Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Solo Trip to Vienna. Part 1

jacek-dylag- vienna city view

Last year I took the plunge and went solo traveling for the first time. Whilst some might find this odd or confusing, I really wanted to go away from London for a few days. None of my friends were available and I didn't want to let this be an excuse or more something to hold me back and me ending up not seeing the world. Obviously going somewhere foreign by yourself sounds a bit scary at first that's why I chose to visit Vienna, as the Austrian culture is very convenient for me plus the capital is a well-known treasure trove for art. Very spontaneously, I checked mid-week flights and accommodation and booked a four-day trip a week in advance. Here's what I got up to in mid-June on my holidays in Vienna:

Day 1: Arrival in Austria's Capital


I took an early flight from London and arrived in Vienna during midday. When you fly into the airport, you'll get a lovely view of the city and its surrounding nature with rivers and green fields, which felt awesome. This was exactly what I needed. A moderately small (in comparison to London) city with natural spaces and lots to see and to relax. To get to my hotel, I had researched the easiest was to hop on a bus, which would take approximately 25mins. The airport is moderately big and very well signposted so I had no issues in finding the bus stop. The bus journey was super easy and took me straight to Vienna's South Station, as my hotel was close by. The bus went actually past it, so I knew where to go after I got dropped off. 

My hotel, Hotel Daniel in Vienna, was only a short walk from the South Station and located next door to Palace Belvedere. I'll share a review about the hotel in more detail in another blog post as it was incredible and I had a really great time staying there. It was one of the best hotels I've stayed in with its quirky style and very welcoming staff. Anyway, once I got to my room and dropped everything off, I changed into lighter summer clothes as it was 30 degrees - very hot and humid. First stop, Palace Belvedere which has beautiful gardens and allowed me to stroll right through its park into town. The walk from my hotel into central Vienna took around 20 minutes and I walked past water fountains, old build houses with lovely facades and numerous walk-in supermarkets. In fact, there's a walk-in shop every two metres and having missed German food for a while, I made a little food shopping trip.

palace belvedere in vienna

Once arrived in central, I made a round through the centre. The High Street is typical for any other European capital seamed with the usual franchised fashion retailers and tacky souvenir shops. There were some tourist groups around and after passing the Albertina, an art gallery, I found a bench in the nearby garden Volksgarten to enjoy the early evening hours. The Volksgarten was in full bloom with neat and tidy flower arrangements, little water fountains and a sea of roses. For food, I found an Italian restaurant back in central called Fratelli, which was busy (always a good sign) but the staff treated the service as a conveyor belt, so it was a bit impersonal and overall an average dining experience. 

After dinner, I was curious to walk to the Prater, Vienna's permanent amusement park in the North of the city. From afar, I could see the Ferris Wheel and towers which made it look very close. Fast forward an hour or so and I was still looking for the park's entrance and got a bit lost in a residential area. It was still light and a very warm European summer evening so I didn't really worry too much. Eventually, I got into a huge park which turned out to be the furthest end of the fairground. I made it!

I arrived at the Ferris Wheel shortly before the golden hour and thought it'll be a great opportunity for me to see the sunset from the top. I bought a ticket for 10 EUR and then waited for a few carriages as I wanted to avoid a group of young families with their noisy kids. Next to me were two ladies, maybe a few years younger than me who had exactly the same thought, so once we were happy to board an empty capsule, we started chatting. They were from London too, explored Slovenia and spend now their last days in Vienna before heading back to the big smoke. One of the ladies used to work in SEO and mentioned casually "oh well, it didn't work out" - I couldn't have loved this lady anymore I FEEL YOU! So we then bonded over cursing our previous SEO jobs and agreed it was for the better that we've ended our SEO career. We just made it in time to the top before the sun was completely gone and saw the final sunlight of the day, whilst on the other side in the North a huge storm brew together and send regular some impressive lightning over the city. This would have been a great view to enjoy if the carriages wouldn't have been so rocky. I'm spoilt with the London Eye and its solid capsules, but the Vienna Ferris Wheel is over 100 years old and mainly constructed of wood. It was rocking a lot which made me feel uncomfortable and a bit unsafe. I think this was the longest I've ever been held on top of a Ferris Wheel as everyone sat very quietly in the middle trying to not make a move as it was rocking already pretty hard from the storm. The views were incredible though with colorful flashing lights of the rides below and the dramatic bolts of lightning.

Storm in Vienna shot from the ferris wheel
the city vienna view from the ferris wheel
the ferris wheel in vienna
vienna prater at night
prater shot from the ferris wheel

Once back on the ground, the heavens opened up and it poured buckets. I've never seen so many people rush straight to the nearby station, including me. Vienna's centre is mostly old town so there's not much of public transport centrally, but there's like a ring tram system circulating around its historic centre. It only took three stops for me to be back at Belvedere Palace and the hotel. I fell into my soft duvet and pillow but tossed quite a lot as it took me ages to fall asleep. I don't know what it is but I barely sleep in hotels. Usually, they are too noisy, too unfamiliar or simply the bed is not soft enough anyway, I usually have a hard time to fully switch off sleeping in a hotel. In this case, the air conditioning was faulty which kept me awake for a good while before I got up, dressed and asked the reception guy for some earplugs. Reception luckily had a spare pair and also checked on the air conditioner in my room and said he'll get a technician in the morning to have it fixed. So I went back to bed for round two to fall asleep.  
     

