Ahhhhh…. Vienna. Coming from Prague in the Czech Republic and having such an awful time made coming to Vienna a dream. These two cities are like night and day. Like right and wrong. Like heaven and hell (this one is even slightly literal!)
Where did we leave off last? Ah yes, the train. I was day dreaming, Trina was sleeping and we had a guy sharing our little train compartment. So, after I stopped writing that particular blog entry, Trina woke up as did the guy and we all got talking. Well actually, I was standing on the train seat trying to figure out how to turn on the overhead light to give Trina more room and couldn’t figure it out so she scooted over toward the window that led into the train’s hallway where there was a bit more light and she was holding her book an inch from her face trying to make out the words… When he opened his eyes, he offered to turn the light on but Trina, being the sweetheart she is, declined as she didn’t want to cast a bright, white light onto all of us after having been in near darkness for awhile. I can’t say I was sad, by this time of night I was looking quite ragged and worse for wear.
So, the three of us chatted. His name was Logan, he is around our age and he is living in Vienna studying German for school. He is originally from the US but has been over here for about a year (I think) and he taught us how to say the numbers one through three in German before I told him it was a lost cause and we moved on to talking about other things. Among those things, we talked about accents, Canadian / US stereotypes, our fears (mine of the water) and a plethora of other things. It made the five hour train ride whip by and it was one of the first English speaking people we had really sat and chatted to since being over here.
After the train ride, Logan offered to show us where the subway was as he was going there anyway so the three of us walked to the subway station, got tickets for a 24-hour period and hopped on board the metro. The only downfall was that in my haste, I completely forgot to write down the name of the hotel we were staying at. So, I had an address but no hotel name… Easy enough right? Well, not quite so. You see, over here (or at least in Vienna - I am quick to fix any stereotypical phrasing because I don’t know the entire European nation well enough to comment on it!) they put the cross street’s name, the street’s name and then the street number. For example, Linke Weinkade Ullmanstr. 71 So, when we read this (and when the guy at the metro read it and when Logan read it) we all took it as the street name of Linke Weinkade. So, we got directions there and found which way the numbers were moving and started walking. Well… about forty-five minutes later we came to 68, 70… and then the numbers stopped (seriously, right before our number). So, we crossed the street, checked the next street… nothing. Keep in mind, this is all at close to midnight so it’s dark and we have no clue where we’re headed.
Our first sight of Vienna after coming out of the metro!
Ok, so here’s what we do… We find a taxi that is occupied, stop it and ask him for directions (he then has to stop the meter and luckily, the woman inside was okay with that!) and after ten minutes of him looking through his maps, hotel guidebooks, etc. he came up empty-handed too… Until he had an ah-ha moment! He realized that Ullmanstr. was what we needed to be looking for and Linke Weinkade was the cross-street. Brilliant! He even gave us directions for the metro. So, we set off again… our backpacks feeling instantly lighter and an extra bounce now having found its way into our steps. Shortly thereafter, we found the Renaissance hotel and went in to claim our room.
Morning came quickly and found the two of us still wide awake (we’ve been on a bit of an odd sleep cycle!) so we “napped” and then got up to do some Vienna sightseeing. It was a gorgeous morning and we were both excited to see what this city had to offer as neither of us had any clue nor did we have expectations like we had for other cities. Stepping outside greeted us with balmy weather and there are a few weird things that I noticed about Vienna instantly. (1) There is no wind. Ok, maybe sometimes… but we didn’t feel ANY. It was like we were on a movie set and as the day continued, that feeling was stronger due to the beauty of Vienna as a whole. (2) The roses were still in full bloom. Right outside our door were these gorgeous flowers and it put an instant perma-smile on my face. Perfect way to wake up!
Ahh, the first sight of Vienna on day one… I fell in love instantly.
Grabbing the subway, we headed into the downtown core and stopped at Karlsplatz. Coming out of this subway station was like walking onto the set of a gorgeous movie set back in some magical and mystical era. It was breathtaking and I fell in love instantly. There are few things in this world that do that to me and I’ve learned about myself, long ago, that I don’t impress easily. Vienna was able to impress me in the matter of moments and I was giddy with joy. Prague a distant memory, I was focused and giving my full and undivided attention to Vienna.
Coming out of the Karlsplatz metro station into the heart of Vienna, Austria.
Our first stop was to St. Stephansdom Church in the center of Vienna. This is known to the Vienniese as the “heart of the city” - where all activity is centered. The neat thing was, we actually wandered in when there was a mass in progress. So, we got to witness the beauty of the mass, the hymns of the choir and we got to take in the Church in a way we would not have been able to experience.
Due to the mass being in progress, all other areas were off limits so we decided we’d come back, after taking some time to see the rest of what Vienna had to offer.
A mass was taking place at St. Stephansdom in Vienna, Austria.
The Gothic style of St. Stephansdom Church in Vienna, Austria.
One of the many streets in Vienna that are filled with gorgeous statues, amazing architecture and beauty.
