Using the Germanwings “Blind Booking” promotion, which randomly (kind of if you don’t know how to work the system by seeing which flights are full) selects a destination from a predetermined list for passengers at a fixed price. Using this promotion, we got to fly to Vienna.
We were even planning to go to Budapest as a day trip from Vienna, but that turned out to be too expensive, and that there was plenty in Vienna to see.
Flight to Vienna
While waiting for our flight at Stuttgart International, we saw two double sized Foosball tables set up to go along with the Women’s World Cup Soccer. By double sized, I mean that instead of only four rotating sets of players per side there were eight per side. They took up so much space that one had to quickly hop to the other size to control the other set of players.
We played this for a little bit until the rest of our party arrived. Once everyone arrived, we went to get our boarding passes and then to the security checkpoint. One thing that really surprised me there was that the airport security wasn’t very strict at all. All I did was go through the metal detector and got my backpack checked by the X-Ray. They didn’t open it up/search it or anything like that. They didn’t do that to anyone. They didn’t check my bag for liquids either. People could easily smuggle prohibited items on the plane. Once we passed the security checkpoint, we waited until we could board.
We boarded a small Airbus A319, which looked like it could probably only fit about 100 people on it. I noticed that each passenger was given a barf bag (I’ve heard of people getting nosebleeds while flying, but not nausea). On one side of the barf bag, there was a chart that showed at what levels of nausea would cause one to puke and the caption that was written for the top level was “the price of our competitors”. I’m guessing that their price is so low that people will puke? Either way, I thought it was pretty comical. To be fair though, Ryanair typically has lower airfares in my experience (I hope I didn’t sound like I’m advertising these airlines). The flight itself took only about an hour. The plane went up to 28000 ft. briefly before having to descend again.
Since we arrived in the evening, we got hungry pretty quickly after dropping off our stuff at the hostel. We looked around for a restaurant to try some Viennese food. Apparently, Vienna is known for their Wienerschnitzel. With that in mind, that’s what we ordered. Every single one of us in our group ordered that except for the guy who was vegetarian.
What puzzled me about that meal was that the restaurant served the schnitzel with rice. I thought it would be served with something like potatoes. I guess that’s the choice of the restaurant. It didn’t matter to me though since I just wanted the schnitzel. The schnitzel itself was basically a huge piece of boneless pork coated in breadcrumbs that was fried (not deep fried). I thought it tasted good, but it wasn’t amazing to me. Pork isn’t that high up on my favourites.
A Bit of Relaxation (Kind Of)
After our meal, we went to a park to relax a little bit by throwing a Frisbee around. It was kind of strange to me since we hadn’t done any real sightseeing yet and it seemed as if the others went to Vienna to throw a Frisbee around. They even went to the grocery store to buy a few six packs of beer! We all had the impression that Vienna was a really classy city, but what we were doing didn’t really seem classy at all.
While we played Frisbee, we noticed an insane amount of flies, mosquitos and other pesky insects. Apparently, the others encountered the same thing when they biked to Austria one time. These flies flew around in groups and were so annoying, especially the mosquitos that kept buzzing around my ear.
Schloß Schönbrunn by Night
After about an hour of Frisbee, we walked a little further to the schloss. The schloss used to be the imperial summer residence back in the day. It is now one of the most famous monuments and one of the most visited attractions in the country. Since we arrived really late, the schloss had already closed and the guard there told us to leave when we tried to enter. We ended up taking pictures from the outside. Since there was nobody around to take a group picture for us, we set up an improvised tripod using the box from a six-pack of beer and used the camera timer.
Afterward, on our way back to the hostel, we came across two guys from Prague asking us if the park was a good place to sleep. We were all kind of puzzled since we figured everyone would just book a hostel or something like that. When we mentioned going to a hostel, one of the guys just made the subtle finger rubbing gesture to show that it was out of their budget. While talking to them, a friend of mine with a beer in his hand just said “na zdraví”, which meant “cheers” in Czech and the guy was really surprised that he knew it (we learned that from Prague). We ended up directing them to the park and then went back to the hostel to meet up with another friend who was joining us later on. He came by train since he decided to come with us after we had already arranged our transportation. Once we met up, a few people in our group decided to go a bar and somehow ended up back at the hostel at around 3 am.
