For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.
- Simon van Booy
Last weekend, Megan and I met for a semi-spontaneous trip to Vienna! It’s about a 3 hour train ride from BP, and a slightly longer plane ride from Madrid. She doesn’t have class on Fridays or Mondays, and school’s about to start for me again, so it worked out really well!
My memories of the city are tinged by nostalgia and the summer heat: ice cream every day, walks in the park, strangers who took to me, the girl traveling without her parents. I was prepared for the possibility that the city wouldn’t have the charm and luster that lives in my memory, especially in the winter and with the changes that more than a decade inevitably bring to a person and a place.
Stefansdom then …
… and now.
Anna and I arrived on Friday around noon, and took a subway straight to the hotel. One great thing about Vienna is that public transportation there is extremely accessible: every subway stop has an elevator, for example, which makes life there A LOT EASIER when trying to get around in a wheelchair.
Megan arrived shortly after, well-fed by the airline snacks on Air Italia We walked around the city center, including a visit to Stefansdom and Peter’s Church. Afterwards, Megan and I saw more of the city by ourselves. We tried to go to one of the cafés that her father recommended, but all of those had a least a step precluding my entrance. Accessibility issues still abound! However, it worked out for the best because we stumbled across a delicious Italian restaurant called Ristorante Sole. The staff there was so considerate, even taking pity on our indecisiveness and portioning our two entrees so that we could each have half. For dessert, we split strawberries with creamy mascarpone.
Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!
That’s when the excitement really started, though, because as we walked around, we found ourselves on the outskirts of a riot protesting a ball in the Hofburg. Megan and I tend to gravitate towards home before the night owls even take flight. It so happened that the entrance to our hotel was RIGHT in the middle of a crowd of protestors. Fortunately, the policemen deemed us harmless and allowed us to pass through the barriers.
On Saturday, we took a subway to Schönbrunn, the Hapsburg’s summer residence, painted Maria Theresa’s favorite color, ochre yellow.
We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!
The palace itself is only half the fun of Schönbrunn; its vast grounds include a zoo (with pandas!), rose garden, and paths for meandering. We walked to the top of a small hill to see this view:
I didn’t realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.
After warming up in our room, Megan and I ventured out again for dinner at Café Landtmann and explorations around the city hall. The city hall is a gorgeous building, reminiscent of the gothic style of Duke Chapel.
There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.
Temperatures were frigid at this point, so we called it an early night again and relaxed in our room.
On Sunday, we went to the Albertina to see the newly acquired collection of Impressionist, Expressionist, and Surrealist art, entitled “Monet to Picasso”.
This Chagall painting was one of my favorites.
Per Anna’s request, we had to to have Wiener Schnitzel (when in Wien …), so that was our mission in the afternoon. That was when the snow started to fall! It was enough to be pretty without becoming an inconvenience like the Snowpocalypse and Polar Vortex of the East Coast.
In the evening, Megan and I went to visit Stephi, an old friend of mine, at her home. It was really nice to see her again and meet her family. I had not spoken to her in quite a while, though she sends me Advent calendars every December! Moreover, Megan and I had just become friends in middle school before I met Stephi, so it was sweetly bizarre to introduce these two people who have been in my life so long.
Stephi suggested we go to Sunday Swing at the Leopold Museum Café, so that was our next destination, since the night was still young, even for us. At this point, there was an inch layer of snow coating the streets, making for a charming winter wonderland as we trudged out. The Sunday Swing was in full … swing… when we got there. I felt transported to the ’20s! The only downside was the thick smoke hanging in the air from all the cigarettes, but perhaps that contributed to the authenticity of the experience.
Monday was our last morning, so we went to see Karl’s church and a peak of Belvedere, but it was too cold and snowy, so we ended up getting hot chocolate and coffee in a bakery underground. Warmth and a friend – not a bad way to end the trip, after all.
from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl at the Albertina. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!
Vienna wasn’t quite as I remembered it, but that ended up being okay. After all, I’ve changed a lot, too. Time has worn down parts of us, circumstances have enriched us, but we are still recognizable.