Day 2: Exploring Vienna's Historic Centre


My first proper day in Vienna started with a surprise. The Hotel Manager waited for me at reception and gave me a very generous room upgrade to make up for the faulty air con. I moved into a double room with a hammock and on top, I was invited to breakfast. Yes, please! The breakfast room of the hotel was pretty cool. An open planned space with plants everywhere gave laid back vibes. The hotel also had its own bakery, so I had this lovely lady baking fresh waffles for me and a cold-pressed machine gave me freshly pressed orange juice. I felt completely spoilt and pampered. And OMG roles. Proper German roles. THE DREAM.

fresh waffles served at Hotel Daniel in Vienna

Well fed I was ready to take on the day. My first stop was Palace Belvedere next door. The Palace hosts first and foremost one of Vienna's many art galleries in a stunning baroque building. Treasures of Viennese artists as well as Klimt and Hundertwasser artwork can be admired and there are some incredible architecture and gardens outside, too. The Palace is built on top of a hill whereas the gardens lead downhill to an Orangery which is surrounded by real orange trees (I have a soft spot for orange trees). Inside the Palace, I spend a good amount of time to take in the historic art and to admire Klimt's famous The Kiss - a couple indulged in a very intimate kissing scene which is gold plated and certainly one of the most valuable artworks of our time. It's a stunning painting and an absolute must to see when in Vienna. 

Orangery in vienna

From the Orangery, I knew the way into central so I strolled down the main road and took my time wandering around town and taking it all in. I went into some of the shops, got some inspiration and the current stage German fashion has finally come to, checked out an interesting souvenir shop and made myself familiar with the location of the Austrian National Library and Spanish Riding School which are close together. Not far from the Riding School, I found a lovely authentic Viennese coffee house called Café Central which happened to be one of Vienna's oldest and most traditional cafés. It was mid-afternoon and certainly time for tea and cake, so I found a seat outside in the sun and enjoyed life passing by. From the menu, I ordered freshly pressed orange juice, hot chocolate and the Austrian classic Apple Strudel with hot vanilla custard. All for the moderate price of 15 EUR. Sitting in the sun enjoying the treats was a nice reminder of our traditional coffee and cake time that we celebrate in Germany with familiar cakes and flavours and I can't deny, I do miss German culture and speaking my language.....but I don't miss Germany if that makes sense.  


applestrudle served at cafe central vienna
cafe central in vienna

After tea time, I felt well rested for some more sightseeing so I ended up at the Albertina museum for the next two hours, which hosts over 65,000 artworks including paintings, drawings and old master prints. You'll find everything from Monet to Hundertwasser via German expressionists from the Blue Rider Circle and at the time of my visit, I got to see a free Keith Haring exhibition celebrating the artists' lifework. The collection spans over four floors so I would recommend bringing some time to fully appreciate the artwork on display.

The visit to the Albertina museum definitely left me feeling inspired and hungry to see more art over the coming days. I strolled slowly back towards the hotel but took a few detours and routes in the town centre which I hadn't explored yet. I spend some time in a book shop browsing some of the German magazines and admired the historic architecture and buildings. At some point, I ended up in a small side street away from the busy main road and stumbled upon a hidden restaurant called Figlmüller. There was a small queue and a quick look at the door which was plastered with tonnes of awards and newspaper articles convinced me to check out this place. It was certainly very busy inside and popular with many celebrities who had visited Vienna in the past as I learned from the magazine articles that the restaurant was THE place for Austrian Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu with a traditional wood paneling dining room. I wasn't particularly hungry as I was still full from the apple strudel and it was only early evening, however, I thought the place must be pretty hard to get into later on, so I could maybe squeeze in a cheeky cordon bleu and then not worry for dinner.

I queued up for about 30 minutes and got seated downstairs. The restaurant itself had a lovely charm. It was a very traditional and rustic place with different wood-paneled dining chambers, indirect light and I felt I was in for a real treat plus I haven't had Schnitzel in about 20 years. The excitement, however, clouded quickly as once I sat down a rather moody and taciturn waiter took my order. Apparently, the meal would only come by its own, meaning meat only, which in my cultural understanding is wrong but the tourists would love it. Well, maybe but as a true German, I needed some potatoes and some sort of garnish with it. Just eating meat felt a bit odd.

john-tuesday-fueglmueller schnitzel restaurant in vienna

The waiter couldn't really recommend me anything so I went with potatoes and parsley garnish (it was literally that). Well, at least no faffing about with German precision, you get what you order. The meal took a while so I watched the constant coming and going in the restaurant. It was petty touristy and the Schnitzels were as big as the plates which is in my understanding wrong. The whole place felt like a huge conveyor belt and staff were not very attentive. My food came at some point and it was literally just the Cordon Bleu, no extra potatoes, no veg or any gravy. Speechless. I finished my Cordon Bleu as quickly as possible (it was ok), paid and left. Hm...it was certainly an experience but I doubt I'll go there again if I make it to Vienna a second time.

The evening was still light and warm so I decided to call it an early night and returned to the hotel. On the way, I picked up a few snacks as my dessert from the supermarket and got all excited as there were a few of my favourite German foods. Back in my room, I took a long shower and watched telly on my fluffy new bed. And you may think Oh, you can do this every day at home in London, but I truly enjoyed having an evening filled with German telly for once able to switch off my brain and just let my native language babble in the background. Eventually, I fell asleep in this huge soft bed with its cosy fresh sheets looking forward to two more days in beautiful Vienna.

To be continued......

Thanks so much for reading and till next time when I share Part 2 of my solo travel diary of Vienna.

Carolin
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