Being a part of former the Austro – Hungarian Empire, Budapest had given us a taste of what to expect of Vienna. Our hostel was centrally located, and only a few Metro stops from the heart of the city. We arrived late afternoon, and with only the afternoon and evening to explore, I was keen to head off into the city.
The architecture in Vienna is stunning. The buildings are large and imposing and are decorated with ornate flourishes. I took the train into Stephen’s Square to check out the large cathedral that stands in the centre of town. Luckily, I could use my phone in Austria, so my trusty sat nav guided me through the streets and past many spectacular arches, stone monuments and statues that were reminiscent of a bygone era. No matter which way I looked, I saw something beautiful.
Vienna is also a quite leafy city and it was lovely to spend a warm afternoon wandering around town. I felt obliged to try a Wiener (essentially Viennese) Schnitzel for lunch, which I washed down with a shandy (as close to a beer as you’ll get me drinking!). After a few hours of wandering I had seen most of the sights, so set back to the hostel to get ready for an evening at the orchestra.
I arrived at the theatre about 40 minutes early, so decided to go for a wander. I found myself in an Aussie pub (even the bar tender admitted it was tenuously Aussie, with only Bundy and Coopers Beer representing Australian beverages). The orchestra was held in an opulent ballroom, and was part music, part opera and part dancing. We also enjoyed champagne on the balcony at intermission. It was a great way to experience the musical history that Austria boasts.
Arriving back quite late, I was peckish for something to eat after my late lunch. Since I’ve moved to the UK I have missed sushi so much. You cannot buy fresh sushi where I live and I didn’t realise how much I relied on it for a snack when I am out and about! Now Vienna has quite a cosmopolitan food culture, so I found myself having sushi freshly made by an Austrian guy at midnight. It was probably the best sushi I have had in my life! He also thought I was Canadian, but meh, the sushi was great!
The next morning we were off and crossing the border into the Czech Republic. This time we were a little further away from town, and walking to the Metro involved a ten-minute walk down a dimly lit road. This was ok during the daytime, but returning home alone in the dark by myself was quite scary and in hindsight I should have caught a taxi!
Prague is amazingly historic and beautiful. It is a city best explored by foot, and most of us racked up about 20km to see the town. It is split in half by the Vlatva river. It is famous for its astronomical clock that was built in the 1500’s. Hundreds of people gather every hour to watch it chime in the new hour. It is flanked by some of the most ornate buildings I have ever seen in my life. Covered with friezes and painted in pastel colours. Looming over the top is the Church of Our Lady before Týn, which looks more like a Disney Castle than a church. When I visited inside, it was so laden down with gold, paintings and goodness knows what I did question how it was still standing!
Everywhere you walk in Prague, you can smell the sweet vanilla smell of pastries being cooked. Bakers wrap pastry over metal cylinders and roast them over a hot flame until they are cooked through. They then cut them down into manageable pieces and sprinkle them with sugar. If you are game they also fill them with nutella or with soft serve. They tasted as delicious as they smelt and gave me the energy to walk up the big hill to check our St. Vitus Cathedral and its world famous stained glass windows.
After getting lost and not being able to find the right platform and the scary walk home the evening before, I thought that I’d be ok catching the train back to the hostel during the day. As the train pulled into the station, I was greeted with the sight of a mob being goaded up the escalators by at least 20 police in riot clothing. Outside the station, there were police cars everywhere, the road had been blocked off and a chopper was hovering overhead. Apparently they were just soccer fans and there was no need to worry, they do this ‘just in case’. Wonderful…
Our visits to Austria and the Czech Republic were short, but sweet and I definitely walked off any delicacies eaten along the way!
The round up
In Austria and the Czech Republic I: Ate Wiener schnitzel, enjoyed the Viennese Orchestra, visited an ‘Aussie’ pub, walked 100 miles and then perhaps 100 more, got lost at Muzeum station in Prague, stuffed my possessions into my bra whilst walking back to the hostel in the dark in case I got mugged, ate delicious pastries, saw spectacular architecture, survived a potential riot, understood a lot more German that I realised I remembered.
Aufweidersehen, until next time when I round up the trip in Germany and The Netherlands.
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