The last time I had set foot in Vienna in 2008, (also right around my birthday in April), I was trekking from Bucharest to Berlin, and I spent less than a full day in the city. While I did a lot in that short period, it was so great to be back again for a longer period of time so that I could truly experience it.
We had a nightmare getting out of Schiphol airport on time (a story for another time), but were so relieved to get to our hotel and meet up with our friends. We spent our first day in Gols doing a well organized and well poured wine tour, but our next couple days we did walking tours around the city and ate marvelous lunches and dinners.
I got to see many of the same sights that I saw on my first trip: the Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and more, and I am sure that I walked down some of the same streets. It was a weird feeling, to know that I stood there or ate there, but that I had so little recollection of it.
Vienna is a city where the architecture takes center stage; every building seems to be trying to stand out next to the others with rich ornamentation, colors or design, especially compared to the much simpler and uniform architecture of Amsterdam that I had grown so used to. Here are a few of our highlights of the exploring:
- We learned that St. Stephen’s Cathedral features busts of genitalia (yes, you read that right). In the second photo in the gallery below, you can see the male on the left and female on the right, which signified the appropriate entry for the illiterate back in the day.
- We visited Schönbrunn Palace outside of the main city, with lavish rooms where the Habsburgs took their summers and an expansive garden.
- I found the Habsburg crypt to be very interesting, featuring as the burial chamber for the most powerful in the dynastry, including the powerful and omnipresent Maria Theresa and the mysterious “Sisi”.
- One of the most profound sites in the city was the Holocaust Memorial, which stands in a square. It mimics a library, with the books facing outward – a stark contrast to the surrounding buildings.
Finally, it’s worth a mention that our travels continued to be during the Ukraine War, which is why St. Stephen’s Cathedral features the large banner “Stop War” on its side. A constant reminder about how lucky we were to be in a country in the European Union and surrounded by NATO (Austria itself is not in NATO).
I will admit that while we enjoyed our visit to Vienna, we found the city to be quiet compared to Amsterdam. There was something about it that had an isolating air. Maybe it was the war, or us, but it definitely impacted our impression of the city.