Our next stop was to the Hofburg Complex. This was a fortress and royal palace in Vienna which now houses museums, the Vienna library amongst other things. You don’t even know where to begin when you get here really. If you ever go to Vienna or you’ve ever been, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s overwhelming in the best sense possible. When you first come up to the complex (depending on the path you’ve taken of course… we came straight from St. Stephansdom) you’re greeted with a square of sorts where there are horse and carriages, beautiful statues, fountains and candy for the eye everywhere. It was magnificent.
The Hofburg Complex
The Hofburg Complex with one of Vienna’s many horse and carriages.
We moved through the square and into the first part of the Hofburg Complex. It was a domed gate that was still outdoors but featured this beautiful dome and doors into the State Apartments and the Riding School. We stood there for a moment because there was a tenor singing and in the moment… being in Vienna, surrounded by all of this beauty… we just stood there and I was brought to tears. I thought to myself, “This must be why such romantic paintings, poetry and sculptures came out of Europe…”
The beautiful dome stepping into the Hofburg Complex.
We went to the library and then to the museums. Doing so, we walked through more courtyards and past a pretty cafe. You couldn’t help but stop and stare every once in awhile and you did a lot of looking up and looking around… almost as though it was the sightseer’s way of pinching themselves. You just gape in hopes of taking it all in.
A typical courtyard at Hofburg Complex.
Stunning architecture… The State Apartments at Hofburg Complex.
The main gate at Hofburg Complex.
Pretty hanging flags near the library at Hofburg.
One of two museums outside of the Hofburg Complex.
After the museums, we headed back to the Hofburg for some lunch. We sat on the patio in the courtyard and in the gloriusly warm sun and relaxed. I had savoury pancakes with ham and cheese with a double hot chocolate and a shot of espresso while Trina had a delicious ham and cheese sandwich with potato chips… Our first sign of “junk food” since being in Europe (we also haven’t been looking very hard!) She also had the most divine cafe latte which came layered in a tall glass… Gorgeous!
Sitting outside in the courtyard at the Hofburg Cafe.
Filling our bellies full, we then headed off in search of this building we had only previously seen the roof of. We figured out that it might be the Rauhaus and decided it was worth checking out. So, we walked in that direction pausing to take photos along the way. The hard thing about having a camera in Vienna is you just don’t know where to point the darn thing and you don’t know when to stop taking photos!
The oldest part of Hofburg.
Oh, you know, a typical street in Vienna.
After walking a bit, we found Vienna’s Parliament building and the Rauhaus where there was some sort of outdoor event happening (we decided not to check it out as it looked like a circus or a fair and we really didn’t want to break the light, airy feel of our Vienna tour for a touristy, crowded area) and we continued to wander.
Parliament building in Vienna, Austria.
I realized something in Vienna. It’s a city that makes you want to just wander around… pull out a book, collapse on the grass somewhere or nap in the sun. It’s a city that makes you forget about responsibility, stress, worry, etc. and just enjoy the beauty that is Vienna. It’s a city for me that brought great peace. If only Vienna could figure out how to bottle that and sell it to the masses… we’d all be a happier group of people!
Heading back to the Church, we were able to sneak inside and check it out fully. We were not at all disappointed. This Church is amazing in its architecture taking inspiration from the Gothic period. It’s dark yet beautiful and the detail is mind-blowing.
The other really, really cool thing is that the catacombs were also open and there was a tour starting not long after we were there. So, we took a seat on the Church floor near the catacombs to wait it out and just felt what it was like to be there in that moment. The tour started not long after and we headed down into the deep, dark catacombs. Now… photos were not allowed down there but I was able to sneak some video in (shhh). I’ll post those for your viewing enjoyment! Some are short and some are dark but I did my best!
After the catacombs, we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to Munich, Germany on the train. We were able to fit in all of the above before 4:30pm so we were still looking good for the four hour train ride to Munich. The rest is uneventful but I must tell you… Vienna has captured a piece of my heart and I’m so glad it did. Out of all of the cities on this journey, Vienna is my most favorite and captured the EXACT essence that I was searching for in Europe and for this trip.
Me, on the train… backpack at my side. Looking content and happy.
Thank you Vienna, thank you.
Technorati Tags: Erin Blaskie, Trina Lamarche, Vienna, Austria, St. Stephansdom, Hofburg, Hofburg Complex, Munich, Germany, virtual assistant, virtual assistance, mobile lifestyle, four hour work week, four-hour work week
The plan was to wake up nice and early and head to the Prague Castle but that didn’t quite happen… Instead, we slept until around 11am and when we finally got up, had only an hour before having to check out of the hotel room. So, we showered, packed up and checked out of the hotel room. Leaving our bags with the concierge, we headed into the beautiful, 18 degree weather (Celsius for those wondering!) and to the Amstel metro station.
It was a short metro ride to Mustek where we switched trains and headed toward Hrandajic station. We got out and made our way to the Prague Castle entrance. It`s not easy navigating maps when you’re in a country like the Czech Republic. The reason is because the signs here are not in English at all – and I don`t just mean the street signs. There are touristy signs that point you in the right direction of the touristy spots and in most other cities, they are English. Here, they are written solely in Czech which makes it very difficult to follow them.
