What a beautiful city, from the cobble stone roads to detail found in Cathedral to the unique
coffee culture and the impressive architecture found at every corner of the streets, I was overwhelmed by it all.
My first stop exploring the city was at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, an impressive Catholic church located in Stephansplatz, right at the center of the city. This is one of the most recognizable church in Vienna, along with the colourful orange roof, it is seen from almost anywhere in the city.
This is the second church tower I climbed and another 300+ steps was well worth the effort. The view of Vienna from this 450 feet high tower is simply breathtaking.
Next stop for me was the Opera House, also conveniently located in the center of the city. The Opera House was built in the 1860s and continues to be one of the most famous opera houses in the world. It was destroyed in WWII and later reconstructed to have the largest stage in Europe. 10 months of the year, the Opera House puts on a show every day (except several holidays) either musical concerts, ballets and operas. I did a tour for 3.5 euro (student discount!) and on the tour they show you practically all of the building; including the backstage, private rooms, hallways, intermission rooms, along with some other neat stories about the Opera House.
A walk around the city wasn’t complete without enjoying coffee, or kaffee (German) in a kaffehaus. Vienna has developed a particular liking, no passion, around drinking coffee which has developed into a lifestyle. A pricey and good cup of coffee gives you a ticket to relaxing in a cafe – set up almost like a restaurant with the waiters, minus the food menu and instead offering different pastries.
Aside from the famous Apple Strudel, another famous Viennese pastry is the Satchertorte cake. The Sachertorte from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna was invented by an Austrian for the prince and has claimed the title of the most famous cake in the world since 1832. For the “most famous cake in the world” I actually didn’t know what the fuss was all about… It’s a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle, then a layer of chocolate glaze on the outside.
Another notable spot was the Hofburg Palace. Earlier I saw their summer residence and now I was able to view where the powerful Hasburg dynasty, a family that once ruled the Austria-Hungry empire, resided in the rest of the year. The house of Hasburg was one of the most important dynasties in Europe at the time as it produced some of the kings that ruled Western Europe for several decades starting the 15th century.
Today, the palace hosts different museums that showcase an opportunity to learn about the history of the family. I was walking really slowly around the outside of the palace with gaze looking up as I was trying to look at the different building… but all of a sudden I was stopped by an elder man. He pointed to my camera and asked me in broken English if I was looking for something to take a photo of. Yes, of course, I replied. He points to this gold embellishment at the top of the Hofburg Palace. He asked me if I knew what that was. No, no I don’t, I replied. This is the start of an almost two-hour conversation of Austrian history.
It was really interesting, but I knew so little and felt bad. Some names I recognized, but most of the stories were new to me. He was clearly in love with Vienna and everything about it’s past and sharing this with me was a joy for him. He asked me not to forget about him and also never ever to forget about Vienna, as “it’s the most beautiful city in the world”.
As beautiful as it all was, at the end of the day I had to take a step back to actually appreciate everything I saw. I sat in the park overlooking the Hofburg Palace and wrote in my journal and sketched. It was the most relaxing way to end by day of walking around the city.
I also realized that as beautiful as the city was, I prefer traveling in smaller cities or towns. Vienna, like Paris, was overwhelming for me, perhaps if I were traveling with someone this would be different. I feel the same about New York and actually the same of Toronto. I feel much more content in something a couple notches down, a balance of city and nature!