December 27, 2013
We are back in Texas now. By the time we ended our final day in Vienna we needed to pack, grab a couple hours of sleep, and get our butts to the airport for a 6:25am flight. Therefore I didn’t have time to write about our day, but now I do! So here it is!
On Saturday (12/21) we got up early to go to the Naschmarkt with Thomas and have some breakfast. When we stepped outside it was sunny! (The first and only day we saw sun on our trip.) The Naschmarkt is a combination of outdoor vendor displays and indoor markets and restaurants. We walked around for a bit looking at all the fruits, veggies, cheese!, meats, and random souvenirs.
We had breakfast at Café Drechsler across the street and then parted ways.
Zach and I continued to poke around the Naschmarkt ending up at a HUGE flea market at the end. We spent a good amount of time looking around the flea market which had a wide variety of products. I did buy an embroidered purse, but for the most part we found that the vendors knew what their stuff was worth and asked higher prices than we were willing to spend. There were trinkets, records, clothing, purses, steins, shoes, toys, etc. Tons of things. We even saw a vendor selling traditional dirndls and lederhosen. I would love to have my own dirndl but that will have to wait. After we walked the entirety of the flea market we headed back through the Naschmarkt where we bought some truffle and parmesan butter-like substance to use on pasta and we sampled their truffle salami – YUM! We stopped by the shop Zach wanted to visit on our way out – Urbanek – but sadly, it was closed.
We left the Naschmarkt to make it to the opera house for the 1 o’clock tour (it was one of only two tours available during our stay). The tour was wonderfully informative especially since we weren’t able to see a performance. (I did order stand by tickets when we were in Austin, but tickets never opened up. There are standing tickets available an hour or so before the show, but neither one of us really wanted to stand for an entire opera.) The Wiener Staatsoper is pretty spectacular. It is not entirely original as it sustained fairly severe damage during WWII – I believe our guide said 8 bombs dropped on the opera house. Following the war, money was short and the opera house was not as important as other buildings. The façade is original and stunning, but most of the building was restored during the late 40s and early 50s and definitely reflects that period. It is less grandiose – still gorgeous, but noticeably different from the imperialistic style of late 19th century Vienna. Even so, I would love to see a performance there sometime. It’s a beautiful building and has a long operatic history.
We left the opera and made our way out to Schloss Schönbrunn, the former imperial summer palace of the Hapsburgs. After we got our tickets we sat down in the café to finally try the infamous Sachertorte. We didn’t really find it to be spectacular – it’s just chocolate cake! Obviously it was good, but I think it has definitely been overhyped.
Full of cake we left to explore the grounds a bit in the sunlight before heading inside to tour the palace. The palace is quite impressive. After 1743 Empress Maria Theresa made it one of her life’s projects to have it remodeled as her residence. We saw a lot of her influence in the decoration of many of the rooms in the rococo style. Only Emperor Franz Joseph’s rooms looked less grandiose. Photographs are not allowed in the palace so I don’t have any examples, but google a couple of my favorite rooms for an idea: Porcelain Room, Great Gallery, Million Room, Chinese Round Cabinet Room. We timed our tour just right; we were able to see the palace and grounds in the sunlight and when we emerged from our tour the sun had already set.
In the winter Schönbrunn is also home to a Christkindlmarkt which is more picturesque after dark with the palace lit up in the background. We hung out there for a while drinking Kaiser Punsch which is mulled wine with rum (we think) and shopping. We also had some sort of mac n’ cheese variation with bacon and leeks. We spent quite a while there browsing the many vendor stalls and ended up with a few more ornaments and some liqueur – Cappuccino and Apfelstrudel.
We left Schönbrunn to do one final thing before meeting up with Thomas and Richard: Prater. The Wurstelprater is the oldest amusement park in the world. We went chiefly for the giant Ferris wheel – Wiener Riesenrad – which was built in 1897 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph I. It’s 212ft. tall and rotates VERY slowly. We went at night so we couldn’t see the entire skyline of Vienna very well, but Zach was still able to pick out the Rathaus and Stephensdom. It really was a lovely ride, even though being stopped at the top freaked me out. Now we have to watch The Third Man…
After our ride we left Prater to meet up with Thomas and Richard one last time at 1516 Brewing Co. where we had some delightfully American-like IPAs. We were there a little while before being booted out of our table and decided to end our night with one last piece of cake. The Imperial Hotel has its own torte which can only be found at the hotel unlike its more famous counterpart, the Sachertorte, which can be found all over Vienna. The Imperial Torte is better in my opinion. There were 3 different options that night – original, Schwarze Orange, and an anniversary edition. Zach had the original version and I tried the Schwarze Orange (a dark choc. orange). It was delicious and a wonderful to cap our time in Vienna. We should have bought one for home!
We went back to Thomas’s to pack and rest briefly before leaving at 4am to catch a 4:30 bus to the airport and then our flight. After a full 24 hours of travel we finally arrived back home in Austin. This trip was quick, but it was perfect. It would be wonderful to go back in the spring or summer and see more of each city in a more favorable temperature, but the point of this trip was to experience the Christmas markets – which we did! We visited 4 Christmas Markets in 3 different countries and brought home lots of gifts for ourselves and others. Although it was colder than what we’re accustomed to in Texas it was nice to be out in freezing temperatures drinking mulled wine and eating hot stews. The Christmas Markets need that bitter cold to really be such beacons of warmth and delight. It’s wonderful to be outside walking around in the cold and then be welcomed by the warmth of a comfy coffee house or the steam of glühwein billowing up in your face. Hopefully we can go back again.
**Huge shout-out to Thomas and Richard (& Milkana) for making our time in Vienna so wonderful! Thanks, guys!