Europe by Train 2012: Vienna

To avoid being ripped off by another taxi driver, I got the tram to the station and for some reason or another I didn’t have to pay on a Sunday. I must say that Budapest Keleti station is impressive, sorry for the wonky perspective.

Vienna Keleti

Vienna Train

The train journey on RJ66 left at 13.10 and only lasted two and a half hours. I settled down with ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ in a ‘quiet’ carriage (not) and the journey went quite quickly.  I saw the many fields of sunflowers as I left Budapest and got talking to an Austrian man as we pulled up to Vienna who kindly helped me with my bag. He’d just come back from a holiday in Transylvania which naturally prompted a few vampire questions from me – fortunately he understood English and my humour very well! . I was back in a country with money I recognised, a German language I could attempt, even if just to ask ‘Sprechen sie Englisch?’ I was staying at the Hotel Mozart and, to follow the holiday habit of poor navigational skills, I got a taxi to save getting lost. Although the Hotel had had good write ups, I was overwhelmed with how charming it was. It could so easily have been tacky, although in hindsight Austria is not well known for tackiness! Everything was elegant, ornate and well, charming:

Vienna Reception

Vienna Piano

And this was just Reception. For dinner I went to Akakito which was a Japanese restaurant but 20 feet from my hotel. Tried some Saké, ‘small hot drink, quite fortifying in the wet’ (‘Top Girls’, Caryl Churchill which we had done at college) I found some tours of Vienna for the next day in Reception, opting for a close topped bus as I’d really caught the sun yesterday. 

I found the necessary tram to get to the State Opera House and had ensured it was going in the right direction! When I got there I was quite overwhelmed by the beauty of the building and quite amused to see men dressed in full Mozart costumes selling tickets:

Vienna Opera

Vienna Men

The wonky photo is mine, the chaps in costume photo is taken from the web as I didn’t get a good one!

I found the bus and went on an hour long tour of Vienna.  It was a hop on hop off tour but I had bought an hour ticket so stayed put:

The tour took me from the State Opera House, to Heroes Square, past St Stephen’s Cathedral and return to the Opera House:

Vienna Statue

                                            Statue of Archduke Charles of Austria (above)               

                                            St Stephen’s Cathedral (below)

Vienna St Stephens                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

On my return to the Opera House it hit me how tired I was and yes, needed a cup of tea and cake, well it was between 3pm and 5pm. A man in Mozart attire walked up to me and told me he’d give me a free ticket if I could identify him in a leaflet. It was going to be like Where’s Wally as each man in the leaflet was dressed in a similar costume and there was around forty of them. I thanked him, Marco, and explained that I was on holiday and would be leaving the next day, could he point me in the direction of a café, he insisted that I try to find him, I had three attempts. Sighing, I selected three men and didn’t find him, he giggled, I said ‘you’re not in the leaflet are you?!’ He found this hilarious, I demanded that he show me to a cup of tea, he pointed and I stomped off to Café Mozart. (It’s ok, I met up with him again on the way back and apologised for being a bit rude.) I suspected that Café Mozart was going to be obscenely priced but it really wasn’t, plus the elegance continued:

Vienna Cafe

 Having Mozart Torte in Café Mozart whilst staying Hotel Mozart, yes there was a definite theme here…

Vienna Cake

Vienna Mozart

Zingy now looking a little jaded

I looked out of the window, beneath another elegant chandelier, and viewed the buildings outside. They were beautiful and grand; some had intricate stonework, some had simple, elegant lines. I thought back to my history reading of the differences in culture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how it caused many problems. Hungary had a large peasant population whereas Austria had aristocracy and gentry (if I remember rightly) and the sprawling Empire had many internal problems. I thought about the differences that I’d seen between Budapest and Vienna and can only think that Budapest’s buildings had more visual wear and tear on them. Vienna’s buildings reminded me of the buildings I’d seen in Kensington, London. 

I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the whole place so made my way back to the tram to my hotel. I did run into Marco on my way back but politely declined an invitation to dinner. My last long train ride was the next day and I needed to get myself organised.

Sarah Downes