TLDR: September had such density (in terms of cities) that it had to be split into 3 parts. This is part 1, Austria. Vienna is an ornate city, where many things are labeled “ wiener ——-” (haha). We saw the clock museum, St. Stephen’s cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, Karlskirche, Hundertwasserhaus, the Palace of Justice, the State Hall in the Austrian National Library, two yarn shops, and a 2D cafe. We had Viennese coffee at the oldest coffee shop in the city, schnitzel several times, some apfelstrudel, and got fooled by a scoop of what tasted like lard masquerading as mashed potatoes. In Salzburg, we walked through the city to the castle fortress, took a bus to Hellbrunn to visit the Sound of Music gazebo, visited both Mozart’s birthplace and Mozart’s house, couldn’t find a coin laundromat anywhere, and took a day trip to Hallstatt (And wow! It looks like a fairytale).
Notable Differences regarding Austria
There are no kangaroos in Austria 😉 Hotel doors lock with a key from the inside (seems dangerous and a potential fire hazard), stores/places close early, and were is less transportation and travel information than we needed to be efficient. People didn’t seem overly warm, but they weren’t rude.
We took an early flight to Vienna after 4 hours of sleep, so we arrived feeling beat up and tired… again. Our first impression of Vienna involved confusion and missing our first train, but not because we were late. The signs are primarily in German–strike one for us–there were limited instructions–strike two–and nobody was around to help–strike three. We were at the correct train platform and on time, but the train number didn’t match our tickets so we didn’t get on it. It was our train and we watched it roll away. Apparently, the trains change numbers during the journey. That information would have been useful. Alas… But we got on the next one and it took us to the city center. Huzzah! Perhaps next time we will choo-choose a different method of transport.
We dropped off our stuff and headed to the clock museum (Uhrenmuseum), which was quite interesting and showcased over 700 exquisite clocks spanning 800 years. I asked a member of the staff which one was his favorite. He mentioned one that came from St. Stephen’s Cathedral and asked if we’d seen it yet. Then, he paused to see our reactions. We gave him blank stares. After we left the museum, we stumbled upon a gigantic gothic catherdral in the heart of Vienna. It was St. Stephen’s and it seems as though the entire city was built around it. That’s when we realized why we should have been impressed.
Two of the most beautiful places were the State Hall in the Austrian National Library and the Palace of Justice. The library was quite nice. Full of thinly sliced tree bits. The Palace of Justice is a functioning courthouse, but the security staff was remarkably nice and allowed me to wander around taking pictures. We decided to forgo most of Schönbrunn Palace because most areas required a ticket and if we wanted to see them all, it would have costed around 30 euros each. We would rather eat 30 euros’ worth of food and take photos in the pretty free area, so we did 🙂
As for food, we like to try “the thing from the place”. In Vienna, that includes trying the apfelstrudel, schnitzel, and Viennese coffee. All good, but we prefer a different flavor of coffee. The shop that we had the Viennese coffee was the oldest in the city and a place where once Mozart performed. It was also the place where Chinda said “Vanilla Ice” in an organic context (coffee description and not rapper). I still had to seize the opportunity to beat box the rhythm of Ice Ice Baby (Jyn rolls eyes).
We popped into two yarn stores. The first one was Wolle Wien. Wolle Wien is a family owned shop located in an old church building and is one of the prettier yarn shop exteriors that we have seen. They carried a variety of high quality yarns. Jyn purchased a skein of hot pink Lang mohair. Then, we went to Wollmeile. A reasonably priced shop across the river, but we didn’t buy anything. Multiple restaurants/cafes that were recommended were closed, even though the listed hours said they should be open. That has been a recurring issue.
Next, we took a 2.5 hour train to Salzburg, a small city about 3 hours away from Vienna that is surrounded by mountains, rolling green hills, and a fortress built on a hilltop. It’s quite picturesque. Hundreds of years ago, the city got its name and generated wealth from mining salt. Hence, Salzburg. The city center is small and pleasant for walking. It is lined with shops and cafes, and horse drawn carriages are a frequent sight on the streets. If you like to hear church bells, this is the city for you. At least 4-5 churches ring their bells each hour. Staying in Salzburg required some expectation adjustments beyond the bells. The town closes early (~8pm), there’s no coin laundromat anywhere, and most places are closed on Sunday. Austria is fairly religious country, but strangely, we were put in hotel room number 666 (it was fine, but the small bathroom was hell). We visited the pavilion from “Sound of Music” in the gardens of Hellbrunn Palace (yes, many palaces in many pa-laces) and enjoyed eating small meals at restaurants or cafes overlooking the city or river.
We took a day trip to Hallstatt and it was amazing. Waking up for the day trip was less amazing. We left our hotel at 5am to get on a train and then 3 buses. It was worth it, though, as Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places that I have ventured. It is a small mountain town on the shores of a clear blue lake, and only a limited number of vehicle are allowed inside. The city maintains traditional architecture, which adds to its charm. Most windows have slender pottery on the railings and are overflowing with flowers. Every time I put my camera away, I had to take it out a few moments later. I was photo bombed by white swans! Is this even a real place? My words will not do it justice, so here are some pictures to assist…
Well played Austria. Clearly, eight days weren’t enough to experience everything it has to offer. For example, we missed going to the birth place of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Correction: Mike missed going to the birth place of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Chinda doesn’t care. Croatia, here we come!