Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Austria: Vienna

By Melissa at 3:55 AM
June 16 - June 19

Vienna was another last minute addition to the itinerary, and as with Germany we were not disappointed. We had heard great things about Vienna from many people and we also knew someone who lived there and could give us insider tips. It also worked out nicely that one of the regions in Hungary that we wanted to see was roughly in between Vienna and Budapest.

The architecture in Vienna is what stands out the most. Almost every single building on and inside the Ring Road (Ringstrasse) surrounding the inner districts is nice. This is not entirely surprising given that many of theses buildings were constructed when it was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a center for the arts, culture and music. On our walk around the downtown and around the Ring Road, which we did on two separate days, we saw the Austrian Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna Opera House, St. Stephen's Cathedral, University of Vienna, the Vienna Natural History Museum and the Vienna Art History Museum. We didn't go into many of the buildings or museums in Vienna because they were fairly expensive, but we did spring for tickets to the House of Music and Sound Museum. There were four floors of exhibits, each with a different theme. Most of the exhibits were interactive, which was a nice treat. Just outside of the city, we visited the Schönbrunn Palace, a sprawling summer residence for the Hapsburg rulers.

Karntner Strasse
From Vienna, Austria

The Rathaus across the Heldenplatz
From Vienna, Austria

Schloss Schonbrunn
From Vienna, Austria

Closeup of the fake roman ruins in the Schonbrunn Gardens
From Vienna, Austria

The city also has a nice, laid back atmosphere with many universities and plenty of young people. We wandered through the Museumsquartier on a Friday night, and it was packed with 20- and 30-somethings hanging out and drinking beer on the large, plastic loungers that filled the center of the main square. We also happened to be in Vienna during their annual gay pride parade, which made us feel right at home. The parade itself was not that exciting as the parade floats mainly consisted of big, flat bed trucks with very little decoration aside from the advertisements hanging off the side and lots of people dancing and drinking beer. But the people on the street were festively attired and we got a few good pics. Some were not appropriate for the blog.

Gay pride parade, Vienna style
From Vienna, Austria

And then there is the food. Vienna has large populations of Serbian and Turkish immigrants, making for a delicious mixture. We visited the Naschmarkt, an open air food market where you can find all sorts of yummy goodies like nuts, cheese, baked goods, spices, seafood, olives, stuffed peppers, stuffed artichokes, sushi and a number of restaurants serving all sorts of international cuisine. We went here twice in the three days we were here and I wish we could have squeezed in a third visit. Brian was also very happy to be back in a country that is coffee crazy. In Vienna, the emphasis is on specialty coffee, very few people drink straight espresso, so Brian has fun trying the different variations. He fell in love with the Wiener Melange or Viennese Blend, which is similar to a cappuccino.

Stuffed and pickled things at the Naschmarkt
From Vienna, Austria

Flavored hummus at the Naschmarkt
From Vienna, Austria

The famous Sacher Torte
From Vienna, Austria

Apple strudel with sweet cream
From Vienna, Austria

The only disappointing thing about Vienna was that it happened to be raining during the few days we were there and so we did not get very many good pictures. But since we only spent a few days in Vienna, it is definitely on our list of places to revisit in the future, so we'll just have to wait until next time! Our next blog post will be on our 11-day trip to Hungary, so expect even more discussions about food.