My last full day in Vienna? That just feels incredibly wrong. This is the problem of having these short weekend breaks, as lovely as they are it is just over too soon.
Still, we made the most out of today and the way to do that is with a good breakfast (well, brunch by the time we started). In many ways Vienna has similar prices to London, but if you are smart about it you will not break the bank. See this breakfast for two that I shared with the hub. It really kept us going through most of the day, where we were on our feet pretty much all the time.
The destination today was Schönbrunn, which is a very short metro ride out of the city centre. The main draw is the UNESCO Heritage recognised palace and gardens.
The palace was the former summer residence for the Habsburg emperors of Austria-Hungary and is absolutely massive. I swear that we don’t have palaces to this scale in the UK, when you consider that this former hunting lodge expanded into well over 1000 rooms.
I would be so interested to see what the grounds are like in summer with full flower beds and running fountains. In December it is still beautifully grand (and smells of cinnamon thanks to the resident Christmas market), but a little bit bleak.
There were signs that said you would need to wait 2.5 hours before being able to enter the palace to have a look around. What these signs did not tell you is that you could head in straight away if you bought one of the combined tickets to another nearby attraction. We know this purely because it was our plan to do this anyway.
The interior of the palace that we saw as part of the “Imperial Tour” was extremely grand. Sadly there were signs everywhere that said no photography was allowed inside, but I think we all disobeyed that rule when it came to the this grand ballroom.
I haven’t never been to Versailles, but if the hall of mirrors there is meant to be greater than this ballroom… well I think I know where my next planned trip might end up being. Seriously though, going to this palace, the Imperial Crypt and seeing how much they still revere Maria Theresa makes me want to learn more about the history of the Habsburgs. If you have any suggestions of where I can start, please let me know.
After an hour long tour of the palace we walked through the gardens on the way to Schönbrunn Tiergarten (ie the zoo). This was originally started as an imperial menagerie and has since expended into one of the best zoos I have ever been to.
This is not just because of the variety of animals (which includes polar bears, sea lions, leopards and pandas), but also the condition of the enclosures. This is a zoo that has successfully bred polar bears and pandas so you know they are doing something right.
I has running about this zoo like a little kid (who was cold seeing how we didn’t get too far about freezing today) looking at all the animals that I could see in the few hours we had in this amazing zoo.
Of course we ended up spending a lot of time with the pandas. How couldn’t I? They’re pandas! We were there a solid 10 minutes hoping it would turn around and only when we went to leave did she suddenly move and allow me to take such cool pictures. This was better than seeing the pandas at Ueno in Tokyo. Can’t believe I was actually so close.
We stayed into the zoo until it closed. The closing announcement came through whilst we were in the aquarium staring at a rather lively octopus. So it was back to the city centre before we got locked in with the crocodiles.
Rather than heading straight for food (we were all hungry by now) we visited the, now dark, Stadtpark to see some of the statues. The main ones were still lit up anyway so the emptiness of the park just added to the ambience. The statue that I came to see was this golden one of Strauss. It’s nice to see someone other than Mozart being revered in this city.
List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food item: Linzer Torte
By now we needed a sit down so it was an early evening cake and drinks before a final runthrough of the Christmas markets. Finally I was able to try some Linzer torte. I got it as a slice because could not find it as the typical torte. Better than Sacher torte by a mile. The toasted hazlenuts and the crumbly cake are brought together by the seam of redcurrant jam. Where the Sacher torte was a disappointment this Linzer torte is a pleasant surprise.
Food item: Horseradish
One of the big things that my mum wanted to have from the market stalls was some Tiroler gröstl. We had it when we were in Kitzbühl back in 1999 and there were stalls selling it here. To my surprise they put grated horseradish on top. There is nothing I like more than a surprise list item and this horseradish really complimented the fried bacon and potatoes. Makes me feel like I am 9 again.
The final Christmas market we went back to was the one on the Rathausplatz, which is both the biggest one and the nearest to our hotel. There were some last minute purchases and a complete final runthrough. I can’t believe we are going from somewhere this filled with Christmas and going back to a flat where the decorations aren’t even up yet!
Of course I finished the evening with a hot dog. I have not had anywhere near enough wurst since I have been in Austria and at least I was able to finish this trip the right way.
That’s it for Vienna. There is a separate food post coming up where I will finish off this run of posts, but for now here are some things I will miss about Vienna:
1) Classically trained buskers – we have seen a violinist, a cellist and a tuba player playing film themes on the street. In London you are more likely to see a man playing a traffic cone.
2) Seeing Mozart’s face everywhere i go. We don’t do the same in London and now I want to know why we don’t plaster all our tourist shops with the face of Dickens or Shakespeare. Such a missed opportunity.
3) Architecture. It’s overblown and utterly amazing. The commute to work will feel all the more boring after visiting Vienna
4) Christmas markets – come on London we can do something on this scale and with this high level of quality. Sod off with your Hyde Park Winter Wonderlands and give us something decent!