May 30, 2012


For our last stop, we went to Vienna. We splurged here and had first class train tickets for this ride. Personally, I didn't think it was worth the upgrade cost but Ross did. Coin toss I guess.

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
We had a very tasty lunch around the corner. I honestly don't remember what I had except that I liked it but Ross had the most yummy looking chicken baked potato smothered in cheese and sour cream. What's not to like about that? Since the weather was nice and we had an outside table, we made it a long lunch by adding an extra adult beverage for dessert.

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 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
But after lunch and the consulting of some tourism lit, we headed to the Imperial Crypt. I know it sounds creepy but it was really cool. There was a school group, probably college age, on a tour right in front of us and since their teacher was speaking splendid English and giving really interesting narrative, we stuck close by and enjoyed the best free tour of our trip.

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.

Opera House
Fortunately the rain cleared up after that so we ventured over toward the Opera House which was lovely on the outside. Then we walked the Ringstrasse which was the first real planned part of Vienna. It is a wide boulevard that encircles part of downtown goes through really central areas like the Museum Quarter, past two public gardens and Parliament.

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
When we came up on Parliament I figured we could take a picture on the front steps but decided I would keep walking closer until somebody asked me to stop. That in fact never happened. We went inside and explored their excellent visitors center which is right in the front lobby. It even has a downstairs section full of nifty educational technology (nerd alert). We were highly entertained by the different gadgets that helped teach us all about the history of Parliament both as a governing body and the building itself.

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.
Hallelujah the next day was beautiful weather! Sunny, comfortably warm and clear skies! Good thing too because my hubby had his heart set on the oldest zoo in the world. Besides all the really cool animals, this zoo had a great layout and cool architecture. In the center was this oversized gazebo thing and then the sidewalk circled that and then broke off into spokes to other parts of the zoo. Needless to say I really liked it.

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).

Schonbrunn Palace
So we're walking through this absolutely pristine garden, gawking and then as we come out from between some perfectly trimmed hedges - bam! A PALACE.

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.

It was all spectacular. The Austrian royal family really knew how to do it up. The fountain was especially nice, my second favorite of the trip (behind Trevi).

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.


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