We got into town, took a reasonably priced taxi and checked in to our hotel, the Mercure Wien Zentrum. This was the only chain hotel we stayed in and I'd say it was a good call for our last city. The front desk staff all spoke great English, the amenities were plentiful and all the room features were comfortable and modern. Exactly what I wanted.
|Austrian crown jewels|
Then we went to the Hofburg Palace to explore the Imperial Treasury. This was so cool! We saw crown jewels, fancy schmancy king's clothes, the cradle built for Napoleon's son, swords and tons of other stuff.
Afterward we did some general wandering and learning the city before a light dinner and then to bed.
The next day was gray and rainy. But we had tickets to an indoor event first so no worries. We went back to the Hofburg Palace area to see the Lipizzaner stallions...ie the dancing ponies. It was the morning exercises in the Spanish Riding School and we got to see them literally frolic and dance a jig. I have a feeling they could do much fancier steps but as this was just rehearsal, it was fairly tame.
Since the weather was gross, we planned to go to the Natural History Museum which was nearby but it turned out to be the one day per week it was closed. (Boo.) We did some more wandering, partly to figure out what was in the area, and a lot of running to dry areas. Honestly, it wasn't our most exciting morning.
|In the crypt|
We learned all about the royal family in there (including Napoleon's wife...his son was there too but during WWII Hitler decided the son should be moved to France with his old man and so he was) but also the history behind the art and design of the caskets. Like I said, sounds creepy, but really was not.
While detouring through the first public garden we were caught in the rain which led to a pretty romantic standing under the trees and smooching in the rain moment.
Then we stopped for a hot dog from a street vendor which I know sounds mundane but these were so good they were listed as a thing to do from the Vienna tourism department. And besides, Austin is a good truck town; we felt right at home.
|Hotdog eating in front of Parliament|
By then it was dinner time and we ate at a place Ross was eying across the street from our hotel. It was tasty! I had broccoli and cheese pasta (what can I say, Austrian food isn't really my thing so I tended toward the American stuff) and Ross had something or another that he raved about for the next two days. He also had two of the best beers of the whole trip. He left dinner a very very happy man.
|He loves the hungry, hungry hippos.|
No baby giraffes (which I fell in love with in San Diego) but omigod are baby goats cute! And per the usual, Ross loved the hippos.
|Oh yeah, and I climbed inside the big turtle shell picture taking thing-a-ma-jigger. |
Because really, how could I not?
Right next to the zoo was Schonbrunn Palace. First off, this palace has a hedge maze. A HEDGE MAZE! How cool is that? Also, just in general, it has one of the prettiest, most well manicured gardens. Right up there with the Boboli Gardens in Florence (but different style).
This was our third palace of the trip but I have to say it was the one that looked most like a palace. It was large, ornate and on a pretty impressive spot of land.
You had the palace, then a long garden, then a fountain, then a hill with a reflecting pool on top of it and then, because that wasn't all enough, this crazy little building that was only about a room wide and clearly built just to round out the look of the whole estate. I must say, building a building just to balance out the look of your estate is nothing shy of impressive.
We walked all of the grounds and then took the audio tour of the palace. One thing that was interesting is the crypt, palace in Innsbruck and this palace all centered around the same family, that of Maria Theresa. We really learned a lot about her from several different perspectives. She was the first ruling queen of Austria and had 16 children (which is very well reflected in her homes and their art). Needless to say, she was celebrated woman.
Finally, after Schonbrunn Palace, we crashed. Some packing and then to sleep early because the next day held for us 23 hours of travel.
As a little summary - it was a great trip. We did a lot of really different things which I think helped us appreciate each one even more. In addition to all the amazing sites we saw (and climbed), I also really loved having two full weeks with Ross. We don't get that too often and it made the trip incredibly special and memorable.