Austria. I have long wanted to visit this beautiful country which lies near the Alps. Home to many famous people (Mozart? Beethoven? Freud? Schwarzenegger? Heidi? A thousand others?), Austria is the 20th country I visited. Carl & I only had Vienna, the capital city, for a one-day sidetrip, so we had to make the most out of it! Travelling from Bratislava to Vienna took only an hour and 6 minutes, but it was the only part of the whole Interrail Journey where we met an immigration control officer. By the end of the day, we rode the train across the Austrian Alps to the beautiful little village of Villach, where we spent a night before heading towards Slovenia. So, here’s Day 7 aka the 1-day trip to City of Music and the City of Dreams.
08:38 AM Train from Bratislava to Vienna (1 hr 6 mins)
Vienna is dubbed the City of Music because, well, it was home to many famous composers. As for the City of Dreams, it was home to Sigmund Freud, neurologist and psychoanalyst. Guess, Vienna stimulates the creative and analytical mind the same way Paris did to many artists and scholars. So, it was an easy decision to make a sidetrip to the city before we head off to Slovenia. The river Morava partially borders the two countries.
10:30 AM Schönbrunn Palace
Seeing that we have limited time in Vienna, we hopped on a taxi cab at once and headed off to the Schönbrunn Palace! I couldn’t believe my eyes I was there, after so many years of just seeing the wonderful structure only on postcards from Austrian penpals and postcrossers. A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1996, the Palace was originally named Katterburg and served as a hunting lodge for monarchs and aristocrats during the Middle Ages. The significant Schönbrunn Yellow color also has an interesting story, as the building was originally painted golden ochre. During the reign of Maria Theresa in the 1700s, Schönbrunn was converted into a summer residence and repainted with the same shade of yellow that it is today.
Originally a property of the Habsburg Dynasty, the palace was handed over to the government when monarchy was abolished in the early 1900s. Today, it is run by the Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. as a “limited-liability company solely owned by the Republic of Austria”. I guess it is safe to say that the Palace is the number one tourist attraction in the city. There was a marching band when we visited, and they played lively music for the throngs of people eager to see the palace. Because of the massive number of people, we decided not to enter the palace itself. The property is HUGE. Besides, there was an extensive list of tickets and inclusions, and we just didn’t have the energy to review and choose. There’s the Imperial Tour, Grand Tour 1 & 2, Classic Pass, Sisi ticket, Family Pass, Children’s museum, in addition to individual tickets to the Maze, Gloriette, Privy garden and Orangery. Or you can opt for combined tickets. All options you’d find here: https://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/our-tickets-and-prices/all-tickets-prices/).
But the good news is: the Palace Park is free, so we just roamed around, saw the surrounding gardens and statues, and enjoyed the pleasant view of the great Schönbrunn Palace in front of us.
12:00 PM St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Domkirke St. Stephan) and Stephansplatz
After a couple of hours at Schönbrunn Palace, we took the metro/subway to Stephansplatz, a famous square in the city. It was absolutely GORGEOUS! Once again, we were welcomed by a marching band with people in costumes. I switched on my phone to take a video, but after a while, I realized that it wasn’t filming because I ran out of space! haha So all the jumping to catch a glimpse was wasted. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience. There were lots and lots of people in the square, so we tried to stick together as we braved the streets of Vienna.
Our first attraction: The St. Stephen’s Cathedral, standing majestically in the middle of the square. It is believed that the construction began in the 1100s. Just like other ancient structures, the church underwent many changes, including being damaged by two great fires. Today, it welcomes guests from all over the world, and offers tours like a tour to the cathedral itself, to the Catacombs, the Treasury, the Attic and the Towers. (Find the tour that suits you here: https://www.stephanskirche.at/visit.php)
13:00 PM Mozart’s House and Vienna streets
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably the most famous Austrian classical composer. I remember my Danish hostmom buying her baby daughter the Baby Mozart dvd, believing the theory that making babies listen to classical music makes them creative and smart. Now, Mozart was actually born in Salzburg, but he lived in Vienna for 10 years (1781-91), where spent most of his composing. Carl & I had a tough time trying to find the house, but after a while, we managed to spot the original entrance to the apartment: Schulerstrasse 8. We also roamed around the city, awed by the beautiful architecture and the arty feels.
13:30 PM St. Charles’ Church (Karlskirche)
This amazing church of Baroque style, the Rektoratskirche St. Karl Borromäus aka Karlskirche, was built in 1737. Concerts by famous orchestra are held here. During our stay, it was possible to take a lift up to the roof of the dome, and from there, catch a good glimpse of the city. Interestingly, the lift was manned, so we could’t help but wonder how the staff felt going up and down the 70-meter high church many times a day.
14:30 PM University of Vienna Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden was not actually in our plan, but seeing that it was on the way to the Belvedere Palace and then to the train station, we decided to give it a go! It was a hot summer day and some of the plants were withering, but the rest didn’t disappoint! They even have a Botanic Quest app, but we didn’t try it due to limited time. The area covers 8 hectares and contains about 11,500 species of plants. Read more about the garden here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botanical_Garden_of_the_University_of_Vienna.
15:00 PM Belvedere Museum and Palace
The Belvedere might not be as celebrated as the Schoenbrunn Palace, but it has its own charm! They were actually two palaces built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy in the early 1700s. The Lower and Upper Belvedere now serve as a museum and gallery, with paintings done by famous artists like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. Read more about the Belvedere here: https://www.belvedere.at/palaces.
16:25 PM Train from Vienna Hbf to Villach Hbf (4 hrs and 14 mins)
Yes, we spent only one day in Vienna, but the city really made a great impression! We loved the Austrian trains, and the city probably has the cleanest toilets in the world! They have a self-cleaning toilet, which you have to find out for yourself 😉 The scenic views made us want to stay longer, which was why we decided to spend the night in a little Austrian village called Villach. It was evening when we arrived, tired from the train ride. So the exploring continued the following day. For now, here are some shots from the train ride across Austria:
21:00 PM Sleeping time @ Hotel Mosser, Villach
We loved this charming little hotel in Villach, family-ran for over 250 years! Read more about it here: http://www.hotelmosser.at/seiten/en/dashotel.html.
And that’s how spent the 7th day of our Interrail Adventure. Anyway, the journey continues…. ❤ #spreadlove