This series is a look back at my very first Eurotrip in 2007, during which I visited Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I never kept a journal during that trip so I am writing this mostly from memory. All photos were taken with my old pocket camera.
April 2nd to April 3rd, 2007: After two days in Munich it was time to leave. We hopped on the bus early in the morning and headed to Vienna. Along the way, I enjoyed my first-ever glimpse of snow-covered mountains as the Alps came into view.
We broke up our six-hour drive to Vienna with a stop in a town called Mondsee, the location of the church featured in the Sound of Music. Our overall tour was actually called “The Sound of Music Tour,” so this would be the first of many sites from the movie we would visit.
After touring the church I made my way to a beautiful nearby lake framed by mountains.
We then continued on to Vienna. Our hotel was right around the corner from the main drag of the newer part of the city. I took a quick walk around the area, which reminded me of walking through New York City, and then returned for dinner. On a side note, here are a few observations about dining in Germany and Austria: everything is a la carte, including butter for bread. There are no free drink refills like in the States, but glasses have a mandatory fill line. Water is served by the bottle (ordering tap water is generally not done). The tip amount on a bill is less than in the States (I think because their waiters are paid more)—ten percent seems to be standard, and for small bills, many simply round up to the next Euro.
After dinner we headed to the Prater park and went for a ride on the famous Riesenrad Ferris wheel, which is over 100 years old. You may have seen it in movies like The Third Man or The Living Daylights.
The cars are massive; our entire 18-person group could have easily fit in one. There are also dinner cars. After the Ferris wheel we enjoyed some other attractions. An interesting feature of the amusement park was the presence of casinos, though I did not partake; I’ve never been much of a casino person.
The next morning we visited Schönbrunn Palace, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vienna. Like Nymphenburg in Munich, it was once an imperial summer residence. It looks very impressive from the outside but I can’t recall much of the inside with no photos to remind me (they did not allow photography inside the palace).
A common characteristic of palaces like Schönbrunn and Nymphenburg is a sprawling garden in the back, which must look spectacular when the flowers are in full bloom. Due to a lack of time, I never made it to the fountain or the Gloriette pictured below, one downside of being on a regimented tour. On the other hand, I saw much more in a short period of time on this trip than I would have on my own, so it’s a trade-off.
There was an outdoor Easter market in front of the palace, which I spent some time wandering through while we waited for the bus to pick us up. We then went on a bus tour of Vienna before being dropped off in the middle of the old city for free time. One interesting aspect of Vienna is a lack of skyscrapers, particularly in the old city, which is filled with historical buildings, making for a much more interesting walk than you might enjoy in some other cities.
A small group of us then went to the Hotel Sacher, home of the famous Sachertorte, a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated in dark chocolate icing. Everyone else in the group ordered this treat, but I’m not a fan of mixing fruit with chocolate, so I ordered some ice cream and the house tea.
The tea was delicious. I enjoyed it so much that, after returning home, I searched online for a way to buy it. I eventually found a company, Upton Tea Imports, that sells a clone of the tea, called Sacher Blend (this also marked the beginning of my love affair with loose-leaf tea). The Sacher Blend is very close to the original and I have continued to purchase it every year since. In fact, I am drinking some as I write this.
Uncle Kipp and I then walked through the Naschmarkt, a famous outdoor food market. I know, I keep saying “famous,” but pretty much everything in Vienna is famous. 🙂
I stopped at one of the food stands and ordered my first ever döner, which is a Turkish sandwich similar to a gyro. Very tasty, and I’ve eaten at least one on each of my European trips since.
We then did some more walking around the city.
Shortly after posting the photo above, an online travel guide (whose name I no longer recall), chose to feature it in the Vienna section of their guide. I wonder if it still exists.
With some free time left, we decided to visit an art museum in Belvedere Palace. There are many paintings and artists featured here, but the main attraction is the work of Gustav Klimt. Belvedere is the home of Klimt’s The Kiss, the famous (there’s that word again!) painting you often see adorning the walls of college dorm rooms. Having only seen The Kiss depicted in posters, I was surprised at how very large the original canvas is.
The rest of the night after dinner was uneventful for me. Uncle Kipp took the students out on the town, but I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed behind and packed. In the morning we would depart for Salzburg.