Ok, where do I start? Let me just say this is my favorite European city so far, what a wonderful place. I flew in early evening. Vienna has a train, the CAT, that is non-stop travel from the airport to the Vienna city centre for relatively cheap, great thing. I checked into the hotel around 8:00, I was rather tired so I had time to grab some Austrian-Persian fusion cuisine (weird, but good), spend about an hour around the hotel, then go to sleep and get ready for the next day. One note about the first night, I had a great Manhattan for dinner, Europe doesn’t really have a lot of places that make those, so it was great to find my favorite drink. I proceeded to find Manhattans at quite a few places in Vienna, particularly a Manhattan ‘menu’ at Loos American Bar, right in the heart of Vienna.
Anyway, getting back on track, the 2nd day was going into the city centre. The first thing I hit was the statue of Mozart, I had to get a picture next to that!
Then, it was off to the butterfly house…not all that impressed. I guess they had to keep the temperature at amazon levels for the butterflies, so I was dripping with sweat within minutes of being there (and right after paying the 6 euros for admission). It was so humid inside the camera fogged up, and the pictures came out hard to see. I then went to the giant Ferris wheel, or Riesenrad. I remember this from one of my favorite films ‘Before Sunrise’, with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, so I knew I had to do it. Just to be honest, I do not like heights. I remember this time at a medical conference in 2009, I was with my friend Jim Andrews in St. Louis and we went on the arch ride. There is a video existing of it somewhere, but let’s just say I didn’t really act like a man. Also, I remember this time as a kid where I went on a Ferris wheel in Pittsburgh, and basically cried my eyes out…as luck would have it there was a news crew on the Ferris wheel filming me the whole time. Anyway, I decided the hell with it and I’d do the Ferris wheel. I got the fear, I admit, as we went up, I felt weak in the legs like I normally do, but I’m glad I did it, the views of Vienna were amazing. I also met some American tourists from Minnesota, who weren’t nearly as afraid of heights as I was.
The next day I hit the aquarium, the ‘House of Sea’. It was good, a little expensive for admission at 14 euros, but some of the proceeds went to research so that was ok. The views from the top were incredible, you got a panoramic view of Vienna. I guess what I liked the most was the monkey house, this place you walked in and these little monkeys were just freely jumping around in front of you. They seemed a bit scared of people, so there was no chance to get a pic with one sitting on my shoulder, but it was still cool.
I then hit the museum of natural history, which was cool as well. Too bad most of the exhibits were in German, but there was enough to keep me interested and justify the admission fee. They had a really creepy caveman exhibit with a bunch of weird looking statues…enough to give a kid nightmares.
That night I went to the Vienna Opera House. I was able to get tickets, now it was a ballet, so I was worried I’d fall asleep. I remember I took a girl to the ballet in Pittsburgh back in the late 90s, and I was asleep within minutes. It’s the classical music, I love it but it has a soporific effect on me. I was able to stay awake, the Viennese dancers were great, I still wince when I see those women stand on their toes like that, I’m not sure how they do it. The inside of the Opera House was beautiful, it was one of those ‘I can’t believe I’m here’ moments which I have every now and then during my travels.
My final day in Vienna I went to Schonbrunn palace and gardens, and to the zoo. The palace was ok, but I get pissed when they don’t allow pictures at places. Maybe I’m becoming obsessed with posting pictures on Facebook and the travel blog, but what’s the point of having a main exhibit and not allowing pictures? It’s not like they had the Mona Lisa hanging in there. The flower gardens outside the palace were beautiful, so great picture opportunities there.
The zoo was very nice, it actually got voted best zoo in Europe two of the last four years. I got great videos of a bear fight, a panda eating, and a zoo staffer in the water feeding a tapir. It was a really, really hot day, so I spent a lot of the day trying to stay in the shade.
I just want to give a final shout-out to the Shamrock Pub, which was right next to my hotel. My hotel had the worst WiFi I’ve ever encountered, but the Shamrock had the best. I found myself there updating Facebook with a Guinness in front of me most nights! Vienna has a truly magical quality to it, and I’m already looking forward to coming back, hopefully in late October around my birthday. Also, the public transport was amazing, so easy to get around everywhere. I also loved the artistic aspect of the town…so very much into classical music & opera, and I took a couple videos of street musicians, who were very good and worthy of the one euro I tipped them. I can’t believe anyone wanting to ever leave this city, I know I didn’t want to. Vienna, you are one beautiful lady.