Vienna is wonderful – the city is well-adorned by ornate buildings everywhere. After a much lower-key Bratislava, I was awed when I saw the extent of the Hofburg Complex, as I walked past the Heldenplatz. The area is surrounded by beautiful buildings and well-preserved statues. The scenery is truly awe-inspiring – whilst I was quieter in my adoration, I got to hear a lot of American-accented shots of “Wow – look at that”, or “Now that’s something!”. The Hofburg Complex is the former residence of the Emperor during the Habsburg reign. I won’t try to explain the whole thing as the relationship between Budapest – Bratislava and Vienna are intimately linked with the Austro-Hungarian empire.
More on the Vienna landmarks later …
I arrived in Vienna at about 4pm after I took the hydrofoil from Bratislava at 1.30pm. I spent the morning walking around the sleepy Bratislava, trying to find an internet café so I could check my accommodation details in Vienna, as well as the exact details of my hydrofoil trip to Vienna. At the end, I made it – so by the time I took the underground train and completed the check-in process at Hotel Capri at Praterstrasse, it was already 5.00pm. On top of that, it was raining. The summer rain has finally caught up with me. However, knowing that I have such a limited time in Vienna, I decided to get out and head off to Stephansplatz, the “city centre” of Vienna. The streets above the Stephansplatz underground station are mostly pedestrianised. The main area is called Graben – it’s lined with restaurants and shops, and was packed with tourists even when it was rainy. If the tourist shops in Norway are filled with trolls, in Budapest with paprika and linen, well in Vienna, almost all of the tourist shops are Mozart-themed. They also sell funny t-shirts with a big logo of “No Kangaroos in Austria”. Hehehehe. I walked around Graben, taking some pictures and then walking towards the Hofburg Complex with the reaction that I mentioned above.
I couldn’t enter most of the buildings because it was late already – thankfully the rainclouds moved elsewhere and I had some evening sunshine later on. I returned back to Graben and entered one of the historic Catholic churches in the area, Peterskirche. You can see the remains of St. Benedict here – he’s laid in a glass coffin underneath one of the altars. Whilst the decorations and the statues are very beautiful, I was somewhat saddened with the price requested to light candles if you want to pray (€1). You’re only allowed to pray for a certain time as well. I suppose the church needs to cover the cost of providing the necessities for the believers and for the upkeep of the building. It just seems so commercial.
I was getting pretty hungry and I thought that I shouldn’t return to McDonald’s or any of the fast-food joints in the area. Rather than heading back to Praterstrasse, I thought I might as well go to one of the tourist-filled cafés in Graben and eat there. I picked a restaurant called Cafe de l’Europe, which I now find out is one of the well-known eateries in Vienna. If one is in Vienna, of course you’ll try one of the specialties – wienerschnitzel. So that was what I had, along with a glass of Apple juice. I was a bit apprehensive eating by myself but there were also some lone diners eating at the enclosed area outside. Well, I was disappointed with the whole experience – yes, it was a busy period so of course I should factor that to the slowness of the service. However, if you add that with the patronising attitude of the waiter, who brought me my bill when I wanted to order dessert, it left a sour taste in my mouth. The wienerschnitzel was alright, but the service sucked. Even my attempt to speak Deutsch was unappreciated by him, usually when you at least attempt to speak the local language, you will get a smile or an acknowledgement. However, I didn’t get any in Vienna. The waiter then told me that the amount listed didn’t include any tip. Sheesh, who do I look like? A goat-shepherd who knows nothing about dining out? Aaaargh – I hate being patronised! Reading some of the online articles and blogs, it seems that patronising Wieners seems to be the norm around here.
Tomorrow I’m going to join a half-day tour around Vienna, as part of the Vienna Card package. I also received a 72-hour card of discounts to museums and local attractions, free public transports, as well as other bonuses. I hope by the end of my Vienna journey, I can appreciate its heart, as well as its look.
Yeap, Vienna’s truly wonderful, but it needs a softer heart. Even though Bratislava doesn’t have the beauty that Vienna has, its heart shines brighter!