How crazy is it that we can just pop over to Vienna for the WEEKEND! I found a cheap flight that left Friday night and returned Sunday night. That’s not always possible with low fare airlines. Then consider that it’s only an hour and a half flight and that makes it doable. We had two full days to explore and enjoy this amazing city. We just had to set reasonable expectations and accept that we were going to miss a lot.
We got on the wrong train out of the airport, which at first seemed like no problem because we could get off at the next stop to get a train in the right direction. Problem. The next train didn’t come for 45 minutes! So we had to scratch the Prater Ferris wheel from our to-do list. We did get to see it from the train station and it didn’t look like it was running anyway.
Saturday was snowy and cold so we took the metro or tram everywhere. Schönbrunn Palace was our first destination. This palace was very interesting because of the range of decor and craftsmanship in each room. One of the rooms was covered in Japanese rice paper, another was covered with ebony inlay. The tour covered a lot of the history of the Habsburg reign and it was difficult to keep all the family members straight. I was happy that there was an Easter market on the grounds to see after our tour.
We saw the Klimt exhibit at the Belvedere Palace in the afternoon. The palace has been an art museum for over a hundred years. After that we were really thirsty and found a brew pub nearby. Score! We had some time to walk around and do a bit of shopping, though the weather wasn’t very pleasant. My birthday wish list included Sacher torte at Café Sacher, which involved a short wait outside, but it was worth it!
The highlight of my birthday was the opera. We’ve never been to an opera before and I decided that Vienna was the place to do it. I was hoping for a Mozart opera, but I was able to get super cheap tickets (14 euro each) for a performance of La Boheme. I don’t like listening to opera on the radio, but hearing/seeing it in person was an amazing experience! We loved it. We were in a box that seated seven people — three, two, two and we were in the middle row. Only the front row had translation monitors, but fortunately the Italian woman seated in front of me chose English (for our benefit?) and I could see her monitor throughout the performance. Score again!
On Sunday the snow had stopped, but the temperature dropped. We had breakfast at another Viennese café (Café Eiles) that was very chic. I wish we could have lingered over breakfast, but we had to get to the Spanish Riding School for the Lipizzaner show. I didn’t realize that this really is a riding school where the riders and horses are both being trained in dressage and jumping. The show is a display of this training from novices to experts. We bought standing room tickets and I’m glad we did because standing was a good vantage point and I don’t think it was worth it to pay more for this show.
Next on our itinerary was the State Hall at the National Library. I was awestruck! First there is the magnificent architecture, then there are the shelves of nicely arranged old books and the library ladders to get to the top rows, and then the exhibits. The current exhibit consists of the history and treasures of the library as it celebrates 650 years of existence. 650! I found it interesting that the first head librarians were Dutch. I guess they were more organized than the Austrians? 🙂
The Globe Museum seemed like a quirky, but interesting place to see. And it was! There is actually a globe society and they hold annual meetings. There are more types of globes than I every imagined and all sizes (the shapes are pretty similar ;-)) The drawback for me was that they were all behind glass. I really wanted to spin one. That could only be done virtually on a computer screen — not the same effect.
We got a quick look at the Rathaus (City Hall), which is an impressive gothic structure. Time was short so we went to the churches before an early dinner and browsed another Easter market along the way. St. Stephen’s cathedral is rather dreary and didn’t take much time to view. St. Peter’s is baroque, which is not my favorite but there was an organ concert in progress so we stayed for awhile to listen.
I had read about the schnitzel at Figlmüller and we had to check it out. There was a bit of a wait to get a table at the second location after being turned away from the first one. The schnitzel there is HUGE and yes, we should have shared one . . . but we didn’t. Hey, we skipped lunch for this! It wasn’t the best we’ve had, but it was pretty tasty.
We had to make our way home after our early dinner. It was a long train ride and then a long walk to get to our flight. We arrived home at 1am, which made getting up for work unpleasant the next day. Sooooo worth it though!