Vienna in 3 days
VIENNA IN 3 DAYS
Happy Monday y’all! I’ve chosen this moment to rise from my RuPaul’s Drag Race marathon-induced coma (all the better to avoid face planting into the misery of the world, my dear) and regale you all with tales of my travels.
I’m now in year 5 of living abroad, and each year that passes makes it increasingly harder to justify traveling back to America my ritualistic three times/year. There’s still so much to see (read: eat) in the world! And our silly Irish airline doesn’t properly reward frequent cross-continental travel, so I’m always out of pocket. Grrr.
My family is all back in the states, but my parents have visited us twice since we’ve been overseas. They came to the Emerald Isle in February last year, and by the end of the year they decided they’d make the trek again. Woohoo! I had a solid two weeks off work before the holidays, so they agreed to meet me in Vienna.
It was all of our first time in Austria’s capital, although I’d been to Salzburg for a day trip when my husband and I visited Munich. Salzburg is just gorgeous – it’s all rolling green hills, crisp air, clean streets and nods to Mozart (it’s his birthplace) like everywhere. I fell in love and couldn’t stop singing the Sound of Music, and I expected Vienna to look and feel similar. Well color me surprised. It’s nothing like Salzburg, and instead it has a charm all of its own.
Our first stop was to grab some true Viennese grub – spaetzle, sausage, pretzel – and then took a taxi into town where we roamed around Stephensplatz.
It was December, and Vienna is all about the Christmas markets.If you’ve never been to a Christmas market they’re a real treat, and they’re what Eastern Europe does right. There are stalls that sell various nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, Santa Clauses and angels, and lots of delicious local food and drink.
There are a bunch of markets spread out all over the city, but we made sure and grabbed some gluwein – like a steaming cup of Christmas-flavored sangria – at the small one in Stephensplatz.
I imagine Stephensplatz is Vienna’s Times Square (read: clusterfuckish), so we didn’t stay there for long. After asking around we found out the biggest market was in Rathausplatz, so we took a taxi over there.
This was the best Christmas market I’ve ever been to, with tons of the aforementioned stalls and some surprises too. Probably the tastiest thing we tried were langos, which are crispy, deep-fried Hungarian flatbread with a delightful garlicky aftertaste. There’s also plenty of marzipan-infused candies and lots of fetchingly draped bratwurst, as one may expect.
We eventually had to escape the sub 30-degree cold and go into a popular cafe alongside Rathausplatz. We had some tasty Mozart hot chocolate, which is influenced by the Mozart chocolates they sell all over Austria. They’re dark chocolate truffles with a pistachio/marzipan nougat. Drool, right?
We dove into culture on our second day in Vienna, when we hit the Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. We just did the 22 room imperial tour, which was mostly focused on Maria Theresa, the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty and mother of Marie Antoinette, and Franz Joseph and his wife (ahem cousin) Sisi. Maria Theresa had 16 children (!!) but only 13 survived until adulthood, and they all looked like versions of Bea Arthur when they were children. I mean, terrifying.
Franz Joseph was apparently a work horse despite having inherited his royal decree “from God,” as the monarchy claims, and he’d wake up at like 3 am every morning to begin work. His wife, Sisi, had like waist-length hair and weighed like 90 pounds despite being 5’8″. She was a national treasure, even though she resented/despised the monarchy and was so clearly never in love with Franz Joseph.
We learned much more about Sisi at the Hofburg palace, which is the summer palace of the Habsburg dynasty. If you’re only in Vienna for a couple of days I’d say that’s the palace to see. There are three parts – the silver rooms, imperial apartments, and Sisi museum – but I’d recommend hustling through the silver rooms so you’re not totally beat down by the end. They’re exhaustive, to say the least, although some of the table settings are hilariously tacky nowadays. I particularly enjoyed this artichoke and split pea-topped dish that Marie Antoinette gave someone as a gift.
The imperial apartments are interesting, but the true star of the show is the Sisi Museum. That woman was fascinating, and they really go deep into her life. They begin by showing you her whimsical childhood in Germany and then subsequent marrying off to Franz Joseph at age 16. Her whole family was majorly effed up, and at one point they show the tragic fate of all of her siblings. They were the Kennedys of their time, and even Sisi was assassinated by some shiv-wielding Italian anarchist. She was stunning though, and she spent the majority of her life resenting her position and apparently combing her waist-length hair. That palace is a definite must-see.
Next on the tour was the Mozart museum, which we had trouble finding since Google maps kept sending us down some alley. En route, we stumbled on Mozart’s original concert hall, which is where they still have orchestras to this day. It was beautiful and tiny – it probably only seats like a maximum of 50 people – and the acoustics were really begging to be tested. Fortunately (for the others) I didn’t sing, which will always be a life-long regret.
We did eventually hit the Mozart museum, but honestly that was the weakest museum we visited in Vienna. It was only three floors, and the audio guide was MUCH too detailed. Mozart was apparently a total delinquent with money and moved like every six months while living in Vienna, so he and his family weren’t there for long. Also, the museum doesn’t know what each room actually was, so there are signs everywhere that say “kitchen?” and “living room?” I guess I appreciate the honesty, but it seemed like a bit of a rip off. There was no original furniture there, and to top it off there were these weird peep shows in all these different little viewfinders scattered around the rooms.
A highlight was definitely the Belvedere museum, which houses the largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s work. He’s my favorite artist – the gold leaf! – and this museum has “The Kiss” among his other work. “The Kiss” is stunning in person, but I also loved lesser-known works like “Judith” (so sassy!) and “Portrait of a lady in black.” This museum also has “Water Serpents I,” which is one of two paintings I adore. The second one is my favorite painting in the world, but that’s in a private collection. Lucky bastard. Also, the gift shop is not to be missed. I got a small version of “Adele Bloch-Bauer” and a lens cloth with “Water Serpents I” on it. Also, this wrapping paper with “The Kiss” on it was just gorge.
All in all, Vienna was great! We skipped the opera, but even without it we had culture coming out of our pores at the end of the three days. I’d definitely recommend.