The next morning (glad I went to sleep instead), we took a trip to the city center, which is usually where a lot of the touristy stuff is. One of our friends decided to take a nap at the hostel instead since he came back so late the night before. The first place we went to was the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. What annoyed me a lot here was that the cathedral was under maintenance. The face of the cathedral we were supposed to see had a large construction cover over it. The inside, however, was super nice.
After seeing the church, we just walked in a random direction until we saw something cool. The worst part about walking that day was that the temperature was at least 30 degrees Celsius. It was like walking around Las Vegas in the middle of summer (ok maybe not as bad). I didn’t pack any shorts and ended up partially rolling up my jeans. I even took some paper to make a fan out of it.
One thing I noticed that was very common was that the locals here really liked wearing fedoras and giant hipster glasses (more prominent at least, but it’s not like they’re everywhere). Even better was that they looked good in them. It really added to that impression of classiness that we had from the beginning. Even the H&M stores looked classier than the ones in Germany. The way the Austrians spoke German sounded a lot nicer too. It sounded more “clean” because they spoke slower and enunciated more unlike the Swabian German that I’m used to hearing. Apparently, Vienna is tied with Vancouver for cities with the best quality of life. I can see that.
Memorial for Mozart
Afterward, we headed to the Hofburg Palace. Along the way, we came across a memorial to Mozart. It was a statue of him posing majestically and in front of the statue was a garden with flowers arranged in the shape of a treble clef.
I guess when it comes to Austrian music, Mozart is a big deal since he was born in Salzburg.
After we walked a little bit more, we reached the Maria-Theresien-Platz. This area contains two of Vienna’s major museums: the national history museum and the art history museum (more classy stuff). While I was there, I took a picture of both buildings, but looking more closely at the pictures, it seems like the two buildings are almost identical.
At the center, there was a giant statue that basically acted as a giant shade and a lot people just crowded there. It was reallyyyyyyyyy hot that day. While headed to the Hofburg Palace, we came across a public water fountain, which gathered a rather large crowd of people. The funniest thing about that water fountain was that it had the words “Wiener Wasser” (literally “Viennese Water” in German) printed on it. Maybe I’m immature, but I still think it’s funny. Maybe even funnier, the water from that machine tasted really good.
Eventually, we ended up the Hofburg Palace, the former home of some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, such as the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Currently, it is the residence of the President of Austria. In contrast to the Schloß Schönbrunn, this was their winter palace.
Outside the palace, there was the Volksgarten for people to enjoy. In the garden, there were flowers (typical of a garden I guess), and the Theseustempel, which was intended to be a replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
After walking around this area, we reached the government district of the city.
The Parliament and Rathaus
Although we only walked by the parliament (why we didn’t spend time there I don’t know), I did manage to get a quick shot of the building. Walking a little further, we reached the rathaus (city hall). Both of these buildings had really impressive architecture. Looking back at the photos, the Austrian parliament building bears some resemblance to the German Reichstag and the rathaus bears some resemblance to the Munich Rathaus.
When we were there, the city had set up a giant screen and a bunch of chairs for the open air theatre for opera and concert films. We planned to check it out later, but we never got to that. We also met up with our friend who chose to nap at the hostel instead of coming with us to see the tourist sights (sucks that he missed out).
Across from the rathaus, was the Burgtheater, one of the most important German language theatres (the ones for plays and not movies) in the world.
Near the top of the building, there were busts of famous playwrights such as Goethe and Schiller. They even had a bust of Shakespeare, even though he wrote English plays.
Our next destination was the Liechtenstein Museum. Along the way, we passed the University of Vienna and the Votive Church. Eventually, after walking several blocks, we reached the museum.
The museum mostly contained old works of art and also a really impressive horse carriage used by family members of the House of Liechtenstein. Also in the museum was an old library. The interior of the library looked like something out of Harry Potter – full of old books (but without the dust and the screaming people).
Somehow I don’t think I was supposed to take pictures of any of these things. I took a close look at a lot of these books, and there were titles from a variety of genres like science and literature.
