Vienna: The Imperial City
We are on our way out of Austria to go to Budapest, Hungary. Our time in Austria was short, but packed with activities.
After arriving in Vienna we immediately took a coach tour of the city. All of the sites in Vienna are basically on the perimeter of something called “Ring Road” which is a four kilometer long road and sidewalk in the shape of a crude circle. We saw a few parks, the Vienna State Opera House, the Habsburg Palace, the Academy of Fine Arts (the school that rejected Hitler’s application) and a few other things.
We learned that Vienna was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during its peak and that most people consider the Holy Roman Empire second in terms of power to the Roman Empire during each of their primes. The Habsburg family brought the empire to prominence and had the first female ruler in European history. The reason they even needed a female ruler was because the Habsburg’s believed in keeping the bloodline very tight and only marrying relatives. This led to a lot of birth defects and one of the daughters was the only person mentally capable of ruling the empire. She was one of the best rulers and introduced things like a proper tax system and an education system for all.
Another interesting tidbit of information about Austria, in general, is that it declared itself eternally neutral after causing the first world war. This means that it cannot tear down statues of questionable figures. In Vienna, there is a statue dedicated to the man who created the forty hour workweek. He also happens to be the man that created the philosophy that Hitler followed – the belief that the world would be better without the Jews. I find it absolutely absurd that they will not tear down the statue. Neutrality is fine, but it sounds like the Austrians refuse to use their common sense when it comes to a simple issue like that.
Vienna is also where Hitler lived for a period of his life before rising to power. We saw the area of apartment buildings he lived in, ironically, next to a bunch of Jewish people. We also saw where he sold some of his artwork on the street. Finally, we saw the university that denied him acceptance to study art. We passed by the very stairs that he sat on and weeped after finding out that he was denied. As my tour guide said, it really makes you wonder – what if? What if he had been accepted? Would everything have been prevented? You really can’t think like that, though.
After our city tour, we stopped and saw the facade of the Schönbrunn Palace. Then, we headed over to a historic schnapps distillery for a tour. The store attached to the museum itself has been used for a few movies as it still looks like it did over 100 years ago! They even have an American cash register from 1915 that has never been repaired and is still functional. The owner of the museum/factory gave us a tour. He was at least 80 years old, but was hilarious. We got to try a few free samples when the tour was over. My favorite one was cherry flavored.
After the schnapps tour, we headed to our hotel and checked in. It was a business hotel about 30-40 minutes outside of the city center. The rooms were much more spacious than anything else I’ve stayed in in Europe. We had dinner at the hotel since there was nothing else around it. I had my second bowl of goulash for the day and one of the traditional Austrian desserts, apple strudel. It was amazing.
Yesterday, we had a free day in Vienna. Since our hotel was so far away from the city center, our Contiki bus took us into the city at 8:30 AM. We arrived around 9:15 AM and walked into the middle of the “ring” area. We saw an amazing and beautiful palace and the Spanish Riding School where the famous spanish horses perform. I have never heard of them, but they are apparently world famous.
We continued to walk and eventually we arrived in the main shopping area of the city. Our tour group had an optional tour of Swarovski and we were able to look around. Since it is an Austrian company, this was their headquarters.
Then, the group split up. I met up with a few people and we went to have a coffee on top of a rooftop bar with amazing views of the whole city. The coffee was only €4 which is apparently cheap for Vienna. Austria is up there in terms of wealth with Great Britain and Germany, so the whole city is ridiculously expensive. The hotel wanted over €120 to do a load of laundry for me!
A view of the Stephansdom
View from the rooftop
After coffee, I split up from the group and went to the Stephansdom, the main church of Vienna. It is a massive building and is absolutely beautiful inside. It was about the only place in Vienna that was completely overrun with tourists. I saw a flyer inside for a concert that the State College Area High School Choir will be performing in Vienna on June 18! Talk about a small world! For those of you who don’t know, that is the high school next to Penn State!
Inside the Stephansdom
Flyer for the State College Area High School Performance
Spanish Riding School
Then, I walked back down to where the bus dropped us off so I could walk around part of the “ring” and take pictures. I saw a lot of beautiful buildings and parks. After that, I walked back to the main shopping area to buy my souvenirs. Then, I walked to the Hotel Sacher to have a cake that they invented. It was a chocolate cake with chocolate icing called a Sacher Torte. It was phenomenal. After my cake, I headed back to catch the bus to the hotel.
Restaurant that made the original Sacher Torte
When I got back to the hotel, a few of us decided to use the pool, sauna, and steam room to relax a bit. Some of the people were surprised that the sauna and steam room were coed and that it was mandatory that you be naked.
After about an hour, I changed and caught the bus back into town for our dinner and classical music concert at the palace we stopped at the night before, the Schönbrunn Palace. The dinner was pretty good and the concert was all right. I do not consider myself a classical music fan, but figured I would go for the experience. I saw about 95% of the performance, but had to take breaks every few songs because it was so hot in the concert hall. I lasted a bit longer than about half of the group, so I can’t complain.