Monday, January 11, 2016

Europe at Christmas {Vienna}

On Friday, December 18th, I went Vienna, Austria.  I had an early start with a taxi picking me up at the hotel in Prague at 6 a.m.  I had a 6:52 train out of Prague because the travel time was about 4 hours and I wanted to get as much time in Vienna as I could.  When planning the trip, I decided to sacrifice one of my days in Vienna for a day in London.  I'd 100% do it again by the way, as I LOVED seeing London in it's Christmas finery, but it just meant that I had to plan and prioritize to make the most of my few hours in Vienna.

The Prague train station adventure, yeah, let's call it that.  It was worrisome for about 5 minutes when I couldn't find my train info on the television monitors and couldn't figure out where the heck to go.  I was pretty early, so I knew I had plenty of time to figure it out, and in fact was probably why my train info wasn't listed yet, and I was about to get some breakfast when a man approached and said "you need help".  Not really a question, he just stated it, and then drug me over to some boards where he typed something in.  He told me what platform to go to, then went to another board and pulled up an image of my train, and told me that my first class car was going to be the last car on the train.  Then proceeded to escort me to my platform.  I was pretty happy he came along, so I tipped him of course.  I was a little sad I didn't get anything to eat, but more happy that I was on a platform that seemed to be correct.  He apparently found other confused travelers as the time passed and kept bringing people to the platform.  When it came time for the train to approach, he showed back up and said "Come with me!".  Then he grabbed my big suitcase and took off.  I hoped he was leading me to my car, and not stealing my luggage, but since I was able to keep up with him, I wasn't too concerned.  He actually carried my luggage onto the train for me, said "goodbye" and hopped off the train.

The train I took to Vienna was a railjet train, which means it was a nice new train car and had helpful screens that told you how fast the train was going, what stop was next, and showed the stops on down the line.  You can see Wien Hbf at 10:51, that was my stop.  So I ate a handful of teddy graham snacks that I had brought along with me, read a little, and watch the Czech countryside fly by.  The 4 hours passed pretty quickly.

When I got to Vienna, I caught a taxi to my hotel.  I was staying at Hotel Levante Parliament.  I chose this hotel, as I did all of my hotels, because it was near the Christmas Market I intended to visit that night.  The hotel was located near the Rathaus (City Hall).  These are the hotel's pics of the outside.  I tried to take a pic first thing, but then accidentally stepped into what was apparently a bike lane and not a side walk, got yelled at in German, almost ran over by two bikes, and was too traumatized to actually take the photo.
(hotel's stock photos)
I lucked out again, and was able to do an early check-in.  This hotel was quite different from my Prague hotel, as it was pretty modern in design.
My room was #308
This was the only room on my trip where I opted for the cheaper single room.  I figured I was only there a night, and when I booked rooms, there was a considerable difference in price.

It was a quiet room because it looked out over the courtyard.  I was glad it was quiet since I had to leave this window open a lot too because it was too hot in the room despite turning the temp on the thermostat all the way down.  (I was hot just about everywhere in Europe.  They like to keep things nice and toasty!)

As soon as I got my bag up to the room and secured some stuff in the in-room safe, I headed out.  My first destination was Demel for lunch.  Vienna was the home of the Habsburgs so there are Imperial Palaces galore.  My plan was to walk through the Hofburg Palace gardens and grounds on my way to lunch.  I knew that I wouldn't have time to actually tour it's Imperial Apartments, but I wanted to at least see the outside.  Vienna is so grand, that every building is beautiful.  I have no idea what this is, but it looks important.  
The gardens.  I bet they are stunning in the summer.

At this point, I think I should have turned left, but instead turned right.  It led to me taking a LONG way to Demel, but I was able to see the Mozart statue on the way...
and the Spanish Riding School and a couple of the Lipizzan horses...

FINALLY!  Demel!  
At that point I had been awake for 8 hours and had only eaten the hand-full of Teddy Grahams, so it was safe to say that I was so ready for food.
I only had to wait a couple of minutes and was then seated at the chicest little table with a comfy red settee.  I ordered a hot chocolate, which by the way, was the best hot chocolate I have EVER had...
Quiche and Salad
and I have no idea what this was...chocolate, hazelnut, something or other... it wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bad either
Before reaching Demel, I had been a bit tired, hungry, had almost gotten ran over by the bikes, and then been lost for a bit.  I was in a bit of a grumpy mood, but I gave myself a little pep talk during lunch, and got my attitude straight and headed out to make the most of the rest of the day.  I headed toward Stephenplatz and St. Stephen's.

There is a Christmas market at St. Stephen's that I looked around for a bit.

As you can see, it was starting to get pretty foggy.

I loved that all of the light posts had Christmas trees tied to them.
From Stephenplatz, I took the U-bahn.  I was worried for a minute, but it turned out to be the easiest subway system I've ever seen.  I bought a day pass and used it as my method of transport for the rest of the day.  I took it out of the city center (about 10 minutes) and went to Schönbrunn Palace.  This was the Habsburg's summer home.  The palace was about a 5 minute walk from the Schönbrunn stop.  

I actually did take a tour of this palace, but of course, they didn't allow any photographs inside.  Here are a couple that I got off of their official website to give you some idea of the opulence inside.  This first picture is the Great Gallery and this is where President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev had their famous summit in 1961.  

After the inside tour I went around to the back of the palace to see the gardens.
I knew nothing would be blooming, but there are some statues and other architectural elements that are pretty.
I'm sure in the summer it is beautiful, and I had to throw in this pic so you can see how much the fog was impeding my view here...
You can't even see that upper structure!

I walked back around and then spent some time in the Christmas market.  I'm wondering now why in the heck I didn't get one of these yummy pretzels...

I knew it would be getting dark soon, so I wanted to head back into Vienna.  I decided to go back to Stephenplatz, even though it meant a few extra changes on the U-bahn, because I wanted to see those chandeliers and other lights in the dark...

I was so glad I made the detour.  These are even more stunning in person.

Then I took the U-bahn to Rathausplatz for the BIG Christkindlmarkt.

They did the tree like the French flag this year to show solidarity with the French after the Paris attacks.

It really was beyond anything I could have imagined, and I had looked at lots of pictures of this beforehand.  Even the park around the market was decked out with each tree decorated in a different "theme"....

And that's pretty much a wrap on my trip to Vienna.  I'm glad I went, even if only for a day.  Of course, I could have spent more time there and done more, but I accomplished everything on my to-do list.

My Vienna purchases...

I bought this ornament at Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market.  I'm not in love with it, but it was the ONLY ornament that was Schönbrunn related, if you can believe that.
After not having great luck at Schönbrunn, I kind of snapped up the first Rathaus Market ornament I found...
Then I ran across another that I really loved, so I got it too!

Stay tuned for the next stop...Budapest!


The Cooper Family said...

I've been anxiously awaiting your next posts! Cannot believe how foggy it was.


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