After spending a great day at the Budapest zoo, we decided to hop on a train and go for a one day excursion to Vienna. Since we have a friend there we wanted to visit her. We got up at 6 am (which is always a pleasure, especially on a vacation) so we could catch the 7 am train and use most of the day for our wanderings through the capital of Austria. For 25 euros, which I think is not expensive at all, we bought a round-trip ticket for our 3 hour journey.
Vienna is the capital of Austria, and with its 1.7 million inhabitants it is the home to about one fifth of the country’s population. It is also known worldwide as the center of culture. Among the most famous Viennese are the composers Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II, Erwin Schrödinger, physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Sigmund Freud, also called the father of dreams, and one of my favorite actors, the two times Academy Award winner, Christoph Waltz.
We felt totally discouraged. How to visit such a great city in just under 9 hours and not miss some of its main attractions? The answer is – you can’t. So we had to make sacrifices and promise to ourselves that one day we will come back and enjoy every part of Vienna at our own pace. We decided to leave all the indoor museums for our next visit and explore the beautiful architecture that is like food for the eyes.
First stop on our tour was the Karlskirche. Located on a square with the same name, Karlsplatz, it’s a magnificent 18th century Baroque church. It has two massive tall columns on each side of the entrance. The inspiration for these columns came from the ancient Roman column of Trajan. The church was built as a monument dedicated to the end of the great plague that killed more than 8000 Viennese.
Since it was a church, and not a museum with kilometers and kilometers of hallways, we went in. The entrance fee was 4 euros for students, 8 for adults, which is a steep price for entering a church. Of all the sculptures, painted walls and altars the first thing I saw was the elevator that took tourists to the top of the giant dome. It was really an religion vs. view kind of thing and I am more interested in the latter. After our ride up we got to a wooden platform on top of a construction scaffold. As an engineer I know that scaffold are never 100% stable and my fear of heights didn’t help. But we had to climb up to the top despite the shaking stairs.
Our next stop at Vienna was the Belvedere Palace. Also built in the Baroque style this is a complex of two palaces, the upper and lower Belvedere, that are connected with elegant, geometric gardens. Since we had a no-museum rule for the day, we just strolled aimlessly through the gardens, going from the upper palace to the lower Belvedere. Admiring the geometrical shapes and sculptures symmetrically placed throughout the place we could only imagine what does it look like in the summer when the fountains are working and the colorful flowers are everywhere.
The last sight we visited before meeting our friend was the main attraction of the city – the Stephansdom. The most famous cathedral in Vienna was built in four stages from 12th to 14th century. It represents a beautiful mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture styles. I didn’t comprehend the size of the building until we got inside. The massive interior with columns rising like trees from the floor is breathtaking. The modern addition of the light show inside the cathedral makes the experience look like a fairy tale. The gray massive columns are sprayed with light in different colors making the whole place suddenly alive.
Although we had only one day, not even the whole day, in Vienna we got just a glimpse of its immense culture, architecture and everything else it has to offer. This city should not be on your ‘just passing through’ list as it deserves your full attention. Next time we come here we will dedicate ourselves completely to exploring the details of this wonderful city. But for now we had to get back on our train for a three hour ride back to Budapest.