Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Europe - Take 3: Vienna

After our whirlwind 2-day tour of Munich we boarded a train to Vienna.  Well actually we boarded a train headed somewhere else, then changed trains at some little town in Germany and got on our way to Vienna.  It was funny because the guy who checked our tickets on the train attempted to explain to us in German what station we had to "alight" and change trains.  After his entire spiel I sheepishly told him "nein deustche." He smiled and in extremely broken english repeated his speech.  We thanked him profusely (although we already knew everything he told us).

We finally made it to Vienna, navigated their public transport, wheeled our suitcases over some cobblestone streets and found our flat.  This was the first city of 2 where we were staying in vacation rentals rather than hotels, and weren't too sure what to expect.  But the place was great!

After settling in, we walked across the street to get some groceries.  The grocery store was awesome!  It was set up in a circle where you walk around the outer portion and inside the center of the circle was the deli, cheese, and bakery sections.  Corey loved it because they had several beers on sale for less than 1 euro.

That evening we went downtown and saw the Graben (a large pedestrian area - the center of the touristy area) lit up.  It was very beautiful and the weather was great so we sat with some gelato and did some people watching.  We got hopelessly lost trying to go back to our flat late in the evening.  After some wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth we collected ourselves and figured out the way back.  Okay, perhaps that was a bit dramatic, but it was pretty dramatic at the time.  Turns out we took the tram too far - ah well, that was my fault.

Graben at night

Statue we found on the Graben - its Pinocchio!

The next day was definitely the highlight of our time in Vienna.  We visited the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence for the Hapsburg family.  Words cannot describe the beauty and detail throughout the entire grounds.  We started off in the Privy Gardens which were really pretty.  We then did a tour of the state apartments.  I was awe-struck by the opulence and grandeur throughout.  Gold detailing all over the place, crystal chandeliers, beautiful tapestries...ah.  The only downside was that it was extremely crowded in all the rooms so we kinda hurried through.

Overlooking the Privy Gardens with the palace in the back

We then decided to visit the zoo they had on the grounds.  It is one of the best zoos I've ever visited, and I've been to many.  We ate lunch with views of the giraffes and cheetahs - pretty cool if you ask me.  Our favorite animals included the orangutans, cheetahs, penguins, seals and the elephants.  There was a 5-week old elephant who was sooo cute!  After several hours at the zoo we hiked up a hill to see an overlook called the Gloriette.  It provided amazing views of the entire palace grounds as well as the city of Vienna in the distance.

He was cute

The Gloriette

Views from the roof of the Gloriette - Palace & Vienna beyond

We were exhausted and our feet were sore when we finally got back to the flat.  After a nap, I decided my feet hurt too bad to walk anywhere for dinner.  At the grocery store the day before we had picked up some things to make eggs for breakfast, so I made brinner!

The next day we spent exploring the city.  We visited two beautiful churches, the Stephansdom and St. Peter's Church.  St. Peter's was so ornate!  It made me wonder how much was spent on the construction and decor.  It also contained the skeletons of some Christian matyrs all dressed in fancy garb - kinda creepy if you ask me.

St. Peter's Church

Notice all the gold!

Almost looks like a box seat in the theater
We did lots more exploring and some shopping before ending up at the American Bar.  Its well known, not for the drinks, but for the architecture.  Its a teeny-tiny bar with only 3 or 4 small tables and one bar with 5 or so stools.  The ceiling was this beautiful marble, the walls were mirrored with dark wood panelling.  The drinks were pretty good too!  Corey ordered a Czech beer and the bartender brought out Budweiser - what?  The couple sitting across from us said what we were thinking - "I thought Budweiser was an American beer."  Well, apparently the Czech have one too - and according to Corey, its better than the American.  We struck up conversation with the couple who it turns out was from New Zealand and on a very extended holiday.

Our last evening in Vienna we had dinner a place touting to serve authentic Viennese and Hungarian dishes which we found well-reviewed online.  It was amazing!!  Probably the best meal I ate on our entire trip.  I just wish we had eaten there earlier so we could have gone back and tried more!

We had tons of fun in Vienna and found the city to be beautiful.  It was pretty crowded with tourists, but the locals were very friendly.  I would definitely recommend the city to our family and friends.  If were were to go back to Austria I would probably spend a couple more days in Vienna but also try to get out to the countryside and the city of Salsburg.  We were tired and sore after all the walking but were looking forward to our next and final destination, London.

Stay tuned for tales of a crazy flight, a freezing river cruise, Sherlock Holmes, crispy duck, a Rock-n-Roll musical and a little gnome named Gerald.

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