After saying our goodbyes to the city of Prague, we took the train to Vienna, Austria. Despite the beautiful weather reflected in the photograph above, we stepped off of the train into pouring rain. Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, Emma and I are not strangers to heavy downfalls of rain, the problem was that we yet again had trouble figuring out the right directions to get to our hostel. Getting off the metro line in Vienna, we ended up walking about 20 minutes in the wrong direction, so by the time we arrived at the hostel sopping wet, I don’t think we even needed a shower.
We decided to book a 6 bed room in the Meininger in Vienna (there are actually three different Meininger hotels in the city), because it was one of the few cheaper options that still had available rooms and after my lovely stay at one of their branches in Amsterdam, I figured it would be reliable. It was actually really simple to get to if you ever need a clean inexpensive place to stay that is close enough to the city’s main attractions via the U-Bahn, but we had taken a turn in the wrong direction that put us off of the correct path. We arrived in Vienna in the late afternoon and were completely exhausted from our travels that we spent our first evening hanging out in the hotel before getting a bite to eat and getting a good nights rest for the next day exploring the city. Contrary to many of the photos I was able to take, the weather was not exactly in our favor for most of our stay in Vienna, which was a little disappointing at first but it made museum visits even more appealing because we could stay indoors without feeling guilty about missing out on sunshine. Our first full day in Vienna we went to tour St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a magnificent gothic cathedral in the centre of the city. They offered several different types of tours within the cathedral ranging from a guided tour of the inside, a tour of the tower and a tour of the catacombs, which is the one that we selected because it’s not everyday that you get to walk the underground tunnels of such an old building. Here is the exterior of the cathedral on the day we toured the inside. I try to be very truthful with the photos when posting so you get a real sense of what our experiences in each city were like.And here it is on an absolutely stunning day, it’s amazing how fast the weather can turn over within a day or two. I like how even with the scaffolding on the side it doesn’t take away from the intricate architecture.Here is a glimpse into the interior.
After the catacomb tour, we made our way over to the Albertina museum. The Albertina is situated in the Hapsburg residential palace and has a vast art collection as well as an exhibit housing the Hapsburg’s personal art collection with furniture and artifacts of the era. The staterooms are also set up in a fashion to allow visitors to enter the rooms once inhabited by the family during the late 1700’s. The museum was very informative and had a nice display of both contemporary as well as classical pieces so there is something that is bound to strike everyone’s fancy. This was part of a temporary art exhibit at the museum during our visit showcasing the NYC based artist Eric Fischl and his artwork to commemorate the victims of 9/11. Originally the central sculpture was displayed in Rockefeller Center, but due to the controversy surrounding the piece, was later removed.Of course the museum visit woudn’t be complete without a Monet.
If you find yourself in Vienna for a short period of time, I would definitely try and make it to the Albertina. It has a little bit of art and a little bit of history all in one place, all it was missing was some Viennese waltz music and a gentleman to whisk me out onto the dance floor in the grand hall of the staterooms. Day two spent in Vienna, we payed the Haus der Musik a visit, because we were in Vienna after all so we had to cross this one off of our bucket list. It was a good mix of information about the history of notable composers and music in Vienna as well as interactive exhibits, so it would be a perfect museum for families to visit! We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city to take in the sights while the weather was being nice to us tourists.
The next afternoon we took the metro to Belvedere, and although the museum portion costs money (hence why we skipped this one) there are beautiful gardens and of course the exterior part of the grounds to admire so it makes a lovely walk on a spring day. And if you can believe it, the two of us got disoriented again trying to find the place from the metro station, but luckily a nice older gentleman was able to point us in the right direction. Vienna was the city where we began to experience some language barriers which didn’t exactly help with our struggles with directions, but all part of the travel experience right?It was actually a bit chilly from the wind even though it was sunny outside, so we had to bundle up.
Next stop…the Imperial Palace and the surrounding grounds which included a huge green space that people were picnicking on and basking in the sun. On our way over to the Sisi Museum we stopped to relax and snap a few photos near the green.This was an incredible greenhouse called the Palmenhaus Schönbrunn and cafe that many visitors were enjoying. The style of it really brought to mind the candy factory in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the actors sing “Toot Sweets.” (Like this if you remember what I’m talking about)Emma planking on the railing at the park. As you can see, we were quite exhausted from walking.
After a few minutes relaxing and getting our daily dose of vitamin D, off we went to the Sisi Museum/Imperial Apartments! Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed in the museum itself, but I did manage to get a picture of the Palace courtyard (You can find photos of the museum via the link above if you want to learn a bit more).
The Sisi Museum was definitely my favorite museum we visited in Vienna and may have quite possibly been my favorite out of all of the places we visited on this little trip around Europe. First of all, we barely had to wait in line to purchase a ticket (maybe because it was a weekday?) and it came with a free audio guide to borrow as we toured the museum, which definitely enhanced the overall experience. Although the Sisi museum was a little bit crowded with tour groups when we visited, it wasn’t an issue because having the audio guide meant I didn’t feel the need to read every little detail on the information plaques. This museum focused on the life of the Empress Elizabeth “Sisi” who married into the Hapsburg royal family and her experience transitioning into a demanding life in the public eye, obsessions with her appearance, and her relationship with Franz Joseph I and her children. The museum showcased the wing of the Palace that Sisi resided in and was full of displayed furniture, paintings and artifacts that were present during her reign as Empress of Austria. One of the things that I found to be particularly interesting about this museum was the insight that it gave into her life in such a public role in society and her struggles coping with the lack of privacy and freedom. From what I gathered from the the information, it sounded like she may have not only struggled with body image but also depression two very prominent things in society today, which was interesting to see from her vantage point. The museum followed her life from childhood all the way through her tragic death being assassinated. From someone interested in psychology and who enjoys seeing how people lived in the past, this museum was right up my alley and it made me curious to learn more about the Empress and her involvement in the Hapsburg family. After the museum visit, we walked around the grounds of the Palace, admiring the buildings as the sun began to set on our final day in Vienna.And then we rode off into the sunset on our royal steed…
Just kidding! But we did make it safely back to our hotel after taking a little detour to walk around the city centre to do a bit of window shopping on such a lovely evening, whilst I joked around to Emma that I could feel the spirit of the Empress Sisi following us. I guess I found her to be a very interesting and unique character of her time being so candid about her emotions and struggles as a royal wife and mother. I think it’s safe to say that this blog post was very museum heavy, but I definitely learned a lot from our sightseeing/gallery adventures and although I can’t say this was my favorite city to visit I would love to visit Austria again and perhaps even make it to Salzburg next trip! Until then, we’re off to the historical city of Firenze to get some rays, gelato and a big tub of Nutella, after all this traveling I think we’ve earned a chance to indulge ourselves.