When I had put Vienna on my itinerary, I was aware of its apparent charm and the hype around its architecture. So, as I started Instagramming accounts that had pictures of the streets and the insides of museums or cafes, my curiosity and excitement grew. The city looked unrealistic and so much opulence in one place seemed bizarre to even imagine. So, by the time I did reach Vienna, I had already built an idea of what the city must feel like in my head. Now often what happens when you expect too much or fantasise about a person or a prospective situation is that you tend to fall flat on your face. Expectations, ideas, dreams, et al. But Vienna lived up to the hype.
We reached Vienna around noon and the rain was pelting upon the city with absolutely no sign of stopping. We stopped at a very random coffee shop for a pot of hot tea and a latte and the owner was nice enough to offer us a slice of really delicious cake. Our spirits were dampened and we were quite pissed because our checklist had a billion places that awaited a visit. Vidhi and I kept consoling each other that we had three more days but it felt like a compromise. So we decided to do what we would do anyway, regardless of the rain.
We started walking.
The Latte & Cake
The first and nearest tourist attraction was Stephensplatz. There is ample charm floating around the city. Just like our horse-drawn carriages at Churchgate, Vienna too has its own carriages called the Fiakers. The difference lies in the fact that these are exceptionally maintained and could pass off for the king’s ride. The carriages are stark white or black and polished, glowing and come with a rider who was better dressed than I have been at any point in my life. Moving on. The Stephensplatz is a church and has a great view from the top. That is, if you climb. I had no energy to climb a thousand steps just to see some cityscape and so we decided to head to the Hundertwasser House. Athough a bit away from the city center, the house was designed by an Austrian artist and is known for its non-traditional design, a clear departure from most of Vienna’s art.
Absolutely dying in 7 degrees and with rain showing no mercy, we still made it to this place. Feeling a bit ridiculous at our extreme stubbornness to not return to the hotel come what may, we started contemplating if we should visit the café on the list, after all. It would be just absurd to go back to the hotel at 7 pm when you are in Europe, right? WHO DOES THAT! But we had no choice and fixed ourselves coffee and sat around cribbing. Something we do exceptionally well, when in a bad mood.
Now one thing I must draw your attention to is the fact that Europeans are quite silly when it comes to practicality. Our rooms had an air conditioner which was set to start only if the temperature goes above 20 degrees outside. Now what these blundering idiots fail to comprehend is the fact that it could as well be snowing outside but what happens on the inside is a different story altogether. We were staying at a place called Adagio Wien (never book here) and our room was more like an apartment hotel space. While the spaces are all stark clean, the claustrophobia is intense when there is no ceiling fan or even a cooler working. We were almost sweating and this was the cherry on the cake after a beautiful day that we had had. Regardless, we deliriously started laughing it off and called the manager who was a snooty Austrian and spoke to us like we were his butlers. They finally arranged a desk fan which didn’t really cool the room but managed to cool our rising anger. We asked for a partial refund like we would have in India and got a curt NO. So the four nights spent we spent at the hotel were barely memorable, but we managed.
The Hofburg Palace
Now why I loved Vienna was the fact that the city has a resounding culture that is brimming with artists, designers and fashion. The Hofburg Palace is the imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty that ruled the city, serving today as the official residence of the President of Austria. Most of what you would want to witness and visit is around the Palace. The two famous museums- The Kunsthistorisches and the Naturhistorisches Museum which are the Art History and Natural Museums respectively are just around the corner and the famous Austrian library is located at Josefplatz, a lane away from the palace. The streets around the Palace are rich, luxe and swamped by brands the likes of Chanel, Prada, LV, the works. And all you can do is gaze!
The Austrian National Library
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
A thriving coffee culture dating back hundreds of years is evident and every coffee shop comes with the famous Sacher cake, a cake that gained immense popularity and goes well along with a hot cappuccino. While the cake was essentially served in Hotel Sacher, it grew so popular that every café built their own recipe and now serves the cake as an ode to the city’s culture. I found the cake bitter and the whipped cream comes unsweetened, which isn’t really my palate. Café Pruckel, Café Demel, Café Central. Café Hawelka and Café Aida are a few coffee shops that tourists tend to visit. However there are many more that you can look up and go on a café hopping spree. I would have totally done it if we had the time, but as usual, we were on a run and our next spot was waiting.
Do Read: Guide to Drinking Coffee in Vienna
The Belvedere Museum is the Summer Palace of Prince Eugene ( I don’t really know the history here but just penning down Prince Eugene makes me feel like I am Jane Austen, pardon me for these random thoughts ) and is located outside the city center which is called the Inner Stadt. So we finally took the subway and quickly reached the Palace to see Gustav Klimt’s famous painting- the Kiss. After reading quite a bit about the artist and this painting, I was so surprised to see it just kept like it could be me who had contributed to this museum. No celebration and no fanciness. Maybe the Austrians don’t really appreciate his ideas and philosophy considering how controversial his art was. The palace is spread horizontally across acres and has gardens in the front. But a lot of this has changed over the years.
And that’s how we covered most of the city. While I must say that Vienna took me by surprise, Paris will always have my heart.
Do Read: My Parisian Experience