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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Europe 2014: Vienna, Austria

The train to Vienna was not our favorite train ride of the trip. I'll say that much.
Eventually, as people got off, Aunt Nancy moved up to sit with us so we had
our own little area to ourselves. The train ride was long, somewhere between
five and six hours, and we were worried we would have no way to contact our
next host without wifi, since the train did not. No one was able to inform us if 
the station we were arriving to would have wifi. Unfortunately, the train station
did not have wifi and we spent a solid amount of time trying to find a place that
did. We did not. So we hopped into a cab, with our last 20 Euros and found our
way to the apartment.

When we got there, we waited in the courtyard of the  apartment building until
 Aunt Nancy found a nice lad who was willing to  share his wifi password with us.
 It was the first person she asked actually. It was not like we waited there for hours. 
Funny enough, this nice fellas girlfriend did a year in Texas and he had been to 
visit her. So here we were, a girl from  Oklahoma and a boy who was born and 
raised in Austria, talking about Texas. Oddly comforting. 

Our host arrived within 15 minutes after I contacted him. The apartment was
adorable. They even had a laminated book with everything they recommend
to do in Vienna. He helped us pick out a restaurant for that evening, cracked a joke 
when we asked if what we were wearing would be appropriate, "Well you are 
American's so, yeah!" and let us be. What? Leggins and Tom's aren't restaurant
 appropriate?We spent a little time unpacking and then headed out on our walk
to the restaurant. Before he left, he told us the recent drama related to this 
restaurant known as the "Sugargate". Apparently, a member of their staff was
fired for using the restaurants sugar on his home grown strawberries he brought
to work with him. Fun little fact.   

We found it with no problem. The restaurant had a large exterior covered 
seating area which we recommended. However, we one again forgot about
the smoke. The server was very friendly and we ordered easily. I got the
risotto, Nancy the goulash and Mom a a pork sauerkraut dish. Dinner came
out quickly and we tried to dine like the Viennese, which Nan read in one of
our books. We decided to share a dessert which was the consistency of  a
bread pudding but instead of a liquor sauce, it was a spiced plum sauce. 
Everyone loved it. We walked home, to burn off that food and quickly 
got in bed. It had been a very long day and we were all exhausted.

The next morning we woke up and it was raining. We had a bad feeling about
this. We had been checking the weather every day and knew this could possibly
happen. We headed out with raincoats and a plastic bag for my camera. We
tried to be as ready as possible. We headed back out to city center and the first
thing we did was exchange some money. Very important. Then we hopped on
the tram which circles the Ringstrabe. We were originally going to bike 
around the Ringstrabe however, with the current weather conditions, we felt
it was a better idea to stay dry for as long as possible. We got off to get 
Nan and Mom some lattes, their new favorite drug, and a pastry for myself.
Then we hopped back on the tram, finished the Ringstrabe and found an
entrance to the U4 subway line. We had much difficulty with purchasing our
subway tickets because two of the options were basically the same so we had
no idea which one to select. However, we then asked a local who informed us
that the difference was the little tiny image of the dog next to the person on
one of the buttons. Yes, you have to buy a ticket for your dog. 

After that hassle, we entered the subway for the first time on this trip. We
also learned that in Vienna, they have more of an honor system. No, you do
not have to walk through gates, check points or security to enter. You simply
just stick your ticket in the machine which stamps it with a date and time. 
We purchased 24 hour tickets which we just kept on us at all times. We took
the subway for five stops to Schönbrunn. On our agenda for the late morning
we were visiting Schönbrunn Palace, which was the royal summer palace. 
The gardens we heard were supposed to be amazing. They also have a Zoo
which I made sure we visited. The rain did not let up. We walked the beautiful
gardens and the entire Zoo in the drizzling rain. We were already wet so
it didn't really matter at this point.

 We stopped by the Zoo gift shop and got Bennett a cute little polar bear
shirt. It says polar bear in German on the front with a cute image of a bear.
We also got him a zoo animal book. He was the only one who scored here.
We found our way back to the subway and headed for city central. We had
a reservation for a tour at the Spanish Riding School. On the way a very nice
woman showed St. Stephen's Cathedral. We went inside and walked around.
A chorus was just finishing up and the church was filled with people. We 
spent a little time walking around and taking photos and then we headed back
out on the streets.

On our way to the Spanish Riding School we happened to
pass Demel Chocolate shop. This is one I had heard about and knew we must 
stop. From the moment we entered we knew we were in heaven. Between
the cream cake I had and the chocolate cake Nan got, my Mom was pretty
happy! It was the best dessert of the trip for me and the best dessert of the trip for Nan.

After Demel Chocolate, we walked a little bit further to the Spanish Riding
School. We arrived a little early so we picked up our tickets for the tour and
perused the gift shop a bit to see if there was anything we needed. Of course
there was! However, I did not come home with the saddle pad I wanted. We
were called for our tour a little later and followed the group. It started with
the summer training facility, which included the largest walker. As we went
we learned more and more about the school and its history.

