Tuesday night, we got back from our extended weekend trip to Vienna. Vienna wasn't initially on our list of places to visit while in Europe, but everyone kept saying it was beautiful, so we decided to swap London to be able to do both Vienna and Prague for the same amount of money. We had already decided we were going to Salzburg, but Vienna is the capital city of Austria, and as I've mentioned before, I come from a very strong Austrian background. To me it really felt like I was "going home."
One of the main reasons we hadn't initially put Vienna on our list of places to visit was because it's a bit further than the other places we'd planned. As you can see on the map below, it's on the far side of Austria from us, and by car or train it would take seven hours to reach. Since it was about the same amount of time via train or car and gas being very expensive here, we decided the train would be better. Brady certainly has more freedom.
Vienna (or Wien in German and don't forget a W is pronounced like a V), is the capital city and also the largest city in Austria with 2.4 million people living in the metropolitan area. It's the 9th largest city in the European Union, so it's fairly large. Vienna is dubbed the City of Music and also "The City of Dreams," as it was home to Sigmund Freud.
On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to catch our 8:07AM train. We took the first train to Nuremberg, and then boarded a high speed train around 12:30PM that would reach Vienna in about 5 hours. We had a small compartment one the first train, but the high speed trains have much larger and nicer compartments for people with children.
Hanging out in our luxuriously large compartment. Andy laughs because only in Europe would they trade having more seats in order to keep kids quiet.
Our compartment to and from Munich the week before was the same layout, except this one had things for kids to play with, which was much appreciated since we'd be on this train for five hours.
The best part was the bouncing bike. Brady was more than happy to run around the safe confines of the cabin, riding a bit, running around some more, and climbing into every single seat. The only meltdown he had was in the dining car because I forgot to bring his crayons and paper.
We arrived in Vienna around 4PM (our train was a little behind) and proceeded to the tourist office to buy our Vienna passes. They are a pass for each person (Brady excluded) that allows you unlimited public transit and discounts at attractions for 72 hours. It just so happens we were there for exactly 71 hours. They cost 18.80 Euros per person and if we didn't use them for anything except transit for those three days, we would've gotten our money's worth, since here in Stuttgart, a day pass is 6.10 Euros per day (Vienna's a larger city, so it most likely would cost more).
We took the U-bahn to our hotel, got checked in and looked through the info that came with our Vienna cards to plan what activities we wanted to do. I had met up with some of my mom friends at a park the day before and they'd all been to Vienna already, so they were very helpful with tips. One of them suggested a place to get some local cuisine (that's not too much different from here), that was more capable in dealing with kids. So that's where we decided to eat dinner our first night in Vienna.
Vienna is famous for wienerschnitzel, so I decided to get that. I grew up on schnitzel, and have tried it with almost every form of meat since coming here, but figured where better to have it than Vienna. Wienerschnitzel, for those of you who don't know, is a veal cultlet pounded thin, breaded, then fried in clarified butter. It is seen served above with boiled potatoes, but often comes with french fries.
Andy decided to get the schweinebraten (a roasted pork), that came with a bread dumpling over sauerkraut. Since both of our dishes were huge, we split them and gave each other half so we could eat some of both dishes.
And of course, what meal in Germany or Austria is complete without a piece of apple strudel! You can see how excited Brady is, his hand snaked out before I could snap a pic.
We hopped on the U-bahn and heade to the city-center, Stephansplatz. At the center of Stephansplatz is Stepahnsdom (or St. Stephan's Cathedral). It's the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna for those fellow Catholics out there. It was simply so massive that I had a hard time getting a good angle to fit the whole cathedral into any pictures.
The inside was even more beautiful than the impressive exterior.
They were actually conducting Saturday night mass while we were there.
Right across the street from the Stephansdom was the Manner store. Whenever we were in New York growing up, my dad would go out and bring home a pack of Manner wafers. I remember there were ten in a pack, so we would each get two as there were five people in our family. Two was never enough and when we moved to Germany, I could buy big bags of them and did ;)
A pack of actual Manner wafers that was 18x larger than a normal pack. Whoa baby!
