We enjoyed our time in Prague and Poland but we were now headed to Vienna, Austria. We got up early on Saturday morning to re-pack our backpacks. You would think we would be done with packing, but realize that we need to find ways to be more efficient with our packing. We headed to the station to catch the 9:52 train to Breclav. We would have an hour layover and then head to Austria. We wouldn’t get to Vienna until almost 3pm, so figured that by the time we got to our hotel, we would eat dinner and have a quiet night, a rare thing on this trip.
We arrived at the Prague station about an hour early as it was quite a walk from our hotel. We waited and waited for the platform number to be posted. 20 minutes before the train left, it was finally posted. There was a mad dash to get to platform. People pushing and shoving. In the terminal we met 3 ladies from California. When we boarded, one came into our car and asked how we got into 1st class, told her it was part of our Eurail pass. She said they were very upset about being in 2nd class. Next thing we know they paid to be upgraded. They were very excited to be upgraded…lol.
We stopped in Breclav long enough to get a picture and then we enjoyed our treats that we bought in the convenience store the day before on our way to Poland.
We got to Vienna, and went to information. They helped us obtain a 2 day city train ticket. Told us which train to catch for our hotel. We got off on what we thought was the correct stop. It was in the middle of an open-air mall. We walked down to the bottom of the hill, only to realize that we had gone the wrong way. Cindy sat with the backpacks, while Jim and Jerie went to look for the hotel. We then rode the train to the top of the hill and walked back down as the hotel was about half way between stations. The hotel was an older hotel, but very large with a kitchenette. The toilet had a “poop shelf”. LOL
We took a nap and then decided to go out and get some dinner, we looked out the window and everything was closing. We ran down the stairs and the mall closed at 6pm on a Saturday night!! Found a noodle place that was open and a Dunkin Donuts. Since the donut place was closing, he gave us the gourmet donuts for half price.
The next morning we got up and repacked. We were going to leave our bags in the free luggage storage provided by the hotel. They were serving breakfast, a real breakfast. 3 ladies to serve and clean-up. Wow what a treat, and they had cute hard-boiled egg holders. We were warned that since it was Sunday, that at 11 am, the church bells ring for 15 minutes, calling all people to church services. Good to know…we then set off to find our tour.
After asking a very friendly person, and visiting the kiosk of 3 tour companies, we finally found the correct one. We had tickets for the Hop on, Hop off bus. However, they had a free walking tour of the “inner ring”. The guide was very knowledgeable. Our tour started off with the music history of Vienna. We learned that the Vienna Opera house was built in 1869. Mozart conducted there. It was hit by bombs in April 1945 and took 10 years to re-build. There are 360 performances every year and different decorations for each one. Ladies must wear long dresses to attend. The last day of Carnival, they host a benefit concert to finance the retirement center for the singers. There are 4 Vienna Boys choirs. Beethoven came to Austria from Germany to study. He had a Count that paid his bills, so he was able to compose music full-time. Mozart’s house was built on the execution square and pig market.
On our way to the Presidential Palace we made a few stops…
One of the stops was at a war memorial in the City Square. During a bombing siege, 300 women and children took shelter in the basement of a building. A bomb hit the building and buried everyone. They left the bodies entombed and built a square on top. It is now a symbol against war. We also walked by a shop that has a Pinocchio outside. Jim bent down and I took a quick picture. We didn’t see the sign that said pictures were .50 euros. The shop keeper chased down the street, yelling at us to pay. We didn’t know why he was yelling. Grabbed Jim and made him go back and put coins in the box…note to self…no more pictures in or around shops.
We made a quick stop at the Spanish Riding School’s outdoor arena and were fortunate enough to catch the horses walking to their stalls. There is 40-60 stallions housed here at a time. They are all born brown or black and turn white as they mature. They start training at 4 years old and are trained for 5 years before the perform. They then perform for 5 years and are retired. The group must have at least 1 dark horse for good luck. General George Patton rescued the horses during World War II.
We continued our walk to the Austrian National Library.
Onward to the Hofburg, which is the former imperial palace. This is St. Michael’s Wing
More of the Hofburg…
This is the balcony where Hitler made his famous speech in March 1938, declaring that Austria was occupied and placed under German rule. The Nazis took gold, national treasures, and the holy spear. There were 115,000 Jews before the occupation, and only 10,000 today. During the occupation, Jews were made to sweep and scrub the streets as a form of humiliation. During the World War II, 200,000 Austrian soldiers were killed, and 30% of the homes were damaged or destroyed. Vienna was liberated on April 27, 1945. It took 14 days to establish a new government. Citizens were placed on a strict ration of 800 calories per day. As a country they had to remain neutral and have no alliance with Germany. Austria was under Soviet rule until 1953 when Stalin died. In 1955, they were granted full independence, but had to pay 150 million to Russia to complete the deal. Today, because of the abuses that took place during World War II, the Austrian people are very accepting of all races, nationalities, and lifestyles.
Imperial Gate, Hofburg arches, and ancient building foundations just outside the Palace.
We walked back to pickup the Hop on Hop off bus. Came upon a group of dancers.
And a pretty cool sculpture.
The bus was a great way to see the city, not a lot of description, but a good over-view.
It was election day in Austria so lots of pictures of the candidates…
We drove past the amusement park that has a ferris wheel built with enclosed gondolas.
We drove past the Vienna Danube Tower which is the tallest structure in Austria.
More buildings of Vienna…
We ended the afternoon, by eating at a sidewalk cafe…pork schnitzel, chicken snitzel, a Vienna brat wrapped in bacon, served with potato salad, cole slaw, and fries, Came with a chunky honey mustard. Since we don’t drink we ordered orange, apple, and raspberry seltzers as we couldn’t decide on a flavor.
We headed back to the Hotel Pension Continental, where we picked up our backpacks. The clerk was very nice and let us use the wi-fi, so we could get the hotel info for our next stop… Munich, Germany. We took the train back to the main station. Our train left at 8:55pm and to pass the time we headed to McDonald’s McCafe. We found these were a great place to “hang out” in the train stations. Ordered a hot vanilla milk, tasted so good. First milk product in 2 weeks…yummy.
So here are the random facts we learned from our tours in Vienna…
Coffee shops: most have 15 coffee recipes, they have mostly men waiters, who will always look angry. Most popular-dark coffee, no cream. You can stay as long as you want. Julius Meinl perfected the roasting of the coffee bean and based his company out of Vienna.
The Austrian dialect is like German however it sounds smoother and softer when spoken.