We eventually made our way to the stables. They have 23 or so riders and each
 rider rides about 6-8 horses a day. There are over one hundred horses and a horse
and rider stay together until either retire. Sadly, we were not allowed to photograph
 the stables or horses.  We also learned that all of the Lipizzaners are stallions.
If a mare was added into the mix, they would not be as well behaved! The other
interesting fact we learned was that almost all Lipizzaners, which are born dark,
turn white with age. It can take up to 8 years. However, every once in awhile, one
does not change and stays dark. It was so interesting learning about the horses,
riders and school. It was such a great experience.

We stopped back by the gift shop after and purchased our goodies. Then
we headed back out into the rain and made our way back through the center
of town. We decided, since we had not had lunch yet, it was the perfect time
for some Wiener Schnitzel! Before our host left, he pointed out in the book
the place who claims to have the best schnitzel. Thankfully, we were not that
far away and arrived to Figlmuller shortly after. We were seated in the front
room right by a window and the server was extremely friendly. We each got
a glass of white wine and waited for our schnitzel. We saw a few orders come
out of the kitchen and knew we did not need three so I ordered a side of potato
salad which I saw on another table. Thank goodness I did because that was some
of the best potato salad I had ever had. The schnitzel arrived and it was HUGE!
It was larger than Nan's upper half! It was also delicious.

After our late lunch we realized we did not want to head back out in the rain
for the rest of the evening so we doggy bagged the schnitzel we did not finish
and headed towards home. We only had two more stops to make for the day.
Stop number one was to find my Mom her apple strudel. We were successful
down the next block. The final stop of the day was the Trek store. I had my
brain set on a Trek Vienna jersey. By that I mean I had my brain set on a Trek
Vienna jersey for my Dad. Thankfully they had my size! Unfortunately, they
did not have my Dad's size.

It rained all the way home. When we got back we all stripped off our wet
clothes and threw everything into the washing machine! I do not think there could
have been a more perfect time, on our trip, to have a washer and dryer! We were
able to wash and dry all of the clothes we had been wearing so far. We even got to
wash and dry our Tom's so they were dry and warm for the next day. We spent
the evening hanging out the apartment and eventually my Mom shared her strudel.
Off to sleep we drifted hoping the following day would be a drier one.

We woke up to the sound of birds chirping. The sky was grey and overcast
but there was no rain, yet. Our plan for the day was a quick one as we had a train
to catch later that afternoon. We made our way to Naschmkrt, which is an outdoor
market in the median of a street. We stopped at Cafe Drechsler for their daily lattes.

I partook on this one and went for a hot chocolate as it was still overcast and gloomy.
After I pre-ordered my iPhone 6 I allowed us to head back over to Naschmkrt. We
walked up and down the blocks of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, teas, flowers,
cheese, meats and anything you could ever want. It was all fresh and they let you
taste anything you wanted. We decided for breakfast we were going to have
noodles. Well, I decided because they were right there in front of me cooking
and they just looked so good. No one complained and they actually shared the
whole thing with me.


Since we did not have much planned for the day, I looked through the book
the hosts made and found a ferris wheel, Wiener Riesenrad. We thought it was
a good idea because it was enclosed in case it rained. We hopped back on the
subway with our passes which were still valid and found ourselves quickly
standing right outside the park. The views were awesome. Nan wasn't as big of
a fan with her whole afraid of heights thing going on, which I just don't get, jokes,
but she was a trooper and we were proud!

After the ferris wheel we headed back towards city center and decided to
visit the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments, which we were going to
do the day before but just ran out of steam. The Sisi Museum was a little
boring for me but it was interesting learning about her life. Very fascinating
and almost depressing story up to her murder. But, the Imperial Apartments
were pretty cool. It was really amazing to see how they lived back then. There
was gold everywhere.

We headed over to the Museum Quarter after because a friend of mine sent
me a list of recommendations for a wedding she went to. There was a restaurant
on the list which she highly recommended so we thought since we had not seen
this area yet, why not check it out? So we did. Cafe Halle was fairly easy to find.
We only made one wrong turn which did not take us too far away from our final
destination. We were seated immediately and ordered. Everything was amazing.
I ordered the risotto, Nan a quinoa black bean salad and Mom got the quiche.
My Mom got the lunch special so it came with a slice of chocolate cake which
Nan was pretty happy about.

At lunch we googled more bike shops. We were still on the hunt for a jersey
for my Dad. We found a shop fairly close and headed that way. They did not
have a Vienna jersey but they did have a European brand I had never heard
of before and it was a cool graphic so we got that for him. We also decided
to head back to the Trek store and get my Mom a jersey so we got Leif and
Dad water bottles that said Trek Vienna.

We headed back to the apartment to pack up the new gifts we picked up
and relax for a bit before heading to the train station. We used my Uber
app one more time to get to the Westbahnof train station. We arrived a
little early and found seats where we could see the screens to stalk our train.
Eventually, we boarded in our first class seats where the hostess came
and took our drink and food order. We logged onto the wifi, put a movie
on, or pulled a book out, and relaxed for the next four hours until we
arrived in our fourth and final country, Hungary. Budapest, here we come!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful country! And the food. OMG, the food looks DELISH!! I wish I could eat it from my computer! What a neat market too! My mom & sis would have loved the riding school tour! I am loving your European adventure!! Keep posting!!