Vienna, Austria

Vienna buildings:
Start ornate, add some statues,
Then spackle with gold

Parliament

The Parliament building

Otto Wagner Building

Art Nouveau buildings follow the same formula


Four Vienna days
Is barely enough time for
Scratching the surface

St. Stephen's Cathedral

Inside St. Stephen's Cathedral

Boat Tour on the Danube

Boat Tour on the Danube


Two awesome mascots
In a fight, which one would win?
The one that breathes fire.

Eni Logo

Awesome Eni gas station logo that we first spotted in Italy

Avanti Gas Logo

This Avanti logo appears to be a challenger, but is clearly destined to lose since Eni can breathe fire and has SIX LEGS!

Vienna Summary

Four nights: Saturday, May 12 to Wednesday, May 16

Vienna: it puts the ‘wiener’ in “wiener schnitzel”! I’ve been enjoying the food quite bit since we’ve been in Austria. Beyond sausages (which are everywhere), Austria is the home of schnitzel and Vienna (i.e. Wien) is the source of wiener schnitzel. In fact, other than one lunch at the 1516 Brewpub, I think all my meals here have been wiener schnitzel! I also think this is becoming a concern of Donna’s.

A nice Danube river cruise wiener schnitzel

Even the wiener schnitzel on the train was tasty!

Shifting from food, Vienna is a pretty huge city (~2 million people) with a lot of history and potential stuff to do. Rather than kill ourselves trying to see too much, we took it easy and limited the number of sights we planned on seeing. We spent the first couple of days doing our usual orientation strolls, including some adventuresome tram rides. Speaking of trams, Vienna has quite a variety, both old and new. I also found it interesting that all the trams were flying both the Austrian and Rainbow flags while we were there.

We took in the Albertina, the graphic arts museum. The Klimt collection they had was a little disappointing (primarily sketches), but they had a nice Impressionist and and early 20th century collection. Also, the museum was housed in one of the many buildings making up the Hapsburg Palaces. We took a detour from the main museum and checked out parts of the palace as well – man, it must have been good to be the emperor!

Going back to food, we also wanted to spend some time in a Viennese cafe, so we ended up finding ourselves in Café Landtmann. We had some coffee and fancy pastries –  both were good, if a bit pricy. But I suppose that’s what you get at a place with regulars such as  Sigmund Freud and Hillary Clinton (according to their website).

On our last day in Vienna, and the one with the best weather, we hopped a boat for a Danube canal and river tour. We were able to see some interesting sights (UN building, power plant, impressive locks and hydro plant). While it was nice being on the river, I have to admit it was less scenic than I was imagining. On the up-side, I had a really nice wiener schnitzel for lunch!

After the Danube tour, we went back to the center of town and checked out the cathedral. Compared to most other cathedrals we’ve seen, it was festively lit up inside with both lights and colored films along the windows. Unfortunately, the regular tour was not running that day, but we were able to get a tour of the catacombs!

Next, we’re off to Bled, Slovenia. This continues the alternating pattern of big city followed by small town that we started back with Barcelona. Curiously, we didn’t explicitly plan it that way – it just kinda happened. Also, we’re finding that we like the smaller places better, so we may start skewing that way for the remainder of the trip. Stay tuned!

Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck, Austria
Beautiful architecture
Both quaint and modern

Innsbruck buildings

Hungerburgbahn station


Top of the mountain
Parasailers, awesome views,
High altitude lunch

Hafelekar Parasailer

Hafelekar station

Hafelekar station, where we had lunch


Swarovski crystals –
Basis for a surreal world
Like Disney on drugs

Masks

You are entering a dream-like world of crystals.

Enter the Crystal

Whoa - it's like we're all part of one big crystal.

Mannequins

Mind-blowing animated mannequin display which culminates in the upper mannequin opening up and revealing we are all FULL OF CRYSTALS!

Jellyfish

The color-shifting jellyfish - it's so scintillating... It's probably not a coincidence that the exit to this place has a snack bar so people can grab some munchies on their way out!

Innsbruck Summary

Three nights: Wednesday, May 9 to Saturday, May 12

It would be easy to summarize this visit by saying “Innsbruck is scenic! Go look at the photos!”. However, I guess I have a certain obligation to give it a proper summarization.

It was interesting to see the transition from Italy to Austria. The first thing I noticed was the dining selection on our Austrian train to Innsbruck: sausages, various schnitzels and beer! This would turn into a culinary theme. Also, heading up into the Alps resulted in a much more scenic backdrop than the already impressive Italian hills.

We couldn’t make an AirBnB reservation, so we ended up in a very comfortable hotel slightly on the outskirts of Innsbruck. As an unexpected bonus, there seemed to be some mixed agricultural zoning on an otherwise residential/commercial street. For example, just across the street from us was a small dairy with its own self-serve milk dispenser!

 

Our first major outing was to take a series of funiculars and trams up the mountains above town. The views were spectacular, especially once we got to the top (~2000 meters). There was also a lot of sporting activity going on, ranging from some kind of crazy skiing on short skis down the sparse remaining snow to parasailers launching themselves off the mountain directly into the sky.

The next day, we headed in the opposite direction and went up the slope to check out the Tirol Panorama as well as the the Olympic ski jump. The panorama and associated museum provided some interesting historical context from the 19th century and onward (the Tyrolean people are badasses, despite the liederhosen!). Our visit to the ski jump was also impressive – it was designed by London-based architect Zaha Hadid (who also designed the funicular stations going up the mountain) and provided another nice viewpoint of Innsbruck.

On our final day, we took a trip to the nearby town of Wattens, location of the Swarovski factory. More importantly, we were there to see the Swarovski Kristallwelten (“Crystal World”). We expected a certain amount of spectacle, but I’m happy to say our expectations were exceeded. Not only was it less corporate than it otherwise might have been, it was as if Walt Disney had designed an experiential theme park while on acid, while snorting Swarovski crystal dust as some sort of catalyst! The place was a truly freaky collection of installation art. Our photos don’t really capture it, so feel free to ask us about it sometime. Recommended!