The second to last week in October saw Chris and I wake in the middle of the night to catch a very early flight to Vienna. Visiting Vienna was high on our list and it was exactly as picturesque and grand as I imagined. Pastel coloured facades line washed and cobbled streets, while the sounds of horse drawn carriages can be heard round every corner in the center of the city. Never one to leave a food market unvisited, we immediately made our way to Naschmarkt and found ourselves in a throng of food vendors. We forged a path through the Turkish delight and sausages, finding ourselves at the foot of a colossal flea market. There were more trinkets than our eyes could behold and neither of us was quite sure where to look. We stopped for some delicious poppy seed pastries before heading out of the market, deeming it a bit too busy to stay. Unfortunately, Chris was getting over a cold for the first two days of the trip, a cold that he generously passed to me for the latter half of the weekend. As a result, neither of us were quite ourselves and we couldn’t shake the feeling of not quite accomplishing the same amount on this trip as we usually manage. We walked around part of the Ringstrasse, a circular road surrounding the historic center of the city, until our 3:30 am wake up caught up with us. We opted for a picnic dinner and early night so armed with pretzels, potato salad and plenty of ginger and lemon water for Mr. Influenza, we settled ourselves in the flat for a veritable Austrian feast.
The next morning we woke early and set off for a restaurant near the museum quarter that my pre-trip research recommended for breakfast. Upon arriving we were told there was a two-week wait. Not feeling like starving to death we went into the museum quarter on a mission for coffee and eggs. Thankfully we didn’t have to look for long and we had a great meal just steps away from Mumok, Vienna’s modern art gallery and our conveniently located next stop. I must say that the whole concept of a square dedicated to museums is something I truly adore. Mumok did not disappoint and was everything you could want out of a modern gallery; a large and impressive structure, somewhat unsettling vibe and a good mix of “wow look at that” and “I don’t get it….”. With our cultural appetites thoroughly wet, we crossed the road and went to the Kunsthistorisches museum, a large and beautiful art history museum.
The art history museum is truly a gigantic endeavor, and you could easily spend a week admiring the treasures inside. If you’re into that sort of thing that is. We settled for a few hours and wandered our way through ridiculously intricate ivory sculptures, Roman antiquities and some of good old Arcimboldo’s veggie faces. After our fill of portraits, we went out to the grounds for a walk and stumbled across a statue of the great Mr. Beethoven. I’ve always loved his music and because my Dad would often play it on the piano, into all hours of the night, it always reminds me of home. We sat down in front of a treble clef made out of flowers and watched the birds dance around the composer's stone head before finally picking ourselves up and heading to our final gallery of the day.
The collection of historical musical instruments and armoury was included in our ticket to the art history museum but it was clearly not as well known as its partner museum. We had the whole thing to ourselves, which at times was oddly disconcerting. The museum itself is housed in part of the cavernous Hofburg palace, a stunning location full of impossibly tall ceilings and long gilded corridors. The echoes of our footsteps on the marble floors followed us as we wandered through old musical instruments and empty coats of armour, half expecting the head of a knight to turn around as we walked into the next chandeliered room. After leaving the palace we spent the remainder of the day exploring the center, admiring the pristine streets and picturesque avenues. For dinner we went for traditional Austrian and stuffed ourselves full of pretzels, sausages, lentils and dumplings, with the mandatory apfelstrudel of course.
The next morning, and our last full day, started with a delicious breakfast of quinoa porridge and muesli. We went to the Freud museum first, a small but memorable museum housed in his old clinic and personal apartments. To gain entry you are required to buzz up, like I imagine so many troubled minds did before. After finishing our tour of his old stomping grounds, we continued with our recurring psychological theme and made our way to Café central, the unchanged café where Freud would often go for his morning coffee. We curled up under the vaulted ceiling with two seriously dense hot chocolates, towering with cream. Immediately as you enter the café you are greeted with a glass case housing some beautiful cakes and pastries. Able but unwilling to resist the temptation, Chris went for hazelnut while I savoured a slice of chocolate, marzipan and orange. We spent some time enjoying our confections and watching as a steady stream of locals and tourists appeared in the doorway. Fueled by a pretty serious sugar rush, we opted to explore the Ringstrasse one last time. We bought a small bust of Beethoven, as you do, and dined on currywurst and pretzels in the streets (which was easily the best food we had all weekend). We had intended to see an Ai Weiwei exhibit that afternoon but unfortunately the gallery was closed that day. Thankfully, our walk across the city was not in vain as the grounds of Belvedere palace were stunning and made for the perfect location for a long-winded walk. We admired an outdoor Ai Weiwei installation before parking ourselves in a small botanic garden hidden just behind the palace. For our final dinner we went to an impossibly trendy restaurant where we ate hip food and pretended we were way cooler than we actually are. We ended our night with a final amble around the city, which we originally intended to be a quick walk around the block, but resulted in nearly two hours of Vienna at night. We walked back to basically everything we had seen over the trip, ending with one final look at the cobbled courtyards and pastel buildings in the Ringstrasse. While we were both ill and certainly not ourselves on this trip, Vienna still managed to impress with its history and beauty. And its museums and cake. It was seriously great cake.