Next on our itinerary, from Istanbul, was Vienna. You can’t help falling in love with this beautiful city. The weather at the time of our visit was a lovely 19 degrees. After our check in at the hotel, we took a subway (local train – like the Delhi Metro or the London Tube) to St Stephen Square. The moment we came up the escalator, we let out a collective gasp at the sight of St Stephen’s Cathedral. I was mesmerised by its sheer size, high towers and richly coloured patterns on it’s tiled roof. I was so enraptured by its beauty that I forgot to capture a single wide-ranging shot of the cathedral through my camera eye. But its grandeur and beauty sits pretty in a corner of my mind, bright and rich.
At the square, we took the Fiaker i.e. horse drawn carriage. The tour pretty much helped us cover most of the significant landmarks in under an hours’ time; although, on hind sight I would prefer to walk through the streets of Vienna and soak it in slowly…taking my own sweet time to absorb the history of this culturally rich city. But the time crunch didn’t let that happen. Here are a few sights of St Stephan Square and around. Some pics may be a little out of focus because of the motion of the carriage. I tried to click as much as I could! (I think it is pretty evident from my Istanbul travelogue and now this one, that I was quite “trigger happy”!)
Subway is an excellent way to commute/travel within the city however you can take the 20 euro/person , 48 hrs ticket that will help you commute in subway, bus and tram (you can check with the concierge of your hotel for this). Our next stop was the Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburg royal family. It is the most visited sight of Vienna and happens to be a World Cultural Heritage site. You will be charged an entry fee to step inside the palace. The Neptune Fountain and Gloriette(but you will be charged if you wish to perch atop the Gloriette for the panoramic view of the palace and Vienna – worth it!) are free to visit but you will be charged for the visit to other facilities such as the maze, zoo, etc.
We visited the Belvedere Palace under the impression that it was the winter home (which it is not) of the Hapsburg family. It was built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Today it has pleasing gardens and the Belvedere Palace serves as a a museum and has two baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere). It has masterpieces from the Middle ages besides works of Austrian artists. ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt became my favorite. Also, I was fascinated by the ‘Character Heads’ by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. (photography isn’t allowed inside)
Now on to some gastronomic delights of Vienna. To enjoy the famous Viennese Sachertorte [and I was told also the Apple Strudel, though in my view their apple strudel was average]do not miss visiting the famous Demel Chocolatiers (since 1786) or Sacher Hotel(we didn’t get time to visit this). Demel (near Hofburg Palace) is hardly 5 minutes walk from St Stephen Square. (Do not forget to check about the dispute between the Sacher Hotel and Demel over Sachertorte)I recommend you also try their Annatorte but my favorite turned out to be the Gerollte Mandeltorte…it was super yum!
And it just occured to me that I need to mention Freshii restaurant (located at Herrengasse 5, near Hofburg Palace) which serves not just non veg food but has many options for vegetarians and there is something for vegans too. They offer a decent range of salads, wraps, bowls, burritos (I especially liked their Smokehouse burrito) and there are breakfast options too. Do check out.
If possible, try visit the Naschmarket. It was a matter of chance that we happened to visit the market on Saturday, the day of the weekly flea market. There is something for everyone at that market. And in case you do not wish to shop there, go just for the fun of walking through the market, checking out the wares and goods being sold.
In case you are interested in seeing the city while cruising the Danube, do check out the timings ahead and plan your itinerary accordingly. We wanted to wrap up our two days visit to Vienna by cruising on the Danube but missed out on it coz the timing was clashing with out travel schedule to Prague…our next and last destination.
Personally, I feel that I have not done justice to Vienna. The city has so much to offer and I haven’t grabbed all that I should have. But with just two days in my hands that we dedicated to the city, that is all we could do. Vienna is still beckoning me and I will be back for sure, for more.