Just in case I haven’t mentioned this before, my wonderful grandparents didn’t want me to travel all the way to Europe alone, so they paid for my mother to go with me. And thank the Lord she did! Anyway, the two of us decided to tour a little bit of Europe as an early birthday present for me (I’m turning 19 in April, away from home). So, here’s my European adventure, part 2! Let me start by saying that Vienna has the best food ever. I now completely understand why Europeans take such a long time to eat anything: it’s because their food is stinkin’ DELICIOUS. I savored every. single. bite. The hot chocolate is so rich it’s almost like drinking dark chocolate fondue. Oh, and there’s street food everywhere. Not little carts, but permanent stands nestled in every tiny side street all over the old city. Everything really is close together, but when looking at a map it’s easy to see a three blocks between your destinations and think, “oh that’s a 20 minute walk.” Actually, it’s more like 5 because the streets are tiny and close together.
Despite the cold and a little bit of jet-lag, we managed to see most of the city that we wanted to see! We started at St. Stephen’s, the biggest cathedral in Vienna and it’s most iconic image. The structure is mostly the same as it was when it was built, although there was a fire near the end of WWII that destroyed the colorful tiled roof. Luckily, the locals pulled together to restore it to its former glory. We climbed 343 steps up the South Tower for a grand view of the city, still sprinkled with snow from a few days before.
Next came the Jewish Museum. Apparently, there are two locations, and we went to the one that focused more on Jewish history in Austria and preserving their communities. And there was an art gallery dedicated to Jewish women who helped lead the way for women artists to be recognized. It was very interesting.
Then we got off and went to see the Kaisergraft, where all the Hapsburg kings and queens of Austria from the past 600 years are buried. Their coffins are more like ornate sculptures, depending on who was in them. The simplest was a wooden one with a cross laid out on top. But the grandest one had life sized sculptures of their two inhabitants, Maria Theresa and her husband, in addition to the four representatives of their four kingdoms at each corner, who were also life sized. That thing was larger than a king sized bed, people.
We finished out the day at the Albertina Museum, which hosted some impressionist paintings and wood carvings/prints. There were 3 Monet, 1 Degas, a few Cezanne, and a sculpture by Rodin, who also created The Thinker. We skimmed through the rest of the exhibit, which included a whole room on Picasso, but we stopped in to look at the wood carvings and prints, which were beautiful. Unfortunately, we just missed the Van Gogh exhibit.
Today we took our time at the Hofburg Palace, which is gigantic. It includes a riding stable, a church and two museums (the Albertina and the New Palace music and armory museum) in addition to the royal living quarters. There are 1400 rooms, but we only saw about 40. They included a whole first-floor wing of the palace dedicated to showcasing the dinnerware used by the royal family and some that had never been used at all because it was made purely for aesthetics so you couldn’t use it or it would fall apart! We also got to tour the treasury, some of the imperial apartments and learned about the Austro-Hungarian empire and their monarchs. In the afternoon, we saw the Kunst museum, which also originally belonged to the monarchy. We spent nearly 2 hours just skimming through their Italian Renaissance exhibit.
And in between our days' adventures, we saw the astronomical clock, the statues of Maria Theresa and Mozart, and enjoyed an organ concert at St. Peter’s, took the tram tour, and mastered the tube system. We’ve had lots of good cake and pastries and just enjoyed Vienna life. Tomorrow morning we leave this beautiful city and finally get to Ukraine! I doubt we’ll have time to do any sightseeing in Kiev; by the time we get there it’ll be nearly sunset, and that’s if this flight stays on schedule. So this may be the end of my touring for now, but it’s been a good one!
Auf Wiedersehen, Vienna!