Rain. Rain. Rain. Being from a state where rain is not very common, adjusting to constant rain has been difficult. It is easy to say that rain isn’t going to ruin your day; it is hard to actually keep that positivity as plan after plan has to be changed or cancelled due to crappy weather. In the month of May it rained on us 21 days (in six different countries!). It felt like Central Europe had a permanent cloud over it. It is hard to complain when you are on such an amazing adventure with your best friend and husband, but man, we got so sick of the rain. The rain could not, however, ruin Vienna. Even in the cold, rainy, windy weather, Vienna is spectacularly beautiful. We took a shuttle from Cesky Krumlov to Vienna, arriving at the train station too early to check in to our Airbnb. So, we locked our bags up and hopped on the metro into the center of the city. Climbing out of the metro, the first thing we saw was St. Stephan’s cathedral. St. Stephen’s was beautiful and interesting on the outside, although slightly boring on the inside. Then again, after dozens of churches, many begin to look the same.
After passing by Armani, Chanel, Dolce & Gabanna, and many other stores I am sure I will never buy anything at, we took the #1 tram around the Ringstrasse, taking in all the old imperial buildings such as Parliament, the University, City Hall, Hofburg Palace, the old library, and the theater. The “Life Ball”, which is a giant concert that benefits AIDS projects, was happening that weekend, so parts of the city were in full on preparation for the event. The tram ride was the perfect way to see many buildings in the center of Vienna, while staying out of the rain.
The first full day in Vienna had a full day of rain forecasted (surprise, surprise), so we decided to do inside sightseeing and visit the two palaces owned by the Hapsburg’s, Hofburg Palace and Schonbrunn Palace. Hofburg Palace had an amazing collection of porcelain and other types of plates and cutlery, showing just how wealthy and influential the family was. The porcelain plates were only used for deserts, while the family used the “less fancy” silver plates for daily meals.
The second half of the tour was focused of Empress Elizabeth or “Sisi”, who was one of the most interesting imperial women. The audio guide took us through her daily routine, including her crazy dieting and obsessive exercise. We also learned about the history of the period through her point of view. We chose not to pay to go into the other parts of the Hofburg (like the treasury or the many art museums), as each part costs around 10 euro, which adds up quickly. We had also gotten a slow start that morning, so we were running a little short on time.
We wanted to get to Schonbrunn Palace in time to see everything before it closed, plus we still needed to grab lunch, so we hustled to the tram to get to the palace grounds, which are outside of the main city center. It was some holiday (there seem to be more holidays in Europe) so it was really difficult finding an open restaurant. After wandering around for what felt like forever (really only like 30 minutes, but when you are hangry time seems to slow down) we finally found a restaurant that was open and quickly chowed down.
Schonbrunn Palace was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. We spent a little time in the gardens, but headed inside as the rain got heavier. The tour through Schonbrunn took us through more of the actual rooms the family lived in. We saw bedrooms and dressing rooms and ballrooms (no pictures allowed). The palace is huge and the family seemed to have a room for everything, smoking, writing, reading, playing cards. The walls are covered in beautiful art, as are the ceilings. There was some kind of event going on, a concert possibly, so we headed back to the city for dinner.
We had saved all our outside activities for our second day, as sunshine and warm weather was predicted. However, the following morning we woke up to the coldest day we had experienced since our first week of the trip, all the way back in March. Although there was not any rain, it was freezing and windy. We had no intention of abandoning our plans for the day, so we bundled up and headed to the Belvedere Palace to enjoy the gardens. The inside of the palace houses an art gallery, which (not surprisingly) we decided to skip. Unfortunately, since we skip art galleries all over Europe without a second thought, I missed the fact that Belvedere houses painting by Gustav Klimt, who is one of the painters I actually really like. Maybe I should stop assuming I don’t want to go see any art and do a little more research… Oh well, next time!
We spent a little time wandering the grounds before taking the metro to Nachmarket to get some lunch. The market was amazing, selling dried fruit, fresh fruit, fish, meat, veggies, candied nuts and everything in between. We bought some dried watermelon, dried strawberries and wasabi hummus (YUM!!!).
After spending way too much time and money at the market we headed to the famous Vienna Opera House for a tour. We seriously considered going to a show, but we never got around to figuring out what it would take to actually see a performance, so we settled for a tour instead. The Opera House was beautiful, although not as beautiful as I thought it would be. What I found so fascinating was that each day there is a different performance, sometimes two a day. That means that the set from the night before needs to be taken down, rehearsal set for the performance the next day needs to be put up and taken down and then that night’s performance needs to be set. That is some crazy techie action.
We decided to go to the Butterfly House to escape the cold, but we only lasted 15 minutes as it was sooo humid and we were extremely underwhelmed. We have a Butterfly House back in Colorado that is bigger, but the butterflies were pretty and it was nice to warm up a little.
Back out in the cold we decided to take the bus to the huge Vienna cemetery, which is one of the largest cemeteries in the world and is where many famous Austrians are buried, including Beethoven and Brahms. The cemetery is massive and beautiful, with gravestones ranging from tiny and inexpensive, to opulent stone mausoleums. We could have spent hours walking the various paths, but we were getting hungry to we caught the bus to Grinzing, which is a Vienna suburb famous for its wine taverns. They sell local wine by the quarter liter for just a few euros. We drank far more wine than necessary, and ate a delicious Austrian dinner of chicken, ham, potatoes and sauerkraut.
We loved Vienna. It was clean and beautiful and even though it was the worst weather of the trip so far, our spirits were high visiting all the imperial palaces and walking past amazing architecture. I want to return someday and see all the places we missed.