With the crazy start to 2019 that both Emily and I have had, I have just taken another trip without her. Luckily, while work hasn’t been on our side when sorting time off for this half of the year, we have been planning loads for the second half of it. Expect months of extended travel through Asia and the USA starting hopefully in August! So, leaving Emily behind and travelling up to London to meet Kevin, we took a midday flight from Gatwick to Vienna for our second getaway this year. We didn’t have too much planned for Vienna beyond eating the food, soaking up the café culture and drinking some good Austrian beer, which was refreshing after the busy schedule we gave ourselves in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore!
Night view over Vienna
After we had checked into our hostel we headed out, grabbed some takeaway schnitzel and made our way to the Wiener Riesenrad, one of the oldest operating Ferris Wheels in the world and an iconic landmark for the city. It had got dark, so while the cabins were too big for me to shake and give Kevin a scare (afraid of heights), we did get amazing city views. Thoroughly recommended. For 25 euros we got combo tickets to get us into the zoo over the weekend as well, another of the trips we wanted to make.
From inside the Wiener Riesenrad, looking down
We made our way back to the hostel via Fischer Bräu, a famous Viennese beer hall. Our first taste of Austria’s beer. Fantastic. 3 steins for 12 euros meant we got to try a mix of Pilsner, Dunkel bier and Weissbier. Even Kevin, not a massive beer drinker, loved it. We were sat outside, wrapped up in blankets on a clear night, catching up over everything since we last saw each other. A great end to our first day.
Getting stuck in
Getting up at a reasonable time the next day, we joined the walking tour that set off from our Hostel (Wombats). Free walking tours are a great way to see the city from the perspective of someone who lives there and take in some of the history along the way. We went through districts 6 through to 1, seeing how the city grew and walking through the Winter Palace, where the majority of the cities museums are now located.
Just walking around the city – at the core of all city breaks
We ended our tour at the magnificent Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The most iconic site in the city, the church is as impressive as it is beautiful – stunning gothic architecture with a multi coloured tile roof give the impression of something as different as it is familiar to anyone who has travelled to any of Europe’s older cities before. Inside, the ornate statues and structures make this the single must visit location for Vienna. Definitely check it out!
A true Gothic masterpiece
From Stephansdom we were just a short walk from Café Sacher, one of the most famous luxury coffee houses in Europe. We had to wait a little while to be seated, but oh man, was it worth it! Trying the Sachertorte, at the birthplace of the famous cake, was to die for. Chocolate and apricot. Bitter and sweet. The perfect combination. Plus a selection of strudel and cream and some of the nicest coffee around. Heaven. Nice to relax and people watch after a busy morning.
A king among cakes
Our next stop took us to the Belvedere. Walking through the summer palace gardens on a sunny day is quite an experience. I love being outdoors in gardens or parks. It doesn’t matter where I am, it is always much nicer than being cooped up indoors. Kevin chose the Belvedere so we could see The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. The Upper Gallery, which in reality is a whole building, can be visited for just 16 euros and as you wander through the various floors you can’t help but appreciate the rich artistic history that Vienna and Austria have. As you get to the Klimt’s you get to see some of the best works from the famous symbolist painter ending in The Kiss, one of the iconic paintings of Europe. Well worth a visit.
The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt
After a rest at the hostel, 7Stern Bräu was our choice of food and drink for the night following a recommendation by our walking tour guide. A fantastic microbrewery with some of the best beers I have had. The Weiner Schnitzel was the best we had in Vienna and it was served with a delicious potato salad. We got drunk. We had a great time. It was exactly what we wanted from Vienna.
Nothing like a brewery!
Our last day was largely spent at Tiergarten Schönbrunn, the famous Vienna Zoo. With it being the oldest zoo in the world and consistently voted Europe’s best zoo, it is needless to say Kevin and I had a great time. We normally have pretty good luck with seeing most, if not all, of the animals out and active during our visits to zoos and this was no different. Actually the only animal we missed were the lions! But the polar bears were great to see, as were the orangutans, so not all was lost. Plus the zoo had a panda, an animal I’ve not seen before. Easily a full day out, with animals in good living conditions and plenty of conservation work and breeding programmes. While not as ideal as seeing animals in the wild, the work of zoos in Europe today is vital for the future of our planet and the protection of some of our most endangered species. So you are doing some good by visiting.
Feeding time for this leopard!
Our final authentic Viennese experience was to enjoy a couple of hot dogs throughout the day. Weiner, while synonymous for hot dog, actually means Viennese in German, pointing to the history of this international fast food favourite. Our sausage at the zoo was great, but our second as a grab between watching a football match and spending our last evening at the pub, was even better. Amazing what a few beers can do! The following morning it was an early checkout followed by an early flight back to London and a hungover coach journey back to Plymouth for me. A long day of travel, but well worth it. Vienna you were fantastic!
Belvedere – spectacular!