In any case, we found the Prague Castle entrance and looking up, realized it was a bit of a hike to the top… So, we put our head down and started walking up the hill (mountain?) Along the way, we realized something of great importance… To our left-hand side was an amazing view of the Prague skyline. Up until this point, if I’m being honest, other than the one beautiful spot in Prague, I didn’t find myself too impressed… In fact, I couldn’t wait to get out of the city. Now, seeing the panoramic view of the city and seeing it’s grandeur was totally impressive and I realized why it made its way onto our travel map.
View from the Prague Castle.
View from the Prague Castle.
Once we got to the top, we stopped in at a cafe to have a quick coffee and rest our weary legs. It’s hard work being both a backpacker and now a mountain (hill?) climber! We headed back out into the beautiful Prague sunshine and wandered around the Prague Castle grounds. Now, let me tell you about the Prague Castle… It’s not your typical castle. This isn’t just one building with some gardens, etc. this is an entire village. It has your typical castle like walls but it houses a palace, two churches, gardens and many other buildings. I’ll link to the history of the Prague Castle so you can read more but it’s simply stunning.
Prague Castle interior.
Our first stop after buying a ticket was to St. George’s Basilica. This is a smaller church on the grounds that has amazing ceilings painted in the 16th century. The church itself is smaller than I expected inside but it still holds such beauty and depth. The Gothic age that was present when the Prague Castle was built is definitely present here. The detail and richness is present while there is still an overall feeling of masculinity and strength.
St. George’s Basilica
Our second stop was to the Royal Palace and it was beautiful. The first room you walk into is this gorgeous banquet hall. The ceilings and walls were my favourite part. The stone is carved into these curvy lines and they interweave one another like nothing I’ve ever seen. There are gorgeous, black Gothic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and the floors are made of gorgeous wood – original and still in fabulous condition.
Inside of the Royal Palace, you will also find other interesting rooms. There is a chapel, the throne room and a few other rooms that didn’t contain much except some period furniture and period clothing. It was still amazing to walk through there. This castle reminded me a lot of the Boleyn time whereas the previous castle we saw was very Queen Elizabeth-esque. I know those both aren’t appropriate terms to describe eras but you gotta work with what you know!
Outside of the Royal Palace, we then made our way to the St. Visus Cathedral and stood in the really, really long line-up. This is one of “the” things to see when you come to Prague I suppose and you can tell – people really were excited to get inside and explore. Standing in line, we were actually behind two other young women who were traveling. They had out their Europe? Let’s Go! book and they were talking about Austria… Maybe they too were headed there next! Outside of the Church, you can begin to take in its Gothic gloriousness as you glance up toward the sky… The view is just breathtaking.
Beautiful Gothic Church inside of Prague Castle.
Inside, you walk into the main area of the Church and are met with a beautiful altar with the most splendid stained glass set in behind it. It’s really a lot to take in so you just have to stand there for a moment and really, do a 360 turn to see it all. Along both the left and right hand side of the Church, there are little compartments and inside each compartment is an altar, more than likely for a particular upper class family or for a member of the Church, and more beautiful stained glass. Each set of stained glass tells a story and it’s impressive to just stand back and take each one in.
Although most of the vaults were closed due to “technical difficulties”, the Church itself was worth the fifteen minute wait. It was gorgeous. One neat thing that happened when we were there was one group of people that were in a tour started singing a beautiful song in a different language. They all just started, sang their song (which echoed so beautifully through the Church that I had to stop and listen… and of course, it almost brought me to tears) and then moved on like nothing magical just happened.
Outside of the Church, we headed out of the Prague Castle grounds and back toward the metro station. Before we did that, we went toward the river so we could get a view of the city from the water and a view of St. Charles’ bridge. Snapping a few shots and taking in the water was a nice break after the long, downhill climb we did.
View of the water and across the river near Prague Castle.
The story after Prague Castle is not as exciting… We hopped on the metro (we were pros now), went to our hotel, had a quick bite to eat (I had lasagna and Trina had penne pasta – much better than the previous night’s dinner) and then it was backpack time! We headed back to the metro (you do a lot of back and forth traveling when you’ve got a backpack as you want as little time carrying it as possible!), to the rail station and then to the platform for our train.
Now, here I am sitting on the train to Austria, Vienna. It’s dark as the sun has set already and we’re on a train that has mini-compartments. We’re sitting in one with a guy who speaks English, he’s young – probably around my age – and he’s sleeping. Otherwise, it’s just Trina and I and while I type away on my computer, logging in the day’s activities, she’s reading the book I recommended to her – The Alchemist.
She’s reading me some of her favourite quotes as she reads and I can’t help but stop, in this moment, to realize how amazing it is to be able to look out the window, into the dark night, and know that on this Saturday I am traveling between the Czech Republic and Austria. Both were unknown to me before and one still is but I am blessed to have this opportunity and I am certainly not taking that for granted.