I was in a budget hostel. A hostel. And on a budget. But with the scenes at every corner of the city, I felt like I was underdressed.
Just an hour away from Bratislava, Slovakia, I took the bus to Vienna, Austria; probably the most expensive city in the itinerary. I originally planned to stay in the UNESCO World Heritage Site for two days, but because of the lack of vacancy and that I had reservations made for the next couple of days, I was left with a day in the classy city.
Upon reaching the hostel, I was told that the 24hr ticket for the train and bus cost more than 7 Euros. I was taken aback for awhile because I have been spending time in the eastern Europe where prices were really affordable.
The way to Albertina, the free tour meeting place, was a little tiring. It was the first time in the trip where I did not need to wear my Superdry jacket. It was about 20 degree with a clear sunny sky. I was perspiring for the first time since day one, just by walking a short 15 minutes from the bus stop to the city centre. I had a nice half-pint of beer and a sausage bread to cool myself down before the tour.
I would say that the part of Vienna that I visited was a typical city, sort of. There were typical brand franchises everywhere, most of them with brands I could not pronounce. But instead of having these shops in a mall, the shops were in the really beautiful Baroque style buildings, stone-lined streets with European sculptures at almost all the entrances and on fountains at the street corners. I found myself staring at all these things.
Vienna is not the kind of city for a short backpacking trip, I thought. To be immersed deeply into the city’s ambience requires a slow transition from where you come from. There were traffics of cars, horse carriages, pedestrians and riders. It seemed chaotic but yet I see people owning their time and space enjoying coffee at the garden seats of the cafes and restaurant in the cloudless afternoon.
As the free tour started, we were told the long history of Austro-Hungarian Empire, that I honestly could not process and remember. I mean there were so many details that transcribed to the way the city was originally planned. I did remember interesting details about Mozart, local family Schnitzel restaurant and the imperial crypt, where the royal bodies are kept.
Mozart, as I was told, lived in this city for about 3 years. Not long, I thought, but he was a superstar of his time. He toured around the region and did not really have a place to call as a permanent home. Living for 3 years in the city was a big deal knowing what he was. Anyway, he was buried at St. Marx Cemetery in the 1700s, but no one knows where his body was laid to rest.
You see, there was a policy by one of the (less wise) rulers of the empire, where it stated that 6 or more people were to occupy a single grave site. This was to reduce land space for graves and also save woods used to make coffins. Mozart’s family supposedly said their goodbyes at the cemetery gate, where the priest and his men would then carry the deceased to the mass grave. According to the custom, Mozart’s body was dropped into the mass box and unless the whole was filled to its maximum capacity, it was to remain open. So nobody knew where exactly Mozart was buried.
It is sad, don’t you think? Three centuries after his death, people are still looking up to his pieces. It would have been nice to be able to pay respect to one of the greatest minds. But, it was still great that his house is now a museum for tourists to visit (at a rather high price).
Then, there was something about the local schnitzel. Figlmüller place claimed to serve the best schnitzel in town, with over 100-year-old recipe. The place is apparently still family-run; the fourth generation! I had my first ever schnitzel here with salad and house’s grape juice. I highly recommend the place. I came by myself in a T-shirt, chino pants and a backpack and was served by a waiter-in-tux who was really efficient in his work. The restaurant was packed, I thought I was really lucky to go in without a reservation.
It was pretty late to do anything touristy after dinner. Places were closing, except for the concerts at night. I did not manage to catch any, and I was only staying for a night there.
It was a pretty packed day and I went back to the hostel early just to be on my laptop. It was also the most expensive hostel I stayed at so far. And it was not even of better quality than those I went to in other countries.
I went out really early the next morning because I wanted to visit some of the famous must-visits in the city; Schonbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and (debatably must-visit) the Imperial Crypt.
Schonbrunn was beautiful. It felt grand and almost to the point where I was not worthy to be there. The large square, beautifully maintained and luxurious gardens and classy baroque style palace were outstanding. It was a shame that I did not go into the gardens because it was quite pricey for me. Looking at it though, was already very satisfying.
I continued on to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which had such a beautiful roof design that reminded me of the roof of Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary. I love taking pictures of the city from church towers. So that was all I did at this church.
I managed to check out the imperial crypt, a final resting place of the Royals, in the afternoon. I was told that their organs were stored at different locations because, at that time, everyone wanted a piece of the royals, literally. So what was left was the body, kept in iron coffins designed by the finest artists of their time. I have never been to a crypt, let alone a royal crypt. There were coffins of figures I thought I have heard before like Otto Habsburg, but I could not understand what was written on the labels as they were all written in German.
Before getting to the train station to catch the train to Zagreb, Croatia, I met a guy who happened to work at one of the old theatres in the city. I told him that I was running out of time and had no chance to visit the theatres or witness a classical performance that is the signature of Vienna, which was a bummer. He was so nice to give me a private tour of the theatre where he worked. He showed me the two halls that were filled with golden wall carvings, especially by the windows, shiny chandeliers, and old oil paintings of various artists that have performed there. It was such a nice gesture from him and a good last itinerary in the city.
I took the underground to get to the train station that supposed to get me to Zagreb. After eating the priciest Mac I had so far, I tried to find the right station to catch the train. But there was a confusing transfer to get to the inter-city station. I don’t feel like describing what happened here, but luckily after the third check over at the counter, I found a lady who spoke sufficient English and who was patient enough to explain to me which train to take. I was given the wrong information by the other person. She even told me to take the earliest train, albeit not the train I was supposed to take. She told me that no one will check your tickets. So I went.
I said my goodbye to the grand city and was ready for a new one.
26 April 2017