Our second night train was pretty much the same as the first. You are mostly sleeping, but every stop is accompanied by the loud screeching of the brakes. Basically, it’s the best sleep of your life. Our train arrived at Vienna at 6:00 am. We quickly found our hotel (it was attached to the mall which was attached to the train station), and I met my new sworn enemy – Vikram, the hotel night attendant (or as I later saw his actual title – “night audit.”) In a word, Vikram sucked. He took one look at our disheveled state (WE WERE ON A NIGHT TRAIN, JERK-FACE) and our giant backpacks and apparently put us squarely in the “vagabond” box. Before we even had a chance to give our names for our reservations, he offered, “Sorry we are completely full for the night, reservations only.” Taken aback, we explained to a much nicer hotel attendant that we did indeed have reservations, and Vikram offered only an impotent glare at our NOT VAGABOND selves. (This is not the last we will see of Vikram. Vikram, The Evil.) Because it was so early, we were not able to check in, so we left our bags in the luggage room and set off to see Vienna. Wearing the clothes we had worn to bed AND the day before.
The town was almost deserted, so we wandered down the main shopping boulevard, eventually finding our way to the Opera House. We followed our way through yet ANOTHER Rick Steve’s walking tour, seeing the Café Sacher (home of the Sacher torte), the plague column, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the Palace grounds (among other things that I have already forgotten).
We also discovered that apparently the city does not actually start bustling until 10:00am. Important to know if you are like me, and try to kill tour groups using only your eyeballs. My own personal rain cloud had a little delay in following us from Krakow, but by 9:00 it had found us and renewed its personal life goal to ruin our vacation. Luckily, it was thwarted once again! Ha! We have umbrellas!
There was some sort of festival happening around St. Stephen’s Cathedral with tons of little kiosks (but Medieval seeming, and therefore cooler) set up – selling everything from bratwurst and beer, wine, hand carved ornaments, to just about every other awesome thing on the sun.
We stuck around, umbrellas in hand, to watch some poor unfortunate ensemble band play – dressed in (I assume) authentic Viennese costumes of some sort (there was definitely velvet) while being drenched in the rain.
So we decided to head on into St. Stephen’s to avoid the fate of the band (water-soakness), and what did we inside? Some sort of awesome light show going on! We have no idea if the church is always like this or if it was just for some event going on, but they had covered up the stained glass windows with colored film so that the entire church was awash in splashes of color.
Eventually, we decided we were hungry and found our way to a suggested cafeteria thingy (official name) selling little finger sandwiches of indecipherable ingredients. We pointed at about 12 and had ourselves a good old fashioned sandwich-off, of which the hard-boiled egg on top of some sort of pickle relish was declared the winner.
Full of little ‘wiches we headed off to the Haus der Musik, an interactive music museum. I am pretty sure this museum is aimed at the 10 – 12 year old set, but my husband is mostly a 12 year old so I had a feeling he would enjoy it (I had previously been to this museum in 2004 with my brother – another 12 year old at heart). Turns out, I was right! We spent most of the afternoon with Blake playing with all the various music exhibits (the museum takes you through a very scientific explanation of sound using little Children Museum type interactive displays)
and making multiple “symphonies” using dice or the spelling of your name.
Our AMAZING dice symphony
We were finally able to check into our hotel at this point, so we made the 2.5km hike back to the hotel and were able to get keys to our room (NO VIKRAM IN SIGHT). We showered and took a nap before heading back to St. Stephen’s to have some of that delicious bratwurst, potatoes, and beer that we saw earlier (And cotton candy, OF COURSE.)
After a few hours, we made our way back to the hotel and settled in for the best sleep of our life.
Best sleep? Yes, best sleep. You see, this specific hotel was part of a German chain, similar to an upscale Holiday Inn. Therefore, our hotel room’s window was on the 5th floor and opened up to a courtyard – NOT to a night-club. We were also, for the first time ever, not surrounded by random hostels with guests on the street until 5:00 am. MOST IMPORTANTLY! We were not in the immediate vicinity of a European garbage truck, which I am convinced empty out the garbage each morning by picking up the canisters, and then FLINGING them around the alley way for a good 5 minutes before moving on to the next block. Without these distractions, Blake and I (let’s not lie here, I am the only one of this twosome who would even stir if a garbage truck picked one of US up and flung US around the alley way) slept until the grand hour of 11:00.
The nice hotel attendant (NOT VIKRAM) had told us about a laundry place down the street, and based on the smell of Blake’s back-pack – a visit was 100% necessary. We found the place easily and settled in for a nice 2 hours of laundry (celebrating the soap smell the whole time – laundry done in the sink does not smell like soap. It just smells a little less like sweat.)
