I had high hopes for Vienna, given its rich culture and history, the beautiful palaces and gardens and the raved about cuisine. In certain ways, the city lived up to and even surpassed all expectations. In other areas, it disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, I do plan on returning to this beautiful city to dive even deeper into it but I’ll be sure to do some things a little differently the next go around.
Waking up in Vienna was as I expected, there was a hum below us on the street from people starting their day and noises from the hallway from people making their way downstairs for breakfast. We got off to a slow start but we eventually hit the streets hard and we were slammed by a sea of people who obviously started the day way earlier than us. Making our way towards St. Stephen’s Cathedral was intense, just masses of people moving and bumping into each other with their shopping bags. While weaving our way through, I had to do a triple take. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Right there in the square was a Footlocker and a Claire’s. I was so disappointed. I’ve learned to expect that McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks have invaded many international cities but a Footlocker and Claire’s! I had higher standards for you, Vienna; you’re too classy to accept these American brands.
St. Stephan’s was gorgeous on the outside despite the construction. While proceeding to take as many photos as possible, we were accosted by a group of men in tights and Mozart-era garb, trying to get us to buy tickets for an orchestra. The tights alone should have been a warning sign but we thought why not, it could be fun and he’s willing to give us a student price even though we’ve been out of college for almost 5 years. After we paid the man, he disappeared and we made our way inside the cathedral. Wow is the only accurate description.
We moved on from there to what would be the highlight of my day, The Belvedere Museum and Garden. On the tram ride to there, I saw what was my last straw, a TGI Friday’s. That was a complete shake my head moment and the Tyra Banks’ “I Was Rooting For You” rant came into my mind. I was rooting for you, Vienna, we were all rooting for you!
Shortly, we arrived at the Belvedere and were completely blown away by the gardens. In true Andrea & Nikki fashion, we had a photo shoot.
The Belvedere is known for its extensive collections of Austrian artists. I really wanted to see The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. This piece of art exceeded my expectations; it was absolutely breathtaking in person but I fell completely in love with Klimt’s Judith.
Judith isn’t usually a name for someone that society would find sexy but this Judith shattered that stereotype. Judith looked like a hip, forward thinking girl, who knew what she was about and didn’t care what others thought about her. Andrea and I were in love with her and walked around in a Judith funk for the remainder of our time there. Everything was compared against her and she always won.
Later that evening we had time to swing by a wine bar before heading to our orchestra. It was here where we encountered the most pretentious asshole to ever walk this earth. Throughout the day, we picked up on the fact that the locals weren’t exactly friendly and we went in knowing that there was a coldness to Austrians but our waiter at the wine bar was on a different level. He was rude, the exact opposite of helpful and looked down on us with disgust as he essentially blew cigarette smoke in our faces. The cure to such a horrible experience ended up being Viennese street meat.
Just a hundred feet away was an amazing sausage stand that melted our hearts. So many types of sausage and so many different ways to eat it. It was so good that we almost forgot about that jerk in the wine bar. In that moment, I learned a few things, street meat in any country can be a true game changer and that mermen have legs.
We wandered the streets for almost 45 minutes trying to track down this orchestra, eventually we got there, turned over our tickets and were shown to our section. This orchestra was so bootleg! The setup reminded me of a middle school play performance, where there were large support beams disturbing the view and uncomfortable chairs to sit on. Here I was thinking that we hustled them for student priced tickets, but we were really the ones that got played. The actual performers weren’t bad, except for the male ballerina, or as I called him, ballerino, who couldn’t get his high kick right. What made this production an embarrassment was classlessness that some of the audience demonstrated. One lady was talking to her child and husband the entire time as if they were home watching tv. Another group of big-haired women dressed in tight clothes with exposed bosoms, which Andrea described as gypsies and David referred to as Jersey Shore wannabes, were constantly taking selfies in the middle of the performances. It was a euro-ghetto hotmess and plain old tacky, so we left.
We hit up Café Central, a famous Viennese café where none other than Lenin, Trotsky, Freud and even Hitler frequented. There, we enjoyed hot chocolate and apfelstrudel to reset from all of the crazy we had just witnessed.
A new day was here and we were refreshed from the amazing sleep we got. We were ready to execute on the schedule we had laid out the night before. We stepped outside and the sun was shining down on us, it was destined to be a fabulous day. I have to note that Sunday morning in Vienna was beautiful. It was relatively peaceful and we finally had room to breathe. I loved it.
Our first stop was Schönbrunn Palace to tour the inside and explore the grounds. This place was fantastic, there was so much history to discover and the grounds were so vast that we got caught up in it. I honestly, could have spent half the day there just walking around in the gardens. We raced around collecting snapshots from various angles until we realized we were late for our next stop.
We went across town to make the Spanish Riding School performance and arrived dripping in sweat and out of breath. The show started, and I began to sneeze. The horses were trotting around the arena, warming up for their performance and again, I sneezed. I could feel my nose twitching in agitation and I sneezed again and again. By the third riding sequence, I knew something wasn’t right; I was having some sort of allergic reaction. As the horses jumped and pranced, my nose started to run and I could feel my throat closing in. Where was my SARS mask? In an effort to keep myself alive, I exited the performance. From this experience, I discovered that in addition to bunny allergies, I’m also allergic to dressage.
After that, all I wanted was fresh air and some food. We found Café Sacher and ordered some traditional food and tasted their famous Sacher Torte before hitting the road back to Croatia.
Vienna is an ideal hunting ground for two women (along with my husband) who wanted to explore palaces and cathedrals, take in the culture and eat well. This city gave a little bit of sass, but that’s life. From this adventure, we can take away a few things.
- You have to develop love affairs with the gardens, luxurious palaces and the delicious food and totally ignore the people. The more you limit the human interactions that fall outside of your traveling party, the better. Not everyone was bad, it was just rare when we found someone friendly.
- Accept that the maps and signs aren’t really going to be enough to help you navigate this city. You will at some point get lost but enjoy it! The architecture around this city is so gorgeous, almost everything is picture perfect.
- Stay away from the men in tights
- Enjoy Sunday morning in Vienna; it is by far the best time to explore the city. The streets are quieter, there are fewer people to compete with for space and you’ll be able to take photos with fewer people messing up your shot.