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Christmas in Vienna

Gorgeous place to be this time of year

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View Christmas 2012 on kmclean's travel map.

After Bratislava we took the one our train ride to Vienna. It was a beautiful place to be at Christmas time, and a gorgeous city overall. It’s famous for its music and performing arts, so we took advantage of that and got to see some quite amazing shows. The food was alright, definitely a step up from Bratislava, and the desserts were of course the best part. We had a wonderful time. It was definitely weird being away from home this time of year, but it was still a Christmas we’ll never forget.

We lucked out and got an apartment through airbnb for an unbelievable price for our stay, which was great. The hostels we’ve stayed in so far were all wonderful, too, and they’re definitely a great way to meet some really interesting people. It was nice being able to settle down though, even if it was only for 5 nights, and have a place to relax at the end of the day.

When we first arrived our hostess showed us around the city a bit and we spent the evening walking around and enjoying one of the Christmas markets. There were a lot of those here, the whole city was decorated for Christmas. It’s an unbelievably beautiful city, but also very posh. I don’t think I’ve seen so many fur coats in my life. Most European cities have one or two beautiful, old buildings; always a cathedral and usually a palace, castle, bridge, or other such site. But in Vienna these gorgeous, old, massive buildings never end. Everywhere we looked every building was a massive, old-looking, very fancy piece of architecture. Every museum or library or concert hall was some former emperor or prince’s apartment or palace or “winter home”. The entire city is so elegant, I guess partly because everything was re-built in the old style after the war, but also because it was an imperial capital for most of its history. It’s kind of like in Freiburg. Most of the buildings are less than 60 years old, but they were all rebuilt after original plans, so it still looks like a very old city.

We spent a few evenings in these former apartments and palaces enjoying the music the city is so famous for. We saw kind of a variety show in the Auersperg palace with an orchestra and opera singers and ballet dancers that accompanied them from time to time. We saw a really amazing quartet play in Mozart’s old apartment, and the Vienna Boy’s Choir sing in the Habsburg’s former winter residence. We also got standing places to see The Nutcracker at the Vienna State Opera on Christmas day. That is a gorgeous building. Standing during the entire show and only being able to see about half the stage was still worth the €3 ticket.

Besides all the concert halls and opera houses there are a lot of other things to do in Vienna. We spent a morning at the military history museum, which was really interesting. Austria has a very long and interesting imperial history which was really neat to learn about, but there were also exhibitions about more recent times when Austria was a part of Germany. We also spent a rainy morning in the Natural History Museum here. We could have easily spent the entire day there, I would definitely recommend it. Other than museums and music, the thing we always try to do in a new city is try a couple of restaurants.

One great thing about having an apartment was being able to eat some meals at home, but we still got out a couple of times. There are a lot of very expensive places and a lot of really kitschy places, but Christmas eve we managed to find a really great Italian restaurant downtown. Christmas day we also went out and I copped out and got pasta again, although I should have had the Wiener Schnitzel, which Mike was smart enough to order. I think only the Italians can make a pasta dish worth $15. After 3 months in Germany, though, and knowing that that’s where we’re headed after this amazing trip, I wasn’t keen on another pork and potatoes meal. At restaurants in Freiburg you usually don’t get a menu, rather just the questions “how many schnitzels and what kind of potatoes do you want?”. We also tried the fast food, but that was nothing special. You might be thinking “of course it wasn’t”, but probably the best thing about Germany is the fast food, if you can find it. The döners in Freiburg make for the most delicious $4 meal you’ll ever have. We gave them a try in Vienna, but it didn’t turn out so well.

To compensate for all the Turkish and Italian food, we had to try our share of Viennese desserts. They were all extremely overpriced, but sometimes worth it. The cakes were expensive, but I think $5-$8 is a reasonable price for a really delicious slice. The real scam was the coffee. It was just as expensive or more than the cakes and not that great. After Milan, though, coffee has never been the same. I would go back there just for the cafés. We tried the infamous Sacher Hotel Sachertorte, which was great but I have to say not as delicious as the one a couple of German friends back home make. We also went to the Café Central and had a similar experience – good food, but probably not worth the price. I guess you also pay for the atmosphere in these places, they were very extravagant.

Our time in Vienna was amazing, and it’s definitely a city worth visiting, if only for the concerts and concert halls. It’s definitely worth seeking out some smaller cafés outside the old city because the cake will probably be just as good and you won’t pay a fortune. Five days was enough time to get a good sense of the city and try out a little bit of everything, and also a good amount of time in the winter to allow for a couple of rainy days. It was a beautiful place to be at this time of year, although it was really weird not spending the holidays feasting with family. I’m sure this was a Christmas we’ll never forget.

Here are some pictures.

Posted by kmclean 20:23 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna eastern austria christmas europe cafes Comments (2)

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