Monday, February 29, 2016

Vienna: Coffee, Cake, and High Expectations

As much as I like writing these blog posts, it’s been almost a month since I’ve gotten home and I want to be caught up and writing in real time again!

After my time in the Czech Republic I was headed off to Vienna. I had high expectations for the city because while I am part hippie I am also part wannabe European royalty and what better place to live a life of extravagance than Vienna?

The hostel I stayed at was impossible to find. I walked around for over an hour after I got off the tram. Because I was so excited for the city I didn’t let it phase me too much and also the hostel had free warm apple cider. Almost all of the hostels I stayed in were part of “famous hostels” which is a collection of smaller hostels all over the world. I highly recommend staying in one when you travel!

The "Summer Palace"
The first day I was there I had breakfast at the hostel and then spent the morning at the Schloss Schonburn, the summer palace. I opted to do the long tour with the audio guide and I absolutely loved it. I’ve been to my fair share of palaces and castles but I think this is my favorite so far. I got to see over 40 rooms on the inside which was even cooler than normal (I imagine) because I was almost always alone and when I wasn’t the other people were either cleaning or repairing things so it felt more like I was in a personal space than a museum, like I was truly getting a behind the scenes look at Viennese royalty. I did the audio guide which was very informative. The information was either on Marie Therese (mother of Maria Antoniette) or the infamous Sisi and her husband. It left me wondering when was going on during the other years! I loved walking through the grand ballroom but it was hard to stop myself from dancing around to the classical music that was playing! After my tour of the palace, I walked around the very extensive grounds, which I’m sure are even more amazing when it’s not the dead of winter. There is a glorietta on top of a hill overlooking the city and it’s pretty spectacular. I especially loved the people watching on the walk up as well as at the top. There was even a guy doing Tai Chi.

I went back to the hostel for lunch and some apple cider before taking the metro to “the ring” which is the center of Vienna where all of the main attractions are. It was super windy so I ducked into the University of Vienna (Universität Wien) and pretended I was a student there. Pro tip for traveling: universities have free bathrooms. I went to the Hofburg to see the Sisi Museum, the royal apartments, and royal silver collection as I bought a combined ticket that morning. I was finishing just as they were closing so I had the “alone in a museum” experience twice in one day.

Cafe Imperial
I walked by the Opera House and somehow got convinced that I should buy a ticket to a touristy show. After I bought it the guy who sold it to me was hitting on me, but “oh really, you look 16” just wasn’t something I wanted to hear. I went to Café Imperial, one of the famous Viennese Coffee Houses and as soon as I connected to the wifi I emailed the company and told them not to charge my card for the ticket. I still haven’t bothered to check if they did. I was really flustered at that point, but luckily the Imperial Torte that I ordered was amazing. The experience of the coffee house though, was a bit overrated. One of the problems I had constantly in Vienna was that I felt like such a fraud. I like the idea of the elegance of the city but I just could not pull it off. Later, I went back to the hostel and had drinks with one of the girls in my room. She’s from Switzerland and studies psychology too.

The next morning I went to the Spanische Hofreitschule, the Royal Spanish Riding School, to see the morning practice. The actual practice was a bit boring but the videos they showed of the performances were amazing, especially the jumps that the horses do! Of course, I’m constantly conflicted over whether or not what they do with the horses is acceptable but they seem to be treated pretty well. I went to two smaller museums, the globe museum and the Esperanto museum. Both were very informative, quirky, and cheap. I went to Café Central after which is way over hyped. I ran into the “being too deep in thought” problem but I ended up talking to one of my friends from the states for a while (thanks Noell) which helped a lot.

Royal Spanish Riding School
As I said before, I was overwhelmed with a sense of “fakeness” while I was in Vienna and not long after arriving I remembered the flier that I picked up in Cesky Krumlov for a hostel called the Tree House in the Austrian Mountains. Since I was feeling kind of disconnected I emailed the owner to ask about availability. He had space so I cut my stay in Vienna down by a night and my upcoming time in Budapest by two.

One of the things I had been most excited about in Vienna was going to the Opera. You can get standing tickets for 3 euros and there’s something playing pretty much every night so I had no excuses. I saved it for my last night. I had even told one of my history professors at US about it late last semester and after making fun of me for being so excited, he told me that I 100% had to go. You had to line up three-ish hours before, so after I was done at Café Central I walked around the shopping district for a bit and had some unexpectedly amazing pizza bagels at a cute little café before getting in line.

At the opera
The wait sucked but the opera, Fidelio, was great (yay strong female leads!)I had two really annoying girls standing next to me but they left at the first intermission. There was also “closed captioning” in both German and English which I was not at all expecting but was very thankful for! Normally I’m an avid people watcher but seeing everyone dressed up for the opera made me kind of sad, like how are you possibly so rich that you are dripping in furs (ew) and diamonds. But alas such is the life of an imposter. On the way home I got a gigantic slice of pizza off a street vender and took it back to the hostel to eat with some apple cider… that’s more my speed.

I ran into a slight problem. I was pumped about going to the Tree House but I was not pumped about paying a 100 round trip train ticket. I decided I wasn’t going to. I had heard people talking about Blah Blah Car during fall semester in Sevilla, it’s like a long distance Uber (which is basically ridesharing). I decided to give it a shot. I downloaded the app and found a student who was driving from Vienna to Linz the next day who could give me a ride.

Esperanto Museum
Since my ride wasn’t until 2pm I spent the morning roaming around the city. I walked through the amusement park that was closed for the winter (kind of sketchy but cool) and some of the neighborhoods that were further outside the city as well as some “eco-friendly” shops. I ended up in this one store where I bought a really nice, super comfy but also stylish pair of jeans. I talked to the girl who was working for almost a half hour about traveling and the living in the moment/do what makes you happy lifestyle. It was great. I stopped at a vegan restaurant for lunch and had a falafel wrap and fries. If I had more time I would have tried their ice cream! I had to hurry back to the hostel and then to the metro stop where I was meeting my ride.

My stay in Vienna was very historically oriented and interesting but I can’t say that the social aspect lived up to my inflated expectations, or maybe it was more extravagant than I expected?  That being said, I did everything that I wanted to do and enjoyed myself. I think I was also just getting tired of being in the city.

Glorietta of the Palace

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