A church near the middle of Vienna
I apologize for the absence of blogs lately. I have just been in Berlin for a week for my final year seminar with my program. I will definitely write about that next, but wanted to catch everyone up on another trip I made in May to Vienna with Alex, a fellow Vanderbilt MBA student!
Alex had planned to come to Europe to travel around and we decided it would be fun to meet up for a weekend and see something new and different. I had always heard fabulous things about Vienna and it was fairly easy to get to from Germany, so we decided that was a great destination. I couldn't get any more time off work unfortunately, so Alex and I met at the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof in the evening and headed together to the Airport to catch our flight. It was a fairly uneventful flight and we arrived safe and sound to Vienna. After a quick bus transfer to the West Hauptbahnhof, we arrived at our hotel, quite exhausted.
Neither of us had eaten dinner, so we decided to just grab something from the Chinese restaurant on the corner. It turned out to be quite a nice meal,
and we enjoyed catching up over good food and beer. After dinner we both decided it was time for bed since it had been a long day.
The next morning we woke up refreshed and ready to check out the city. I had done a slight bit of research on what to see and had a few sights in mind, so we took the train towards the downtown area. The downtown plaza was bustling with people, cafes, and shops. There were some really high end stores which we happily window shopped. From downtown we made our way to the Hapsburg Schloss, where the Emperors from the Hapsburg Empire lived for about 600 years. I had totally forgotten that this is where the Empire was based, I had written a music history paper in college on Holy Roman Emperor Maxamillian I. It was neat to go and see the palace after I had studied so much about the inhabitants. There is an old and "new" side to the palace and we took time to walk around all of it.
We got distracted by some buildings in the distance and decided to take a detour through a park over to
Alex in Vienna!
the Seat of Austrian Congress and the Rathaus. We kept hearing bands playing in the distance and wondered what on earth was going on in front of the Rathaus, so we went to check it out. They had stages and a big party area set up, all to host the Life Ball that night, apparently its a HUGE deal. The stage setup was really fantastic and they said that lots of important people would be there that night. Alex and I considered buying fancy clothes and trying to sneak in, but decided that wasn't the best idea. We couldn't get into see the City Hall (Rathaus) because of the event - they were staging an after party there, but we did get a chance too check out all the fantastic cars that would be caravaning people around for the event. Really great.
After our adventure, we wandered our way back to the Hapsburg Palace and bought some tickets to get into the Imperial Apartments exhibit. This also included the Royal China and Silver exhibit which actually was really neat, it showed you all the different china used by the empire through the years and some pretty fancy table settings.
New Hapsburg Palace
This is part of the "new" addition to the palace
Included in the entry price was a free headset that you could use at your discretion. I liked this because it kept everyone quiet and moving a little slower through the museum. But after a while, you start to skip different segments that are holding you back.
The Imperial apartments were really beautiful, they were decorated as they were with the last Emperor and were really extravagant. There were separate apartments for the Empress and the Emperor even had to ring a bell to visit his wife, pretty crazy! We were tired of standing after the entire exhibit so we decided it was time to go sit down and enjoy some lunch. Alex and I found a nice restaurant that served Wiener Schnitzel on a side street near the main square. It felt good to sit down and enjoy the weather a bit, we really lucked out that Saturday was so beautiful. We enjoyed the authentic Wiener Schnitzel and I even complimented it with some Preiselberren (cranberries?), a trick I learned in Austria over Christmas. It is quite a good combination.
After lunch we made our way over to the Staatsoper (City Opera House) and lucked out to
This is where the Imperial Apartments are
arrive just as the tours were lining up. We hopped on the English tour and were really glad for our great timing. The Opera House was absolutely beautiful and the tour was really great. They even took us up on stage that day while they were setting up for the ballet that night. Once a year they have the big Vienna Ball in the Opera House, apparently they transform the whole place into a dance floor, with different live orchestras and bars. All the young girls dress up in white dresses with gloves and dance the waltz for everyone (halfway reminds me of a debutante ball). Would love to be a fly on the wall for that event. Apparently during the war, most of the opera house was destroyed, a bomb set off a fire and burned most of the structure, but the front entry way was still intact and the rebuilt the rest of the Opera House. They did a fabulous job as I never would have known that it wasn't the original inside.
After the Staatsoper, we made our way back to the hotel on the subway and proceeded to get dressed to go out for dinner.
This was in the Schlossgarten
We found a good authentic restaurant in an area close to the hotel. I enjoyed some Weisse Spargel (white asparagus) - one of my favorite foods of summer here. There was great conversation and catching up over events of the year. Alex gave me some fabulous advice for my first year of the MBA Program which was much appreciated. For desert we each enjoyed a piece of apple strudel.
On Sunday, we took it easy getting up in the morning as we were both tired. After checking out of the hotel and storing our luggage we headed off to find the Belvedere Palace, a bit outside the city center of Vienna. The palace was absolutely breathtaking. It consists of an upper palace and a lower palace, both of which now house art collections. It was built in the 18th century for an important general. We didn't visit the art exhibits due to lack of time, but we enjoyed walking around the gardens and grounds of the palace and taking pictures. There was a nice brewery with outdoor seating around the corner from the palace, so we took a seat there to enjoy some more authentic Viennese food. I had
some gulash, something I had not had since Christmas in the alps.
After lunch, we made our way around the big downtown plaza and watched some fun street performers. There were some breakdancers that had gathered quite a crowd. We found a nice spot to enjoy an ice cream and the weather. Before heading back to get our stuff, we dropped in the main cathedral on the square, which was very beautiful and quite different from many of the churches I had seen lately. It looked similar to the Notre Dame inside, but with these altars on each pillar down the center of the church and chandeliers, really interesting combination. The outside of the church had a tiled roof that looked really neat, but I'm sure was added later and could not have been part of the original building.
Unfortunately it was time to head back to the hotel and get our bags. Alex decided to hop on an earlier train to Frankfurt, and I grabbed the bus to the airport for my flight back. As I got on the bus, dark clouds rolled in and it started to rain, lightning and thunder. I knew this was bad
More flowers in the Schloss Garden
news, but I hoped that it would just pass over really quickly. I got to the airport, checked in and made my way down to my gate. Not too long after I arrived and grabbed a seat next to my gate (where the buses pick you up to go to the plane) the terminal area next to me started to flood from the rain. They had to evacuate about 5 gates into our area, which was quite interesting to watch. I made some friends that were on my flight and we chatted in German about what was going on. I believe the flight only ended up taking off an hour late, there were some worse delays around us. I made it to the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof about 10 pm to find out that the next direct train to Karlsruhe was at 12:15 am. It was a long evening hanging out in the only open shop until it closed at 12. I arrived back at my apartment around 2 am that morning, but was very glad to be home.
Overall it was a fabulous weekend, Vienna is absolutely gorgeous, I love the architecture and feel of the city. If you are
Alex and I
looking to spend a good chunk of money shopping, you could definitely put a dent in your wallet with the abundance of high end stores.
My blog about Berlin is coming soon! I'm off to tour the Black Forrest down to the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and back on Sunday. I hope this finds all of you doing well and surviving the first part of summer. I am looking forward to seeing everyone in a mere 5 weeks back in the US.
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