Photos from around Vienna. From the beautiful palaces and gardens, to modern buildings, street art and quirky cafes
While I most definitely vow never to travel to touristy places in the peak of summer ever, ever again, a definite perk is that almost everywhere you go you stumble across all kinds of events and activities.
In Vienna it was the Jazz Festival, or at least a small part of it. At Rathausplatz, Near the Hofburg Palace we stumbled across an amazing food market with stages set up, music playing, little pop-up cocktail bars everywhere and an amazing selection of international food stalls. None of the live music was actually on while we were there, but the atmosphere was great, and to be quite honest I was much more interested in browsing the food stalls!
It was definitely the most flash, high tech food festival type set up I had ever seen, and all of the stalls had beautiful, very well designed set ups. I only wish I had taken more photos of them! Too busy enjoying my mojitos and dumplings after a hard day of museum-going.
The Hofburg Palace, which housed many of Europe’s most powerful rulers (including the Habsburgs) has now expanded to include various residences, the chapel (Hofkapelle or Burgkapelle), museums (theNaturhistorisches Museum & Kunsthistorisches Museum), the Imperial Library (Hofbibliothek now the Prunksaal), the treasury (Schatzkammer), the national theatre (Burgtheater), the riding school (Hofreitschule), the horse stables (the Stallburg and Hofstallungen) and the Hofburg Congress Center.
It is a marvelous area to talk a wander round, with so many beautiful buidlings and gardens.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum (“Museum of Art History”) in Vienna, was (at the time) the largest collection of famous works of art I had ever seen. It was later overshadowed by the Louvre, but I found this one much more engaging and manageable. It also happens to be in a fabulously glorious building.
It is currently showing the Klimt Bridge, a bridge assembled to give an up close view of Gustav Klimt’s paintings which were glued to the walls in the spaces between the columns and above the arcades in the main staircase in 1891.
It was really fascinating to see the works up close of so many famous artists (Rubens, Raphael, Rembrandt, and that’s just the R’s), but one of my favourite paintings was this one – a somewhat fantastical depiction of an artists studio, which actually bore quite the resemblance to the museum itself – there were just so many paintings occupying every space of wall possible it was hard to take them all in and not be slightly overwhelmed.
… and realised it was from the opening sequence of Desperate Housewives. Note to self: more learning, less TV watching.
Although most of Eastern Europe is now well entrenched in the European union, nowhere have I seen such a drastic change in such a short distance than on either side of the Danube driving in to Bratislava.
As soon as we crossed in to Austria from the Czech Republic, it seemed really striking just how perfectly manicured the Austrian countryside is. As we approached Vienna, the city was incredibly modern (apart from the beautiful palace/museum buildings). Even the industrial areas seemed to be really well designed.
Bratislava, however, was such a drastic change. Most of what we saw seemed like a complete slum, except for the square in the very centre, full of beautiful, older buildings, which appear to have been really well kept though apparently were only really refurbished five or so years ago. Interestingly, many of them simply had nice facades for the tourists, and if you could catch a glimpse of the back/side of a building it was hard to believe it was the same one.
On the way out, whilst looking for a supermarket (always good to stock up on the cheaper side of a border) we found ourselves completely surrounded by cookie cutter blocks, in the most impersonal, slum like “suburb” I’ve ever been in. It really astounded me how there could be such a huge difference on two different sides of the same river.
After discovering Bratislava was less than an hour’s drive from Vienna, we couldn’t resist popping over to see life beyond the Iron Curtain.
Before actually entering Slovakia, one of my travel companions had decided to stay home. Her reasoning was that she was trying for a special type of visa where you are only allowed in certain European countries, but you can spend three months in each. None of us had heard of this exception, and a big discussion ensued about how borders in the EU these days are really just a “You are now entering…” sign and no one would ever know she popped over to Bratislava for lunch. Nonetheless she decided to err on the side of caution and stay home.
