This morning we checked out of our hostel around nine, storing our luggage for the day and heading out to the city. The metro was a only a short walk away so we hopped on, arriving at StephenPlatz, the main square in the old town of Vienna.
Vienna’s most well-known Cathedral, St. Stephens is here and is the first thing you see when you come up from the metro. I love how in all of these big European cities you just casually run into these grand buildings outside of bus, tram and metro stops. The Cathedral was massive, a gothic design with an interesting mosaic/tiled roof. The ceilings were super high, all stone and beautifully carved pillars and staircases. However the inside was interesting because there had recently been an event there, so most of the pews had been replaced with chairs and there were these neon, lit up boxes hanging from the ceiling. A very strange contrast in the church.
We walked around the main strip, making a quick trip to an H&M so I could pick up a sweater and a pair of pants. Unfortunately the gray skies are sticking around for the next week. It’s crazy to be walking down the street, going shopping and there are huge, gold fountains in the middle of the road and you are surrounded by these beautiful churches.
We walked by another cathedral and walked in to admire the architecture. It was also beautiful, pretty small but it was full of of ornate decorations and detailed paintings. When we were sitting in a pew, looking around and praying, we quickly realized there were no other tourists and the church was filling up for Mass…this sweet lady next to us was amused and let us slide out of the pew before the service started. It was hilarious and we couldn’t stop laughing imagining us sitting through a service completely in German.
We walked in the direction of where we thought the main museum was, all of a sudden the little side street we were walking on turned into this huge plaza, in every direction there were extensive gardens and beautiful buildings; covered in gold, with huge domes and gates. We couldn’t believe it, looking around with wide eyes and open mouths.
Our first stop was the public library, which was in part of the old Hofburg Imperial Palace. After walking into the wrong entrance, we discovered only one ‘reading room’ was open to the public and it cost £7. We opted out, wanting to save time and money. We figured that Wilson Library at UNC was pretty comparable.
Next stop was Town Hall where they have been filming a singing show called EuroVision. Apparently it’s a huge hit all across Europe and pretty popular globally. Grace and I had never heard of it but almost everyone we talked to at the hostel asked us if we had gone/were going. We got our photo ops, and the town hall was absolutely beautiful, the architecture pretty similar to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. I also loved the flower boxes on each balcony.
We also walked past the National Theatre and Parliament Building, each as stunning as the last.
We finally made it to the Natural History Museum which I really wanted to go to. The museum is one of the oldest and largest in the world. It was founded in 1750 by Emperor Franz I Stephan Lorraine after he acquired the natural history collection of Jean de Baillou of Florence. The museum now houses a collection of over 30 million specimens and artifacts. From the space to bird exhibits, I loved all of it. Case after case was fascinating, though all of the snakes and bugs definitely freaked Grace and I out. And the building itself was gorgeous, each room unique, from the ceiling to the floor.
After the museum we were starved and headed out to try a restaurant that one of Grace’s friends recommended. It was a great choice! Ribs of Vienna was on a side street near the St. Stephens plaza. The restaurant was in a cellar that was originally built in the 1500s. We each ordered a variety of ribs, I picked the classic Vienna flavor, ginger and sesame. Our plates were stacked high and we ate nearly everything- it was amazing and the setting was so neat.
We wrapped up our time in Vienna with a visit to the Schonbrunn Palace. It reminded me of a mix between the Biltmore Estate and Versailles. The grounds were huge with lots of open space. The palace was surprisingly plain on the outside in comparison to the rest of the buildings we saw in the city. We didn’t go inside but walked around the outside, enjoying the gardens and massive fountains scattered around.
Another thing I’ve loved seeing on our trip is all of the kids on field trips, visiting the same sights we are. I think it’s wonderful they have the opportunity to learn about and experience these things at such a young age.
We caught another metro back to our hostel, grabbed our packs and headed back to the main train station. We had a couple extra minutes so I had to buy some gelato on the way to the station. Dark chocolate and peppermint was the perfect combination 🙂
We are now headed to Budapest, which is about a three hour train ride from Vienna. I also realized I have been pronouncing it incorrectly, everyone here pronounces it as ‘Buda-pesh.’ The more you know…
Our hostel here in Budapest is super neat and small. It’s in a larger building and on the second floor. All of the beds are on the floors, with little dividers and curtains around them. Our beds are in a little loft, with a low ceiling and with a wooden staircase up to them. Also everyone takes their shoes off when they come in and you grab a pair of slippers by the door. Definitely a little out of my comfort zone, but that’s what this trip is all about and I love it!