After eventful visits in Poland and Czech Republic, we took a sweet ass overnight train from Prague to Vienna, Austria. What a difference from the overnighter from Krakow to Prague. Something got mixed up in translation when I bought the tickets because we ended up with a private cabin in first class. With air conditioning! We even had a butler that brought us tea and coffee in the morning! What! Not even complaining about it. Not even a little bit.
So we arrive in Vienna and gratefully, our apartment was ready for us after a short tram ride. We cleaned up and get out in the city by 9. Fueled up on a breakfast of croissants AND rolls (I mean, we are in Vienna) and started our strolling. Successfully navigated to the Hofburg Palace, which pretty much slapped us in the face from its sheer size. Like everything in Vienna, it was quite grand. We did the tour of the three museums inside, which took all morning. It was all worth it (even the boring china exhibit) for the fascinating display about Empress Sisi. Basically, she was a lady to be admired (despite a pesky cocaine habit). She loved exercising and hygiene, which was truly ahead of the times in that era, especially for women. Count me as a fan!
That afternoon, we – surprise – walked around the entire city. From the Hofburg Palace, to the – you guessed it – grand Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), to the Danube waterfront, we did it all. In 35 degree heat. For you non-Celsius lovers, that’s around 90 Fahrenheit. Something I realized about Vienna quickly was how beautiful it would be in the winter. (And you know I generally dislike winter travel.) But imagine: Light snow. Softly lit street lamps. Tucking ourselves into a cozy cafe for coffee near a warm fireplace. Maybe even with a lounging cat nearby. Sounds romantic, right? That may seem lovely, but at the time, walking the streets, in sweltering heat, I thought my face was going to melt off like this guy.
By evening’s end, after a dinner of meat and cheese at a authentic heurigen (old wine cellar underground – and you know I love underground dining from my traveling in L’viv), we felt like we had gotten the gist of Vienna. Might have been quick, but hey, when Bratislava, Slovakia is a little over an hour away by train, you do what we did – you go to Slovakia!
So the next morning, we took a lovely train ride to Bratislava. Look at that warm welcome! But – Was there a tourist center in the train station (or anywhere in the city)? Nope. Any maps or directions posted? Nope. Any English? Other than the welcome sign (oddly), nope! While still super hot and completely left to our own devices, we were determined to make the best of it and try to see as much as possible.
Which isn’t much, thankfully. Bratislava is a small city sitting on the Danube, with a tiny historic center. From the train, we sweat our butts off trudging straight to the Bratislava Castle and took the tour. While not terribly informative or extensive, we did learn that it has burned down several times and most recently in 2011! Could still smell the fresh paint.
After trying some (okay) Slovakian beers, sitting in a cafe with soggy, mushy grass (inside!), we decided we had seen enough and headed back to Vienna. Dinner that might was hilariously gigantic ice cream desserts and… wine spritzers. Ha! Hey, when in Vienna…
The next morning, we packed up and headed back to the train. Onward to Hungary!
Installment #4 about Budapest coming soon…