The RailJet train is a dream on tracks. Working reservations, moving maps and plenty of communication. The Austrians need to give the Serbians a master class in this kind of thing. We’re in fact so enthralled by Austrian transport and eager to be in Vienna that we promptly get off the train two stops early. Like London, Vienna has a multitude of intercity stations. Unlike London, trains between them are few and far between.
After enlisting help, we’re directed to the Tram which will take us to the correct stop directly. We buy 24 hour travel cards which permits use on all public transport for around €7. Shockingly to our systems it’s raining when we arrive. An event that neither made it into the travel nor outfit plan. Luckily our hostel is a short walk from the right station and we’re soon inside the basic comfort of The Wombats– a contemporary hostel chain we discovered and liked in Munich the year before. Fresher and drier then we had been when we arrived, we soon set out into the Metro to head to the Rathaus area of the city. The streets are made for idyllic strolls with each window display as captivating as the next. We head to charming Italian cafe Pizzeria Verdi for some pizza/lasagna time accompanied by, at my request, “cheap” Prosecco and wine. Don’t get me wrong, there are times for fine wine but being on a budget in Vienna is not one of them and the lovely waitress (who could also be the owner) is more than happy to oblige.
We time our arrival into the Rathausplatz perfectly with the beginning of the film we have come to watch. My mum had done sterling research and made us aware of the free film festival that was happening while we were in town. Tonight was a classical concert set under the Eiffel Tower and watching it with everyone else under the Viennese stars was just enchanting. Perfect free fun to end our first night in perfectly pretty Vienna.
As is now customary, our next and full day was to be when we accumulated our 20000+ steps and walked between 10 and 20k. If it wasn’t for the daily sampling of local alcoholic specialities I feel we would have really seen the effects of this by now. Having deemed Vienna too big to take in all by foot, we utilise their public transport- a smooth running and reliable experience. First stop of the day is Schönbrunn Palace which requires no entrance ticket to walk around and take in the perfectly manicured gardens. Somewhere between the 50th rose bush and the tenth line of topiary bushes we are caught out in torrential rain and seek salvation under a leafy tree which provides ample relief from the undesirable bad hair inducing scenario.
At the back of the palace you can walk up to get views of the city and once the clouds have passed it’s all rather lovely indeed. We could easily have spent longer wandering around however Naschmarkt and all its edible delights was beckoning.
Naschmarkt is an infamous culinary affair in Vienna and houses a large selection of street vendors and restaurants alike. There’s a lot of similarity between the stalls- you’re not short pressed for falafel, antipasti or ever 30 seconds away from a piece of incredibly coloured dried fruit however what it may lack in diversity it makes up for in atmosphere and the particular Falafel street food place we chose, Baschly, was ridiculously good. Generous portions of Falafel and an array of salad with many other options including various Kebabs also on the menu. Finish it off nicely with one delicious Lemon beer and that’s the European lunch of dreams sorted.
From here it was off to the museum quarter to explore and observe many, many beautiful buildings. There’s not much wrong with being lucky enough to visit so many stunning cities, but you do find yourself becoming somewhat complacent after a while. Churches, Cathedrals, Parliament buildings and stately homes all start to lose their grandeur several weeks in and so we had to (shamefully) actively remind ourselves to appreciate them. Vienna is noticeably affluent and architecturally beautiful. Sadly we didn’t get to see any of the Spanish Riding School offerings as they were all (horsing around?) on their summer vacation but we did enjoy marvelling in the homages to Mozart and surveying the city’s statues.
Late afternoon was designated to Wien Prater– a traditional fairground just outside of the city centre that oozes equal amounts kitsch and charm. I cannot recommend a visit here enough. Entry is free and you pay per ride, of which there are many to choose from. A photo opportunity on every corner, it was the perfect way to spend a few hours seeing the sights from the ferris wheel and questioning all morals when up against small children with parents on the bumper cars. They took great pleasure in destroying us but just where do you pitch your revenge without looking, well, really mean? Sneak attack and then dart off? Not so successful when there are only four cars in play. There must be an etiquette for these kind of pressing issues somewhere.
Feeling suitably worn out from all the jubilant fun of the fair we ventured to the Viennese equivalent of a chicken shop next to our hostel where we picked up Chicken Schnitzel to take away to eat at the hostel with our previously purchased salad. Hostels with kitchens are definitely there to be utilised and The Wombats provides a really efficient one. There are Wombats hostels in several major European cities and I’d recommend them for a basic yet really decent hostel experience. Along with offering cheap and plentiful breakfasts they also give you a drink voucher for their bar so of course we had to use this before leaving for another evening of film festival festivities prior to our departure the next morning.
So, Vienna. I could say it means nothing to me…but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I feel like we only touched the surface of this pristine city and I can’t wait to come back and dig deeper to unearth more delights of the Austrian Capital.