Chapter Two- Vienna

Day three in Vienna….Robins’ fitbit in overtime! We have certainly put in the steps since arriving. Certainly noticeable that spring is well underway here. The lilacs have already bloomed and the roses are stunning. 

We head off to Schonbrunn Palace this morning using the Underground. So far very impressed by the transportation system here. Easy to get around by underground and tram, and both systems very safe and clean. Having said that, when you enter the underground, there are signs warning of pickpockets… different than in any major city in the world!

Get to add two more locations to my list of Unesco World Heritage Sites that we have visited…The historic Centre of Vienna and the Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn……yeah!

Arrive at Schonbrunn Palace which is within the city of Vienna, but further from the centre. The Palace was built in 1696 as the summer residence for the Habsburgs’. It was significantly altered some forty years later by Empress Maria Theresia…of course it was! 

The entrance to the Palace grounds are magnificent. We only had to wait about 20 minutes to get our entry tickets. We were told that the wait in the summer can be 2 -3 hours. There are a total of 1,441 rooms and we opted to visit the full forty rooms that are open to the public. We had audio guides which were very informative. Unfortunately one cannot take pictures within the palace itself. Believe me, the interior is quite something, very ornate. Furniture and art work in excellent conditon. Wall coverings and woodwork exeptional. Every room has porcelain heaters which look like fireplaces and are works of art. Of special note was the Hall of Mirrors. Mozart performed here at the age of six for Empress Maria Theresia in 1762 and it is said that after his performance, he climbed up onto the lap of the Empress and kissed her. I wonder how she felt about that….she looks very stern in the pictures we have seen of her! Touring the palace one can peek through the shuttered windows and get a glimpse of the specatacular gardens. 

We spend about 3 hours visiting the Palace and grounds. The grounds include magnificent gardens, a zoo and many exterior buildings. The upkeep of the grounds and buildings must be very time consuming and expensive.  The zoo (tiergarten) claims to be the world’s oldest zoo.

The grounds of Schonbrunn
Back to the centre of the city and our next stop is the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s outdoor fruit and vegetable market. It is said to be one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, great open air markets. It certainly is one of the largest we have come across. It wasn’t very busy  when we were there, as it was later in the afternoon. In addition to the numerous produce stands, there are several snack stands and cafe’s where you can enjoy a meal or drink. Anything from local Viennese cooking, Greek, Donairs, Asian noodle stands, wine bars and a well known fish cafe. 

We decide to walk from the market to our apartment, about a 20 minute walk, discovering new areas along the way. 

We decide to eat in tonight…….lots of schnitzel left over from our dinner out the previous night. Prior to dinner we decide to go out for a short walk and stop at a local outdoor restaurant/bar for an aperitif.  Another lovely evening to be sitting outside and watch the world unfold.  Europe just has a vibe about it, people enjoy the little things in life. A cup of coffee and pastry at their favourite coffee shop or a discussion with friends over a drink before dinner….all taking their time and enjoying these special moments. During our walk in the neighbourhood, we came across a playground full of children.  Some were playing on the swings while others playing games with their parents. Other parents sitting outside the playground keeping an eye on their kids, while visiting with other parents. Great to see this! 

The buildings in Vienna are so varied. On one corner you will have an ancient building and on another corner a modern one. They certainly cannot afford to build in the style they used to as would simply be too time consuming and expensive to do all the intricate plaster work.  The newer buildings mainly due to all the destruction during WWll.

Our apartment building on Burgasse
Another beautiful day dawns and we hop on the underground with the intention of a transfer at Karsplatz to a tram to get us further on our travels.  We decide to stop at a cafe in the park for coffee. Although we had briefly been in this area once before, today we decide to spend some time discovering the area a bit better. The Staatsope (State Opera House) is just across the way. The intention was to visit it today, as one can take a guided tour. A friend in Calgary had visited and was able to get tickets for a concert here and said it was magnificent. When I was planning our trip here, I looked into getting tickets, but they were already sold out….Placido Domingo and other famous  singers are in concert tonight and the opera house was not open today for tours….oh well, can’t see everything when one has limited time. 

Surrounding the the Karsplatz is Vienna’s Technical University and occupies numerous buildings in the area, so lots of young people around.  The Karsplatz was formed when the Danube was redirected in the early 20th century.  

At one end is Karlskirche and a sign indicates that is is the “most important sacral building of the Baroque era in Vienna”. It was built between 1716-1737 on the orders of Emperor Charles Vl, as he had made a vow to have a church built if the plague abated. The church is a rather different looking one.  It has two free standing columns, one greek inspired the other roman and two baroque towers at either end..

