On Tuesday morning, I left Olimpia behind in Munich so she could see a few more things there...and I headed to Vienna. The trip went well except for the time that an angry German lady scolded me for listening to music quietly on my headphones. I was a little confused because I could barely hear my music over all of the super loud Hungarian men surrounding us who kept cackling at their Hungarian jokes. Trying not to be bitter.
I’m pretty much a pro at figuring out random country’s metro systems by now, so it was easy to find the hotel. After dropping off the luggage, I went right away to the Hofburg Palace. I kept up my theme of seeing ‘a castle a day’ that I started in Germany. Actually, pretty much the whole reason that I wanted to come to Vienna was to see the Hapsburg palaces where Marie Antoinette grew up.
The Hofburg was interesting because it’s a big complex that’s still used for a lot of things- like the Austrian president’s office. Because it’s still used for government things, you can only tour a small part of it. I learned that the tradition was for each emperor to build a new part of the palace to live in- which explains the size of it haha. The part that you can tour was where Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth lived. They were the second last rulers of Austria- the monarchy ended after WWI. So it makes sense that that’s where you can tour, because their stuff is what’s still there.
I was slightly disappointed that the whole tour was focused on them, because come on...the late 1800s is too modern for my tastes. I wanted some Maria Theresa (Marie Antoinette’s mom) stuff!
Here’s the outer gate and the inner courtyard where you go in.
Even though I didn’t quite get my fill of Maria Theresa, it was pretty interesting to learn a little bit about Elisabeth, or Sisi, which was her nickname. She was hmmmmm, how do I put this...really freaking weird. My favorite story was that whenever a storm was coming, she would make people tie her to a chair on the deck of a ship so she could feel the waves and finally “feel alive”. Yeah, definitely someone who would be medicated nowadays (she was the crazy Ludwig II's cousin, so it makes sense).
Sisi was also a fashion icon and thought to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. They had lots of her clothes and jewelry on display, which was fun. Apparently, the audioguide said she cared more about her appearance than she did about her family. She would spent about 3 hours a day getting her hair done, and always refused to come to family dinner because she didn’t want to eat and get fat. Oh yeah, she was also probably anorexic. She had an 18 inch waist...awwwww just like Scarlett O'Hara.
Something that made me laugh was that she had workout equipment in her fancy little rooms. That’s something I’ve never seen in a palace before! I’m sure that horrified everyone else at the palace. I snuck this picture of her gymnastic rings (kind of hard to see, but they're hanging in the doorway). Yeah, no pictures allowed in this place either. Darn these people and their rules.
To go along with her dramatic life, Sisi had a dramatic death. She was stabbed in the heart by an anarchist. I think the fact that she was assassinated is part of what makes her such a legend today- she’s one of the most famous people in Austrian history.
At the end of the tour, there were at least some paintings of Marie Antoinette’s family. Here’s one of Marie performing in a ballet with her brothers. I remember reading that this was her favorite picture of her childhood, and she brought a miniature copy of it to Versailles.
Since the Hofburg is so big, the exit was in a completely different place than the entrance. I had no idea where I was, but luckily I was in a pretty park. I decided to wander around and just hope that somewhere I would see the metro. Here’s some of my views in the park. I like statue pictures, can you tell?
I saw a pretty building in the distance, so I went there. I thought it was a church at first, but it turned out to be the Rathaus.
They had a really cool ice-skating rink/track set up all around it. I was half-tempted to join in because I love skating, but I was alone, and the last few times I’ve gone my messed up ankles from dance have ruined the fun.
Down the road, I could see spires of a church that looked pretty, so I wandered over there next. This is my super zoomed-in picture from the Rathaus. It was like a 10 minute walk away.
The outside was being renovated, but the inside was very impressive. I think it’s the best church I saw in Vienna.
Stained glass rainbows are my favorite!
Miraculously, I managed to find this church (called the Votivskirche) and a nearby metro on my map. I went back to the hotel to meet up with Olimpia, but on the way I found something beautiful. No, not a cathedral or a palace. A grocery store in a train station that sold American brands of food.
Cue the hallelujah chorus. Root beer does NOT exist in Europe. Except at the Westbahnhof in Vienna, apparently. I don’t usually drink soda, but I do like root beer on occasion. There’s something about knowing that you can never have it that makes you crave it. The next day I went back to the same store and got some pop tarts. Glorious.
After Olimpia got there, we went to the main city center to walk around and get dinner. The church right in the middle of the city is called Stephansdom. We got there right in time for Ash Wednesday mass, so it was packed. When I see these big cathedrals actually full of people, in my head I think: “Look, not everyone in Europe is an atheist!”.
On the outside of the church, for some reason there were rainbow lights. Maybe that was to entice people to come get some ashes put on their faces, who knows.
It was a fun street to walk down with lots of shopping, but not a lot of food. There were a lot of street musicians, though. Vienna just seems to be super in to music for some reason ;)
Eventually on a little side street we found an Italian restaurant with some deluxe service. It was the first time I’ve been to a restaurant where they help you into your coat as you’re leaving. We felt simultaneously weirded out and classy.
Stay tuned for day 2 of the Vienna trip...it was a little more exciting, with more exciting pictures. And there were pandas involved, so you can't really beat that.