Austria Vacation Log: Day 13, The Disappointment of Wien

It has been much too long since I last posted about last year’s Austria trip. It was a bit embarrassing to be in Vienna earlier this month, and realize that I hadn’t blogged about my last trip to Vienna. The good news is that earlier this week I finished cataloging all my slides from that trip, so it should be easier now to bang out the last few episodes. This one sounds like a downer, but my opinion of Vienna improved as the trip continued.

Today we said goodbye to the idyllic village of Hallstatt and traveled by train to Wien- the capital city of Austria, and the former heart of the Holy Roman Empire. The English name for the city is Vienna, of course. The travel started off easy with a boat ride back to our train. And we knew which way the train went this time. We made our connection without a problem, but the trip felt very long for some reason.

When we got to Vienna we had to find the U-bahn (subway), buy tickets, and get on the train. The subway was very hot, and then it stopped at a station for longer than usual. An announcement came over the loudspeaker. I could make out the words “13 minutes” and saw everyone around me groaning and sighing. Clearly this train was going nowhere fast, so we bailed and went for the surface. We walked several blocks down a busy street, hot and crowded, with our heavy packs. We were tired and cranky, and this was perhaps the low point of the entire trip. Thankfully we found another subway line, and took that the last few blocks to our hotel . The manager was very friendly and showed us to our room. We got a bit worried at first, as the room was in an old office building behind the main hotel. But the room itself was fine- decorated in antique furnishings, it was big, had a separate bathroom and toilet, even a kitchenette with a freezer (ice cubes!). We relaxed, showered, and I even checked e-mail.

Then we went out to see the city. My initial impressions were not too good. Crowded. We tried to follow our guidebook’s recommendation to ride the tram around the Ringstrauße- a circular street that surrounds the inner city. It took us a long time to find the tram, then it was just too crowded. We bailed after 2 stops and started wandering on foot. We got out the map, and found our way to Stephansdom, the great cathedral.

Most of it was covered with scaffolding- with advertisements. I thought that was a pretty tasteless use of the church. All of the streets were crowded and packed. Even the plague monument, which looked like it might be really cool, was completely covered with scaffolding. Bah. We found our way to Am Hof square- where they were setting up for a carnival or something. This really wasn’t a good city for taking photos- I shot less film in Vienna than any place we visited. We found the Restaurant Ofenloch, recommended by our guide. All the tables were reserved- we could have one if we were gone by 8:00. This is gemütlichkeit?

We started the meal with an aperitif of champagne mixed with elderberries. It was good, even if it sounds like the punch line of a Monty Python joke. The meal was good- especially the soup with dumplings. I had Wienerschnitzel with real veal, the first time I’ve done that in memory. After dinner we kept wandering, and I got my first hint that Vienna wasn’t that bad. Maybe the friendly American couple we met in Michaelerplatz (from CA, taking a tour with a college professor to study the history of the Hapsburgs. We ran into them by chance the next night), or the opera singer singing underneath the Hofburg dome.


We ended the evening by finally taking that Ringstrauße tram tour. We were both exhausted and slept great.