It’s been quite a while since I’ve written on the blog. My school has been keeping me very busy. I visited Vienna in July, but after going through pictures, it still feels like I was there just recently. Here’s what I did there!
We arrived in Vienna’s city center after lunch (which we had eaten on the road). It had rained off and on throughout the day and continued to do so throughout our one day stay in the city. The cloudy, rainy weather didn’t, however, put a damper on the excitement of being in a new country!
The bus dropped us off at the perfect spot; a brief walk from some of Vienna’s most famous attractions. After alighting from the bus, it was just a 2-minute walk to get to the Maria Theresien Platz (Maria Theresien Square). Maria Theresien Platz is a large, open area located between Vienna’s Art and Natural History museums. The main attraction of the square is the large statue of Maria Theresa, a former Archduchess of Austria, and former queen of Hungary. After taking several photos of (and with) the statue, and the two imposing museum buildings, we started to walk to our next destination.
Like many other prominent cities in Europe, Vienna has a “Ringstraße” (Ring road) on which several important locations are constructed. This allows locals to use the outer rings to circumvent the traffic caused by the important attraction in the inner ring. I also found it very interesting that Vienna had very interesting sidewalk norms. At least around the Ringstraße, bicycle paths were clearly marked on the sidewalk, and pedestrians had to treat the bicycle lane as an active road. Even in the rain that day, cyclists were zooming by constantly.
Lucky for us, Maria Theresien Platz, and our next destination, the Parliament building were just a short walk from one another on the Ringstraße. The Parliament building wasn’t much to look at. It was under restoration at the time and had been ensconced in scaffolding and tarps. I’m sure, however, that once the construction equipment is removed, it will once again look beautiful. After snapping a few pictures here as well, we crossed the street and walked into a beautiful public park.
The park, known as Volksgarten (folks’ park) had perfectly manicured lawns, vibrant flowers of several colors, and what looked to be a Greek temple. The white, columned structure was the perfect contrast to the verdant park around it. Volksgarten is the featured image for this post. After spending a little while in the park, and taking several pictures of the grounds, we started to walk towards the first of Vienna’s beautiful palaces that we would see that day.
After a quick stop at a fountain that we saw along our route, we made it to the Hofburg Palace. Built in the 13th century, and expanded on several times, the palace now serves as the office for the Austrian President. We weren’t able to tour the palace itself because we were already tight on time, and there was so much to see, but even from the outside, the building exuded power. The Hofburg Palace was the primary residence for the Hapsburgs, but they did have other palaces where they would stay depending on the times. We’ll get to them later. One of the wings of the palace has been converted into a museum for the contents of the palace’s treasury, but we weren’t able to see that either. We walked to a different part of the palace where, through windows, we were able to see the royal stables which still maintain horses today.
From the palace, we took some side and back roads to another art museum (this one modern art, the previous being a traditional art museum). We took a break at the museum so we could refresh ourselves before we were given time to explore the city on our own. After the brief respite from all of the walking, we again hit the streets. Instead of going off on our own, we decided to follow our local guide, who told us he was going to take whoever was interested, to a nearby cathedral.
He led us through a maze of back streets till we entered a large pedestrian-only thoroughfare. A good mix of brand name boutiques and small shops lined both sides of the wide walkway. Cafes serving all varieties of local delicacies were bustling as locals and tourists alike enjoyed an afternoon snack. As we walked, we eyed some cafes that we would want to stop at as we walked back in the opposite directions.
After a brisk 10 minute walk, we finally arrived at the cathedral, Katholische Kirche Deutschordenskirche, which is a gothic style church established in the 12th century that became the headquarters for a roman-catholic sect (which is now based in Germany). There wasn’t much to do inside, but the high vaulted ceilings were breathtaking. After snapping a few photos, we decided to look around the shops for some souvenirs. We also wanted to taste a very popular Viennese dessert called sacher torte. We stepped into a very upscale-looking bakery and ordered an assortment of 4 cakes including one slice of sacher torte and one slice of tiramisu.
The desserts were great, but I was slightly underwhelmed by the sacher torte which was less sweet than it looked. I imagined a sweet, chocolaty, slice of deliciousness, but the cake was strangely bitter and sour. I think this was because of a jelly that was put between the slices of cake.
After finishing the cakes, we followed our guide back to the modern art museum and reunited with the rest of our tour group. We waited for a few minutes as the bus made its way back from its parking spot to where we were waiting. We boarded the bus once it arrived, and moments after everyone was on board, it started to pour rain! The bus drove us to the last location of the evening: Belvedere Palace.
Belvedere Palace was built in the early 1700s and is actually comprised of 2 palaces. Lower Belvedere Palace, which was built first, operated as a winter home for Prince Eugene. Upper Belvedere, on the other hand, was built solely as a show of wealth and power. The grounds were beautiful with pristine gardens and enchanting views.
Because it was raining, we weren’t keen on staying too long, but what we did see was very pretty. Once we were on the bus again, it was time to head to our restaurant, where we had a great meal, and then it was straight to the hotel!
After a long day of touring, we were quite tired and wanted to go to bed as soon as possible. Things, however, don’t always work out perfectly. Our hotel was perfectly comfortable, but it did not have an elevator. We were on the fourth floor, and between the four of us, we had 8 big bags. What a workout it was! In the end, though, it all worked out and it was a restful night!
That’s what we did in Vienna!
As usual, stay tuned for more content! Until next time!