single Austrian who knew the jam. ✈️
I arrived in Vienna after a tired but relatively benign flight from Amsterdam. The airport train took me to the Vienna central station (Wein Mitte). I rambled about for two hours with intentions to explore a bit before checking into my hostel. I occupied myself with eating premade sandwiches and enjoying a Viennese pastry until I stumbled upon the tourist center. Here I obtained a map and info about the city – and the opera. Hansel and Gretel was to be performed at 11 o’clock – in 30 minutes! I asked for directions, or rather I asked where I was on the map, and set a quick pace towards the theatre. I arrived in the nick of time – 11 o’clock – only to learn that I had busted my ass to the wrong theater. I was tired and annoyed but also enjoying the absurdity of it all. I turned around and hopped on the metro back to the center in search of the “Stadopera”, or the state opera house. I never found it! Giving up, I happened upon Kline‘s Café, a small café that I had read about on the train into the city. This historic cafe was great – picture newspapers hanging on racks, old men smoking their cigarettes and a fresh New York Times crossword puzzle. My phone wouldn’t load directions so I decided to chill out, order a bier, and relax.
It was good that I did so. I ended up meeting and befriending two fellow 20-somethings at my table in the crowded café. The girl Hannah was Canadian, and her friend Marten was a local from Vienna. We chatted for an hour or so, our conversation culminating into an invitation for me to join them on an impromptu a city tour. Being from Vienna, Marten made for a great local tour guide. He showed us an old church and took us to the butterfly gardens next to an old palace. After grabbing a coffee at the garden cafe, I excused myself to go find the hostel and take a load off – I’d been up and moving since 4 AM.
My phone was dead and besides, my data doesn’t work here – both of which made me a happy. I didn’t even know what my hostel is called – just that started with an “R”. I ended up having to us my kindle to pull up a city map to navigate my way. With the help of LOTS of friendly locals, I arrived at the hostel at 6 PM. I checked in and took a greatly appreciated hot shower.
After a brief interlude of laying in bed, I paid a visit to the Klatzplatz Christmas market (like a good jew), finding myself some hot mulled wine and freshly roasted chestnuts. I searched for family presents and bought a candle for my friend Selma back in Amsterdam. After the market, I went back to the hostel and sat on a couple beers with an Aussie bloke named Matt – getting to know each other and deciding to attend the opera the next evening. standing tickets are only 3 to 4 euro! We decided to call it an early night around 11PM.
I took the liberty of sleeping in until 10 today in order to recover from yesterday’s early flight. I worked on some 59 North Sailing stuff for a couple hours, editing for our podcast ‘On the Wind’ – the #1 most listened to sailing podcast in the world!
Around 3:00PM, I walked out to the Schulenburg palace for a short expedition.
I wandered the majestic Palace grounds and vast gardens for the better part of three hours; the place was special. The Palace itself popped with an eggshell yellow highlighted further by the leafless trees swaying in the garden beyond. The gardens stretched for almost a mile behind the palace, littered with memorial statues, intricate fountains and Roman ruins. The garden ends on the top of a hill under a large “Gloriette” or arch. I hiked up to the arch and ate my cliff bar in the sunshine whilst overlooking the entirety of Vienna. It was a happy moment.
We left for the opera house around 5PM, joined by a new friend (another Aussie of course). The show that night was called “die Wieden”, and was being shown at the Viennese State Opera House. The Opera was in German – something about a Jewish girl from New York City ho leaves to travel, and magic fish? I don’t really know, I’ll look up the whole story later. We left about an hour and a half in (pretty good for standing seats I think) and went out for some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Finally, the Aussies and I settled at this neat bar called Monami where we swapped life stories and culture, returning home around 2 AM. The next day, we grabbed hangover-curing pie and coffee at some historic cafe; I left for Prague at 2:10 PM.