Well, I did say that I would most want to go back to Vienna, of all the cities I’ve been to so far. And here I found myself again, a month later! But what a difference a month can make. In late February, it was still frigid. I was wearing my winter coat, getting blown about by blustery winds.
This time around, the sun was out (and so were the tourists)! The flowers were blooming, people lazed in parks and threw frisbees. Everything is lovelier in the spring.
Another tip for bargain hunters
After researching a few hotels and Airbnb stays in Vienna, we ended up bidding for a room on Priceline, which enables you to get deeply discounted rooms for a price that you name, if the hotel accepts it. I hadn’t tried this before, but J said you can usually get between 50-60% off the rooms, since if you’re bidding last minute the rooms would be empty anyway, and better to get some revenue than none, no?
YES, DEFINITELY. We hit the jackpot. We stayed at the Mercure Grand Hotel Biedermeier, just outside the Innere Stadt (city center). They claimed to have plenty of rooms with up to 8 beds, but at the moment the only room they had with enough beds for all three of us was the presidential suite.
Hahaha! We had bid $85 per night for the three of us, less than $30 per person, and we ended up staying in a luxury suite that felt more like a home than a hotel room. Downstairs, a toilet, living room, walk-in closet and winding staircase. Upstairs, a room with twin beds, a huge living room with luxuriously upholstered couches, a bathroom and another room with a queen size bed. Words cannot describe how pampered we felt.
And all I had to fill all that space was my one teeny backpack. I should have brought more stuff just to put on the shelves!
The next morning was a Sunday, so J and I went to the International Baptist Church of Vienna. The church is one of the most truly international congregations I’ve been to, and the service was really lovely. I love that about the church—you can go anywhere in the world, and end up in a familiar place. As luck would have it, they had a potluck following service, so we got to feast on lots of homemade international foods for lunch!
After church, we went to see the Schonnbrunn Palace and Gardens. Maria Theresa used this as her summer palace, and most of the garden grounds have always been free and open to the public. It’s said that Maria Theresa like to have the Viennese people around her; a woman of the people. I like that. Also, contrary to the recommendations of architects and planners that the Schonbrunn should be Versailles-on-crack, she opted instead to build Schonbrunn in a simpler, understated style.
I know the history is probably written favorably in retrospect, but these Habsburgs sound like lovely people. You know, for a monarchy.
Atop the hill extending behind the Schonbrunn is the Gloriette (“little glory”), a structure intended to evoke the beauty of its surroundings. Sitting on the lawn nearby, you can see the Schonbrunn and the entire city of Vienna below. We sat here and enjoyed the (free!) sunshine and views for a little while, opting out of viewing the palace rooms. After a while, palace rooms start to look the same.
Vienna loses some classy points
We then met up with R at Cafe Central, which has rich literary and historical merit, in addition to which the apple strudel was delish!
The venue itself was of course uber classy, with a tuxedoed pianist performing live inside the vaulted dining room. But I’ll say here that Vienna lost some classy points because R told us about how the restaurant he’d gone to for lunch scammed him. It reminded me of how I got scammed the last time I was in Vienna too—what the heck! I expected better from Vienna.
In addition to which, even Cafe Central had a ridiculous menu: the apple strudel was about €4, but if you want to get it mit vanillesauce—with! sauce!—can you kindly pay an extra €3. Ha! That better be some amazing sauce. But no thanks, I’ll have mine without.
I went all the way to Germany to see Christmas markets, but I had no idea that Easter markets are a thing too! I prefer the charm of Christmas markets in winter, huddling over a mug of mulled wine to keep warm. But the Easter market had a lot of fun crafts, and of course, plenty of alcohol as well!
Around the Ringstrasse
We then walked along the Ringstrasse, to see some of the fancy buildings I had missed last time. First, the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) where flowers bloomed in the park. (The Burgtheater is in the distance). These flowers weren’t even that pretty, comparatively speaking, but I just love flowers!
Austrian Parliament – looking mighty heroic.
I’m not actually sure what this building is, but the lighting was mesmerizing.
These signs are so cute. No hundes here—miffed doggy. Hundes here—happy doggy!
The Mozart statue behind the Hofburg, with a treble clef of flowers yet to bloom. And the Albertina Museum, which I didn’t have time to see, AGAIN. I’ll just have to go back to Vienna next month, eh? The Impressionist exhibit is on til May, so I’ve got two months to make my next trip! ;)
I’m especially bummed because only on the way back did I see in the airline magazine that this March, many Viennese museums are celebrating Gustav Klimt‘s 150th birthday. No wonder posters of Klimt were absolutely everywhere! Too bad I don’t understand German.
Dinner theatre, so to speak
I’m not sure what this pizza kebab fascination is in Vienna, but pizza kebab stands are everywhere! If I remember correctly, they might have been in Berlin too. Such an odd combination.
I didn’t try it; instead, I picked up dinner at the same Wurstelstand that J and I had gone to, near the Staatsoper, last time. Got the Kasekrainer (cheese-stuffed sausage). Yum.
*Photo, right: Uncredited source.
In the evening, we got standing room tickets to see the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin at the Musikverein. The tickets were just €5, and thankfully the standing room area was not nearly as crowded as it was at the opera! The outside of the building looks more or less like it could be any old Viennese building, but you walk inside and WOW. I mean, sure, it’s the home of the Vienna Philharmonic, no big deal. But still, the drastic difference in expectations from the outside and what it’s like on the inside—I was blown away.
Now I’m curious as to what the insides of all the other buildings look like! Or better yet, what it was like in the gilded days of Viennese grandeur, the concert halls, ballrooms and parlours. I can only imagine.
Come back tomorrow to spend one more day in Austria, in the sunny Wachau valley!