After that marathon, we walked back to the main part of town and toured the Hapsburg’s Imperial Apartments, the Silver Collection, and the Sisi Museum. The tickets are sold as a group, and you are forced to tour the Silver Collection first. Which, first of all, it’s not even silver! It’s a bunch of plates! SO MANY PLATES. (Blake’s comment – “Have these people never heard of a garage sale??”)
By the time you get to the actual Imperial Apartment, you are 75% Hapsburg-ed out. Nonetheless, the apartments are fancy, as royal apartments are wont to be.
Having our fill of history, we decided to instead partake in some culture – eating pastries and drinking wine (my kind of culture, right there).
We had already eaten delicious sundaes and apple strudels, and were heading out to start on the “wine” portion of our culture tour, when we ran into Raleigh and Rob – two of Blake’s friends from Vanderbilt. (Man, they are everywhere!)
After a mini-reunion, we made our way out of Vienne central and onto the hillside for some traditional wine gardens. Vienna is known for these gardens, which sprung up during the Hapsburg rule because of a tax quirk allowing wineries to sell the most recent vintage tax free (apparently tax loopholes were invented along with fire.) They are usually accompanied with a traditional buffet of random meats, cheeses, lards, and other such things sold by the weight.
We settled into a table, ordered wine (by the ½ liter), and filled our plates with cheese and meats. Eventually, a Viennese couple sat down next to us (Martin and Martina – easy to remember!), and we struck up a conversation. They recommended several dinner places and traditional foods (brains, anyone?) before Blake and I eventually had our fill of wine and headed back down the hill.
It was back at the hotel that The Evil Vikram showed his face again. This particular hotel had free wifi in the lobby only. You had to pay one euro for wifi in your room. As we went back to our hotel room, we realized that our lights were not working in our room and that we also needed to pay for wifi for that day. Unfortunately for us, VIKRAM was working the counter. Completely ignoring our first request (WORKING LIGHTS – JEEZ, MAN), he offered us wifi for the low price of five euros. Confused, Blake informed him that NOT ONLY does our receipt from the previous day say one euro – their website actually says one euro for wifi as well. BUT VIKRAM WILL NOT BE DENIED. I am pretty sure the argument lasted 30 – 45 minutes, with other guests speaking up on our behalf. He was only convinced AFTER the porter he sent up to check the lights in our room (he didn’t believe us) reported back that we were indeed light-less. He offered us one euro wifi as an apology, completely ignoring Blake’s request for the possibility of moving rooms (this was not the first time this had happened – other hotel attendants OFFERED us new rooms. But not Vikram. Not Vikram at all.)
The next day, we planned to go out to a pool Martin and Martina had recommended the night before, but my dear friend, Mr. Rain Cloud, ruined that plan and we started our day at Naschmarkt – walking through stall after stall of vegetables, fruits, hummus, and olives.
It was raining again (of course), so we found a little covered restaurant, ate lunch, and planned the rest of the day. We had bought combined tickets for Schonbrunn Palace, so we headed out that direction for more royal bedroom touring (in the rain) before heading back to our quiet, clean hotel (sans Vikram) for a nap/rain escaping.
We woke up with barely enough time to buy cheap, standing room early tickets for that night’s opera, Tosca. Unfortunately for us, we were literally 1 minute after curtain rise, and tickets were sold out. However, the ticket seller informed us that we could wait until the end of Act I and buy even CHEAPER standing room tickets at another counter. We waited the 45 minutes at Starbucks and then SUCCESS! We had tickets!
We wandered around the opera house for a while, found some comfortable standing spots and watched the entirety of Act 2 (we only planned on staying for 10 minutes or so – it was that awesome – but not awesome enough to stay for the third act… somewhere in the middle of the two awesomes.)
We grabbed a delicious late dinner of Wiener Schnitzel and Spargle (asparagus) pasta, before heading to bed and preparing for our train to Budapest the next day.
We had a little bit of time to kill before our 2:00 pm train, so we rode the awesome free bikes Vienna has on every street corner to phil, a fantastic coffee shop/book store.
We hung out there for awhile, before heading off early to our train (never too prepared). We saw a train marked “Budapest” when we arrived, and like two big dummies – we boarded. Despite the fact that our train was not scheduled to leave for another 20 minutes. We quickly realized our mistake when this train started moving right along, with the next stop labeled “Salzburg.” Apparently this train was LEAVING from Budapest. Which means it was travelling West. Not East. And also, Salzburg is 3 hours away. Luckily for us, this train stopped at another Vienna train station before heading into the countryside, so we took off in a dead sprint (or as much of a sprint as possible with giant back packs on) back to the subway, hoping we could still make our train. We showed up at the correct train station and correct platform, huffing and puffing, just in time to see our train leave. Sadly, our tickets were not transferrable, so we had to buy all new tickets for a train 2 hours later. BUT WE WERE NOT TRICKED AGAIN and we were able to make it to Budapest.