Gap Year Days 81 – 85
When we where planning this part of our trip we really wanted to spend some time in Salzburg, but once we started looking into it, we just couldn’t find any accomodation that suited us. It’s a really popular place! After our visit to Innsbruck and Saalbach-Hinterglemm, travelling to Vienna meant we had to change trains in Salzburg, so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of hours having a quick look around the city.
The train station in Salzburg (like many other train stations in Europe) has a cheap and easy luggage storage room. It was all automated, and for a large locker that fit both of our backpacks it cost only €3.50.
From the train station we walked towards the Festung Hohensalzburg, the castle that can be seen on top of the hill in almost every photo of Salzburg. It’s one good thing about these towns, the main tourist areas are fairly easy to spot, and then we just make our way there. We didn’t go into the castle, but did walk up the side of the hill to have a look at some of the views back towards the river. As we started to make our way down, we noticed a little door on our left that lead through into Petresfriedhof, a really cute little church, graveyard and catacombs. Okay, I know I just called a graveyard cute, but it really was.
We also made a quick stop to look inside the Salzburg Cathedral. Apart from the usual main church area, there was also a crypt that was open to the public, with not only areas for worship, but an area that has an art installation too. It was really crowded, and not helped at all by the scaffolding being put up right outside the main door. Clearly there was going to be some performance or event in the square there as they were putting up a stage and seating.
Our brief taste of Salzburg was completed with the purchase of a huge sweet pretzel. It was actually more like a chocolate eclair, just shaped like a pretzel. While I would like to say Simon ate it all (since I was still trying to recover from all the pizza and gelato from Italy), I might have had a bit of a taste too.
Finally we arrived into Vienna, and transferred onto one of the trains on the metro lines to get to our accommodation. Apart from one Uber ride in Oslo on our very first night in Europe, we have solely travelled on public transport, so we have been on many buses and trains. We have seen some really strange things from time to time. But we saw the strangest thing of all on a train in Vienna. Please tell me – is it normal to carry your marijuana plant on the train, or would this be a completely crazy idea as it would be in Australia?
After a good night’s sleep, we decided to tackle the city. At our hotel we picked up a Vienna City Card. We mostly got it for the free public transport for 72 hours because of where we were located, but it also has discounts for quite a few of the attractions. We had also heard on check in that there was a ferry we could catch to our next stop, and after much discussion of alternative options, decided not to validate our Vienna City Card until later in the day so we would still be able to use it on the way to the ferry on our final morning.
That meant we would walk into the city centre the first time, and really this was fantastic. It was only a couple of kilometres, and we got to see and explore a few of the sites we may not have got to otherwise. Because we always stick our heads inside churches we go past, we had look inside Votivkirche. It was covered in scaffolding and advertising on the outside, with just an impressive spire sticking out the top. Inside, I was blown away. Probably the best stained glass windows I have seen so far. I might have said that before, but this church outdoes them all.
The Rathuasplatz is known as one of the prettiest areas in Europe – except of course when we visit. It was instead set up for a month long outdoor film festival. We had just missed a couple of fantastic nights viewing, and unfortunately the nights we were there there was nothing on we wanted to watch. Behind all the seating were temporary food and drinks stands, and we were amused to see an Australian food stand with wholly Australian foods on the menu. Is that Gegrillte Avocado a version of Smashed Avo?
As we walked we came to the Hofburg Palace. This place is huge, with many building housing different places of interest. I, of course, was immediately drawn to the Austrian National Library. I remembered reading that they had this amazingly beautiful part of the library. We had to walked around much of the building to find it through completely different entrance, but eventually we made our way to the stunning State Hall. Entry to the State Hall is €7, (but we got a small discount with the Vienna City Card and paid €6.30) and we enjoyed not only the beautiful room, but a display on the secret world of the Freemasons.
As we walked into the centre of the city we saw gardens, and buildings, and fountains. Eventually we came to St Stephens Cathedral, a beautiful gothic church sandwiched into the middle of Vienna. There was a constant stream of visitors entering the doors, and we tacked on the end. Unfortunately, we were not as impressed by St Stephens as we were earlier in the day by Votivkirche. Still, it’s worth a few minutes to have a look.
While we were in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Emma recommend one thing we just had to do. We had to eat at Figlmueller, the home of the schnitzel. These guys have been making them the same way since 1905. As soon as we arrived in Vienna we jumped on their website – to discover their second location had closed only that day for two weeks of renovations. The main location showed as booked out! We don’t give up that easily though, so called past to see if we could make a booking in person. No, also not possible. But we were told if we just turned up and there was a table available, we would get in. We noticed that there were one or two tables free, but we had just eaten. The plan was that tomorrow we would return at this same time – about 3pm – for a late lunch or early dinner, and hope we could test out these famous schnitzels.
We continued on down to the river, not only to look around, but to book our tickets on the ferry on Friday night. There was a special cheap fare at 6pm on Fridays of €20, so those were the tickets we got.
The next morning we jumped on a tram and this was one of about three times in Vienna we caught a tram or train in the wrong direction. The public transport often travels in a loop around the city centre, and sometimes the way we logically thought we should be going didn’t connect with the next tram or train we needed to get on. Everywhere we went needed at least two legs, sometimes three, often to get somewhere not all that far away. Luckily we had unlimited travel on the Vienna Pass.
