One of our greatest pleasures while travelling is getting to share it with friends or friends of friends. We met up with Esther, a friend of Hannah’s from high school who studied abroad in the United States. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and drinks together, Esther! A shout out to my cousin, Sarah, as well, who put us in touch with a foreign exchange friend of hers, Julia, from high school. Both gave indispensable local knowledge to our visit and we are very grateful for that!
During our visit, Vienna was rainy and cold, which makes for a bad mix as a traveler. We spent the majority of our first day walking around in rough weather to different sights we had tagged. Frankly, when shivering and wet, it can be difficult to squeeze the fullest enjoyment out, but we made a good effort!
Vienna has been known as a cultural capital for decades. We could easily have an entire month in the city to traverse all its many museums, and tack on another month to see the many concerts. This made the city slightly harder to enjoy for us, as we had a limit on our monthly budget for entertainment. Nevertheless, we still saw much of the city and enjoyed it.
Rounding the corner of a busy, clean street, we encountered men dressed up like an 18th century Mozart, trying to sell out the week’s concerts at the adjacent concert hall. Horse carriages carrying tourists tapped by, while the lingering smell of manure hit my nostrils.
As we moved farther down the streets, my cold hands fumbled with my I-phone for directions as we made our way to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. With my compass pointing me forward, I looked up to see rounded glass of a modern building bearing the reflection of the aged cathedral. Like many of the other cities we had visited, churches of the same denomination often stood mere blocks from one other. After our time in the square, we headed to the local market.
Vienna’s market was vibrant and affordable. Stalls of vendors stood in permanent structures selling their wares. Among the options were fresh cooked fish, rotating kebabs, coolers of different spreads, stuffed peppers, tomatoes, and olives, and full-service restaurants. Hannah chose her stuffed grape leaves, while I chose stuffed peppers. We then grabbed some hummus, baba ghanoush, and falafel. It was all fresh and delicious. This was important to us because proper nutrition on the road is difficult to achieve. Many of the places we stay do not have kitchens, or usable ones. This makes preparing food almost impossible.
We had also programmed in an entire day to travel to the neighboring country of Slovakia. Between the cold rain and sheer exhaustion, we skipped it and undertook a “rest day”, one of the few we had in 7 or 8 weeks. This rest day consisted of watching Netflix, planning further logistics for weeks later, and video chatting with our families. These days are essential and too infrequent as we continue our journey. We hope to slow down around mid-June after we exit the European Schengen zone.
Our final day was beautiful and sunny. We visited the Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens. The palace was the living place of the Hapsburgs. Rooms were richly decorated and the audio guide dispelled decades of history as we wandered its hallways. Outside its walls, acres of tall, dense hedges made intricate patterns throughout the grounds. We shuffled along the gravel, gradually moving uphill to the plaza and the Gloriette. At the top, the horizon presented stretches of the city going on for miles.
White the entire grounds reminded us of a maze, there was a separate segment dedicated to hedge mazes. We expected it to be a simple maze, but it was surprisingly entertaining. There were 3 separate mazes. One was technically a maze, while the other two would be better described as labyrinths.
In the same area, Hannah found an awesome playground with pulley machines, transfer stations, and tools to dig sand and move it throughout the playground. We thoroughly enjoyed the weather and all the palace and grounds had to offer. It was an excellent way to finish our stay in Vienna.