We had one of those travel disasters trying to reach Vienna (well maybe not technically classified as a disaster, but I digress). Oh, by the way, this was April 2012, we are very behind on the blog!
Apparently the central station in Budapest hasn’t quite caught up with the times. There was one ticket office for the throngs of impatient crowds clamouring for their much needed train, and the most inefficient system to deal with the punters. Despite masterminding our car rental return outside the station with an hour and a half to spare, we were waiting with gritted teeth and white knuckles in the queue of all queues until there was just one person left in front of us. The problem was by then our train left in five ‘evil’ minutes. Of course the person in front of us seemed to occupy all the time between now and eternity, and we missed our train by a whisker.
I sulked in the corner and swore under my breath for a substantial amount of time before we lugged our suitcases on a two-hour grand tour back in to Budapest whilst we waited for the next train. In hindsight, perhaps that two-hour lugg-a-thon was not a complete waste of time, as during my pit of misery, my self esteem was low enough to make my first birkenstock purchase – a life-changing move. So maybe I should thank that dodgy ticket counter.
Arrival into Vienna was a non-event as it was much later than planned and most probably, if I recall correctly, I was still grumpy and feasting on cashews and chips purchased with the last of our Hungarian Forint (yep, you know those useless purchases you make when you have to get rid of the excess change in a hurry before the border). We checked into our cramped quarters and I coaxed a reluctant and tired mother out in to the streets of Vienna despite the fact that it was after 10pm and required a metro ride. This is testament to my determined desire to see everything I can in the hours with which I am gifted to travel. God bless my mum, who at 25 years older, has the same passion and consented to accompany me.
We popped up at the mighty St Stephen’s Cathedral. I have since seen many a cathedral, but to date none rival this magnificent structure. It seemed to emerge from the square like a majestic spired mountain, lit by the ambience of the plaza. I proceeded to pat myself on the back for the late night shenanigans, which had evidently already paid off. Mum and I sauntered up the wide pedestrian boulevard and I was immediately struck by the grandeur and class of this ancient city. It oozed culture and wealth and I felt completely out of place and uneducated. I love it when cities make you shift uncomfortably in your shoes, and it made me determined to find out more about this cultural mecca when the sun came up.
The next day was filled with market delights and a failed attempt to join a free city walking tour. It is now hilarious to picture us running with food in hand through all the known tourist hot spots trying to locate the english speaking tour which had departed five minutes earlier. After half an hour we conceded defeat, and I was not well pleased considering this was the second thing we had missed in the space of 24 hours! I am not that kind of traveller!! As the rain started to fall we committed a tourist sin, of which has not been repeated since, and took a ring-road bus tour. Although I am horrified that we bowed so low, I actually did learn a significant amount. As Vienna is enclosed by a ring-road, it allowed us to see the major sites and stay dry all in one go – win!
Keen to reclaim my dignity and wash the tourist DNA from my being, in true local style I sourced a buzzing den of the schnitzel variety and promptly devoured one of the biggest schnitzels I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Of course it was obscenely priced…but…when in Vienna, right? Mum and I perused the streets and became acutely aware of how uncultured, and how poor we really were. There was shop after shop of the most exquisite clothes, furniture and jewellery. We ogled, accepted our lowly status and afforded ice cream. Mum even mustered up some pennies to visit an art museum (The Albertina) whilst I poked around in less-travelled nook and cranny corners of the city.
At this point we really needed to step up our grandeur and pursuit of fine things. I snaffled, aka politely queued, for some one Euro last minute Opera tickets (like a local…further quashing my earlier sins). So mum and I glammed up our scruffy sightseeing outfits as much as we could. We held our heads high, noses raised as we strutted into the Viennese Royal Opera House amidst the ladies of calibre, with heels like flamingoes, and lips as red as fire. As we took our places we grinned, for it really was a sight to behold. I just wanted one of those magnifying eye glasses that posh women flick out daintily and hold, and then I would have been set. Despite our good intentions we lasted just one of three hours, as the Opera was in German, and I only discovered the translator screen five minutes before our dignified departure… we had long since lost the storyline.
Bless my mum once more, as later that evening she was pulled from her intentions of slumber and accompanied me for a wine at Naschmarkt. The experience was actually quite lovely as we watched the sun set, and congratulated ourselves for being just so darn European as cigarette smoke swirled around us (not of our own doing, chill out)!
The Finale of Venice cumulated the next day in an early morning visit to the Schonbrunn Palace, a behemoth of a structure with a wealth of history. Don’t ask me anything about the history as we did not join the swarms of Asian tourists inside to find out. We just climbed the hill and gawked at the encompassing Palace and its sprawling grounds, more than satisfied with our efforts.
At this point our focus turned to the next part of our journey – the charming Danube Valley region for our memorable cycling escapades. But that is another story… Join us when I eventually get the next post up!