Updated: Oct 2
Liat was attending a conference in Vienna – the historic capital of the Habsburg Empire and the Austrian state. The meeting took place in December, so we had a dilemma: we don't usually travel in winter to cold places. And also, the days are concise due to early sunset. However – it was only three and a half hours flight, and getting to Vienna with a low-cost airline is also very cheap. So, we decided to try.
As it happens often, there was a delay in taking off, so we landed in Vienna an hour late. Nevertheless, we bought a 72-hour ticket to Vienna's super-efficient public transportation system. The ticket covers the metro, trams, and buses. Then we and went directly to our hotel: Ibis Styles Wien Messe Prater – a new hotel with tiny rooms, a spectacular lobby, and a surprising breakfast. It was already afternoon, so we looked for the closest site to visit: Hundertwasser Museum. The place is dedicated to Friedensreich Hundertwasser – a Jewish-Austrian artist, painter, sculptor, and architect, considered one of the most famous artists of Austria.
Most of the museums in Vienna close at 18:00, so we headed to the largest Christmas market located in front of the City Hall: 150 stalls of artists, decorations sellers, hot dogs, and punch. We are not used to Christmas markets, so all the lights and colors make a big impression. We tried it all: two hot dogs, soup in bread, and some different types of punch. Fun.
The next day, we wanted to visit the synagogue in the old city, but it wasn't open to visitors. So instead, we saw the Wiesenthal Institute just next to it. It's a museum and research library founded by Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter who looked for Nazi criminals worldwide. We went in to explore the small exhibition about the life of this unusual and brave man.
Afterward, we headed to the Judenplatz, where the old synagogue burned down in 1421 when the emperor burned all the Jews who refused to convert their religion to Christianity. Above the ruins of the temple now stands the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, revealed in the year 2000. There is also a museum with an exhibition of Vienna's Jewish community in the middle ages and temporary displays.
Not far from the Judenplatz stands a branch of Aida café. It looks very prestigious, with tens of coffee types and cakes – we had to get in. We ordered coffee, strudel (the famous Austrian cake) and a cheesecake. It was horrible. The service was terrible, either. Stay away.
After a short visit to the vast St. Stephan Cathedral, we headed to the second part of the Jewish Museum, a few minutes walk from the first one. The museum tells the story of the three Jewish communities of Vienna: the first was in the middle ages, ended tragically by Albert V, Archduke of Austria. The second community lived here from the 16th century until most of the 185 thousand Jews of Vienna got murdered during the Holocaust. After 1945, the Jewish community in Vienna started recovering slowly.
We hoped to eat an authentic Wiener Schnitzel – a traditional Austrian fried dish made of veal covered with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs. There is a famous restaurant in the old town, but their two branches were full, so we ate our lunch at a nearby restaurant called Lugeck. It was tasty and a little bit expansive.
Full and satisfied, we walked to the apartment of Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, the nowadays museum isn't so friendly to visitors. There are only one reconstructed room and lots of pictures and exhibits, which you can learn about only with an app on your smartphone. I was glad to see they have big plans for redesigning the whole place in the year 2020. It's needed.
The sunset in December comes at 16:00, so we went back to Stephanplatz, the city's main square near the St. Stephan Cathedral. First, we examined the Christmas market in front of the Cathedral. Then, of course, we drank punch. It looks like everybody drinks punch. It helps with the cold. And we ate hot dogs - they are so delicious…
We got up early on the third day and went to another hotel: Mercure Wien Westbahnhof on the other side of the city. The conference of Liat took place here, so we thought it would be more comfortable to sleep in here. It's located near the central railway station, and while finding our way, we saw a monument of a little sad Jewish child sits in a suitcase. A Memorial for the Kindertransport, an operation that sent thousands of Jews from Germany and Austria to the United Kingdom just before the Second World War started to save their lives from the Nazis.
Liat went to her conference while I went on a day full of museums. I started in the Imperial Crypt, where 150 members of the Habsburg dynasty are buried.
From there, I headed to the Austrian National Library. This beautifully decorated hall is full of explanations about the library's history and its content. Very impressive. By the way, there are long lines for tickets. While standing in the front, I ordered a ticket online. By the time I finished the process and got mobile access directly to my smartphone, I was only in the middle of the line. Keep in mind - when traveling time is short – you don't want to waste it on lines.
After a necessary sausage, I went to the apartment of Viktor Frankel, the founder of Logotherapy. Frankel wrote dozens of books, including "Man's Search for Meaning," which describes his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. It's is an unusual museum, without any renovated rooms, but with lots of detail about Frankel and the theory, including examples. Very nice place for people who love to read and learn.
Liat joined me, and we went to the Naschmarkt – the most famous market in Vienna. It's a huge outdoor market, with all the ordinary things you can find in European markets: cheese, meat, fruits, and vegetables. I loved the delicatessen very much. The dry fruits and olives, filled with cheese, look and tastes great.
We took a walk on the Ringstrasse. The ring road surrounding the Old City contains palaces and important cultural institutions. Unfortunately, we failed to find good strudel, so we ended the day with pizza at the Stephanplatz.
The next day I took a metro ride to the Gasometer – a massive complex of four round buildings that used to be gas tanks until 1984. Then, they were transformed into a lovely compound of residence, shopping malls, offices, and entertainment.
From there, I went to see the marvelous Hundertwasser House. It isn't surprising the place is full of tourists who came to admire the unique style.
At noon, I went with Liat to the Strudel Show in Café Residenz inside the Schönbrunn Palace-yard, where the palace bakery operated. Finally, we got to taste an authentic Vienna-style strudel. Afterward, we took a tour inside the palace. Lucky us, I bought tickets in advance so we could skip the line. When purchasing tickets, you must obligate to a specific hour, because the place is overcrowded. We saw people who had to wait more than two hours to get in.
After the tour, we enjoyed walking between the Christmas market stalls in front of the palace. Also, we took a short walk in the snowed garden behind the castle.
It was a perfect ending to our winter tour to Vienna. No doubt we will come again – Vienna is one of the most beautiful and pleasant cities in the world.