Here we go: part two of four!
So, we got off the train at the right stop in Vienna, which was ideal considering that we could have otherwise ended up in Germany. After our experience with Skyline bus service in Budapest, we decided not to even chance a bus system, so we hailed a taxi. In Vienna, we stayed in Palace hostel, which overlooked the city. After being smack dab in the city for Budapest, it was nice to be in such a peaceful area.
Once we checked in, we went on a little walk before finding a place to eat.
It was called Villa Aurora. We were a little confused when people were parading out of the building carrying giant bowls of food, but we finally went inside. We were further confused when there was a giant dog sitting in the reception area. And the confusion did not stop there… the waiters started speaking to us in German and I am sure they saw the panic in our eyes. We told them we were lost but they thought we said that we had lost someone. Finally, Ali said “I am hungry,” and those three words alone were enough to clear up all confusion. They took us inside the seating area and said, “This is just a normal restaurant! Come inside! Why are you being so shy?” For dessert, we shared a creme strudel that had a delicious vanilla rum sauce. The restaurant was really calm and soothing, especially with the candle-lit tables, a wood burning fireplace, and the murmur of German from everyone around. Also at Villa Aurora, a girl came up and took one of the menus at our table to use; however, the waiters had given us special English menus. We watched her as she went back to her table and was really thrown off because she was anticipating that it would be in German. By this restaurant, we had learned that places in Europe don’t rush you out. You have to ask for the check because sitting and visiting is expected of customers.
The second day, we got an early start because we basically only had one day planned for Vienna. After eating the rolls with every spread imaginable provided to us by the hostel, we set out to find our way into the city. We hopped on Bus 46A, which is ironic, because that is one of the numbers for the busses that service our campus back in Dublin. We couldn’t figure out when/if we had to pay. The bus driver who didn’t really speak English conveyed to us that we pay later because we also had to take a tram. So, we hopped off the bus at the stop the lady at reception wrote down on paper for us to get off on. When we got off, we started walking across the street to a tram stop, but the bus driver honked at us because he knew we were going to the wrong one. He motioned us to the right stop, and we successfully hopped on tram 10 and were off to the zoo.
The zoo in Vienna, called Tiergarten Schonbrunn, is the oldest in the world. It was really neat to see because of the Baroque architecture and cages. They had koalas, orangutans, and even Giant Pandas! Zoos make me a little sad because the animals are in captivity, but fortunately many of the animals there seemed to be pretty content.
After the zoo, we tried asking directions to walk to the city centre. The lady at the desk told us to take the tram multiple times. We went back to the tram station and asked someone else and they kept telling us to take the tram. It was beautiful outside and we were stubborn and determined to walk, so we started walking even though we weren’t really sure which direction we were supposed to be heading. We found a huge palace building with a ton of tourists. Ali and Kelly went separate ways to find help with directions. Both found out simultaneously that we were crazy for wanting to walk since the centre was forever away. So, we sucked it up and got on the tram. We quickly figured out the tram system, so we were fine except for the fact that we still didn’t know about paying.
The market we tried getting out at was closed, probably because it was Sunday. So, we got back on the tram and headed into their Heroes’ Square, which contained a bunch of very European looking buildings. We sat down in a park area, where there were a bunch of old people on benches. It was super cute, and being an 80 year old woman trapped in a 20 year old body, I felt right at home.
There was also an Asian couple who came through, getting their wedding pictures taken. While we were watching them, a little girl walked up really close to them and seemed mesmerized by the bride. She made a bit of a disgusted face when they kissed though. While the photo-shoot was going on, we also witnessed a guy pick his nose while cuddling with his girlfriend. After that scarring incident, we decided to go find a cafe because I was hungry. Earlier, Ali wouldn’t let me eat the apple I had with me, since my front four teeth are loose on top and I hadn’t brought a knife to cut the apple up. She was only looking out for my best interest, but you should never mess with a hungry college student. It also didn’t help that both Ali and Kelly ate their apples in front of me.
While walking, we wandered upon a Winter festival going on! It happened to be the last day they were holding it. There was ice-skating on huge outdoor rinks with tracks connecting them. We ended up getting food from all but one of the stands; however, it only cost us around six euro a piece because we split everything we tried. First, we had Spatzle, which had egg noodles, spinach, and goat cheese. Then we had some sort of dessert that I don’t know the name of; it was like little squares of pancake with vanilla sauce. The pancake was less sweet than American pancakes and has more of an egg and corn base to it. After dessert, we went back for real food round two. We had sausage with cheese inside, which we read are sometimes referred to as “Eitriger.” Translation: pus-stick. Setting aside the unfortunate nick-name, it was actually delicious and came with a piece of beer bread (emphasis on the beer). There was also a stand selling roasted nuts. We split a bag of rum flavoured ones, and then each got a package for the road. I tried a coffee based flavour for my second one, and it was even better than the rum. The guy working at the booth didn’t speak any English, and the only words I recognized were Rum and Latte, hence my choices.
After the festival, we went to go find the giant ferris wheel. We took the trams again and found their open amusement park. This was the first amusement park aside from the fair, where you just freely walk in and then pay per ride. We hopped on the ferris wheel, which had boxes instead of benches. So, each individual cart held a bunch of people. Some of the carts you could see go by were fitted with tables. I am guessing you can rent a cart for a fancy dinner. The views were spectacular! The wheel went up a lot higher than it appeared from below, and you could see all of the city!!
Afterwards, we walked around the amusement park. The strangest thing is that they had a live carousel. I don’t think the horses were too happy to be walking around and around in circles, but I am sure that is how carousels originally were.
After that, we hopped back on the tram and headed into the city to find a cafe. We were walking along the street window shopping when a drunk Frenchman came up to us on the street and said something about being beautiful mademoiselles and blew two kisses. We were able to kind of shoo him off, but as he walked away he let one rip. The acoustics of the nearly empty street had to have amplified it a bit. We all three lost it!
We found a cafe called Cafe Ritter, where we sat for a good couple of hours. We learned that Viennese coffee houses are huge deals. People linger around them for a really long time! Smoking is way more common in Europe, so there was actually a smoking parlor I had to walk through to get to the bathroom. It was almost too much for me to handle just breezing through, so fortunately we steered clear of it when we chose our seats. The building was otherwise full of charm. It was in really old building, so there was a bunch of built in molding and woodwork. On the way out, I noticed a stash of newspapers that each had their own handle contraption attached for easy reading.
We figured out transport back to the hostel, where we first stopped to check out the twinkling city lights from the back lawn. Afterwards, we looked up things to do at the next stop and wound down for the night. We tried researching the whole paying for public transport thing, and apparently it’s not free. However, we just kept being told “pay later, pay later” by people in Vienna, and we never actually saw anyone else pay or have tickets, so it will forever remain a mystery. (At least until the Viennese police come knocking at my door for payment).
Pictures Commemorating that time we unintentionally ripped off Vienna by not paying for public transport:
While we were waiting in the train station the next day, Ali had me listen to Billy Joel’s song “Vienna,” which I had heard before but love even more now. I told her we could probably make a soundtrack for our spring break trip, with that song and “Budapest” by George Ezra. We tried to find a good song for Prague, since that is were we were boarding the train for, but weren’t too successful. We decided that it would just be Polka music or some other strange thing.
Overall, Vienna was super great! I felt safe at all times, and the people were much nicer than our previous stop.