Another country off the list
Vienna, Austria. A new country to visit just as Christmas was on the horizon. The chill of winter was beginning to bite and the idea of sneaking in a short break before the end of the year filled me with enthusiasm. Vienna was always likely to be a city I would explore eventually, after hearing nice things about it from friends. For that very reason, Vienna was on my list of places to visit in 2018, so the time was right to pack my suitcase and scratch another country off my map at home.
I have a plan
From recent solo trips I’ve learnt that planning what I do is crucial if I am to make the most of a trip. For Vienna, I was armed with a European Guidebook to help me understand what to visit. This meant that I was the most organised I have ever been for a solo trip. I determined what places to visit, which day I would go to them and where I would eat. I was completely on it.
To help with my exploring I brought a Vienna Pass, allowing me free entry to all the places I planned to visit. In addition to this, I brought a travel card for three days to aid me in getting around the city quickly. This was a different tactic to the walking I would usually do.
A good suggestion
In the lead up to the trip, I had people suggesting things to do in Vienna. One that really caught my interest was to go to the opera. It is not something I had ever done before or had any desire to do but the idea of doing it in Vienna just made complete sense to me. With Vienna being well known for opera what better way to experience it for perhaps the one and only time.
My guidebook said that the ticket prices started from €12, making a visit to the opera very accessible. I had two nights in Vienna and the opera performing on Sunday was sold out. However, on the Saturday evening tickets for the ballet, Silvia was available so I snapped them up. Now I did pay significantly more than €12 to sit in one of the boxes on the second floor but they were not as expensive as sitting in the stalls. There were only six tickets left so I was lucky to still have the opportunity to go. The experience was worth the price. I was mesmerised by the mastery of the dancers and musicians. It was just pure artistry in my eyes. As the first interval approached I semi-understood the story and during the interval, I read the synopsis to fill in the gaps.
It soon became apparent that sitting in the front row of the box offered a better view than those sitting in the two rows behind. I noticed in all the other boxes opposite people were standing up to watch the performance as were the people behind me. A visit to the opera or ballet have links to being a formal occasion, so I had to dress appropriately. I eventually figured out how to tie a bow tie (over an hour!) for the first time ever and combined this with my black suit to achieve the sophisticated look I wanted.
Views of Vienna
The first morning in Vienna was cold but the sun was out in the blue skies above. The bright weather was not expected to last leading into the final day so I needed to make the most of it. When I walked out of my hotel to feel the harsh Austrian cold wind I had a plan of what I was going to explore but this soon changed. I intended to go to the Danube Tower during my visit and when I saw that the skies were relatively clear I decided it would make sense to go there straight away whilst it was possible to get good views of the city. Perhaps because it was a Sunday, there was not a flock of people walking to the tower as I expected.
The fifteen minute, walk from the metro station led me along peaceful residential streets, far removed from the busy city centre. As I got closer to the tower it’s enormous height became apparent. It was located in the middle of a park, completely separated from any other building. At the entrance to the tower, several tourists were queuing up to enter but not in large numbers.
In the lift up, there was a cheesy minute with the theme tune from Mission Impossible playing for our rapid ascent. The views were beautiful as you would imagine and I was able to appreciate it more because the viewing platforms were not crowded. It was a wise decision to go that morning because the next morning the weather was not clear at all. Hint go early!
Sights of Vienna
After the Danube Tower, I hopped back on the metro to go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna in the Museum Quarter. This area of the city had many sights to visit within a short walking distance of each other. In the square outside the museum, I navigated past vans and equipment being set up for Christmas markets with a couple of unusual musicians entertaining the crowds passing through. With my Vienna Pass in hand, I waited patiently in the queue for tickets thinking that I still had to claim a physical ticket, just as for the Danube Tower. However there was no need, I could have used my Vienna Pass to get in on its own without standing in the cold. Frustrating! The museum has collections of antiquities and paintings from artists such as Rembrandt and Raphael.
A short walk away is the Hofburg Imperial Palace. My camera was being used to full capacity to photography the grand buildings around me. The Hofburg is the official seat of the Austrian President and has an extensive Imperial Silver Collection to view on the ground level of the palace. The highlight for me was the Imperial Apartments. The palace has been the home of the Hofburg’s for over six hundred years and being able to see the lavish home of the Austrian monarchy up close was fascinating.
When in Vienna
Whilst in Vienna I made it my mission to eat the traditional dishes of Beef Goulash, Wiener Schnitzel and Apple Strudel. I ate two of these during lunch at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Beef Goulash is a dish I am familiar with and it was just the right thing to eat in such cold weather, as was Apple Strudel with custard.
For the Wiener Schnitzel, I booked a table at a local Viennese restaurant called Stern away from the city centre. As I walked to the restaurant I knew that I wasn’t in a very tourist part of the city. The waiter just about understood that I had a reservation and ushered me to my table in a room full of Austrian people. Ordering was straightforward as I knew what I wanted and when it arrived I couldn’t believe how big the portions were. I hadn’t tasted Veil before so I hoped that my body wouldn’t find it too much of a foreign taste. In actual fact, it just tasted like pork, so no problem. I enjoyed the Schnitzel and was very glad to have been to a local Viennese restaurant.
A snowy morning
On the final morning of my trip, I visited the Schonbrunn Palace very early before heading to the airport. The blue skies in Vienna had now transformed into heavy snow, which settled quickly. It was difficult to walk in such extreme conditions but I persevered. The Vienna Pass granted me a Grand Tour ticket and with the free audio guide, I learnt about the Viennese dynasty as well as the Great Gallery, which hosted the historic meeting between John F Kennedy and Soviet Leader Nikita Khruschev in 1961.
A complete trip
A complete trip The short break to Vienna created many wonderful memories that I wasn’t expecting when I booked the tickets. Going to the opera was one of the best decisions I have made on a solo trip. It was spur of the moment and got me immersed into the culture and feeling of the country. My planning took away wasted time searching for places to eat and what to do each day. Food, culture, art and snow what else could I have asked for from my trip to Vienna.
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