Freshly baked apfelstrudels, morning and evening mélange (cappuccino), and the textural stylings of old world cobblestone streets and Romanesque-to-Baroque buildings are probably what come to mind to the many people who have made the journey to Austria’s Imperial City, Vienna.
For me, it was all that, and a little bit more.
Once my girlfriend Marinell and I got finished untying the various knots that the pretzel-twined city streets tied us into since we were without the luxury of Google Maps and forced to use only physical maps, we discovered a charming world of cafés, classical music, and foodie culture.
Some of my favorite moments besides attending my first concert of classical music at Mozarthaus and a Sunday matinee of Hänsel und Gretel at the Volksoper revolved around food and drink. This should come to no surprise to those of you who know Marinell and I well enough; that’s what we enjoy doing most when we go anywhere we haven’t been to before.
Goulash in a bread bowl started our first night off in Vienna on the right boot –– and the hot red wine served to us in little red boot mugs also made our first trip to Stephansplatz, the city’s center, a wonder despite all the designer shops that surrounded the plaza.
Christmas Markets are the big thing in Vienna during holiday season, and that’s where Marinell and I found ourselves frequenting most evenings. My favorite was the one in the Rathaus, which quickly became my favorite building in the Imperial City ever since I started Googling images of Vienna a week before the trip, but others included a rather large one at Maria Teresa Plaza and, of course, the one at Stephansplatz.
The Third Man Door was probably the biggest highlight for me. One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Vienna was because of Carol Reed’s 1949 movie The Third Man, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. I longed for years to stand in the doorway where the mysterious Harry Lime (Welles) makes his first appearance in the film, and I did. And it felt awesome.
Schloss Schönbrunn, the summer palace of Vienna’s royal family, the Habsburgs, was an amazing experience as well, and one in which I learned a great deal of Viennese history (‘cause, y’know, I didn’t do any research before jumping on the plane to Austria). Marinell and I toured through some beautifully decked-out rooms, and also scaled the hills and dips in the Garden.
Upper Belvedere and Klimt’s “The Kiss” rounded off our extended weekend in Vienna. The Belvedere is a museum inside a Rococo-style palace and houses an impressive array of artistic voices, including Egon Shiele and Gustav Klimt, who’s “Kiss” haunts art lovers to this day, and there is nothing quite like seeing it there in person.
Some of my least favorite things (aside from our navigational difficulties) included this little trio:
Cafés are really just restaurants, and more so, many of them, even the top ones that were listed in both DK’s Top Ten Vienna and Lonely Planet’s Vienna Encounter, like the Café Museum (which proved near impossible to find) and Café Sperl, which was featured in the Richard Linklater film Before Sunrise, had a very Jersey Diner feel, only with much more grandiose chandeliers.
Not finding the Third Man Museum on the one day of the week it’s open because, well, after an hour and a half of searching for the street it was supposedly on, we gave up the search for the elusive Pressgasse, deeming it nonexistent.
Not seeing some of the sites I wanted to see, like the statue of Marc Antony in a chariot pulled by lions or Reisenrad, the famous Ferris wheel on which Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton have their tense discussion in one of the cars in The Third Man was a slight downer. But hey, when you’re beginning most days after 10AM and spend half your time just finding the places you actually want to see, you’re libel to miss out on a few things during a mere four day long visit.
The one thing Vienna seemed to lack, however, was the romance I was expecting, either of the Third Man or Before Sunrise varieties, even during the onset of winter. I suppose it was my fault for expecting something, since the secret of true happiness, I’ve learned, is to be without expectation. But after an entire year of non-stop work-related travel across the U.S. and to England and Canada, just being able to see something new with Marinell was all the romance I really needed to call this a vacation one very well-spent.
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All that said, I’m planning out my vacation for summer, 2014. Where should Marinell and I soar off to this time? Add your suggestions in the comments, and thanks for reading!