Monday, June 24, 2013

Vienna, Austria

My weekend trip to Vienna was really relaxed and pleasant. The trip was planned by my study abroad program, and I signed up for it at the beginning of the semester without knowing who else would be going on it. It was the same weekend as Munich's Springfest so very few people in the program actually came. So I was happy when I learned that my friend Taylor, one of the girls I was going to go to Italy with that Wednesday, signed up as well. Since it was basically just the two of us (although we did hang out with a few other girls throughout the trip), it was a very peaceful weekend. It was a nice break to have a laid back, sight seeing trip around the city. The fact that the weather was perfect around 70 also helped create the relaxed atmosphere.

Some of the sights we saw:

First, we drove for 3.5 hours through the Moravian countryside (one of the three areas of the Czech Republic--Prague is in Bohemia). It was absolutely beautiful and green with rolling hills, small towns, and wineries. It immediately made me wish I had spent more time exploring the Czech Republic, and discovering little towns like the ones we passed through. I've made up my mind the next time I come to the Czech Republic, I'm spending a day trip wine tasting somewhere in Moravia.

The first sight in Vienna (and my favorite) was Hundertwasser architecture. His designs are supposed to work with nature instead of against it, so the buildings have trees around them and aren't geometrical. Another cool thing is that they're all functional--people actually live or use all his creations.

Our program provided us with a walking tour of Vienna, starting at St. Stephan's Cathedral. The church was very pretty and the colored paper on the windows had a beautiful affect on the lighting. The really cool part though was the carved symbol on the outside from a secret society during World War II that was for Austrian resistance.

The tour also took us through some gardens and parks around central Vienna. Since I had pictured Austria to be a very "nature" city, I was happy to walk around and see it in spring time. The grass was really green, and you could actually smell the flowers when you walked by them. That and the fact that I was warm enough to wear a sundress put me in a great mood.

Saturday morning, the bus drove us up a beautiful residential area with gorgeous homes and vineyards. The area was apparently known for wine tasting, and it looked very swanky and homey at the same time. Once we reached the top, we looked out over Vienna before going on a quick walk down one of the side roads. We peeked at some of the houses and grabbed a few pictures before heading back.

Saturdays in Vienna means that there is a huge flea market and food market from early morning to late afternoon. We looked around and bartered for some jewelry--sadly I would loose all my purchases later that day. Even though it was only 10 euros, I was pretty bummed I lost them.

Welwidier was the winter palace of the Habsburg empire. While we didn't go inside, our group wandered around the gardens for a little bit. It was pretty, but I had higher expectations for the palace, that I'm sure would have been more met if we went inside.

Sunday's visit to the Schonbrunn Palace was amazing. It was the summer palace of the Hapsburgs and was like a mini version of Versailles. From the rose gardens, hedge maze, to the expansive greenery and fountains, the outside was gorgeous and exactly what I expected from Austria. We also received an audio tour that was very interesting, and focused on Cici of the Hapsburgs--the queen that was considered to be one of the most beautiful women of her time. She was fascinating, and I loved seeing the rooms of the palace and learning more about her.

Our last sight seeing stop was at the museum Albertina. I was excited because I got to see art by Degas and Monet which was something I had been looking forward to. The museum also had a large Max Ernst exhibit, and while it's not necessarily my favorite style, there were definitely some interesting pieces. Finally the last exhibit was another favorite, the museum was featuring the photos of a California photographer. I was so excited to see pictures from Santa Monica and Irvine all over the room. It was definitely a nice reminder of what I was going home to in a few weeks.

My blog post wouldn't be complete without mentioning some of the food I ate along with all my sightseeing:

A fancy tapas dinner with small servings of risotto, hamburger, and another small food item. Dinner was followed by a special chocolate cake that is famous in Vienna. It was good and tasted really light, but I missed my favorite part of the cake (frosting).

Café meals included chicken schnitzel that was delicious and trying some Viennese coffee.

Vienna was very beautiful, and I'm happy I got the chance to go when the weather was nice out. I would love to eventually visit Salzburg in Austria as well and get another chance to see spectacular Austrian nature.

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