“Spot the border crossing” had become a bit of a road trip game, as sometimes it is hard to tell you have entered a new country (a serious novelty when your home country is an island). There was no doubt, however, that we had found one on our way in to Slovakia. All of a sudden there was this massive checkpoint, and police waving us down and making us pull over. There were angry sounding words coming at us left right and centre. We couldn’t tell if it was Austrian, Slovakian, or German (we had German license plates) but the policeman was getting very frustrated at us. We managed to work out he was demanding our “documents” and a certain amount of euros. There was even more confusion in the car. Were we meant to pay to get over the border? Were there different rules for the newer EU members? Was it actually not part of the EU like we thought? Could we just turn around and go home? Was this some kind of dodgy Eastern European police bribery scenario? Had we unknowingly broken the Law? Why don’t any of these cops speak English? Good thing we left Lucy home, she’d be furious!
Before we knew it the policeman was marching two of us over to a van on the side of the road. We had absolutely no idea what was going on and whether we were in trouble or what. Who knows if we were going to return safe from this mysterious black van, or where he was taking our passports. As it turned out, in the van was a little man with a portable EFTPOS machine, who thankfully spoke English and explained to us that it was a road toll checkpoint and we were being fined for not displaying the correct sticker that allows us to drive on the motorway. So 140 euros later, we finally get the memo on how the road tolls work (its an 8 euro sticker!) and realise that actually the (unnecessarily, IMHO) angry policemen had nothing to do with the border and were in fact just using the old set up as a convenient checkpoint stop. They certainly were good at making us feel like it was an incredibly stressful situation and we were in some huge and mysterious amount of trouble!
Luckily, just around the corner was Mariahilferbrau, a restaurant that had some quality reviews and came recommended by the girls on the desk at the hostel. It only added to the sales pitch that it was about 200m away!
We started with some ginormous steins of Austrian beer, and should have taken that as a clue that this particular restuarant was gunning for the reputation american steak houses currently have. The meals were huge!
The schnitzel definitely didn’t disappoint, though the tip of the day was rather than ordering the “Austrian Special” version, for almost half the price you could order a “pork escalope” with the exact same combination of sides, maybe slightly less rice.
Although they had a fine array of Viennese specialties,the lure of the ribs was too great for some , and the boys that ordered them were in for an enormous surprise. All in all it was a delicious, if a little pricey excursion, topped off of course by waitstaff in lederhosen, or whatever they call it in Austria.
We also later discovered they had a pretty good breakfast buffet for only 8 euros, which is handy when there’s hangovers involved.
I know what you’re thinking. Surely you didn’t take a sleeping pill and then go to a theme park? That’s just ridiculous!
Ridiculous it is. And it happened. But it was totally unintentional and not at all recommended! Trust me to find myself accidentally high as a kite in a theme park.
After days on end of copious amounts of touristing by day, and the obligatory exploring of the social scene by night, my body decided enough was enough and it was going to force a break out of me. I woke up, after a fun night of the Viennese social scene where I had once again ignored the signs and decided I could power through, feeling like I had been hit by a truck. You know that flu-ey feeling where your everything hurts? That was me. Plus a splitting headache and some serious nausea. At first I thought maybe it was just a ruthless hangover, and accompanied the Wolfpack to the local kebab stall down the road from the hostel. Halfway there I had the spins and was feeling like I really needed a sit down. Just looking at the faded pictures on the menu made me want to vom. The extreme heat that day didn’t help either. So I decided to jump off the culture bus and sit the tourist activities out for the day and go back and rest. I also decided I didn’t have time to be sick, with such a short itinerary in Vienna, and that it was time to bring out the big guns.
Usually, when I’m not feeling so flash, oranges, or delicious pulpy orange juice does the trick. Given their acidity levels and the fact my stomach wasn’t too flash, I’ve no doubt the effect is 99% psychological, given that’s what mum used to feed me as a child if I got sick, but I don’t mind – however it works it works! After a stressful 10 minutes trying to read the labels at the local convenience store and determine, with that Austrian I don’t know, what was alternative brands of Fanta and what actually had oranges in it, the man behind the counter worked out I was clearly in distress and came and sorted me out. Definite knight in shining armour.
Next stop was the pharmacy, where “can I have something with pseudoephidrine in it” didn’t really go down too well. But upon close inspection the woman behind the counter mumbled something along the lines of “yeah you do look awful” and handed me a box of colourful pills. I had so much hope they would fix me I didn’t even bother being offended! All I wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up feeling good, but the sleeping part wasn’t really working too well. That was when I remembered I had aquired some sleeping pills from Dad’s stash. Thanks Mr G!
