Sunday, February 23, 2014

Honeymoon in Europe: Vienna

Continuing on from our stops in Paris and Salzburg Chrissy and I arrived in Vienna just a few days before Christmas.

Chrissy and I rolled in via the subway at Stephansplatz station moments before 7PM and made our way to the exit/entrance. Usually when entering a new city, my senses are a little heightened as I am paying extra attention to the surroundings looking at signs or identifying landmarks. With my head on a swivel and my senses sharp we ascended the escalator to the surface when I became aware that the church bells had just started ringing. With the bells chiming and the sounds of classic Christmas music faintly in the background we were treated to a spectacular vision of St. Stephen's Cathedral. It seemed truly magical and is definitely one of the most memorable travel moments of my life. Vienna knows how to make a first impression!

Extra effects from Google / Picasa

Walking through the crowd we marveled at the beautiful architecture and amazing Christmas displays as we meandered to our hotel: the Pertschy Palais. We were warmly greeted at the front desk and then pleasantly surprised by the complimentary honeymoon champagne and romantic room decorations.


Another great hotel to continue our honeymoon adventure.

Exploring the Inner Ring

Vienna is a fabulous example of a centralized city. The major cultural center and historic landmarks are all located within and along the Ringstraße (Ring Road).
"The street was built to replace the city walls, which had been built during the 13th century and funded by the ransom payment derived from the release of Richard I of England, and reinforced as a consequence of the First Turkish Siege in 1529.... In 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria issued the decree "It is My will" ordering the demolition of the city walls and moats. In his decree, he laid out the exact size of the boulevard, as well as the geographical positions and functions of the new buildings...The Ringstraße and the planned buildings were intended to be a showcase for the grandeur and glory of the Habsburg Empire."
From our hotel we could reach any destination within the inner ring in no more than 15 minutes or we could jump on a tram and travel the circle in even less time.

Parliament Building

Volkstheatre

Rathaus through the fog

Hofburg Palace


Pestsäule (English: Plague Column) on Graben

Theseus Temple in the Volksgarten

St. Stephan's Cathedral

Mozart Statue in Burggarten

The Third Man Tour

Shorty after deciding to visit Vienna,  Chrissy and I watched what is considered to be the greatest British film of the 20th century: The Third Man. The movie is set in Vienna, and although a fictional movie, it is a semi-realistic glimpse of the post WWII realty of Europe.

Checking tours on TripAdvisor we learned of a walking tour that featured many of Harry Lime's haunts and we jumped at the chance to learn more of post war Vienna.

Unfortunate for pictures but fortunate for atmosphere a thick fog descended on the city as our tour started.

If you happen to be a history buff or a film fan I highly recommend the tour as Chrissy and I really enjoyed it. Plus - after taking the tour you can re-watch the movie at the english Burg Kino.

Christmas Markets

With the days to Christmas fast approaching Chrissy and I spent as much time as possible in as many of Vienna's Christmas markets as we could. The ambiance, food, shopping and gluhwein were just fantastic and culminated for us in a magical Christmas Eve.




While at the markets we discovered the absolute joys of new foods. First off, the kartoffelpuffer which is a potato pancake / fritter combo cooked in this bad ass apparatus.


Additionally, we learned of and fell in love with Langos; a deep fried flatbread. Chrissy had seen a few people walking around with what we thought was a pastry and we successfully pantomimed an order for what we assumed was a sweet treat. Instead on the first bite we were treated to a very heavy piece of bread with enough garlic to keep away a swarm of vampires. It was seriously good! However, we both exuded garlic out of our pores for hours on end after. At least we both smelled that way....

If there are any food trucks out there looking for a special dish to add to their menu I would highly recommend adding this 'delicacy'.

Chrissy loves Langos
To work down all that heavy bread we found that mulled wine (gluhwein) and the occasional 'hunters tea' (schnapps, rum and spice) really helped.

Chrissy loves Gluhwein

Schonbrunn Palace

From the 18th century to 1918, Schönbrunn Palace was the residence of the Habsburg emperors.
Similar to Versailles the grounds encompass a beautiful residential palace and a large sprawling garden.

Although, quite ornate, it is considerably less opulent that it's French counterpart. Maybe for this reason I enjoyed it more.






The Aviary


The Ruins of Carthage
Like any good ruler of a vast kingdom the Habsburg's had a menagerie at their palace. Today that collection exists in spirit as a zoo located within the grounds. Chrissy and I decided not to visit the zoo but we did skirt the outside of the area to see if we could spot any animals. Much to our surprise we ended up getting a great view of an Indian Rhinoceros.



For both of us this was the first time seeing a live rhino and we were extremely giddy. So cool.

Hundertwasserhaus

Just outside the Inner Ring is the most bizarre apartment building I have ever seen. Built on a concept of disorder, curved lines and personal embellishment this expressionist landmark is the work of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser with architect Joseph Krawina as a reluctant co-author.





Our pictures don't do justice to the undulations, contours and greenery of the building. Particularly cool I thought was the rule that any tenant of the building can affect the facade of the building within arms length of their own window. You'll notice that some have chosen to simply paint the area while others have installed reflective tiles and ceramics.

BTW - I quite liked the building and the concepts behind it. Chrissy thought it was cool but much prefers cleaner lines and symmetry. For those of you who know us I am sure you can appreciate our differing points of view and how it relates to our personality.

Other Highlights:

A guided tour of the Opera House

Wiener Schnitzel

Belvedere Palace

Ridiculously huge Christmas light displays

Watching the ducks in the Stadtpark

Clever bar signs

Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg

Horse Carriage Tour



Notes: 

  • The Christmas lights on main streets (as pictured above) were absolutely huge. Certain streets had their own distinct decoration which ended up being very helpful for our wayfinding. From the city centre we would follow chandeliers to crowns and that would lead us directly to our hotel.
  • Chrissy and I were relatively ignorant of the details of the Habsburg Empire. It was great to learn more about them but I was disappointed to learn of the adoration of Sissi. Much like Marie Antoinette she seemed like a completely useless woman who enjoyed absolute luxury in a world that was pretty harsh and then bitched about it. So many other worthy royals to focus on.
  • We had so much good food in Vienna: the schnitzel, sausage, street food and the sacher cakes were all fantastic. However, I have to admit disappointment with the classic Viennese Roast. I should have trusted my instincts that boiled beef would taste exactly how it sounds.
  • I wouldn't have considered myself to be a Gustav Klimt fan but seeing some of his most famous works at the Belvedere Palace has brought me around to liking him. The Kiss looks pretty cool up close but it's not nearly as bedevilling as Judith
  • A general travel tip: If a city was at one time the crown city of an empire - go to there.
  • Next stop: Day trip to Bratislava,




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