If things had been otherwise I’m sure we would have done Vienna a little differently, but there was a bit of real life in the way. We are trying so hard to focus on the joyful stuff but sometimes the great adventure has a different tenor to it, though it’s still what you’d call an adventure.
I may have already mentioned this, but running away as an adult is not so easy. As much as you want to throw off the chains of your home life, it does intervene and need some attention every now and then, whether it be an issue with the mortgage company, or something about the final cable bill. We did consider selling the house and not buying another, but I think we realized, with a little help from some relatives and friends, that maybe we needed an bit more stability behind us, especially since obtaining a mortgage on our return might be a little challenging, no matter where we decide to settle.
The biggest issue limiting our “touristing” in Vienna, was of course dealing with the logistics of being “done” with the bikes. It was a huge cause of anxiety for both of us I think. We did consider selling or leaving the bikes here but there was that little detail, among others, that Angie’s bike actually belongs to her mother. So we embarked on the task of figuring out how to get the bikes shipped out of here. We spent time dealing with this almost every day of our time in Vienna, except Sunday when everything was closed.
Originally we were going to ship them to London and just take them back on the plane with us from there, but the solution we managed to find actually enabled us to send them all the way to Colorado. This has several benefits, not least of which was not having us or anyone else have to deal with the bikes in London, whether it’s my sister having to wait for a delivery or us figuring out a large enough vehicle to get to the airport when we leave. Thanks to Trek Vienna and the cool guy at Mailboxes Etc., the bikes are boxed suitably and wending their way home for less than we expected to have to spend. It is a huge weight off our shoulders, which we celebrated by going to one of the traditional coffee houses recommended by both Rick Steves and the Use-It map folks for a coffee! We picked Café Tirolerhof, which is a stone’s throw from the Albertina and the Monument Against War And Fascism. To show how traditional this place is, we were the youngest people there for most of the time. This is one of those places where the waiters are in tuxedos and bow ties. Angie had a Maria Theresia, which is flavored with orange liqueur. I just had a latte, for something different, since I’ve mainly been drinking the melange (a Viennese cappuccino effectively) and none of the flavored coffees appealed to me. We just sat there and let ourselves enjoy the time and stillness.
But I am ahead of myself, because I haven’t really given you the travelogue of the Vienna stay yet (and some of this may be overlapping with Angie’s blog, because we both decided to blog separately about Vienna).
Funnily enough, as Angie and I discussed the several days we spent in this spectacular city, we realized we actually did do a lot, so the title of this post may not be so accurate, but then, if I got someone’s attention, all well and good.
First off, this was our first Air BnB stay, and it was pretty good. The flat was perfectly adequate for our needs, including a washing machine (absolutely vital) and a well-enough equipped kitchen that we could cook for ourselves most of the time, since we are trying not to spend too much money and to eat fairly well. The flat was located in the Margareten district of the city. I don’t know if it’s particularly historic. We did notice that there were a lot of cafés and bars and they were busy day and night. Angie surmised that the neighborhood is probably quite a young, hip one. However, one building really did catch our eye as we walked from the flat to the downtown area and back. I’m afraid we didn’t remember to take pictures of it, but here is a little background on the place we found out was called Margeretenhof. If you google “margarethenhof vienna” and select images, you can see why it caught our attention, especially for the wooden balconies.
I’m going to skip the bits where we went to various bike shops to see if they could help us deal with the bike shipping issue and just summarize some of the other stuff we did around that.
On Saturday we were kind of demoralized about the bike thing, and had gone back the apartment, where we had already purchased food supplies for the weekend, knowing that the stores are closed on Sundays. But we were not sure we could face spending the rest of the afternoon and evening just sitting around. Angie suggested that we get out and do something, and I accepted that it was a good idea. Even if all we did was walk, we knew it would help. We decided to set our destination as the Vienna branch of Shakespeare and Co., an English language bookshop that has a famous outpost in Paris. It was actually a pretty long walk but we were both really glad we did that, though not because the store was any great shakes, because it was too disorganized and we left without buying anything. It just felt good to be out and moving.
