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Austria – Vienna (2018)

Madeleine and I were now on our own, and we had our own little Europe trip planned. All we had booked were our flights, so we had a lot of freedom to plan our trip. While it’s somewhat stressful to be booking accommodations and whatnot on the go, I prefer having this flexibility because if there’s one thing I learned from my previous trip it’s that there’s absolutely no guarantee that the first plan you make will be successful. I’ve had all of my best laid plans fall through so many times now that it has become part of the plan. I now tend to get a general idea of where I want to go and what I want to do, then see what happens when I get there. So, from Budapest we took our first FlixBus to Vienna.

Since we had booked our flights, we were at least sure of which countries we’d be going to, and we were nervous about how expensive the last two would be. Many of our decisions were therefore influenced by our desire to save money. Vienna has great public transportation, but we walked the half hour into town anyways. We pretty consistently walked all day every day on this trip.

There were, however, two essentials that our budgets allowed for. I wasn’t about to make any sacrifices when it came to coffee, and Madeleine was ready for Vienna to impress her with its desserts. This is when Madeleine began her full out attack on my willpower. We started by going to the famous Café Central, which once served the likes of Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud. There was a long line when we arrived, but the wait to get in was surprisingly short, and it was worth it. The interior was beautiful, and there was a grand piano being played in the centre of the cafe.

This is also where Madeleine started to point out that my ability to choose desserts was abysmal. Last year I got the imperial pancakes here and liked it, but this year when I got them and had Madeleine pointing out the flaws, I suddenly didn’t like it anymore. Part of her strategy was to get me ordering things she would want to steal a bite of, and I can’t help but admire her craftiness. So here’s a picture of the last imperial pancakes I’ll ever order.

It became clear that Madeleine’s influence was going to drastically affect my diet, because the next day we started by having an entire garden for breakfast.

We didn’t have long in Vienna, so we made sure to make the most of each day. We took the tram to the opposite side of the city from our Air BnB so that we could spend the day walking back through town.

We started with the Belvedere Palace, which houses an art museum with many Austrian masterpieces. The palace itself is beautiful, and worth a visit in its own right.

As beautiful a place as it is, the architecture was not what drew us there. My sister and I grew up with a print of Klimt’s “The Kiss” in our living room. For years it confused us, and we weren’t sure if we particularly liked it. It took many years before we even realized there was more than one person in the picture! However, it grew on us over the years and we came to associate it with our childhood and home, so now it’s one of our favourite paintings.

Seeing “The Kiss” in person is a completely different experience than having a print of it. Klimt used actual silver and gold leaf in the painting, which gives the painting a life of its own when you see it in the light. I can’t say what the painting is like for those without an emotional attachment to it, but I think it’s amazing.

It was super hot, so we were trying to get from place to place as efficiently as possible. We stopped at a cafe for iced coffee after the Belvedere, then sat in the shade around a big fountain for a bit.

We soon arrived at the Karlskirche, which I had only previously seen at night from the outside. This church was amazing. Everything about it was so intricate. There was an elevator inside that took us all the way up into the dome so we could see the painted ceiling up close. It was also nice and cool in there, and we were always happy to take a break from walking in the heat.

Traveling with your sibling can be challenging, but both Madeleine and I adopted the tactic of appeasement, and it kept things running smoothly. She had no objections to making a cafe the first stop of the day, so I consequently found myself once again in a dessert shop. My dessert choice must have improved, because Madeleine saw fit to try a bite of it, then again declared hers superior. As usual, she was right.

We continued our trek through the museum area to the Rathausplatz where the city council building is. I also had a vivid memory from my time here before of a water fountain that had the best tasting water. Finding this fountain again was actually on my list. I even took the risk of talking it up to Madeleine, knowing full well that if it wasn’t as good as I said she’d start disparaging my taste even more. We did end up finding one in the square with the big cathedral, and thankfully Madeleine was impressed and we could move on peacefully. Anyways, if you’re in Vienna you should definitely look for the public drinking fountains, they’re an experience.

We finished our first day of sightseeing at the Rathaus. That first day was more or less a tour of the outer edge of the city. The next day we planned on getting into the centre, and hopefully walking less.

Vienna is a cool city. Before we got to our first stops of the day, we had breakfast on a patio, stumbled upon a skinny church, and passed a horse drawn carriage.

It’s such a picturesque city, I can easily see how it could be a centre of the arts, and Klimt is far from the only Austrian name of note. Our walk through town took us to the memorial for another Austrian – Mozart.

Our self-made tour ended in the heart of the city at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It’s quite an imposing structure, and always extremely crowded inside, but it’s certainly worth a look. My favourite part about it is the roof.

I don’t think I took any pictures of the interior of St. Stephen’s, because it didn’t quite compare to some of the other places we came across in the city.

I will begrudgingly admit that Madeleine was also a good influence while travelling. I’m far more passionate about coffee than I am about food, so I think I miss some opportunities when left to my own devices. With Madeleine in charge of where we went for food though, I soon found myself at a restaurant that serves homemade pasta, where you were given a choice between the two dishes they were making that day. It was a pretty great way to finish our time in Vienna.

Each day on our way into the city we had to walk through the Augarten public park where two enormous Flak towers still stand. I had no idea what they were at first and didn’t know what to make of them. It turns out that the Nazis built eight of these large towers which doubled as anti-aircraft towers and air raid shelters. The Vienna towers remain intact.

With our time in Vienna now finished, we were now on our way to countries I’d never been to before, so I was very excited. We packed up and were soon on a bus to Poland.

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