As you grow older and move around a bit, you come to find there are some people that you connect with immediately, while others need to grow on you first. Then, theres those you just don’t connect well with no matter how much time passes.
Cities are the same way.
Certain cities make your heart sing and others are harder to connect with. If everyone loved the same cities, we wouldn’t be living spread across the globe, we’d all be running as fast as we could to the town of magic.
Vienna may be the most difficult city for me to write about. Although it happens to be one of the best planned out cities I’ve been to, Vienna and I did not ever really connect.
When I got to the hostel, I found the bed that had been assigned to me was dressed and occupied by another’s belongings. The one who believed this to be their space wasn’t in the room but two other fellow travelers were. I spent some time talking with them before heading to the reception desk to see how to solve the bed issue. In the end, I took the bed meant for the gentleman that truly believed the bed he took up was his own (I know this because I explained to him this bed circumstance and he a was in denial that he was wrong). I spent every night I was in Vienna (three) with these three bunkmates: the Canadian grad student, Brazilian waitress living in Dublin, and Korean ex-military taken to a life of wanderlust.
With them I spent my first night at the hostel common room discussing World War II, cultural differences, and our travels, over beers bought at the hostel’s bar. After a long day of hiking in Salzburg and then traveling to Vienna, it was just what I needed.
I had a very short list of things I wanted to do in Vienna, and after my first day I honestly questioned if I should leave for Budapest a day early. Because I had paid for the three nights, I decided to stay and I’m ultimately glad I did.
Like the song by Billy Joel says, “Slow down, you’re doing fine.”
The first day I winged it. I jumped on a tram after breakfast and ended up in the museum district. I walked all over and founded myself at the Xocolat truffle shop. I wish I would have taken a photo of them to show you, but really all you need to know is that they were delicious.
From there I walked to St. Stephen’s Cathedral (built in 1137).
I found out later I missed out on climbing to the top of the bell tower to see a beautiful view of the city. But after climbing what feels like a million bell towers, I didn’t feel so terrible.
Since rain was blowing in, I took a train to the closest station to Hundertwasserhaus (pronounced something like: huun-der-tvas-sen-houuse).
Hundertwasserhaus gets its name from its creator, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He started out as a painter but in the early 1950’s he became more and more focused on architecture. He believed there should be a kind of harmony and unity between nature and man. In 1977 he was invited to create an apartment building in accordance to his ideas. It took several years to find the proper plot of land but by 1985, Hundertwasserhaus was built.
“Man has three skins: his own, his clothing and his dwelling. All three skins must continually change, be renewed, steadily grow and incessantly change or the organism will die.” Friedensreich Hundertwasser, 1980
After wandering around the building (which is basically all you can really do in the area) I walk to the metro station. As I’m walking, I see a tram stop and since I had a 72 hour ticket I thought: why not? And hopped on the next tram: destination unknown.
Vienna has a certain calm about it. No one is in too much of a hurry. There’s a kind of air of contentment. This relaxing feeling, especially from a big city can be contagious (I know, I live in the most relaxing big city I believe in existence).
I landed on the doorsteps of Belvedere Palace. The grounds of this palace are fabulous, even in the winter. I didn’t go inside because every museum and landmark of Vienna will cost you your arm, leg, and first born child.
After seeing most of the landmarks I wanted to see for that day, I headed bck to the hostel. Here I met with my three friends from the night before (we were all staying for relatively the same amount of days in Vienna). At around 8 pm, we headed to the Kangaroo bar (animals not included). This is where I met a lovely American gentleman who invited me to lunch the next day.
Always ready for a new adventure, food, and friendly conversation, I accepted.
On day two, I had breakfast with a British lad by incident (there were no other tables for him to sit at). Travelling alone as well, we decided to make the best of it and accompany one another to the Schönbrunn Palace. Interested in leaving with at least some Austrian history in my repertoire, we purchased tickets to enter the palace. Costs 12 euros including audio guide, but absolutely no photographs are allowed.
Of course I completely forgot my camera at the hostel, so I have no good photos of this day anyways.
The audio guide and tour left much to be desired but I did learn how to waltz with the help of my new companion and we attended our own ball for two located in the Great Gallery that morning.
Pro tip: Find yourself a boy who took a fancy to ballroom dance in university and have him teach you/dance with you in a centuries old ballroom. Experience gets five out of five stars. Also great if he has great sense of humor and doesn’t mind you stepping on his feet occassionally.
Before I knew it, it was past the time I was meant to meet with the boy from the night before. Luckily I was able to reschedule and pushed our meeting time back an hour.
The lunch turned in to a full-on all day spontaneous event adventure. I had planned to go see the opera later that evening and really wanted to see the Austrian National Library. He had never been to either even though he lived in Vienna for 6 months, so naturally (because I have the best ideas), he wanted to tag along.
I stood in line for the opera 5 euro standing tickets for a good 30 minutes, and arrived around 5:15.the opera started at 7:00, so we were a bit early. If I could recommend doing anything in Vienna, this would be it. The opera was spectacular. The theme was a bit outlandish but the set and music were phenominal.
Afterwards, my lunch companion and I went to a rooftop bar to have a drink and some dinner. The rooftop bar had the view I had missed out on from St. Stephan’s.
I retired at midnight to my hostel, where I found my three friends from the night before gathered around the hostel bar. We discussed our days and soon I found myself falling deeply asleep from the day’s excitement.
Based on my lunch companion’s recommendation, I went to one of Vienna’s famous cafes. It was a great end to my trip, the icing on top of the cake, if you will.
I left Vienna fulfilled. I found myself satisfied with my stay but ready to move on to the next city: Budapest.
You can always afford to lose a day or two. Take good ole Billy Joel’s advice and take the phone off the hook. Go disappear for a while.
You can get what you want or you can just get old, and remember, you can’t be everything you wanna be before your time.
Vienna waits for you.