Then, next thing I know (which in my state, took me a long time to ascertain), the culture bus had come back early, and I was being told a new plan had been made – because it was so stinking hot, the wolfpack were off to a swimming pool they had “heard about.” Despite being in a bit of a state, I still managed to have some FOMO going on (fear of missing out) and I thought, actually, it is ridiculously hot in here, maybe it would be nice to sit on the edge of a pool and have my feet in the water. Having taken a sleeping pill (luckily only a mild one) and my cold and flu’s only 2 hours earlier, it would have been a much wiser decision to stay put, but in that state decision making wasn’t exactly my forte!
As it turned out, GPS vs Android Maps vs iPhone maps became quite the debarcle in the car, and this apparent swimming pool was nowhere to be found. Instead, when we jumped out of the car in what was meant to be the swimming pool carpark, there seemed to be some kind of theme park going on. It turned out to be Prater, quite the famous attraction in Vienna. We thought maybe it was nearby, but our efforts were fruitless. Once we were there, the rest of the team, who were far less delirious than I, thought it would be fun to check out the rides. Luckily, it isn’t the pay a huge entry fee kind of theme park, rather you just pay per ride. So for me it was a very cheap adventure, as just being around all the lights and music and colours was thrilling enough! I did go on a token “horror house” ride which ordinarily would have been very gentle and tame, and joined in the bumper cart fun which consisted of me not really moving all that much and being quite the target! I guess there are worse falling asleep at the wheel scenarios than bumper cars.
A final observation of Prater, which to the rest of the group who weren’t battling a sleeping pill, was a really cool spot to visit, with some huge rides I didn’t dare go anywhere near, was that it seems like a lot of the attractions are privately owned and there’s a fair bit of carnie competition, because there were multiple versions of each type of ride. Either that or I was seeing double.
Ironically enough (at least I think so, Alanis Morrisette made me really confused as to the true meaning of ironic), I am currently hoeing in to the last of that same box of cold and flu’s. Pro’s of my nannying job: having a job. Cons: having to enter a primary school AND a kindergarten each day, a hot bed of viral infections. And the buggers seem to be immune to whatever’s going around so it’s just me that’s gone down! This time though, I’m laying off the sleeping pills and working on an appropriate amount of bedrest!
The largest speakers, or loudest, or best soundsystem, I forget which one, are supposedly found at a nightclub called Flex, on the riverside in central Vienna. The most hilarious thing is that the club itself is actually pretty small! I tell you, those bad boys are really loud. Well out of proportion there!
We went in search of this place, with some dubious google maps directions and an even more dubious cabby, and at last we were thrown out of the cab “Pretty sure its down there” and pointed toward some stairs leading down below a bridge, not seeing or hearing much partying at all. We saw a few people headed that way, and thought “seems legit” and followed. At the bottom of the stairs was what looked like a large beergarden, minus the garden. So really a whole bunch of people at picnic tables, and a bar opening out. This can’t be right, we thought, its really quiet. Eventually we spotted the door, with the glittering “Flex” over the top and realised that upstairs must be the pre-game area. Once we got downstairs our suspicions were confirmed – the drinks were significantly more expensive downstairs than up.
Inside, it was loud, like don’t even try to shout at eachother loud. To get a drink you had to point and gesture wildly and then drink whatever the bartender gave you because it was just too difficult to try to tell them it wasn’t what you wanted. The order of the day was some particularly grimy dubstep, and you definitely need to be a tad inebriated to enjoy a night of that at serious decibels! Many, of course, had taken that to whole new levels, and there were definitely a few crackpots on multiple combinations of not so legal stimulants. One of which came up to me and tried to bite my shoulder. It was weird. Mum and Dad you’ll be pleased to know those self defence skills came in handy!
He was cutting shapes so intensely I couldn’t even get a decent photo.
A further observation, as is common with drum n bass/dubstep gigs, was the male:female ratio was well off. Uncomfortably so. I’m usually not bothered by that sort of thing, but I was very close to requesting an escort to the bathroom to make sure I got back again OK! On that note, some pretty nifty bathroom decorations.
All in all though, a fun night and definitely worth a visit. And for anyone keen to check it out but nervous about the volume, get some free earplugs while you are getting your cheaper drink upstairs!