Brady knows good stuff when he sees it!
Like Stuttgart and Munich, Vienna had large pedestrian only streets. But unlike Munich and Stuttgart, which essentially had one main drag, Vienna had one down every direction leading away from the Stephansplatz. We chose one that nigh and the next few pictures are what we saw as we walked.
Truly exhausted. He fell asleep for 30 minutes between the train station and the hotel and that was all the sleep he got that day.
They had these really cool plastic pieces everywhere for people to sit on.
One of Brady's favorite things to do in the hotel room was to pick up the phone and say, "Hello."
Brady woke us up bright and early Sunday morning (regardless of how sleep deprived he was), but on Sundays things that are open, open even later, so we had to hang out for a bit in the hotel room for a while. When it hit 10AM, we hopped on a train and headed to the Vienna Technical Museum (separate post). It was a combination of the Henry Ford Museum and some of the car museums we've been to over here.
When we'd had our fill of learning about technology, we headed downtown for lunch. We ate at a TGI Fridays to enjoy some American food. We don't really feel too bad snagging something we could get at home while we're here because it's only on rare occasions and we eat the local cuisine all the time. Brady was glad to be in a place that give kids crayons and a balloon. When we'd finished our lunch, we walked down another of the many pedestrian streets towards the city center (pics below).
The Opera House.
Inside a souvenir shop. I love Toblerone bars (especially the dark chocolate ones) and this one was 4.5 kilograms, which is the equivalent to 10 pounds!
That evening, we went down to the Prater, which is a large fairground. We were quite surprised at how large it actually was and it was about the same size as an amusement park back in the States. The rides and food stalls are all operated independently, so there's good competition and prices aren't very high.
Brady actually got to ride on a horse for the first time, and all by himself! He was a happy boy.
On Monday morning, we took a U-bahn to another corner of the city to again walk to the center. This was about the last side of the city that we hadn't seen yet. We got off at the Rathaus (city hall). Pictured above is Brady and I in front of the Rathaus.
Inside the Rathaus courtyard. Remind anyone of the Cathedral of Learning?
A Musical Hall.
The front side of Parliament.
The back side of Parliament.
My friends had told me about the Sacher torte that is an Austrian specialty (made only in Vienna and Salzburg). They said it was on the dessert menu everywhere, but the best place to get it was at the Hotel Sacher. We were on the lookout when we spotted a Starbucks. We got some drinks, and when we walked out the door, we were face to face with Hotel Sacher (go figure). We enjoyed our drinks, then sat down in the outdoor seating. We each got a Sacher torte and that was our lunch. The Sacher torte consists of two layers of dense chocolate cake, with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle, and dark chocolate icing on top.
After lunch, we kept walking to explore more of the city. Brady will tell you that for kids, Europe is not much fun, and he's seen above watching a video on his LeapPad as we trek the streets of Vienna.
A rare moment of shade for the boys. It was in the mid to high 80s every single day we were there. We certainly weren't complaining since the average high in April is 59 degrees.
We had checkout at noon on Tuesday, and our train was set to leave at 2:14PM, so we got up early and headed to Schonbrunn Palace, which was located only one stop from our hotel (separate post). We were able to make it back to our hotel in plenty of time to check out, then headed to the train station where we had lunch and waited for our train. The Austrian high speed trains are built for more efficiency than their German counterparts, so they didn't have cabins and were situated more like an airplane with seats all facing forward and a central aisle (two seats on each side). We had reserved seats, and it turned out we had two together and one in the row ahead. Andy sat with Brady until he started getting crabby because it was naptime. I switched with Andy and held Brady in the same way that I've gotten him to sleep on airplanes and he took a nice nap. When he woke up, Andy sat with him again. Our second train had a small compartment, so at least we didn't have to worry about Brady disturbing anyone. We did have a tight connection and were very fortunate to catch our second train.
Overall, we had an amazing time in Vienna and are so glad we decided to add it to our itinerary. Brady was really great and we can't wait until our next big trip. We head to Prague exactly two weeks from today!