My wonderful wife had also done some research on football pubs In the center of town. After we left the bookshop, we decided to try to find one of the pubs and maybe watch some football. If we were lucky (for me) the Arsenal v Spurs game would be on. We found our way to a place called Flanagans and managed to get a table with a view of the big screen on which the Spurs game was showing. Even though we had food at the flat, we decided to stay, watch the game, and eat something. It turned out that some good old British-style pub food was also a tonic for us, washed down by a half of cider.
On Sunday, we took advantage of still having the bikes with us to ride to the Schönbrunn palace, which was the summer residence of the imperial family. We didn’t really want to spend the entry fee to see another rococo building, but did want to see the grounds. We had to park the bikes outside but we very much enjoyed the park, which was designed to be accessible to the people. We walked as far as what is known as the Gloriette and enjoyed the views from there. We tried to walk around many of the different parts of the park, since they were designed to be varied sections, and it was quite lovely. The grounds also house what is claimed as the world’s first zoo. We didn’t go to the zoo, but we did stop at the café there for a cup of coffee. All in all it was a pretty relaxing day, except for the bit where I ran into Angie as she braked to avoid a couple of pedestrians wheeling suitcases who came around a blind corner. Just a few bruises and no damage to the bikes.
On Monday, after our successful interaction at the Trek store (blah blah blah), we visited the Albertina. This is a former part of one of the former royal palaces that has been converted to a museum. Good Rick Steves followers that we are, we took his advice and started our tour with the former royal apartments. As we expected, they were the height of Rococo opulence. However, our main interest in going to the Albertina was to see the Joan Miro exhibit, which was pretty amazing. There was so much stuff and the signage and the audio tour really brought home the progression of his work. Here are a couple of the pieces I liked.
We really wanted to check out the permanent exhibit after this but we were pretty spent, so we mainly skimmed it, particularly enjoying the Chagalls and Picassos, though I think my favorite piece was the amazing “Peace” by Augusto Giacometti.
As I said, we were toast by the time we left the museum, so we found ourselves a place to have some lunch, a pretty good Japanese place called Akakiko, which is a small chain. We didn’t do much more on Monday, other than a little clothes shopping, since we didn’t actually have a lot of off-the-bike clothing with us while we were touring.
Tuesday, we did more shopping (sigh) including buying a suitcase, since we’d just shipped our panniers home. However, we did manage to have a pretty full day of tourism, including coffee at a less traditional place on a lovely quiet square, Franziskanerplatz. We sat outside and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the area we were in. We also took a pretty long walk, toting the new suitcase, up to the Belvedere, a palace of a crown prince, and then back to the flat so we could have an early-ish dinner. The reason for doing that was so we could walk some more, back down to the inner ring to go to a concert at the Haus der Musik, which is the city’s music museum. The show we were going to was the Amanda Rheaume Trio. We’d never heard of her but thought it might be interesting. At €12 a ticket we figured it would not be a great loss if we didn’t like it. I think we both found it quite entertaining. For me, it wasn’t the frontwoman’s voice or even her songs that I like the best but the overall sound of the band and the richness and layering of the melodies. Angie and I were both really impressed with the bass player’s prowess, but the lead guitar/mandolin player was also pretty talented. It was a pretty good day.
Wednesday was also a good day, not just because we got the bikes shipped and our relief at achieving that. We enjoyed our coffee break and were expecting to nosh over lunch at the Naschtmarkt. We did decide to have a box of noodles first to tide us over and were probably glad we did because the Naschtmarkt was really cool but there were more sit-down places than places where you could grab a quick nosh, which is what we’d been expecting. It was fun to walk through it though. We ended our touristy day back at Mariahilferstrasse at a gelato place eating decadent treats and discovering once again that if the waiters bring you something you didn’t order, they are going to charge you extra for it. We also found this at restaurants in Melk and Tulln. Maybe we’ve learned our lesson now? We finished the day with a lovely dinner at the flat, including curried turkey escalopes.