After my whirlwind trip to Vienna recently, I decided that I should write a big, long blog post about my experiences. Who knows? Maybe someone else who is new to travelling, is a bit of a scaredy-cat, and has similar interests to me needs to read all of this in order to make the decision to go!
Means of travel: Direct flights Paris CDG-Vienna, via Austrian Airlines (under two hours one-way), booked after searching various sites such as Skyscanner (and checking bus and train options as well).
Flight costs: 168,83€ return.
Accommodation: I was lucky to have contacts in Vienna, one of whom I stayed with!
Transport in Vienna: S7 train from the airport to Wien Mitte (ticket purchased up to Schwechat). I had already purchased a Vienna Card online, which covered public transport for 72 hours. I had a voucher which I exchanged at the airport for the card, but you can also receive it by post. After that, I just bought 24-hour tickets for the U-bahn (metro) as I didn't really use the discounts from the Vienna Card; student prices were better. I would, however, consider the more expensive Vienna Pass if I were planning to visit all the tourist attractions within a very short space of time, as it covers the entry costs for many places.
Day 1: I left for the airport with plenty of time to spare. I got through security etc. very quickly in both countries, as France and Austria are Schengen countries. I arrived in the evening, caught the train to the city, went to meet my friend Henrietta at our accommodation, and we walked together to the Naschmarkt to find dinner. We settled on Stella am Naschmarkt, which had decent food at decent prices. I bought a burger and fries, along with some wine. Good first meal!
Day 2: We ate fresh bread and I sampled my first Osterpinze (Easter bun - a little like brioche). We left the apartment to explore the Inner Stadt, in particularly the Ringstraße and some of the many beautiful churches, including Stephenskirche - an impressive Gothic cathedral around which the city centre is built. We bought cakes from Demel, including Sachertorte (#1 - which turned out to be the least impressive cake of my trip). We also chose three other sweet treats - Mozartschnitte, a Russian-something-or-other, and Ob-something, which were all very good. We went and sat in the Volksgarten to eat cake, and watched some Austrian boys practicing their tightrope-walking skills. The nearby Burggarten was the next stop because Mozart statue + treble clef garden design = music geek photo op. We were, however, actually on our way to the beautiful and not-too-badly-priced Café Central, where Henrietta ordered another Osterpinze and a cold drink, I ordered a fairly average coffee accompanied by excellent chocolate, and we both ordered classic Vienna potato salads. After that, we headed to the Wiener Staatsoper to watch Wagner's Parsifal, starring artists such as Gerald Finley and Nina Stemme. I wasn't a fan of the production, but the singers were excellent. We had thought about buying standing tickets, but we decided that 5 hours was too long to stand, and settled on just watching from outside - there is a screen which live-streams the stage. In hindsight, I would have bought the tickets, watched the first act inside, and headed out at the first interval. We ended up going to eat during the second act, lining up at Figlmüller to try some Wiener veal schnitzel, which was great. The portions are big, so we bought one schnitzel and split the price. We also ordered more potato salad to go with it, and Sachertorte #2, which was much better than the first one we tried. Once we had finished, we went back to the opera house to watch Act 3 of Parsifal, stopping on the way at the Manner shop (neopolitan wafers, chocolates, etc.). After the opera, we went and sat by the Donau river - jamming some Strauss, of course! It was an excellent end to the night!
Day 3: More bread samples, thanks to our lovely host! By the time we got ready and left the house, it was time for Henrietta to head to the airport, so I was on my own after that. I went up to Kahlenberg at the recommendation of a local that I know, which was absolutely stunning. The weather was beautiful, and the view was incredible. It is very easy to get there, but it is a popular little excursion. Important note: take cash! I attempted to buy a postcard with my debit card, but they only accepted cash up there. I walked to the lookouts that I could find, and then went for a wander through the Viennese woods, with Strauss once again on the playlist! I spent a couple of hours at Kahlenberg, and then caught the bus and the U-bahn back to the city centre. I wandered around the city once I got back, and visited a few more churches. I came across a house where Mozart had lived for a while and where he composed Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which was exciting! If I remember correctly, this was the day when I discovered that my French bank card would not work to withdraw cash, so I was stuck with only being able to visit places that accepted my debit card. Important note: if you ever set up a bank account with BNP Paribas, set your plafonds to a minimum of 600€, and make sure they know when you are going to travel! I found a little outdoor café/restaurant where I bought dinner and people-watched. I sat there for a very long time before paying, as the waitress didn't seem to have gotten the message that I was ready to pay, even when I had said, in German, and pulled out my card. It took about one hour before she finally came to me with the EFTPOS machine. At least the food was good, and I wasn't in any rush.
Day 4: I met up with Harry (who I had met in New Zealand) and Hans, who showed me some great sites that I hadn't seen yet. First of all, we went to search for HelloBank! (BNP Paribas) to see if I could get some money out there, but they weren't a proper bank, and didn't do any actual banking transfers. Harry very kindly lent me some cash, and I paid him back when I got back to France (which also turned out to be rather complicated - French bank accounts are VERY different to New Zealand ones!). We headed to Karlskirche - another important church in Vienna. We didn't go in, as it was too expensive. We also looked at the Russian monument nearby, which is an interesting historical piece. Then it was off to visit a couple of palaces - Belvedere and Schonbrunn. We didn't go inside, but just wandered around the exteriors. We walked up the hill to the Gloriette, where there is a café. There are great views on the way up, too - bonus! At the café, I bought Sachertorte #3, which wasn't as good as #2, but definitely better than #1. We wandered around the Easter market for a little while, where there were all kinds of trinkets and delicacies for sale. Hans and Harry had to leave not long after, so they accompanied me to the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, and said goodbye. I explored the museum for a couple of hours, and then headed to the opera house, stopping at Bitzinger Würstelstand on the way for Bratwurst mit Brot und Senf, which I highly enjoyed. Again, I watched an opera on the live-stream screen; this time, it was Medea by Reimann. I was not a fan. It was home to bed after that!
Day 5: Last day! My lovely host Annemarie took me to Heiligenkreuz Abbey, which is in the southern part of the Vienna woods. We did a tour; it was a good test for my German! The young monk spoke English as well, but I got the gist of what he was saying in German, which I was proud of! After the tour, Annemarie took me back to the city centre, and I went to Palmenhaus Café, which she had recommended to me. It is a big greenhouse building with lots of plants inside. I bought a Palmenhaustorte. It was good! I finally went inside the Wiener Staatsoper after that, doing a tour in English. I would have preferred to explore myself, as the tour was definitely not designed for people who already know about opera. The tour wasn't that long, so I went the Albertina museum afterwards. Next time I'm in Vienna, I will definitely go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, as I prefer classic art to modern art. But the Albertina was still good, and the building is beautiful and historic. I headed to Centimetre for dinner, thanks to Harry's recommendation. The portions there are absolutely massive and the prices are good! I bought the "New Zealand" burger, which didn't scream NZ to me, but there you go! I ended the night by attending La Wally at the Wiener Volksoper - this was a very enjoyable performance, and the production was interesting, though simple.
Day 6: Back to Paris and back to the French language!