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Chasing a Dream - Part I "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference" - Robert Frost

Vienna, Austria

AUSTRIA | Friday, 13 May 2016 | Views [390]

Thursday, 12 May

It was a 4hr train ride from Prague to Vienna and by the time we arrived, and got checked into the hotel, it was close to 2pm. That left little time for many of the sites, as most the museums and palaces close around 5:30 or 6pm. Not wanting to waste any time, myself and one of the other gals on tour, Lisa, set out right away. Because the city is spread out, and since we only had 1.5 days, I bought a 48hr metro pass for 13 euro. It was much cheaper than the hop-on-hop-off and went to the same places and more. It really came in handy after it started raining, and I found I was not completely exhausted by the end of the day, as many of the others were. We took the metro to Karlsplatz and then walked the short distance to St Charles, a beautiful domed Cathedral. Inside there is a elevator to a viewing platform near the cupola, and you can see the ceiling frescos up close. You can also continue up by foot to the very top and look out over the city, but the views are somewhat obstructed by wire over the windows. From Karlsplatz we walked along Lothringerstrasse, where we happened upon a quirky cafe called Fresh Charlies and stopped for a quick refreshment. Then is was a few blocks north to the Opera House, stopping for a few pictures before continuing to Albertina Art Gallery. If you are a fan of Art, there are many galleries and museums to choose from, so research what they have on display to find one that suits. We chose the Albertina because they were having an exhibition called “From Monet to Picasso” and it was a brilliant chronicle of the evolution of art from Impressionism, to Cubism, to Art Nouveau and how the trends and politics of the earas helped shape it. We only had 1.5hrs before closing, so toured at a quick pace, but were able to see all the sections that were open; some of the royal state rooms were closed for a special event so we missed out on viewing those. After the Albertina, we headed up toward Stephansplatz, the hub of the modern shopping district, and took a look a peek inside St Stephen's Cathedral to admire the Gothic architecture (entrance is free). There was a small food and crafts market on the east side of the church and we enjoyed some free samples of the treats on offer. We then wrapped up the evening with cocktails at the Sky Bar; the drinks were expensive, but good, and the views unbeatable.

One thing to note, and was a bit bothersome, any time you stopped to take photos, you were instantly swarmed by touts in period costumes trying to sell Mozart “concert” tickets. It seems just about every establishment in Vienna has a so called symphony orchestra performing nearly every night of the week. If you want to see a symphony, don’t bother with these tourist traps; go for the real thing: the world renowned Vienna Philharmonic Symphony.

The second day was even better than the first. I started early by taking the metro to Schloss Schonbrunn, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and it was a real highlight of the trip. Both the rooms and grounds were absolutely stunning. I opted for the Grand Tour ticket, which gave me access to 40 of the 1400+ rooms. It also came with a free audio guide and was as good as having your own personal historian. It allowed you to wander at your own pace, drinking in the opulence; you keyed in the number of each room into the device to get a wonderful in depth explanation of the room, furnishing and quite a bit of personal history of the inhabitants. In one room, called the “Mirror Room” is where the 5 year old Mozart gave his first public concert, and where he also met the then 7 year old Marie Antoinette. There were few crowds at 9am, but it quickly got busy and the rooms and passageways are narrow, so I would highly recommend arriving right at opening time, to ensure a more pleasurable experience. After touring inside the palace, I spent some time roaming the huge garden complex. One could easily spend an entire day there, but I was limited on time, so I hiked quickly up to the Gloriette to get some great pictures of the palace and city in the background. Then it was back on the Metro to Michaelerplatz, to check out the Hofburg and the Museum district. As I was wandering the Hofburg I happened to pass the office of the Spanish Riding School (The School of training for the famous Lipizzaner white stallions), and saw that they were having a special Tribute to Vienna show that same evening, with a live symphony performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. I bought standing room only tickets for only 25 euro (tip: line up at the door a little before opening to get the best spots, as there steps you can sit on along both sides of the theater, so you don’t truly have to stand the entire time).

With my evening plan set, I had some hours to burn until the show, so I headed over to Schwedenplatz and made it just in time to catch the 2pm Danube river cruise. The full cruise was a 3.5hr journey from the Danube canal and into the river, passing through green space, the modern city front, some ugly looking industrial areas, and out into the outer edges of the city, before looping back through the historical area. For only .50 cent more I got the combo ticket that included a sampling of three strudels and a hot drink. It was a very pleasant journey and felt great to put my feet up while still getting in some sightseeing. Plus, the cruise had few people on board and I was able to see some areas outside of the normal tourist haunts. After the cruise, I picked up a falafel wrap for dinner, and made my way back to the Hofburg to catch the show. Since I was early at the door, I was one of the first in line and was able to get a sweet spot in the center of the arena. There were 5 or 6 choir steps along each wall and it made for excellent seats. The show was a combination of symphony, operetta, and horse ballet. The Lipizzaner stallions had such beauty and strength, and were so incredibly amazing, I thought I might cry. You could actually see the concentration of the horses as they prepared for a particularly difficult feat. I was so glad to have happened upon the ticket office as it was a superb experience and kept me smiling the entire way back to the hotel.


Tags: austria, lipizzaner, vienna

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