Vienna Day 2 - Wed 29th Last night I managed to navigate the subways of Vienna and make it to the hostel with only a few wrong turns and a detour into the wrong hostel. I met Jamie and John in the lobby, and we went up to the room so I could get organized. We're staying in a 6 person dorm (so 3 sets of bunks...I felt like a little kid again), but so far this is night 2 and no one has joined us--knock on wood--so we basically have this entire room to ourselves, with our own bathroom. Not bad.
The hostel is clean, new, and nice...but the crowd is kind of weird. I'm pretty sure we're staying with about 5 groups of grade 12 German grad trips, so we feel old. And in a hostel, that's saying something.
The free housekeeping and breakfast is definitely nice, though. Wifi only in the common room, so it's a pain to walk down 4 flights of stairs to send an email. They have towels you can rent (not a bad idea, considering a)I forgot to pack one and b)this way you're not carrying around a giant mildewing sack from city to city), as well as laundry, but I opted out of the latter. Mostly because I brought enough clothes to last me a month. But I do have Tide sink-washing detergent packs--thanks, Shoppers travel section!
This is my first hostel experience, so I'm glad I came with people I know so I can ease into it. But it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be.
After Jamie and I took advantage of our free breakfast (and for those of you that know me know I hate breakfast, so this is definitely about scoring a great deal--free food is free food), we roused John and made our way to the subway for a day of seeing what Vienna has to offer.
...not gonna lie, I thought Vienna was way up in the Alps. Whoops. Way off. Looks like my cartography skills could use some work. We navigated to Stephansplatz where there is a huge cathedral, very beautiful. In one of the towers, you could climb the stairs to the top, so naturally we decide to try it. 3.50 Euros later, we arrive, sweaty and out of breath, to the top, and are greeted by none other than a giant gift shop. In the top of the church. SO TACKY. Then, on the way down, you got so dizzy because of the spiral stairs, and my flip flops were not enjoying the smoothed edges of thousand year old steps. I almost slid down the entire staircase, ass over teakettle. Multiple times. Needless to say, this was most definitely a huge tourist trap...we basically paid 5 bucks to work out. Not impressed.
Next, we walked up Kärterstrasse, which is one of the big shopping streets downtown. One of the really nice things about Vienna is the amount of pedestrian only areas it has. We made a quick stop at the BK Lounge so John could eat, since he missed breakfast. Something I've noticed about fast food in Europe--there are no garbages; you're supposed to leave your tray on the table and someone will clean it up for you. Also, the interior had marble and crown molding...like it was legitimately nicer than many houses I've been in. You stay classy, Austria.
After that, we saw Hofburg Palace, home of the Hapsburg Dynasty, which was absolutely insane to me. I think I took about 200 photos today alone, because from then on, my afternoon was one giant architectural orgasm. I'm not kidding, this place made Buckingham Palace look like a joke. It now houses the National Library, as well as a few museums.
We then walked across the street where two identical, yet equally impressive palaces stood, facing each other. They are also now art galleries and museums, all of which you have to pay for, so we opted for an exterior self-tour instead. (I can google whatever's inside...when seeing something like that is going to be so touristy, it's usually not worth the money)
We walked some more and just kept finding gorgeous building after gorgeous building--theatres, palaces, museums, etc. We ended by walking through the gardens,which were perfectly manicured, and ended up in the big square where the Spanish Riding School is. I really wanted to go watch, but to watch a horseback riding lesson for 12 Euros wasn't worth it to any of us, and the shows are on hiatus for the summer. But we went inside, at least.
After a tumble down some more marble steps--they should really fix that, you know--we made our way to a nearby cafe so Jamie and I could have some lunch. I had a mixed salad and spaghetti bolognese; I just wanted something simple, as my stomach was still recovering from the unknown substance posing as McDonald's that entered my body for dinner the night before.
We decided to check out the Freud Museum, at Jamie's suggestion, and I'm really glad we did -- I studied his work a little in university, and found the bits that I became familiar with to be really interesting. The museum was $7 euros or 4.50 for students (bring your student card everywhere if you have one--you never know what you can get a discount on, and it never hurts to flash it--the worst thing they'll do is charge you full price anyway...like those church stairs....383 divided by 3.50..that's like 1.09 cents per step! Rip. Off.) Anyway, the museum was interesting, it gave a really good picture of Freud's life, some excerpts of his material, and what was going on externally that affected his work (WWII, his emigration to London, etc). I learned a lot.
We came back to the hostel, showered and changed (well, I did--backpacking boys will be smelly boys...thank god I brought my febreeze), and headed out for some dinner. We were on the hunt for traditional Wienerschnitzel. After wandering around a bit to try and find the place recommended by a few places online, we realized it had no patio, so we opted for a different spot. We ordered and basically got veal scallopini with white wine sauce. After 2 hours of waiting. And 2 flies in my glass of wine. UGH. Don't get me wrong, the food was very good once it got there, but they forgot our appetizers, gave me polenta instead of noodles, and it wasn't traditional schnitzel like I specifically asked when we ordered! I guess they take this no tips business seriously in Europe -- I would've never made that mistake while working. What an amateur haha. So I'm a little disappointed and may renew my quest for the Holy Grail of Vienna again tomorrow--the REAL schnitzel deal this time. Deep fried with no sauce, just lemon and potato salad.
Oh yeah, one thing that worries me a bit is that my debit card doesn't work in Austria. I tried 3 different banks, all of which rejected the card saying it wasn't valid when I tried to withdraw money. Jamie's RBC card worked fine, so I know it's not a Canadian thing. It's not a big deal, because I have my Visa which works and some Canadian cash I can change in a pinch, but Goddamn, Scotia..I'm so switching when I get home. Useless!
Tomorrow we are going to relax, take it easy, maybe do a wine tour since we saw most of the sights today. Perhaps have a Viennese coffee, at my Mom's suggestion, and then get in line for those cheap tickets for the Opera. It's a must do, and their last show before they go on holiday for the summer!
We've been pretty low-key in Vienna so far--it's quite expensive to go out, so I think we will take a little more advantage in Budapest starting Thursday. We're just preparing ourselves.