Central Europe Trip - Vienna, Day 1

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September 3rd 2018
Published: September 11th 2018
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Our departure from Budapest could have ended in disaster!

We got to the train station early, and were directed to our platform where a train for Munich was waiting. We were still not particularly aware of procedures but, in our defense, I should say that we asked at least three different persons to make sure we were in the right place and, although friendly, it wasn't until the last person we asked who actually told us that the train we had been staring at for fifteen minutes was the train we should be on! Yes, it was for Munich, but it made several stops along the way, Vienna being one of them! We were embarrassed, but eventually laughed it off with relief for not having missed the train.

We had seats in the first class compartment, and they were comfortable which was a blessing during the dull three hours ride. Not particularly enthralling countryside, for the most part.

The arrival in Vienna was a shock. The terminal is larger than many airports, with multiple platforms and tracks, and the underground under the train platforms full of shops and corridors. I immediately started dreading the time when we would have to come back to find our train to Prague! I anticipated it being an ordeal. In addition, we confirmed that there are no longer border checks amongst the European Union countries, just get off the train and walk.

Anyway, once we checked into our hotel, The Harmonie, about ten minutes away from The Ring, we once again decided to venture into the Inner City and do a little exploring.

We had been lucky to have as the concierge that checked us in Rodrigo. He took all the time needed to draw us directions to nearby train stations, the hotel's location, the important roads, etc. Of course, it ended up not taking into account our complete lack of sense of directions, but at least we had something to show when we did ask for help, which happened often during our first day.

We quickly found out that ten minutes distance is relative, when you are constantly stopping to check maps and doubling back!

Inner City was a disappointment. This was an imperial city, and every building and street reflects that, but the Vienna people have basically cut the buildings in half, gutting the first two floors to install garish, loud modern stores. It's like walking into a giant mall with some amazing landmarks scattered throughout it. In order to see what the buildings once looked like you have to look up. Along the streets is strictly commercial, at least the major intersections and avenues near the very center by St. Stephen's Church which, in my opinion, should have been the areas that reflect the elegance and grandness if the buildings.

The streets are also maddening! Many seem to be just short, and winding, and completely designed to confuse. However, we did stumble onto beautiful St. Peter's Church, and that was a treat. And afterwards we ventured into St. Stephen's amazing church, even though we were planning to come back for a longer visit the next day.

While meandering along one of the main avenues, we saw a sign that we could not pass! A Skybar! Up we went to a wonderful restaurant with a fabulous balcony overlooking the spirals of St. Stephen's Church. We had a wonderful waiter who recommended a couple of signature cocktails, and we happily enjoyed the end of the afternoon cooling off from our exertions and frustrations with very good drinks. Mine was called Old Cuban, and it had a mix of rum and champagne. Delicious!

Afterwards, we decided to have dinner at one of the many outdoor cafes on the main avenue. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the Veal Schnitzel was fabulous and the people watching entertaining. The meal was completed by a potato side dish that was delicious. Scalloped cold potatoes in some marinade that was amazing. I was immediately addicted!

Finding our way back to our hotel was an adventure I do not wish to repeat. At this point we were asking for directions every few minutes, and still managed to find ourselves taking wrong turns. Without a doubt, we seemed to get comfortable around every city on the last day before we left!

However, during the Vienna stay we also mastered the trick of google directions! They were an enormous help.

We almost did a happy dance when we finally found our hotel, sore feet and hot, but ready for the next day.

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Each column is different and extremely elaborate with reliefs and scenes.

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