Vienna Travel Blog

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As I mentioned in my previous post, the hotel we stayed in in Vienna was right in the middle of one of the busiest streets in the city, called Kaerntnerstrasse. Now, I've seriously fallen in love with that place. It's big, wide busy street, but it's only pedestrians, so it feels sort of like a high street somewhere in England, but still different - it's airier, and more ... aargh I don't know it's more something else, that I can't explain. Alive? I guess you can say that..

The weather was fabulous while we were there, it only rained a couple of times, and the nights were slightly balmy, with the occasional chill. Perfect. There was this adorable little Italian restaurant literally attached to the hotel, damn, I can't remember what it was called, but it was so quaint, and tucked away - and the waiters were so friendly, they eventually got to know us, and even though we ate there no more than 3 or 4 times, they were just so welcoming, they added a lot to our trip.

Probably the only criticism I would make about Vienna is the occasional unpleasant service. The hotel staff, clerks, waiters (not the cute Italian place, though), etc, for some reason were just rude! Other people, like just general citizens of Vienna, were nice enough and really helpful, but for some reason the people who were expected to try and give a good representation of their country, were rarely ever helpful, and if someone tried to judge the city based on the warmth of the service industry, I'm afraid they would be receiving a chilly disappointment. This of course, is my own personal experience, probably marred by one staff of unbelievably rude waiters from a supposedly fancy restaurant in Kaerntner, and another equally rude tram driver.

Oh well, I know better than to form too hasty an impression. Anyways, even if the entire population of Vienna consisted of the grumpiest rudest meanest human beings on the planet, that wouldn't make me appreciate the place any less.

Most nights, my sister and I would walk around as much of Kaerntner as possible, pressing our noses against the windows of Cartier and Hermes at our leisure, and stopping for the delicious ice-creams (hazelnut... yum!) sold from the carts scattered around the street. Just like every major tourist attraction, there were all kinds of vendors selling the oddest things, artists painting caricatures, sketches, or my least favorite, 'contemporary art' pieces... whatever you want really. I recommend you be cheesy for once and buy a kitschy piece of art when travelling - it's the law for travellers. Yes it is!

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Day numero uno in Vienna was hectic!

When we arrived at the airport, my father said that he had arranged for someone to pick us up and drive us straight to our hotel so we wouldn't suffer getting lost or ripped off by scheming cab drivers. We got there, and couldn't find a single sign with our name on it, or a single person who was looking at us as though they recognized us. We ended up hiring a taxi for FIFTY euros (with MY credit card, might I add!!!) to take us to our hotel which turned out to be a lot closer than we thought, for what we spent on the taxi!

Minor setback. The hotel was great. Each room had artwork which reflected parts of Austria - a massive print of Klimts 'the kiss' in one, a painting of Schloss Schonbrunn in the other. The view was phenomenal. The hotel - called the Astoria - was right smack in the middle of KaerntnerStrasse, Vienna's famous high street, with balconies overlooking the busy street.

As soon as we unpacked and freshened up, we started pounding the pavement.

Tip #1 for any traveller: walk everywhere - it's the only way you're going to discover the city. If you want to cover more ground, get into a local bus, sit by a window and stay in it till the bus goes through it's whole route; that way, if you notice something you like, you can get off at the next stop, and voila! new discovery! If not, then all the money you wasted was one bus ticket, and you got to see a part of the town.

Usually I shy away from overly touristy activities, but this time I wanted to be a bit cliche, so we walked around Kaerntner, and spotted a bunch of horse drawn carriages milling around by St. Stephen's Cathedral, and couldn't resist! I adoooore horses, so I was willing to expose myself to Vienna as the eager, sickenly cheerful tourist that I was, if just to let myself be drawn by those amaazing creatures for an hour or however long I was in there. I must admit, it was great.

The street we stayed on was great. We each had lunch at a different cafe, because we were all craving different things, so ended up travelling from cafe to cafe for quite a while, but none of us minded at all. We went to the ever-present Nordsee, with all the seafood (my sister), a McDonalds (my brother), a sleek cafe called Cafe Europa (moi), and a little pizzeria whose name I forget (mom)!

It wasn't really lunch, though, since it was sort of 5-ish, but it felt like it anyways, since the day was still bright, and the place was at its busiest. After eating, it finally hit us that we had only just got off a plane several hours ago, and barely slept on our way over, and so decided to head back to our place. The thing I couldn't get used to about the hotel was that there was no air-conditioning. I realize that it's completely redundant in Austria, of course, but we're all so used to having it, and even though it was only a little warm (I would say not higher than 27-30), we're used to sleeping in freezing rooms, so we kept the all the doors to the balconies and the windows wide open, and slept without any covers.

Seriously, though, I don't think I've ever slept so well in my life! We sort of drifted off to the sound of the bustling street below us, which wasn't at all annoying (on the contrary, it was strangely comforting), and the occasional distant church bell. I'm the kind of person who tosses and turns like crazy in her sleep, and always wake up asleep on my stomach, but this time I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and woke up in the same exact position as when I fell asleep (on my back!). I also woke up ridiculously early - seven o'clock for crying out loud! Who wakes up at seven on a holiday?

I don't know what it was about Wien, but it really regulated my sleep! Any insomniacs out there? You'll find the cure in Old Vienna. Hmmm that should be their new motto!

More about the rest of my trip soon :)



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photo by: hellenica