We finally made our way to the Hundertwasserhaus. This apartment building is famous for it’s unconventional design of curvy lines and many colours. The building itself has become so popular that the whole area around it has been designed to match, including a small shopping area. It is colourful and quirky, with rounded pillars and even the floors are curvy and uneven. In the past it was possible to go into the building and see the interior, which is as interesting as the outside. A note on the wall now says that due to the large number of tourists, this in no longer possible. Fair enough really, as there are a whole pile of people for whom this is simply “home”.
The designer of Hundertwasserhaus, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, has designed many other buildings throughout Europe. A few hundred metres from Hundertwasserhaus is another example, which has been turned into a museum. This example is unique in that it is his only design that is black and white.
Our stomachs were telling us that it was time to make out way back to the city centre and Figlmueller, to see if there was a spare table for us. We were a bit earlier than planned – around 2pm – and there was only one table free and it had a “reserved” sign on it, so I thought we were out of luck. The waiter though, quickly swept aside the reserved sign, and we had our table! We had already looked at the menu online, and knew exactly what we wanted to order. Simon got the traditional pork schnitzel that they have been making for years. I’m not a fan of pork, and we had been told they were big, so I opted for the smaller chicken version. We also tried a side of potato salad.
Not too long later we rolled out the door. The meals were delicious, and yes, huge. The schnitzel was crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. They are not deep fried as is so common elsewhere, but panfried. I whole-heartedly recommend a visit if you are in Vienna. Now though, we were in need of an afternoon nap after eating so much food.
We ended up not emerging again until the next morning, when we made our way to Schönbrunn Palace. This is one of those places that everyone says to just have to go to! When we got there, we had a look at the prices and what was on offer, and we decided not to go into any of the museums or displays. Seems like a waste? Well, we really weren’t feeling like visiting yet another palace or museum, we seem to finally have hit our limit. Instead we walked around the garden, relaxing on a bench under one of the trees, just enjoying the surroundings away from the crowds. It was hot, and I just couldn’t shake feeling lethargic. When travelling long term it’s just not possible to get out and about doing something everyday like we do on two week trips, and I need to learn to listen to that “I just want to sleep” urge a bit more. Looking back now, I do not regret not going into the Schönbrunn Palace that day. It gives me something still to tick off the list one day when we pass through Vienna again.
I got my second wind, and we visited the Naschmarkt next. What a fantastic market! I really enjoyed walking up and back looking at the produce for sale, trying some of the samples offered to us, and learning about some of the local produce. I got really excited though when I saw my favourite fruit, mangosteen! These are a tropical fruit, and they are always on of the first things I buy when I get off the plane in South East Asia. When we were in Singapore in April though, we couldn’t find them, so I had to miss out. But here they were in Vienna! I just had to grab a couple. They were smaller than I had seen before, but were still tasty.
The Nachtsmarket not only has fresh food stands, it also has many places to sit down and buy food and drink. We stopped for a quick drink before moving on. We were looking at a Spritz, just as we had all over Italy, and noticed something called a “White Spritz” on the menu. I’m a serial tester, if I notice something new I just have to try it, so we ordered a normal spritz and a white one. Well, the white one was a bit boring, so I googled what it was. It’s white wine, watered down. Hmmm. Lets just say I haven’t ordered another one since.
We were getting ready to head back to the city centre for dinner when Simon got a text from the ferry company – our ferry the next day was cancelled! What a pain, but okay, we would go to the ferry terminal before dinner (it wasn’t far away) and change our ticket to an earlier ferry. Except all other ferries for the day were full, and “even if we could change you to another ferry, you would have to pay double, and no, even though you have your tickets, and can show me the text on your phone about the cancellation, I don’t know that these really are your tickets so can’t give you a refund without the receipt also!” So frustrating!
We arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe (yes, Simon ticking another one off the list) right at the start of happy hour as planned – half price cocktails! We were already frustrated by the ferry, and just wanted to sit down and have dinner. Simon used one of his loyalty express passes that guarantees a table with no wait. Half an hour later we were still waiting, and were on to our second cocktail each. When we were eventually seated, the restaurant was half empty, so I did not understand why we had been kept waiting. We really were having “one of those days”. On the up side, our Vienna City Card gave us a free dessert at HRC, so we got to enjoy that while trying to work out what we were going to do about the ferry the next day.
On our way back to our hotel after dinner we changed trains at a new station – to discover this amazing building outside. I don’t know what it is, but surely it’s another by Hundertwasser??
On Friday morning we had originally planned to have a late, relaxing morning tea at Café Central, one of the oldest cafe’s in the city that has had many famous patrons such as Freud and Trotsky. It is in a beautiful building, and has the most amazing cakes – apparently! Instead of this, we were catching two trains each way into the ferry station to take our receipt, along with our tickets, to get a refund. They must have upset a few people, because there were some other very unhappy customers there too.
Now we had to take three more trains to get to the main railway station and board our final train for the day! Goodbye Austria, apart from the ferry drama, we have had a ball and will definitely be back!
Boutique Hotel Donauwalzer
Hernalser Gürtel 27, 17. Hernals, 1170 Vienna, Austria
€57/night Double private room
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.