Our 40th Anniversary Trip to Germany-Vienna: Vienna
Vienna was my idea. My wife has always wanted to see Germany; I did, too, but not really with the same passion. As I looked in the tour guides of that area of Europe, almost all of them said something like, “After you see Vienna you should go to [fill in the blank yourself].” I decided that since we were that close, we had to see Vienna. We are both glad we did.
We left Munich by Railjet at 11:26 in the morning and we were in our hotel in Vienna around 5:00 p.m. (The train was a very efficient way to go. You should consider it). Our first evening in Vienna, we dined in the hotel and went to the Opera – Carmen. Tickets were outrageously expensive and my wife purchased them online long before we got there. The opera house itself is a work of art. The performance and orchestra were superb. There is a digital “translator” at every seat. It doesn’t really translate word-for-word; it sort of lets you know what they are singing about. (For example, the translator might say, “Carmen is upset with her soldier lover,” while on stage, Carmen sings for about 10 minutes!)
The old city, itself, is a work of art. There are sculptures everywhere you walk. The buildings are stone, 5-6 stories and ornate down to the window casings. The roots of a great culture of art and wealth are clearly evident. St. Steven church is a central feature: beautiful from the outside. The inside was also gorgeous but visits/tours have become very commercial. This was the only church on our vacation that had limited access and charged for tours. I kind of understand the need to respect the needs of regular parishioners but it sure did not feel “spiritual” to visit that church.
Several times I got disoriented (i.e., lost) walking around Vienna, even with a map. Did not have that problem in any other city we visited. Nevertheless, we saw everything we wanted to see: the Royal Palace (including the Lipizzaner Stallions and treasury; the art museum (over-the-top architecture and the most number of old masters paintings we ever saw in one museum – best art museum ever!); St. Augustine church and Sunday mass with choir (and very moving sculpture/grave of the king’s wife). We walked the old city, stopped in a café for an afternoon snack and browsed in a few shops. We also did the trolley tour around the city that started near the Danube canal (don’t feel too bad if you miss this) and walked in the Royal Garden. Hotel Konig von Ungarn was superb and I would highly recommend it. It was one short block away from St. Stevens. The hotel restaurant for both breakfast and dinner was great. The staff at the front desk was very helpful in selecting restaurants (we recommend Das Stadthaus and Plachutta), sites to see, and even provided us with an umbrella one rainy evening. We departed Vienna after 3.5 days on our great train adventure: we boarded the sleeper train at 10:30 at night and arrived in Bregenz about 9:15 the next morning. We found a way to save a day for sightseeing by upgrading our Europass to a first-class premium double and traveled while we slept! I would highly recommend this method. The service onboard was top shelf. I am 6’3” and fit in the bed without a problem. The shower was another issue. When I got into this giant tube and rolled the door closed, I couldn’t move. It was like being wrapped in Saran wrap. I made due at the sink.
Overall, I liked Vienna very much … and I seem to like it more after I left. I think I may have been a bit distracted trying to navigate the city, occasional rain, and the pervasive commercialism. As I look back, the few rain showers weren’t a big deal (we were very prepared for all weather contingencies), getting lost did not interfere with any of our plans, and the commercialism was not really any different than any large metropolitan area at home. Foremost in my memory is the art, architecture, culture and grandeur of the city … and we would love to go back.
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Our 40th Anniversary Trip to Germany-Vienna: Part 2: Vienna
Our 40th Anniversary Trip to Germany-Vienna: Vienna