Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vienna, Austria

Validating your Eurail ticket can be a bit tricky, but not terribly difficult. At some train stations, the validation office is the same as the ticketing office. At others, they have a separate validation office. Make sure to give yourself time to get your ticket validated, especially if you are leaving later in the day, because of lines and finding your way around. Once you have your ticket validated, you can arrive at the train station about 30 minutes before the train leaves. The trains never seem to arrive more than 30 minutes early because of the number of tracks at each station. Since you already have tickets, and usually a reservation is required prior to boarding the train, you have an assigned seat. As long as your board before your train leaves, you will have your seat. The other thing to consider is luggage space. On first class trains, there is typically plenty of luggage space, but you want to be sure. If you are traveling second class, there is much less luggage space, so getting there early ensures that you won't have an issue finding a spot for your bags.

Leaving Budapest and heading to Vienna...

The train was on time, although we struggled to figure out how to validate everything then get ourselves together. People at the train station were not nearly as friendly as everyone else in the city had been. It was very frustrating and it doesn’t help that we are both still very tired.  The train is fantastic and worth the extra money paid for first class. We each enjoyed a small omelet with bacon and onions. Everything is very comfortable and clean, service is great, and they just gave us a snack of orange juice and a kit kat. It  doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re attempting to travel on a budget and you are tired, these things make all of the difference in the world.
Vienna is the next destination and we are looking forward to some fine wine and a walking tour of the city.  We are also hoping that our hotel turns out well too...obviously!
Opera House at night
The train ride was prefect and we easily made it to our hotel. Because we were staying in a boutique hotel, we had to wait on the front stoop for about an hour for the owner to arrive and let us in. They were very nice and gave us all sorts of ideas and answered all of our questions. Each hotel room was it’s own small studio apartment, and it was perfect for the two of us. The bed was comfy and much longer than the beds had been in Budapest, which was a relief! Finally my feet weren’t falling between the footboard and end of the mattress, waking me up every hour! I am about 6'2, so having a long enough bed in Europe is like finding a cheap Coca Light!
The Golden Cabbage
After getting ourselves slightly acclimated, we began our walk to the city center which was about 15 minutes away...a nice distance and well worth the price we paid for our hotel. We walked through the Naschmarkt, which is a giant open-air market. We took in the sights and looked for something to snack on. As usual, we hadn’t been eating much because of time and the way things were scheduled. From there were made our way to the Opera House to look for tickets to that evenings ballet. We ended up buying tickets for another show that included music, opera singing, and ballet dances. Supposedly it was set in the location where Mozart played his first concert at the age of 6. It was no auditorium and we were not happy about this. The music was good and the opera singer was up to par, but we wanted to see something in the opera house, or at least in another similar setting. That didn’t happen and we quickly realized that we had been taken advantage of, just like all of the other people in the room, where seating was in about 10 rows of 20 chairs. young boy stood in front of the room at intermisison, where he asked who was a tourist and who felt that they were ripped off. Many people raised their hands, but we were there, so we had to make the best of it.
Schonbrunn Palace
Gardens at the Schonnbrunn Palace
After the show, we walked around the downtown area and decided to grab a happy meal at McDonalds, along with some ice cream. Once again, we hadn’t eaten much that day, but we knew that we were on a budget. The food was good enough..we took some pictures and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, we woke up and practically ran to the meeting place of our morning tour. We quickly realized that once we were on this bus, we were not going to be able to get off of it to take pictures of anything! We saw all of the major sights in Vienna, but we had to walk them again after the tour just to get pictures! We did get a tour of the Shonbrunn Palace, which was beautiful and had even more beautiful gardens. Upon being dropped off at the Opera House, we began retracing the steps of the tour to get all of our pictures. It was another hot day, which quickly caught up with us, but we were determined to see everything. By 4pm, we had seem pretty much everything and our feet hurt like nobody’s business! After resting for a few minutes, we decided to walk a bit further and see the Hundertwasserhaus, which was amazing. We were a little nervous about finding it because is was a bit hidden and off the beaten path, but walking through the 3rd district was very nice. There were lots of hotels, shops, and cute restaurants, which we would have never discovered. After getting our pictures, we headed back to the city center to find a place to eat. 
Government Building
As always, we had each eaten half of a granola bar and had a non-fat frappacino from Starbucks that was time to eat!! We chose yet another Italian place to eat, where the pasta was average, nothing fancy, but it did the job. We then went to Sopher which is famous for its’ chocolate cake and we shared a piece. It was a beautiful cake, with apricot flavor infused for a unique taste. We then took our last pictures of the Opera House and the golden Cabbage and headed back to the hotel.
Gothic Cathedral
Gothic Cathedral
That night we were beat! We both showered, checked email, and relaxed. After waiting almost 3 hours for a movie to download because you can’t access US website videos outside of the 50 states...we watched The Roommate and then hunkered down for a good nights rest. 

Vienna is a beautiful city with lots of stuff to see. With having limited time, it was a good city to get a view of within two days. All of the major "downtown" attractions are all in a circle, so you can walk it and see everything. It was also seemingly safe. We didn't have any issues getting around and the people were helpful for the most part. We got a nice taste of the city and I think going back, I would focus on seeing all of the things "off the beaten path". The architecture and history is fantastic and worth a city tour to see.

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