Mozart’s Requiem at the Karlskirche
Knowing that later in the evening, we would be going to see Mozart’s Requiem being performed at the Karlskirche, we went back to the hostel to wash up before heading out (we felt so sweaty and gross for pretty much the whole day). While we waited for the others, we played a few games of Pool at the hostel. Originally, the concert was supposed to be at the Vienna State Opera (at least that’s what the website said), so we were kind of disappointed when we found out that the performance would be at a church (even if it was near where Mozart died).
After we bought our tickets, we proceeded inside and enjoyed the design of the interior of the church. When I walked in, I was totally surprised by how impressive the inside of the church was. I did not expect something so amazing, especially the design of the altar. The bright light around it made it even more amazing.
While listening to the concert and the sound of the violins, I felt a strong urge to take up violin. It’s also something I always wanted to learn, but I wasn’t sure if I’d end up sticking with it. The concert wasn’t quite as I good as I expected it to be. I felt that the concert in Prague sounded a lot better, but it might have been because of the acoustics of the room. The church we were had didn’t have very good room acoustics. However, the singers sounded really good. Despite that, the audience liked their performance a lot and clapped for a few minutes. Some people even stood up and clapped. After the concert, we came out in the middle of a thunderstorm some distance away. I tried to take photographs of a lightning bolt, but I couldn’t react fast enough with the camera to get the shot (even on long exposure).
Wombat Hostel Bar
For some reason, when we got back to the hostel at night, we went down to the bar and started drinking. Maybe it was because we wanted to take advantage of their amazing deal for shots – 1 shot for 1 euro. We ended up having six shots in an hour – not counting the Jaegerbombs we had before that. We ended up mixing a lot of different shots together like Tequila, Whiskey, Vodka, Schnapps, and Gin. I forgot the last one. Now that I think about it, the last one we had was Sambuca, which tasted like liquorice and it sucked, but I think the Schnapps were worse.
The coolest part about the Jaegerbombs was how the bartender arranged them. He arranged the glass of red bull in a line while a shot of Jaeger sat in between two glasses. He knocked over one shot into another and they all fell in the glass of red bull like dominoes. After having so many shots among all of us, we could almost build a pyramid using only shot glasses. We could have, if someone didn’t break one. When the bartender saw us, he was really surprised at how many shots we had, but I think he just felt super uneasy at how we tried to build a shot glass pyramid. At the end of all of that, I didn’t really feel dizzy – maybe the alcohol hadn’t got to me yet. The others then decided they wanted to go out to another bar, but I declined and went to sleep instead. I didn’t feel like coming back super late and not having energy for the next day’s adventure.
The next morning, I found out some of us came back at around 3, while others came back at around 4 or 5. One of our friends didn’t even end up sleeping at the hostel and ended up sleeping outside at a cafe. That was REALLY bizarre. I would never do something like that. Because they came back so late, some of them ended up missing the hostel breakfast and slept in until around 12 pm.
Those of us that had breakfast got to enjoy a great breakfast buffet. The hostel had a sandwich maker so we stuffed as much stuff in our sandwich as possible and got the whole sandwich toasted. I never thought cheese, salami, ham, cucumbers, and peppers in a toasted sandwich could be so good. I think I had around 3 of them.
Schloß Schönbrunn by Day
Since we weren’t able to go to the schloss at night that day, we returned to the schloss after we had the breakfast at the hostel. Just like the day before, the temperature was super hot (probably about 35 degrees or so). From the outside, the schloss just looked like the same setup as the Neues Schloss in Stuttgart. It had the same U-shape and the fountains out front. However, we found that the schloss had a giant garden in the back, kind of like a smaller version of the one in Versailles. It also had a labyrinth with walls of hedges and also had a zoo.
Behind the garden, at 60 meters in elevation higher, there was the Gloriette structure. From there, we got a nice view of the whole city. Inside the building was a cafe and it had really delicious ice cream (although it was kind of expensive). Outside the building, a bunch of people set up tripods with their DSLR’s and everyone had these filters for their lens to tweak with the color of the photographs since the sky was so bright.
