I think one of the things I’ll miss the most about Europe is the quick weekend trips to foreign countries. There’s nothing like getting out of class, heading to the hlavni nadrazi station, and hopping on a train to Slovakia, Germany, Austria–the possibilities are endless. This past weekend, I went to Vienna, Austria, with my friend Elena and fell in love with the casual elegance and lavish history of the city.
After traveling for four hours by train, Elena and I were starving. So we dropped our bags at our hostel and searched for some nearby burger places on GoogleMaps for a late-night bite. Lucky for us, one of the best burger joints in Vienna, Weinschenke, was a quick walk away. Elena opted for the double cheeseburger, while I went for the veggie burger and some salty “chips” (fries) with truffle-mayo sauce.
Then, we wandered the streets for somewhere to relax and grab some drinks. In Vienna, many restaurants still allow smoking indoors, so we looked for a smoke-free spot. Luckily, we found Ganz Wien, a cozy café with a laid-back ambiance. The tables were lit with candles, and the chairs had cute faux fur throw rugs draped over them. Elena ordered the lavender spritzer and I got some hot chocolate. The hot chocolate in Vienna was very light and milky, which was a stark difference from the thick and rich hot chocolate served in Prague.
We woke early in the morning on Saturday to grab brunch at Café Central, a renowned Viennese eatery with gorgeous sloped ceilings. I ordered a flaky croissant and vanilla danish, and Elena ordered the Sisi breakfast, named for Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” of Austria.
After brunching, we went over to the Kunsthistorisches Museum to meet up with a few of our friends from our host school. The museum is gorgeous and ornate, with a stunning collection of everything from decorative sundials to classic Austrian paintings. My little art history heart was overjoyed to finally see in person the paintings I learned about in my AP European History class in high school.
Because museum-hopping is what I do best, we headed on over to the Hofburg to see the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Silver Collection. I must admit, I knew little about Empress Elisabeth of Austria, but after touring the Sisi Museum, I’m utterly intrigued and want to read more about her life.
One of my favorite parts of visiting new countries is sampling the local cuisine, so we went on over to Reinthaler’s Beisl to try some out! I ordered the Emmental fried cheese with cranberry sauce, which is absolutely to die for. It’s basically fancy mozzarella sticks without all the grease.
Then, we wanted something sweet, so on recommendation from our waitress, we went to Aida, a local confectionary chain she described as “fast food for sweets.” It was buy four donuts get one free, so my friends had a donut tasting, while I split some chocolate and hazelnut cake and nougat tart with another friend.
After a few hours of rest at our hostel, we went down the street to Ulrich, a casual, low-lit café for some drinks. This time, I ordered some yummy house-made chai tea, which was the perfect way to finish off the night.
On Sunday, most shops and restaurants were closed, so we found phil, a secondhand store and café for a quick bite before going to mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Mass was entirely in German, so we did not understand most of what was being said, but the choir music was gorgeous.
In the afternoon, we went to the Schönbrunn Palace for the Imperial Tour, which was the perfect bite-sized taste of the life of the Habsburg royals who lived in its nearly 1,500 rooms for around 400 years. (The Imperial Tour covers about 26 of those rooms, but they were each so different, colorful and gloriously decorated!)
Elena really wanted to see the painting “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt (but let’s face it, who doesn’t?), so we went to the Belvedere Museum and toured Upper Belvedere, which houses a wonderful collection of paintings by Klimt and his contemporaries.
Since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, we went to Wirr for a late lunch/early dinner. I had a really fantastic falafel burger on a bagel with some fries (as you can tell, it was a burger-filled weekend for me!) and Elena had what was essentially a caprese bagel.
Then, we walked around Neubau, the neighborhood where our hostel was located. Neubau has the cutest shops and no tourists (AKA perfection). We stumbled on a living studio/artists space which was really cool, especially because we got to see some more modern art after seeing more classical artworks the whole weekend.
Vienna was nothing like what I expected. In truth, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it was wonderful. While the tourist district was typical and expensive, every time we ventured out of it, I was enthralled by how hip everything was! The people were very warm and willing to help. It was also interesting going from a Czech-speaking country to a German-speaking country, and having to adjust to speaking the few Germanic phrases I know and trying to understand German signs and menus.
The weekend was quite the whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change a second of it (even though I didn’t pack warm enough and was freezing the whole time). Maybe next time, I’ll visit during the warmer months!
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