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Christmas in Austria

Day 4 Vienna

AUSTRIA | Friday, 23 December 2011 | Views [391]

Wow! So I must admit I was a little nervous about heading into Vienna on my own for only a day. I knew that I wanted to see the Schonbrunn palace and since it is so far from everything else I decided to take a tour. I got the train at about 6am from Salzburg and arrived in Vienna at 8:45am. I quickly got the the subway stop I was told to meet the bus at with no buses around anywhere. Most cities have designated areas so they tend to stack up. After a bit of a crazy run around I make it to the tour on time. We head through the city seeing the major sites from the bus with directions on how to get back there later and head out to Schonbrunn. It was everything I had imagined and more. It is so beautiful. It was built as a mini Versailles. At 1400 rooms and acres of groomed parks, and their zoo (oldest in the world) it is anything but mini. Apparently though it once had a staff of 2000 and Versailles had 10000. Like a lot of the sites in Vienna we were not allowed to use our cameras inside. I have a lot of exterior shots and bought a photo cd and some post cards so I will try to get up photos of the interior somehow. There were many people around and the Christmas market was jammed with visiting school children.

An interesting note: you will see in some pictures that the Hapsburg crest has an eagle with two heads. Only two dynasty families have ever used this. The Romanov's and the Hapsburg's. Apparently the Romanov's adopted it because their domain was split two ways. The Hapsburg's adopted it as a symbol that this would not happen to them but they did in fact fall in time. At one time they had 11 countries under their domain and 11 units in the military that all wore their own uniforms and spoke their own languages. This family ruled here for over 600 years and are mostly fondly remembered and much beloved by Austrians today.

After the tour I ended up at the State Opera house. It is stunning from the outside and apparently really amazing in but it was closed when we were there as they were getting ready for the evening performance. After that it was off to the Hofburg the city home and ruling seat of the Hapsburg's. It was simply amazing. I was also able to eat quickly at the Palm house. It is this amazing old green house with a cafe inside and based on pictures I had seen I always wanted to have the opportunity to eat there. There is also a butterfly conservancy adjacent. There are so many things to see at the Hofburg you could spend 4 days wandering around the galleries and exhibits but I only had 4hrs and lots to do so I went into one of my favourite places so far The National Library. It was just magnificent and the pictures will not even come close to doing it justice. After that I headed to the Spanish Riding School but they were closed. They do not allow photos anyways so I could not have shared. After that it was around to the front of the palace for photo ops and into the park. Across from the park are the amazing Parliament building and the Rathaus (like a mayor's building for local government). The Rathaus also hosts Austria's largest Christmas market. I wandered around there for a little while (couldn't help myself)and took photos and then it was off to Karlsplatz. There is a magnificent church here, another Christmas market (with children's activities and a petting zoo) and a special subway stop that was once built exclusively for royal use. A word about the subway system here. It is incredibly deep and has about six lines. Some the escalators are like going up or down a mountain with an incredibly steep incline. They are incredibly clean though and the system is amazing here.

While running through Karlsplatz shooting pics of everything in site the sun was starting to set and so I was off to Stephansplatz which is the site of St. Stephansdom the most magnificent cathedral I have ever seen with its distinctive spires and tiled roof. I was able to slip inside but since there was no daylight left, most pictures are very dark. Off the plaza are pedestrian shopping areas and the Graben. I wanted to head there because they hang these beautiful almost chandeliers in the street at Christmas. I was not disappointed. It was stunning. And there is a beautiful statue there that was given to Vienna when they were finally rid of the plague.

At this point it was time to head back to the train station to catch my train home. I was exhausted but very happy. The trains are so excellent here. Completely on time and smooth and comfortable. I wish I could travel like this in Canada. Our train travel is not even close. Anyways I ended up safely back here around 9pm and grabbed a quick bite to eat on my way to collapsing at the hotel. After a solid nights rest I am up and headed out for a new day around town. I can't believe it is almost Christmas, the next couple of days will be really amazing here for me. I wish you all a very merry Christmas or the holiday of your choice and hope that you have much love and laughter with your loved ones. Thanks for following me along on this journey.

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