Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wien and Wieners

Okay this will officially be the last travel post for a while. At least until I go somewhere else. The final leg of our trip was to Vienna, Austria. This destination was actually the original impetus for the trip as my cousin is currently living there giving Vienna the dual advantages of being able to visit him and also being able to stay there for free. His apartment was conveniently located right in the heart of the city. We could walk to almost any tourist destination. His building itself was very cool with a door beautiful enough that I photographed it and ceilings so high it was like two apartments stacked on top of each other. Apparently Freud once lived in his building back in the day. Possibly in his very apartment, but there is no documentation to support this. Anyway, onto the photos!

A block or so from his apartment is the Rathaus (City Hall of Vienna), seen here, and in front of that during the summer is a large outdoor film festival. We didn't watch any of the films (mostly operas and ballets it seemed) but we did partake in the delicious variety of food vendors that were part of the festival. We bought an assortment of tasty things from around the world and then made ourselves a little picnic in the surrounding park. Definitely not a bad thing to have just around the block.

Our first day was spent visiting a number of museums (there was a big deal Klimt thing happening in the city in celebration of the artist's 150th anniversary) and also going out to Schonbrunn Palace which is essentially the Versailles of Vienna. Located just outside the city, it was the summer home for the Hapsburgs. The grounds were intensely large with giant fountains and a hedge maze (which we failed to complete). The palace itself was extensive. We sprung for the 40 room tour with audio and learned a great deal about the many daughters of Marie Therese.

After the palace we met my cousin and went to partake in another beer garden. This one had delicious things like pork knuckle and was located just past a large amusement park. Apparently a World's Fair was held there in the last 1800s. The highlight of the amusement park is a large ferris wheel called the Prater Wheel which is apparently an emblem of Vienna. We didn't ride it because ferris wheels are kind of lame, but after a few beers we did end up trying out a number of the rides (including bumper cars which are far less safe than their American counterpart and from which I still have some ugly bruises on my knees). The one seen above is the largest starflyer (swing ride) in the world at 117 meters. Naturally we had to ride it.

The next day my cousin had off work, so he drove us out to a small town in the wine country. We went on a short hike up to these castle ruins where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned for a number of years. 
The best part about the hike was the beautiful view of the towns below and the Danube. We wandered the town for a while afterward, enjoying some wine and snacks. Apparently they grow a lot of apricots in the area because they were featured in just about every product you could buy.

Now that our group numbers five it's harder to get a full group picture. Here's the majority of us though. 

The next day we visited the Spanish Riding School to watch the morning practice of the famed Lipizzaner horses. We weren't able to see a show while we were there, but I'd seen them before previously (in Little Rock, Arkansas of all places) so I knew the drill. This isn't a great photo, but we actually weren't supposed to be taking photos at all, so this stealthy, illicit image was the best I could do. 

On our last day in town we visited more museums and did a little souvenir shopping. We also visited St. Stephen's Cathedral, a truly magnificent cathedral for which Vienna is well known. We paid to take the elevator up the bell tower to get some great views from the top of the city below. Note how cool the roof is.
Me at the top of the bell tower. This seemed a fitting final image (not quite as good as the sunset in Zurich, but what I can say). My cousin was a wonderful host and not only ferried us around and let us stay with us but helped co-create pokeropoly (a poker Monopoly hybrid that really does improve both games). So to sum up, it was a lovely trip with wonderful travel companions, and I'm glad I was able to join up. Next year, Hawaii?

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