Instead of taking a tram we decide to walk the addtional 1.5 kilometres to  the “Belvedere Palace”, our  original destination. The. Palace is actually two imposing Baroque style palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere) separated by a 17th century French style garden. Built between 1714 and 1722, these were the summer residences for general Prince Eugene of Savoy. Later they became the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand…..we know him right….the guy who’s assassination started the first world war.  Both Palaces are now devoted to Austrian paintings, centering on three preeminent early 20th century painters: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. . Klimt’s famous painting “The Kiss” is on display here as are many more. Once again not allowed to take pictures inside, but one is able to take a picture in front of a replica of the kiss. 

The Upper Palace and gardens
The Lower Palace and Vienna in the background

We then hop on the tram back to Karsplatz and decide to go to the Nachmarket for lunch. We stop at “Zur Eisernen” and have traditional goulash.  The picture below was taken from the restaurant menu and is self explanatory. Thought this was interesting…..I love these kind of stories!  Best goulash we have ever had!  Have to mention that whenever we stop anywhere for coffee, lunch or a drink, if Robin has his backpack, he always clips it  to the chair,  never  just hangs it on the chair. He does this to prevent anyone from helping themselves to the backpack, if you know what I mean. Well , while at this outdoor market cafe, the waiter had not noticed that Robin had clipped it on the chair and he said to be careful with the backpack as there were “specialists”  in the area….he meant pickpockets!

Take the subway back to our apartment, lots of walking again today….OH NO!….the elevator is not working. So much for my comments regarding the elevator in my previous blog post. Have to walk up four floors after a long day of walking!

Prior to heading off for our trip, I had booked tickets for a Mozart concert at the Musikverein Concert Hall near the Karlsplatz. We decide to make an evening of it and go for dinner to a local restaurant in our area. What a great choice. The Boheme serves traditional Viennese fare as well as  other mainstream entree. Lucky for us, it is the season for fresh asparagus.  Oh my gosh….Shirley V  you would have loved this. I had grilled prawns with white asparagus risotto and Robin had beef stroganoff with fresh asparagus and spaetzle. While there, a local farmer brought in more fresh asparagus…yum!

Up the alley from where we were having dinner, the young locals were having drinks after their  workweek; it’s Friday night. They spill out into the sidewalk as the pub is full, no one is rowdy, all well behaved. Not sure this would happen in Canada…we carry too many taboos around liquor.

Take the subway to the music hall and get there in plenty of time. We find out that we need to trade our voucher in for our pre-assigned tickets. A bit of a line up and eventually we get called up by one of the clerks. Well, out of nowhere comes an older Asian women who tries to but in, in front of us. Robin used one of his rugby moves and puts a stop to this obnoxious rude woman….well, wasn’t she just put in her place! We enter the hall, simply beautiful. Once again signs everywhere saying you are not allowed to take pictures. This place is filled with tourists and everyone is taking pictures. 

The concert lasts 2 hours and musicians are all dressed in Mozart period costumes. There were two opera singers who accompany the orchestra at various intervals. Should also mention that our tickets were in row 13, only caucasians in this row! We sat next to a delightful young couple from Holland;  they were on a camping holiday and had left their young 2 yr old son with family.  We always marvel as to how easy it is for people living in Europe to visit so many different countries at such a close distance and for a such a reasonable cost.  A wonderful evening out. 

It is our last night in Vienna. Thankfully the elevator is working again.  We arrange for a  cab in the morning to take us to the Vienna train station, the Wien Hauptbahnhof.. We are spending the next four days in Budapest and will arrive there in 2 1/2 hours. Needless to say, the train leaves  right at 9:42 am, got to love the European train system! Better internet on this train than our Vienna  apartment! Just as I was about  to  post. my blog on the train, we crossed into Hungary and no internet on the train while in Hungary. Just arrived at our apartment in Budapest,very lovely.

Loved Vienna!! One could spend a full week here. We did not see everything we wanted, but got a very good feel for the City.

2 thoughts on “Chapter Two- Vienna

  1. Enjoying your travels very much Robin and Claire.My goodness I wish I could remember all these details when I travel.Have to put these places on my bucket list and all that energy you both have.It’s astounding!!!!


  2. Glad to hear Robin still has his rugby moves, poor old lady all bloodied and grass stains on her dress no doubt !
    Wonderful trip guides you two.


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