I pleasantly enjoyed my recent trip to Vienna despite the last minute changes in plan. I wasn’t prepared to come alone but I still decided to go because I don’t want the money that I’ve already spent for all the tickets to go down the drain. Besides, it is one of the cities in Europe that I have always wanted to see and I am so glad I did. Vienna has nothing to show the world but grandeur in its truest sense. I spent only three nights in this magnificent Austrian capital and I kept wanting more. I was able to do the essentials and that’s what’s important.
I arrived past 1PM from Paris via Austrian Airlines. I headed straight to my hostel for one night at the Wombats City Hostel at the NaschMarkt. It is close to the city center, relatively new and very well-kept. I stayed in a mixed-dorm room for three people so I had Su, a bright female chemical engineer from Oxford and Mahindra, an Indian working in Poland as roommates. Su and I spent the entire afternoon talking while I was preparing to suit up for the night’s event – my very first opera.
The Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) is a must-see as it is the primary opera and classical music venue in the city. I was able to catch the French version of Don Carlos, a five-act grand opera originally created in Italian by Giuseppe Verdi. It was his longest opera at four solid hours. Good thing I wasn’t standing and I managed to secure a perfectly located center seat beside the ledge on the topmost floor. My stomach was growling since I didn’t eat a decent lunch or dinner prior to its start.
After eating my late dinner of chicken chop suey at a chinese food stall outside the Schwedenplatz U-Bahn, I met up with Henry, a fellow Pinoy student in Europe and my CouchSurfing host for 3 days. We went to grab some drinks at a Latino birthday party with his other friends. I returned to the hostel around 2AM and despite my attempt to catch some sleep, the truck-like snoring of the Indian guy woke me up more than a dozen times before I really intended to get up to prepare for the checkout and the next thing in my agenda.
I invited Su at the Hofburgkapelle to hear the Sunday mass at 9:15AM where the Vienna Boys Choir will be singing. The mass was in mixed Latin and German so I did not understand a word except for some English sentences during the homily. I reserved a very nice 5th row ticket at the main altar so Su and I had to split up. From my location, you cannot see the boys because they are situated at the orchestra. However, they went down and performed in front of the altar at the end of the mass. Here’s the video of their performance:
I was able to have my picture taken with the choir’s lead voice while waiting for Su. She went to see the Spanish Riding School while I got my luggage from the hostel and brought it to Henry’s apartment. Su and I decided to meet for lunch somewhere in Stephansplatz, the city’s center. We had a very filling meal as we tried to chow down the oversized schnitzel at Figlmüller.
Right after, we went to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom). The ornately patterned roof and the disco-esque feeling of the play of colors inside are truly unique. We also saw the exterior of the baroque St. Charles Church (Karlskirche) at Karlsplatz on our way to the Wien Museum.
The Vision of Hundertwasser
Late Sunday afternoon, I went to see Henry at Kunst Haus Wien where he works during weekends. I didn’t read what I could find there but I knew it would be very interesting just by looking at the facade of the building. Henry was manning “Head 2 Head”, a temporary exhibition about politics. After, I got to know more about Hundertwasser, his bold paintings and even bolder architecture style. He mixes the organic and the human elements, rejecting straight lines as he thinks this is a godless belief. Close to the museum and on our way back to his apartment, we passed by a residential building designed by the same artist. The following day, I visited Hundertwasser’s Fernwaerme, Vienna’s waste-to-energy plant in Spittelau.
Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) is almost equivalent to France’s Versailles. Since I’m not a very big fan of history and the fine arts, I decided to skip the palace tour and just walk around its sprawling grounds. You shouldn’t miss the hill directly behind the palace because it offers a stunning cityscape view.
I’m sure you’ve been asked by a solo traveler who wants a picture of him/her to be taken, right? Here, I met a Korean student named Sun who was doing a month-long tour of Europe. It was nice to learn from him that he spent a couple of months in the Philippines to study English in Cebu, that he has been to Bohol and Baguio but disappointing when a taxi driver in Manila took advantage of him being a foreigner. Since we were both traveling alone and we’re both headed to the same next destination, we decided to go there together. Plus, we can take each other’s photo!
The Belvedere consists of the two baroque palaces – the Upper and Lower Belvedere, the palace stables and an orangery. Walk around the palace grounds and go to the Upper Belvedere because this is where you will find the largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings including the ever famous golden artwork “The Kiss.”
We had currywurst for lunch at one of the Wurselstands in Stephansplatz before we eventually split up. I visited the Museumsquartier and got the chance to see more of Klimt’s and Egon Schiele’s artworks at the Leopold Museum. Too bad I don’t have enough time to see what’s in Mumok, the modern art museum, since I had to suit up again for a concerto.
A Night of Classical Music
The previous night, I was lucky to have secured a very nice 7th row seat at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein to catch the performance of one of the best orchestras in the world, the Vienna Philharmonic. The concert was conducted by Riccardo Muti and the program featured the music of Antonio Salieri, Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert. This is a perfect end to my trip and probably one of the highlights of my European adventure so far. I don’t think I can become any more “cultured” than this in one night.
After a late night chitchat with Henry, I did not force myself to wake up early to do more. I took my time and only bought little stuff that I can bring back. I happily stumbled upon Hotel Sacher without really looking for it so I had my sachertorte fix with tea for breakfast. While taking a picture outside the store, somebody called my attention and it was Sun again. I accompanied him to have quick snack in one of the Wurselstands and showed him how to go to Kunst Haus Wien. We parted ways and I was off to meet Henry for lunch. A quick walk back to his apartment to get my stuff and then I was on my way to the airport. Thanks to the 16-minute City Airport Train (CAT), I arrived at the airport 5 minutes before the check-in counter closed. Whew!
So this is Vienna. A classic trip to the capital of all that is classic! I am certain that I will return to experience more of it…
Vienna Photo Gallery: