Good times with friends in Vienna and a short trip to see the amazing city of Budapest!
04.05.2012 - 09.05.2012 22 °C
Late in the evening we are faced with a tough question, economy or sleeper car for the overnight train to Vienna? Having learned our lesson the hard way about overnight trains in Australia, we knew better than to go economy. We opted for a more comfortable sleeper car for this journey. The overnight train from MIlan whisked us from Italy all the way to VIenna, Austria. The sleeper car was comfortable, quite, and well worth the extra money. We slept through the entire night and woke up in a new country, a new city, and a new adventure refreshed and ready to go!
The city of Vienna is rich with history and culture, and that is an understatement. The streets are lined with art museums, concert halls, and baroque style architecture. The Habsburg’s, one of Europe’s royal families, is a major reason for Vienna’s obsession with art. The family had a deep appreciation for art and music and during the course of their 600 years reign they amassed a huge collection of classic works. The collection is prominently displayed through out the city. The family was also a huge supporter of classical music, often holding concerts at their palaces. The Viennese have been exposed to the arts for so long that it’s no mystery why great musicians such as Mozart and amazing artist like Gustav Klimt mastered their craft in this affluent city.
We arrived in the morning and quickly figured out the public transportation system. Vienna is one city that gets it right when it comes to transportation. For 20 Euro you can get unlimited public transportation for three days, plus additional discounts at museums across the city. There’s a metro, tram, and bus system that can get you anywhere you want to go in the city. We checked in to our hotel and began the day with some coffee and apple strudel at the famous Cafe Museum. It was delicious and after seeing only chocolate for most of this trip, McKenna was excited to finally be in the land of strudel!
After getting our strudel fix we moved on to one of the finest museums in Europe, the Kunsthestorisches. This museum houses the Habsburg’s extensive collection of classic Renascence art, including works by Bruegel, Dürer, Rubens, and Rembrandt just to name a few. Also included in this museum is an extensive archeological exhibit of Egyptian and Greek artifacts and a spectacular Gustav Klimt archway mural. As we entered the grand museum we were hit with another surprise guest. One of our great friends from Denver, Aaron, was sitting on a bench just inside. We knew he was in the area with his father, but what are the chances that we would run into him at the same museum? We enjoyed the chance meeting and made plans to meet up for dinner later that evening. We had a lot of art to see and we had to get to it.
After the museum we walked the streets looking at the architecture and various museums in the Interstadt and we started planning for the next day. That night we meet up with Aaron for dinner at great Austrian restaurant where we drank a few bottles of wine and chatted. Before we knew it, it was almost 2am! We walked back to the hotel and feel asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
Tired form the late night we slept in and began the day later than usual. First on our agenda this day was to check the Habsburg’s most famous palace, Schloß Schönbrunn. The palace was initially built as a hunting lodge for the family but evolved into a summer home and eventually a grand palace. It is one of the busier sights in Vienna and admittance is staggered through out the day. Surrounding the palace is an enormous park with pathways, incredible fountains, and the Gloriette. The park is free to roam and some of the attractions only cost a few euros if you want to do the maze or go to the roof top of the Gloriette. It can be a good way to spend time before or after the palace tour. We purchased our tickets upon arrival and had an hour to kill before we were allowed in. We took this time to explore one side of this grand park. The first pathway took us to the Schöner Brunnen Fountain, of which the palace gained its name. We ventured up the hill to the Gloriette, which is an elegant structure that sits on top of a hill and over looks Schloß Schönbrunn and Vienna. We spent the 2 euro to walk up to the rooftop and look over Vienna. It was a clear day so the view of VIenna and the palace below were spectacular.
We had to rush down the hill to make our tour time and we arrived just in time. We grabbed an audio guide and begin the walk through the palace listening to descriptions of the life of the royal family, odd facts about the palace, and a few family quirks. A few tour highlights were Franz Joseph furious work schedule, his doughtier Mary Antionette and her famous end, and one small sitting room where a 6 year old Mozart performed for Mary Theresa. After the tour we ventured back through the garden to check out the other side. The trees and bushes were all manicured to perfection. We took some time to admire the grand fountain in the middle of the park, Neptubrunnen, a collection of greek mythology. One thing we missed that we will return for is the maze. It was a few euros and we thought we would save it for our return trip Vienna. After the palace tour and garden viewing we headed back to the Interstadt for some coffee and cake at the well known chain of cafes called Aida.
That night we ventured out to the center of the city, St. Stephens Cathedral. At night this gothic church is quite the spectacle. The tall spires have an eerie white and yellow lighting system that give it a haunted look in the dark. In contrast, the front door is playfully lit up with bright purples, oranges and yellows in a more modern way. It was blustery out and we felt the cold for the first time on this trip. We eventually met up with Aaron for one beer at a local pub and then called it an early night. This time we watched the clock and were home at a more appropriate hour.
