I loved my trip to Vienna at the start of December, it was exactly what I needed, well almost.
The EXACT thing I need at the moment, after a year of almost constant house-buying stress, is a much longer holiday or travel stint. Preferably with a significant amount of lounging near a beach. Those five days really weren’t quite enough because of the way we used them. There was nothing inherently wrong with how we did it but it certainly wiped away any sense of actual relaxation in favour of a cultural smash and grab.
We arrived on a Thursday evening flight full of crying children and worried adults. Turbulence leading one little boy to shout “Yay! We did it!” when the pilot guided us down to safety. We sped through the airport, hand luggage-only, of course. Located the train to the city centre and struggled with the ticket machine because it a) didn’t take any Euro note larger than a ten, and b) the credit card function was declining everything we had.
We gawped at the enormous industrial complex beside the tracks on the way into Vienna. Then we changed onto the U-Bahn and moments later found ourselves in our Hotel. With barely a ‘Guten abend’ uttered to the reception staff we were back outside the hotel and nipping into a smoky restaurant for enormous Wiener schnitzel and beer. When our heads finally hit our pillows we found oblivion in seconds.
Thankfully the room was deathly silent all night because we had a busy day planned for Friday. The hotel’s sumptuous buffet was well and truly sampled before we rushed out to the Kriminalmuseum for two hours of being disturbed, walked across the Danube canal and up to the Josephinum for another hour of slow strolling amongst graphic anatomical waxworks, and then made our way down to the museum quarter to sample the modern atmosphere in an 18th Century coffee house at Cafe Sperl. Sitting down here was a great relief – I love museums and galleries but the pace and weird gait give me agonising ‘museum feet’ cramps. We smiled at each other as we tucked into pastries and outlandish coffees containing strong alcohol. And then we set out to completely decimate our feet by visiting the Leopold Gallery. We took in every single exhibit on display. Dedicated Schiele and Kokoschka exhibitions as well as the permanent galleries. The only thing we didn’t do was watch the 85 minute film.
Through the Christmas market between the museum quarter and the Hofburg, along the main shopping precincts dripping with Christmas chandeliers, and to Stephansplatz where we gazed up at the beautiful Cathedral. Around the back streets we prowled until we found the Zwölf Apostelkeller and dived in just before it was inundated with people taking up reserved tables. We ate a huge platter of sausages, meats and sauerkraut accompanied with local wines.
After dinner we went back to the hotel and collapsed, very happy but very tired.
It was one of those days where you feel intensely happy to be somewhere new with weird and wonderful things to try out. Sensory overload. That amount of gallery and museum wandering is not normal though is it. In fact I would say that it is very abnormal for me. I felt enriched for the sights but when I woke up the next morning I felt myself ask questions about the day’s schedule.
But that didn’t stop us: Breakfast, Spanish Riding School, cafe, Globe Museum, Esperanto Museum, Albertina for the ‘Matisse and the Fauves’ exhibition, plus everything else we could see there, Loos American Bar for a few cocktails, restaurant for a large dinner, and then home slightly earlier than the previous day. Battered.
And then Sunday consisted of: Breakfast (now approaching a fine art performance), the Belvedere Palace (upper and lower ones) for their excellent collections including THAT Klimt, the Emil Nolde exhibition, walking for an hour looking for somewhere to eat lunch, finding a Viennese meaty pancake place, and then back to the hotel for an early evening rest. You can see we were wearing ourselves out in our enthusiasm. But then back out we went at 9pm to hit the Christmas market at the Rathaus, Apfelgluhwein and something called a ‘dobres longos’ – a sausage deep fried in a garlic bread wrap, walk back to the hotel, grab a beer from a kiosk (not a bottle of Moet even though it was available), and then collapse.
Monday was a mournful breakfast, our flight was booked for that evening. But off we went to the Schönbrunn Palace, the last of the really big tourist attractions left to visit. The actual time you spend inside there is only just over an hour but we spent an inordinate amount of time in the Tiergarten (zoo) attached to the palace. Rhinos, Lions, Tigers, Cheetah, Bison, Orang-utans, sea lions, hippos, reindeer, ostriches, giraffes, you name it they had it. Now we had ‘zoo feet’ instead and headed back to the Zwölf Apostelkeller because we didn’t have much time left and couldn’t waste it looking for somewhere else. Poof! The day was gone, the holiday over. Off to the airport, a couple of Weisbier to dull the sensation of going back to London, in bed by midnight. Work the following morning.
What the hell was that?!
It wasn’t long enough, that’s what it was. The bottom line is that I am a very greedy person. I want to see everything, so I trade off relaxation to get what I want. The worst thing about short trips is that I kind of panic myself into actually needing to see every last thing I can. To the detriment of my energy levels. I want to see the weird things in a place as well as the big touristy attractions, that’s what Expatior is all about after all! But I have to remember that I can’t always do that. That I probably should set more careful targets. The trouble with somewhere as amazing as Vienna is that it’s just not possible. The city surpassed my expectations but I’m pretty damned knackered now, a month later! Sure, it doesn’t help that on the week we got back I had two Christmas parties and then moved house and started a load of building work, but hey, life at the moment is nothing if not full. Just maybe not wholesome. We didn’t rush through each place we visited, far from it, we saw every single thing we could. I am very happy that I take a lot of photographs though because making room for every memory at the time is probably impossible. The photographs themselves fill in the gaps in my recollections.
The next trip away is booked for March, Oporto, for a long weekend. I haven’t really looked up much to see and do there and at this point I might well settle for a little river cruise up the Douro if that’s the only way I can make myself relax!