We could even go up to the top to get an even better view. On our way up, we bumped into someone we knew from Bosch, but at the time I didn’t know for certain who that was. It was only afterward when I realized it and by that time, it was already too late to say hi. When we finished seeing the Palace, we took the metro to Danube Island (Donauinsel) for a bit of relaxation (hard to call it that when the weather feels like fire).
The metro station here was in the middle of a giant bridge and when we walked out, we saw two people just sitting on the edge of it. All of a sudden, one guy just jumped into the water and started swimming. And then the second guy followed and made a giant splash when he hit the water. It must have been at least 25 meters or something like that.
On one side of the shore, one could see the older part of Vienna and on the opposite side, the newer part. There were quite a few high-rises on waterfront property. On one shore, there was a set of trampolines set up over the water and that was really cool. The whole area had tons of tropical themed cocktail bars and seafood restaurants. That really gave the place a huge tropical vibe. One of the things that people do in tropical areas is swim in the water and that’s what some of us did. I didn’t though. I don’t even know how to swim (I wouldn’t swim in a dirty river anyway). None of them brought any swimming trunks or anything like that, so they just went in with underwear (kind of strange if you ask me).
While people swam, I walked around exploring the area and saw a TV tower. Near the top, there was a walkway that protruded from the building and apparently it’s used for bungee jumping. I don’t think I’d have the balls to jump off that. After everyone finished their swim in the river (it was a little bit dirty too), we went to the Vienna State Opera.
We arrived pretty late, so all the tours of the inside were already over. We only looked around the outside and figured out what time the tour would be for the next day, which we did end up going to.
We also found out that the opera has a “summer vacation” in July and August. The only shows there during the summer months aren’t part of the state opera and are just borrowing the location.
Sand in the City
Since there wasn’t anything to see in the evening, we ended up going to the Sand in the City, which was just a collection of cocktail bars and pubs in a place that had a beach feel (minus the water). The whole area literally had sand all over and many people sat in beach chairs.
Also here was a shisha bar. People got to take the hookah to their table and just smoked it until it ran out. I didn’t know what shisha was at first, but I found out that it really is just flavoured tobacco inhaled through a hose from the hookah. I figured I’d try a little bit.
It didn’t have the pungent odour of cigarettes and just had apple flavoured smoke. I didn’t really like the taste, but I did learn how to blow smoke rings and that was the cool part. It’s not something I’d do any again though. Not long after doing the shisha, I must have had a strong allergic reaction to it. My nose ended up being plugged for hours and I couldn’t stop sneezing even though I only had three puffs. When I went to bed, my nose was still plugged.
Tour of the Wiener Staatsoper
The next morning, we went on a tour to the inside of the opera house. The interior of the building had such an intricate design. A lot of the design had a theme too. For example, above the busts of famous playwrights and composers, was a painting of a scene from their most famous opera. The interior could have looked even nicer, but parts of it were destroyed during World War II.
The tour guide showed us around most of the building too. One room in particular, the Tea Salon, was a lot nicer than all of the others. Apparently, the royalty used to use that room. Nowadays, the room is used for super special occasions or when the media needs a really nice background to show when doing interviews for the opera.
The tour guide also showed us some of the intermission rooms, which weren’t as nice since they were part of the reconstructed portion of the building.
While there, the tour guide explained to us the history of the place (which I don’t remember), and little factoids like how there’s an underground tunnel to the building that stores the costumes and how trucks deliver set pieces and other materials before shows. Finally, the tour led us to the main auditorium of the opera house.
Apart from the movie theatre style seats, there were balcony seats all around on many different floors. The tour guide explained how much different seats in the opera cost and apparently they can go up to tens of thousands of euros. Behind each seat was also a display for subtitles, since the lyrics of the opera weren’t always in German. Together, I think the capacity of the theatre could be about 2000 people, not counting the standing spaces. We even got to go backstage to see some of the mechanisms on the stage. The tour guide explained how the multiple platforms could move such that the stage scenery could be exchanged on the fly. Coming to this place was probably the best part of the whole trip.
We ended up killing time at a park with the Frisbee before we had to go to the airport. We didn’t do much else. There weren’t anymore attractions that we wanted to see or had time to see. When our flight came, we went on it and just went home. We all pretty much had the disappointed feeling of “oh man, we have to go to work the next day.”
More photos here