In March John and I took a week-long trip through Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in Central Europe. It was our second trip with Great Value Vacations and it was spectacular.
Rather than a long form travel blog for this trip, I will leave you with three posts – one for each city, with pictures of the highlights. Please comment if you have any questions!
From Prague we took a bus to Vienna with our Great Value Vacations tour group and guide. It took about 8 hours because of all the EU laws about required stops for bus drivers. We arrived in the late afternoon so these photos span two days in Vienna.
Upon arriving we went right to the Hofburg, former imperial palace/seat of power of the Habsburg dynasty rulers, for a tour.
The palace was built in the 13th century and is now the official residence/office of the President of Austria.
That evening we had a fantastic dinner at a traditional Viennese restaurant and then went to the Cafe Sacher in the Sacher Hotel for their world famous chocolate torte.
The next morning we were up early to visit another imperial palace of the Habsburg family – their summer residence, Schönbrunn Palace.
Interestingly enough, Schönbrunn Palace is just four miles from the Hofburg Palace.
Even though it was very early Spring and not much of the gardens were in bloom yet, the landscape was pretty amazing.
After we were done at the palace we had the remainder of the day free.
Just steps from our hotel was the Naschmarkt, full of vendors, delicious food, and farm stands.
We of course walked by the famous Vienna State Opera House.
We walked a lot and used the hop-on/hop-off Big Bus Vienna to get around (we had bought a package deal for Vienna & Budapest). We took in the sights – museums, churches, parks, locals and tourists going about their business – and covered the majority of downtown Vienna.
As an undergrad psychology major I would have been remiss not to visit the Sigmund Freud Museum.
The museum is his old apartment full of his papers, books, personal effects, etc. It was a wonderful way to get a glimpse into his life and his legacy.
From there we had an early dinner of traditional wienerschnitzel at Figlmüller, a restaurant that’s been serving up this classic pork dish for over 100 years. Oh man was it good. I’d go back to Vienna just to have this again.
We walked over to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the romanesque/gothic Roman Catholic cathedral – built in the 12th century and the current seat of the Archbishop of Vienna.
This was probably my favorite church we saw in Central Europe. I love the darkness of the gothic style and the height of the ceilings.
It just so happened that I noticed we had about 20 minutes to go to the observation deck on the roof before they closed for the day. John and I took the 3 person elevator up and enjoyed the views of Vienna from the top of St. Stephen’s.
That night our tour group went to a concert at Palais Auersperg. The performance was a classical concert of Strauss’ greatest hits and featured a quartet from the Vienna Residence Orchestra, along with a soloist and dancers. It was spectacular and such a treat in the City of Music!
As I mentioned in my Prague post, Vienna ended up surprising me in many ways. I thought it was going to be a refined, cosmopolitan, chic city but instead it was pretty urban, offbeat, and kind of punky. There was lots of graffiti, dark alleys, it wasn’t super clean, some of the scenery was a bit bare and minimalist. While there are modern enclaves in Vienna, and it’s recent growth is apparent, I think a lot the look and feel of the city is a holdover from WWII. Vienna was bombed 52 times during the war and many buildings, homes, landmarks were lost (roughly 20%). That said, I loved it. I thought it was interesting, unique, easy to get around, touristy and crowded just like Prague, but rich with history and culture. I really want to go back; I don’t think we even scratched the surface of all there is to do there!
Onward to Budapest in the next post!