When I was single, I would go on extended trips at the drop of a hat and always worried about what would happen if I one day married someone who didn’t share my love and passion for travel. Well, on date #2 with my current husband, we talked about my love and need for travel and he admitted he wasn’t big on travel but he also explained that he wasn’t the kind of man who would stand in his partner’s way of exploring the world just because he didn’t want to. We’ve been married for 3 years and to his credit he has been traveling with me, but I’ve also embarked on a few trips without him. One of these happened back in September when a few girlfriends and I went off to Europe.
The first stop was Austria. I had visited Vienna once before, about 10 years ago. I had a really long layover so I took the train from the airport into the city and spent almost the entire day walking all around the city, taking in the beautiful architecture sitting on park benches and watching the locals until it was time for me to get back to the airport to catch my connecting flight. I always felt like I had unfinished business in Vienna.
The day we arrived in Vienna, we checked into Schick Hotel am Parkring. This hotel was right across from Stadt Park and part of the reason we booked it was because of the views offered from the rooms. The rooms were spacious, the beds comfortable, the bathrooms modern and I can’t say enough about how lovely, helpful and warm the hotel staff were. I felt safe, welcomed and looked after in the way I do when I stay with family.
After settling in we decided to go for a walk to check out the neighborhoods around our hotel and get our bearings. Just a few blocks away, we ran into a Viennese wedding and a couple left turns later we stumbled upon St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The first evening we ended up having our dinner at Medusa. I was nervous because we hadn’t researched and just picked it based on walking by and glancing at the menu. We were all very impressed with our choice and enjoyed our al fresco meal.
The next morning my roommate decided to go for an early morning walk while the rest of us got ready. I wish I had been ready to tag along because she went to the Naschmarkt which sounded like a place I would have probably loved. There is so much to see and do in Vienna that we split up. I’ll admit that I hadn’t done my reasearch so I didn’t have a list of things I wanted to see or do so when my friend suggested we go to the Schonbrun Palace I agreed without even knowing what I had just agreed to. We took a hop on/hop off bus tour which took us right to the palace. We sat in the cafe facing the palace to have our morning coffee. The picture below doesn’t do justice to the size of this palace. It’s gigantic.
As we sat in the cafe, drinking our Viennese coffees, noshing on some pretzels and sausages, we perused the visitor brochure and I read the entire Wikipedia page to learn about the palace. How on earth did I not know about this place? Mozart played here when he was 6 years old, JFK met Khruschev here and it’s a UNESCO heritage site. Boy was I glad my friend suggested we visit Schonbrun! To think this enormous estate was just the summer residence for the Habsburgs. My friend suggested that instead of going into the palace we just go walk through the free gardens in the back since we were a bit limited on time. Being the super go with the flow, easy traveler that I am, I agreed. When we walked around the palace, both of our minds were blown. We were not prepared for what lied behind this palace.
My friend was taking pictures galore and asking me why I wasn’t taking a single picture. I told her that no picture I took was going to compare to what I could see on google images. The gardens were also massive with hidden cafes, statues, fountains, gazebos, mazes, labyrinths, a palm house, a gloriette and A ZOO!!! There is so much to see! I couldn’t believe that some locals were there for their daily jogs! Anyone can come and visit, walk or jog through these botanical gardens for free! We have to pay so much money back home to visit places like these. They also host outdoor concerts here. I think we probably only covered 8% of what there was to see here before we had to head back to catch our bus back into the city. We got to see a lot of Vienna by riding that bus.
While we were in Vienna we rented a car and drove out to Melk, Mauthausen and Linz. Melk was an adorable little town, but the standout for me was the visit to Mauthausen. Once again when one of the girls on the trip suggested going there, I didn’t really have an objection, though I had no idea why we were going out of our way to visit a concentration camp. Apparently the employee at the car rental place shared my sentiment. She didn’t understand why 4 American women would want to go to such a sad place. After walking around with the self guided audio tour, I was moved to my core and grateful to my friend for suggesting we visit.
The silence at Mauthausen hangs heavily. The air is heavy too with the weight of the atrocious things that happened here. Walking around learning about the living conditions and what life was like for the people who were brought here during WWII with the self guided audio tour was very sad. I mean, we learn about this event in our history courses, but they don’t tell us nearly enough…I felt myself almost losing it when I saw the rooms where they conducted medical experiments and walked through the crematorium and saw the ovens. How can humans do such things to each other? The scariest part was that these people didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing and took roll daily and kept meticulous records. The exhibits in the museum are chilling. There is so much about the holocaust we don’t learn in school.
My initial reaction to this place was wishing it didn’t exist. I wished the place would have been razed to erase every memory…but that would be wrong. Places like this need to remain to remind us all of what we as humans are capable of doing to other humans in the absence of tolerance.
To balance out the heaviness of Mauthausen we lightened things up by also going to the Opera where we watched La Fille Du Regiment and then enjoying a traditional Viennese Breakfast the next morning at the infamous Cafe Central which was actually a place I had found before the trip on FourSquare that I wanted to visit. Cafe Central is almost 150 years old and Stalin, Freud, Lenin & Hitler used to patronize this place. Being such a history buff I will admit, I was geeking out a bit. I’m so glad we came because the coffee here was the best I had in all of Austria and I had been craving a soft boiled egg and croissant and they had those exact things on the menu to satiate my craving.
Our last night in Vienna we wanted to have a nice dinner out so at the recommendation of the staff of our hotel we went to Motto am Fluss where I enjoyed the best Weiner Schnitzel I’ve had in my life that basically ruined me for life. No other WS is going to compare to the WS at Motto am Fluss.
The first time I left Vienna, I felt like I had unfinished business and I’m happy to report that when I left this time, I felt the exact same way. Auf Wiedersehen Vien… Until we meet again Vienna.