The first full day of being in Vienna began with a train ride to Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial summer palace for the Habsburgs. It’s decadent; I also heard the word splendor tossed around a few times on the tour and it’s a very accurate adjective.
Before touring the palace and the grounds I tried to catch up on the history of the Habsburgs but could only remember a few random details from my high school history class years ago – most ruling families of Europe have at least one member of the Habsburg family mixed in to strengthen ties and alliances, most notably Marie Antoinette to France. I was able to catch up on my ruling families of Europe history and then some!
The palace is beautiful – the ground are breath taking, and even better the gardens are free! The whole place is the second largest palace to Versailles and the gardens are massive to wander around. I spend at least an hour and half roaming through pristinely kept trees, shrubs, and flowers and even a thick woods that has some trails to hike through. Along the way we kept seeing statues of Greek gods and figures, so naturally, we played the “which Greek or Roman god or myth is this scene from” game and could name most but not all of the statues.
We were able to hike up a little hill and get an amazing view of the palace, some of the gardens, and the city in the back ground. The weather was a little windy and cloudy but there were moments of cool sunshine that made it a beautiful visit for September.
After spending most of the morning hiking and wandering mom and I headed off to Café Central for a true Viennese coffee and a taste of the famed coffee houses in the city. The wait wasn’t bad, we had a table after only 15 minutes and promptly were served.
The coffee was good enough and the apple strudel was thick with apples and cinnamon, a little under cooked and not as flakey as we would like. Regardless, worth the wait to sit and sip warm drinks in a beautiful café.
As two women alone in a beautiful city we knew that our next stop would naturally have to be to the Albertina to meet up with Gustav Klimt, Alfred Kubin, Edgar Degas and my personal favorite Paul Cézanne. Where did we find such an eclectic group of painters? Why the Albertina of course!
We went not entirely aware of who we would see and we were blown away when we began looking around and realizing how many amazing and beautiful (not to mention history) pieces of art were all with one gallery. I suppose I shouldn’t be too blown away – it is Vienna after all, a major seat of culture – but regardless, it was amazing to see so many amazing artists’ works in one room.
Not to focus exclusively on Impressionist painters, there was quite a bit of modern art and thoughtful photography as well. We were a little pressed on time and tired from all the walking so we breezed through those exhibits quickly.
Ideally, we wanted to see an Opera – or at least the Opera House – but they only do guided tours on certain times on Sundays so we weren’t able to see anything. Not too put out, we did get to see St. Stephan’s Cathedral (aka, the Dom). It was a little too crowded to feel like an intimate tour of the church but it was a nice to look around and gawk at the Gothic architecture and marvel at something so historic.
Heading back to the hotel we did stop and see a little friend from home – a small cactus was at a flower stand, I don’t know who thought that would be a fun mix but it was there. We also passed a bookstore. I really should keep a tally of how many bookstores we’ve passed on this trip, I feel like there’s either a cafe or bookshop on every corner.
Dinner and then we stopped for a little bit of gelato. It was a little cold for gelato but fortunately, we have our priority straightened out and toughed out the cold as we took a walk through our neighborhood. Freezing but happy we passed 5 different cafes in the time it took us to finish our desserts – these people aren’t kidding about their love for coffee!
Cold and tired we headed back to the hotel and packed for our train to Prague tomorrow. It was a short trip and I know we probably only touched the surface but it was a good start.