After our short stay in Bad Reichenhall, we moved on to Vienna, Austria, a drive of about 3/3.5 hours. While Austria is beautiful, the drive didn’t hold too many highlights in terms of landscape. There was the Mondsee we drove past, and it seems to be a beautiful area, but when we left the alps behind us, Austria became very similar to Germany, so i was used to the look.
Two things stood out nonetheless- first, the best pull-in i’ve seen for years. It was a Landzeit and had more of a country-restaurant and laid-back style that i’ve found very inviting. Spending an hour there was easy and pleasant, whereas the most pull-ins we stop at in Germany invite only to get going again as quickly as possible. The second one was when we approached Vienna and saw nothing but woods. It must have been the Vienna Woods and on the road, there had been a couple of times when no house or field was in sight- only wood.
Entering Vienna, i immediately made a connection to Munich in my mind. No high skyscrapers in sight, the buildings are actually quite flat there. From a driver’s perspective, for a big city it was also quite relaxing to drive in. We reached our hotel without difficulty, taking in sights like the Schönbrunn Palace on our way. Arriving at the hotel, though, i couldn’t find the garage where we could park our car for the week. A helpful concierge had to show it to us and another couple that arrived roughly at the same time.
The hotel is nice, but expensive- but so are almost all of the hotels in Vienna and i think this falls into the affordable category. We chose it because it was close to the hotel my wife had her business meetings in while not being the same. Both were just across the street from the Stadtpark, a very nice location to stay in, especially if you’re traveling with kids and/or plan eating outside. Now, we booked a room with a balcony, but we chose the “budget version”, so i expected the balcony to be of the smaller kind shown in pictures around the web. Nobody told us, but i think we were upgraded, because our room was on the top floor and nothing prepared us for the the view in the direction of the Stadtpark, which was absolutely stunning.
Of course, Vienna is culturally rich city- after all, it was the seat of one of the most important kingdoms in…well, some time before 1933 (i wasn’t really a good student and most of what i remember from history concerns the years 1933-1945). There are so many places to visit that i guess even if you took a week you wouldn’t see it all. In this, Vienna is actually more similar to Paris, where i could confidently state that you’d need two weeks to see the important stuff (after all, you can take two days just for the Louvre).
The first thing we did after appreciating the view from our room was to go and see the St. Stephens cathedral as it was in walking distance from our hotel. Our son was very happy to see the carriages there and wanted to take a ride. We thought it would be a nice treat for him after he did so well on our road trip so far- we are lucky that he doesn’t really mind to drive for 3 or 4 hours, although we took breaks every 2-3 hours, of course. The only time he gave us trouble was on our way back home from Vienna, but that took 12 hours so it was to be expected. It also gave us the opportunity to see parts of Vienna in a comfortable way. Needless to say, our son loved it and smiled all the way.
In the evening, we went to see the Prater. We were visiting the amusement park, which is kind of like a funfair with a couple of fun rides for children of all ages as well as adults. The Prater is actually quite a big area the size of 6km² (2.3 square miles), but after the long drive we wanted to give our son some action- he loved it, wanted to take a ride wherever it was something he could ride on. I was surprised at how big the amusement park part was- in my hometown, we have an annual funfair that’s the event of town where everyone who lives and lived there returns for in addition to “tourists” from the region. Although more crowded, that thing is dwarfed by what the Prater offers on a daily basis- the Prater’s bigger and more fun.
We also had our first barbecue plate for dinner. We weren’t very hungry, but the plate appealed to us. Needless to say, we couldn’t eat it all- our son was getting tired and we weren’t very hungry to begin with. Wiener Schnitzel, by the way, i found to be good but not so special- i’ve eaten it in a similar quality in germany. We were actually looking for something i rememberred from travelling through Austria in the 80’s: Backhendl (sorry, no english entry), but all we saw was a salad variant.
Anyway, we had to take a lot of food back with us into the hotel. Just when we turned a corner to our hotel, i saw two homeless men squatting in a house entrance. Almost entering our hotel, a thought came to my mind and i asked my wife whether we actually had any need for the food we took with us- i mean, Wiener Schnitzel don’t make for a great breakfast and we wanted to go out and continue exploring anyway. She thought about it and said: “probably not, why?” – “we could give it to the homeless people over there” – “hm, yes. But won’t they be offended?” – “Good point, i don’t know. But my guess is they’re past that”. In the end, i went there and cautiously offered the meat- they took it. I’m writing this here because it was one of my personal highlights of being in Vienna. I know, it’s not much and it won’t save the world, but it felt good. In my opinion, if you’re well off, it suits you to remember that you are. And make no mistake, all of us here playing MMOs, reading or writing about them are in a happy place. Sure, we have our problems as well, but if you’ve got money and time to spend on games, you’re one of the lucky people.
Our second day took us to the Naschmarkt first and Schönbrunn Palace for the rest of the day. The Naschmarkt is a row of market stalls selling foods of all kinds. It’s an interesting place, for sure, but i have to say that the “food streets” in China are more interesting to me- of course, their food is both more exotic and more varied. Still, it is an interesting place to go and eat out.
As for Schönbrunn Palace, if you’d like to see it all, reserve a whole day- or maybe don’t, if you don’t have kids. Unfortunately queues to get tickets were quite long and while you could theoretically buy tickets online and on vending machines, both didn’t work when we were there. Aside from seeing the interiors of the palace, there is a huge garden attached to the castle as well as a zoo and a couple of mazes to explore. We were able to buy tickets, take a walk through the garden, visit the playground and go through one of the mazes before taking our tour through the palace.
In the next couple of days my wife had her business stuff going on and my son and i could plan the days in a more relaxing manner- we basically went to the playgrounds in the Stadtpark, but we also took a trip to an aqua zoo to see sharks and other sea-creatures. We also went into a chinese restaurant where they served authentic chinese dishes- that became the most expensive meal i had with my son because i couldn’t resist some of the food that was on offer.
In the end, i think Vienna is one of the more beautiful “big cities” i visited- it’s clean and relatively quiet, although there are lots of tourists, of course. Us being close to the Stadtgarten made our stay quite relaxing because playgrounds and a place where we could move freely with our son were near. The food you can eat in Vienna is very good and varied, although i’d suggest to do some research before visiting any place- it would be a pity if you were to choose a mediocre restaurant of some kind, not knowing that the best in town is just around the corner.
So yes, i’d go to Vienna again.