This morning, we finally get a chance to really see Vienna in all of its glory, as the sun is shining and we hop on the bus bright and early to check out Schonbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Hapsburg emperors. Since we get here early with our tour group, we avoid the daily influx of 12,000 tourists and we have a place to ourselves for a bit, seeing the insane opulence of the palace and its even more impressive and expansive grounds with winding trails, secret gardens and over-the-top fountains and statues.
After this, we hop back on the bus for a tour of Vienna’s major sights, including the Empress Maria Theresa Monument, the Votive Church, City Hall, Parliament and the State Opera House, which line the Ringtrasse, a circular road and bike path that leads from one sight to the next. Mike and I have had our fill of formal touring, though, for the day, so we head out to the local outdoor market, Vienna Naschmarkt, and begin drinking beers outside, sampling local food and cruising the shops until we are pleasantly drunk.
Full, happy and tired, we head back to the Hilton Vienna for awhile before I force us to get up and hit up some other major sites, starting at the Albertina art museum which is currently featuring works by Picasso, Monet and Rembrancht. I’m definitely no art buff, but I personally find it interesting that I find many of the big-name works boring – that of portraits of people, outdoor scenes and foods – and instead, we gravitate towards some of the really outlandish paintings and amazing photography.
With a renewed vigor, Mike and I hop on the clean and easy-to-navigate subway and take the four stops to Praterstadt, home to the famous Reisenrad Ferris wheel that offers great views of the city. I didn’t anticipate sharing the indoor Ferris wheel cart with around eight other people, plus the rocking of the large cart weirds me out so I’m actually happy when it’s over.
Finally, its 10 p.m. And I am spent but we still haven’t had dinner and are ready for a break from hearty Eastern European food, so I look up a local sushi restaurant and we walk there, which still is packed and has a wait when we get there – a good sign. We can’t read the menu – I’m finding that a lot of these places don’t have English translations – and I’m embarrassed to ask the busy server what’s what so I order a few rolls, which are great and enormous anyway.
I’m so tired when we finally leave that Mike and I take a six euro cab ride back to the hotel, a measly 15 minute walk that is so worth it. I fall asleep immediately, psyched for tomorrow’s morning trip to Bratislava.