The next day we set off to find Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, “The Kiss.” I am sure you have come across a picture of this painting at some time or another. it’s literally on every surface in and around Vienna. This famous masterpiece is housed in another baroque style palace, Schloß Belvedere. This palace is less know for it’s inhabitants, but saught after for it’s fabulous art collection. This was by far our favorite museum in Vienna. It boasts a unique collection ranging from medieval, Renaissance, to Modern art. The collection has just the right amount of everything and the traditional baroque architecture compliments it all. It’s a perfect cross section of Vienna’s past and present all in one spot. The Klimt paintings were especially spectacular, and we were glad we made the effort to visit yet another museum on this trip!
After Schloß Belvedere we headed to the center of Vienna to see St. Stephen's Cathedral during the daylight. The gothic spires were even more impressive in the sun. Something we missed completely the night before was the colorful diamond pattern roof the cathedral. The brightly colored roof stood out in contrast to the grey and black stone that comprised most of the church. We ventured in side and were treated to a great choir concert and some great stained glass windows. The cathedral was very impressive and takes on a very different look during the day.
After the cathedral we headed to the Museum Quartier, a collection of four museums, cafes, restaurants, and bars. We had lunch at one of the cafes in the courtyard before heading to the Leopold Museum. This museum houses an extensive collection and history of Gustav Klimt as well as another famous Austrian artist, Egon Schiele. Schiele developed his artistic talent in Vienna, and found a mentor in Klimt. His artwork is exceptional but sadly he succumbed to the Spanish flu at the young age of 28. After the Leopold Museum we headed back to the hotel to Skype with friends and prepare for our next travel day.
That night Scott ventured out into the Vienna night life with Aaron where they attended a reggae show. Tarrus Riely and the Black Soil Band were playing at the Flex Cafe along the Danube river. The show turned out to be way better than expected. McKenna would have enjoyed the Michael Jackson cover, but the extra sleep was probably a better choice. Scott didn’t return until almost 2am.
The next morning we caught the train to Budapest, Hungary for a quick trip into Eastern Europe. Again we had some excitement on the train when a group of hoodlums were caught going through one of the train attendants bags. They were kicked off at the next stop, and I don’t think they will be allowed to use the train system in Europe for a while. We arrived in Budapest made a slight miscalculation and exited the train a stop before the central station. We thought it would put us closer to our hotel in the long run. Unfortunately we were incorrect. Without any Hungarian money on us and no ATM in sight we ended up walking a long distance through a light rain. We took a short break to eat some lunch and then finished off the walk across one of the amazing bridges in Budapest.
Budapest is the capital and largest city in Hungary. Initially, two cities developed along the Danube river, Buda and Pest. In 1873 the city of Buda on the west-side of the Danube and the city of Pest on the east-bank joined together to become a single city, Budapest. Pest grew into the commercial and political hub if Hungary while Buda remained the cultural part that featured spectacular royal castles. Budapest has seen violence and war destroy the capital city numerous times over history. In the 1960’s the city repaired the damaged bridges, restored the castles, and began to flourish into a modern Eastern European city.
After we dropped our bags off at the hotel we headed back out into the rain to walk the streets of Pest. We strolled along one of the pedestrian walking streets, Andrássy Avenue, checking out the architecture and making a plan for the next day. We were exhausted from all the walking so we went to bed early that night and rested our legs.
We only had one full day in Budapest, so the next morning we started with the hardy free breakfast at the hotel and headed out on foot. We walked across the Chain Bridge, which is a significant piece of architecture in the city guarded on each end by lion statues. We crossed into Buda and headed up a winding walking path to the top of Castle Hill. Castle Hill is home to the palace complex of the Hungarian Kings and what is known as the Castle District. The Buda Castle sits on the southern end of the hill and the Castle DIstrict with it’s Medieval and Baroque styled public buildings. We walked around the Buda Castle snapping some photos of the great view before moving on to the Castle District.
The Matthias Church is located in the center of the Castle HIll District and has a distinct Gothic style. The roof has a colorful diamond pattern that stands in contrast to the stone facade. Sitting in front of the church is the often photographed Fisherman’s Bastion a neo-Gothic terrace offering panoramic views of the Danube and the city. We walked along the terrace looking for a spot to snap a photo of the magnificent Parliament Building across the River. The Parliament Building of Budapest is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings and one of the best known buildings in Budapest.
We walked back down the hill to the Chain Bridge and made our way to St. Stephen’s Basilica, named for the first King of Hungary. The church shines at the end of pedestrian walking street lined with cafés and shops. There is a beautiful dome that visitors can walk up to and get a great view of the city. There was a few euro charge to go in and see the dome so we decided to pass. After a long day of walking we hit up a restaurant on Andrássy Avenue and called it a day.
The next morning we said goodbye to Budapest and headed further west to Salzburg, Austria. We enjoyed our stay in Budapest, and although we missed a few sights we got a good feel for the city and hope to return someday. We’re ready to see some mountains and are excited to be closer to the alps!
McKenna & Scott