That means ‘greetings’/’regards’, so I’m informed.
Getting straight to the point – whilst there’s plenty to see here in Vienna, there isn’t much to do. This means I’m inclined to only create one single post here but don’t be fooled, I’ve still put a lot of effort into this and so you can expect more images than normal so please take your time working through it…
Vienna is the sixth most populous city in the European Union behind the likes of London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome and Paris. That qualifies it as large on any scale and so you have to chuckle when you hear young backpackers say they’ve seen plenty of Vienna as of course the reality is, they really haven’t. Due to the sheer enormity of this city, I accepted early on that I would only ever get to have a very small understanding of it and that’s despite having an entire week here. By contrast, I have recently shared a dorm with an American post-graduate who has just one day here. Still I bet he’ll return home to say he’s ‘done’ Vienna.
There are 23 districts in this city alone and so I at least managed to pay a visit to a few of them which I will share with you in this post.
But first, Vienna… What image or images does this city conjure up for you from say, magazines or movies? In fact, do you ever hear Vienna spoken about very often? What about friends or family choosing it as a specific, well-researched destination for a long weekend?
If the answer is no, or not really to any of the above, I’m beginning to learn that might not actually be a coincidence and I’ll endeavour to try and explain that in this single Viennese post. Let’s start with something prevalent over here – opulence. There is a lot of wealth but that’s not too surprising as that would be consistent with all of the other major cities mentioned earlier. There are relentless, monumentally sized buildings which await you as you ascend and exit from the metro stations. These first two simple images are indicative of the colossal buildings you see all over the city and the latter images are, to no great surprise, hotels.
Some things to see when in Vienna:
The Stephansplatz is a central square in Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna’s cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world.
Here is where the two houses of the Austrian Parliament meet to talk about the weather, beer and what was on the TV last night…
I would discover first hand that this is Vienna’s most popular shopping street. Now, I’ve walked down some pretty big shopping streets before but this one was relentless! It just went on and on and on. When I eventually made it back to my hostel and enquired, I obtained the above information along with it being close to a mile long! To clarify, I mean just retail and food based outlets……………..for a mile!
Here is a standard image reflecting a non-standard street:
In fact, I saw THREE H&M stores in this one street (although granted one was for ‘Home’).
BTW, next time you wander pass a H&M store and dismiss it like I used to do in Cribbs, please note that this has to be the biggest ‘high-street’ brand, ever! It feels like I’ve seen one in every country I’ve been too and a quick Wiki on them shows that they are massive and have over 3500 stores worldwide!
Having now been in a few, they have some really decent affordable stuff so I sense a small purchase in the weeks to come.
The Rathaus Town Hall
These days the building is mainly used for public events. When not hosting an event, you can go inside it and have a loo around. Do your research in advance and you can have a small guided tour for free on several of the days of the week.
Visit and purchase of the many, many things on offer from Vienna’s most popular market. This stretches out for nearly 1 mile and sells local food produce as well as second hand merchandise. (Think car-boot style back in the UK). I bought a new watch for 9 euros to replace my recently misplaced one.
Aptly named, this massive area holds plenty of incredible building structures, museums and some other things. In fact, I think it holds nine permanent museums! It also claims to be one of the world’s largest complexes for modern art and culture and opened officially some 15 years ago.
Schonbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence boasting 1,441-rooms! I didn’t go inside but you can purchase tickets for a tour. I understand that Franz Joseph who is the longest-reigning emperor of Austria was born at Schonbrunn as well as spending a large portion of his life there.
Completed in 1985 at a cost of over 7 million euros, the images that follow are an apartment block owned by the city of Vienna and rented out to individuals just like any other public-housing project. In fact, about 200 people live there. To relieve the inhabitants of the tourist overload, a shopping arcade was constructed opposite and was also designed by the man, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, himself.
Escape the city from within the city:
For my last couple of nights I found different accommodation in a place high above the city but still easily accessible by bus and metro. These shots gives you an insight into the size of the city and then consider this isn’t even a 180 degree angle! Most visitors to Vienna will never learn of this view point let alone be able to visit it so I felt somewhat privileged at this moment.
Why I will look back at Vienna fondly?
It’s certainly architecturally amazingly beautiful. I tried to initially (and naively) contrast it to Rome but quickly realised that’s an apples and pear comparison with the Viennese structures not being built in the same, ancient era. Still though, the attention to detail in the buildings, the volume and the ubiquity of them is staggering.
I met a nice group of travellers in the form of three Canadian’s and an American. One of them commented that meeting each other was the single best thing about being here in Vienna. We spent a good night together consisting of properly authentic Austrian food and drink. Oh and that rather ‘big screen’.
Do you remember a couple of images from earlier of the The Rathaus Town Hall? It was the one with the massive movie screen outside the front of it. Well, in the summer months (such as now), this area becomes alive with masses of people and masses of food outlets. Oh, they turn on the TV too…
Check out the ‘Queen’ on the big screen…
This was a DVD repeat (not live sadly) of Elton’s epic ‘Million dollar Piano’ show. I understand it made its debut in 2011 but this was actually recorded in 2012 at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.
But I’m afraid that’s it. As hard as I try I can’t think of any more fond memories or experiences to share with you.
I appreciate this won’t be the case for everyone and I’m glad as I certainly have nothing against this city. On the contrary I desperately, desperately want to like it and I know a small portion of me does.
Why I won’t look back at Vienna fondly?
It rained for 40% of my time here – and it’s July!
It’s the most expensive city I’ve encountered so far. In fact, I only properly managed to relax a little when I finally adopted the ‘can’t beat em, join em‘ attitude with pricing. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t go paying 15 euros for a meal but I have at least once a day been paying between 5 and 10 euros for something cooked which is probably over 50% more expensive than what I have been used to in South East Europe.
I stayed in two hostels here in Vienna and they were both the strangest hostel experiences I’ve had to-date.
This city is heavily museum and art gallery centric and as such, you can’t really visit many of them if you’re on a budget. To participate in almost any experience here, you have to pay.
Who would get the most out of Vienna?
Truth be told, not the majority of backpackers but I can certainly see why under-informed students think to come here. It’s a major capital city and one that’s easily accessible in central Europe and with decent Euro rail savings for persons under 26, clearly this only further incentivizes their reasons for coming here. Vienna is also in excellent proximity to Bratislava and a reasonable distance to Prague, two other extremely popular backpacker destinations.
I think coming to Vienna for a long weekend could still be a very charming, glamorous destination for a loving couple but less so if you’re a solo traveller and a bit of a philistine like myself. On the other hand, if you have the eyes for the ‘arty-farty’ stuff, the ears for the ‘symphony’ stuff, a desire to visit the Opera, the funds for some retail therapy and some ‘proper’ cuisine, including perhaps a cruise on the river whilst dining, then suddenly where could be better?
A stark contrast then to the two girls I met who couldn’t wait to leave here. Again though, I can understand why as per all of the above. Also they had a weird hostel experience too so this would have only compounded their reasons.
Here we all are enjoying the Austrian government’s wonderful public service. Let’s just say the rail delegates are somewhat relaxed when it comes to ticket control.
What do you think folks, I can still pass for mid 20s on occasion, right? 🙂
The Indian-Canadian fella has just finished a 3 month internship with a software company and he has just been taking on permanently. Well, he starts in a month so is travelling in between now and then. Don’t we all wish we could have done that at 21!? Which software company?
You might have heard of them as they’re based in Redmond, Washington. Computer ‘enthusiasts’ all over the world will know who straight away and so for the rest of you, the company is Micro$oft. Next month he starts working for OSG (the Operating Systems group) division. Nice…