If you asked me to describe Vienna in one single word, I'd hesitate a lot. It's hard to find one word to describe the city where Europe's heart beats fast. Vienna is definitely a multi-faceted city: romantic, cultural, modern, musical, magical, surprising, light-hearted, tranquil, safe, peaceful, sophisticated, warm and friendly, awe-inspiring. This was my first impression of possibly the most seductive city in Europe.
Day 1 - Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I spent most of the morning packing while Alkis was at work - yes, it was his own choice to go to work. I made a mental note while packing: google "workaholic and cure!" Alkis came back at 1:00 pm, we had a snack for lunch and then called a taxi to drive us to the airport. I hadn't flown Austrian Airlines before and, I must admit, that was the best flight I've ever had in years! I completely forgot all about my fear of flying during the 3-hour flight to Vienna, Austria. Must be this delicious Viennese coffee they served after a light lunch!
We arrived on time - 7:30 pm local time - and couldn't wait to meet the...snow! I don't usually like snow but when you live on a sunsplashed Mediterranean island, you sometimes long for white Christmas. Once out of Vienna International Airport, I could only feel the ...cold. Minus 2 C. And NO SNOW! The taxi driver said there had been a lot of snow the previous week but it hadn't snowed for the last four days! When most of Europe was literally frozen - covered with snow to such an extent that most European airports closed, causing havoc, Vienna was spared! During the taxi ride to our hotel, Alkis asked me not to complain too much about not having snow. We were lucky to be in Vienna when other airports such as Heathrow in London and Roissy -Charles De Gaulle in France - not to mention Germany - had closed because of the snow.
Twenty minutes later, we were shown to one of the best rooms of Vienna Marriott Hotel situated near Saint Stephen's Square. We unpacked and soon afterwards we went for a walk in the city centre where Alkis kept taking photos of the fabulous Christmas tree and the Christmas decorations at Saint Stephen's Square.
I guess Alkis did his....best as a photographer! We ended our first night in Vienna at Huth's - a Viennese restaurant where I tried the boiled beef roll! I can't say I loved it but I do like trying the local cuisine when I travel.
Day 2 - Thursday, December 23 2010
Day 3 - Friday, December 24, 2010
Christmas Eve. We decided to spend yet another day exploring the city centre in Vienna. We also did some Christmas shopping and bought each other presents. In the evening , we enjoyed one of the most beautiful Christmas Eves I've ever had - filled with Christmas Carols, Mozart, and Strauss Waltzes. The food was delicious! I loved the parfait of smoked trout with crayfish and...honey cucumbers, the Christmas goose with caramelized chestnuts and red cabbage and all the desserts!
The Christmas Eve Buffet at Vienna Marriott Hotel
Day 4 - Saturday, December 25 2010
Christmas Day. Having attended the Christmas Mass at Saint Stephen's Cathedral, we had a coffee at Sacher Cafe and then went on to see the Vienna Boys' Choir sing Christmas Carols. They were beautiful!.Then we had lunch at Huth Da Moritz - one of the best Italian restaurants in Vienna.
In the evening , we enjoyed a good Igler ( red austrian wine) and candlelit dinner at the hotel.
Day 5 - Sunday, December 26 2010
Bratislava, Slovakia is only a one hour train ride from Vienna. So, being adveturous, Alkis and I caught the train to Bratislava and then all ...the wrong buses to the city centre! After having toured Bratislava on various bus rides, we got off a bus at the airport and asked the bus driver how to get to the city centre. He didn't speak English or German or French or Greek but he was so helpful! He told us in his language the bus number .... osso sometihing. I thought osso could be eight and said so to Alkis. Then Alkis drew in the air 83. The slovakian bus driver smiled and said YES! Well, it was the only English word he knew. And he showed us which bus to take in order to get the 83 to the city centre. At the bus stop, a young lady whose English was almost perfect clearly explained how to get to the city centre. And so we did. But it was freezing cold! Minus 4, pretty much like in Vienna but there was a cold wind that made things worse. So, that's all we saw in Bratislava.
Day 6 - Monday, December 27, 2010
Salzburg. Being a great Mozart lover and a great Sound of Music freak, I couldn't leave Austria without visiting Salzburg. We set off at 7:00 am on a day trip tour. We were 6 people - 5 Greeks and an Australian! AND Peter - our Austrian driver and guide. We had a stop at Linz for a coffee break. Peter explained that not far from there was Hitler's birthplace - Braunau-am Inn (Upper Austria). He went on to say that Adolph Hitler went to school in Linz before leaving Austria for Germany. And YES! Snow at last !
Next stop: Mondsee - The Moonlight Lake - the lake where part of The Sound of Music was filmed. I couldn't believe I was looking at that very lake where Maria and the children fell into the water! We had a brief stop to take pictures. But I think that even the best photographer will be unable to capture so much beauty!
And finally, the beautiful town of Salzburg. We visited Mozart's birth house and the castle. I only wish we had some more time to visit the house of The Sound of Music located at about 25 km outside Salzburg.
That was the place where the Von Trapp family escaped from the Nazis in The Sound of Music. Fox wasn't allowed to film in the cemetery, so they made an exact copy of it in the studios.
Day 7 - Tuesday 28 December 2010
On our last day in Vienna we visited the Hofburg Palace. What was for 700 years the residence of the Habsburg Dynasty - to be more accurate from the 13th century to 1918 -is in fact a cluster of buildings erected at different times and in different styles. What I loved most was the Sisi Museum. Photos were strictly prohibited in both the palace and the museum but here's the main entrance.
Vienna, the Austrian capital, sits on the banks of the Danube, right at the foot of the last slopes of the Alps and is surrounded by that large green belt made up by the Vienna woods. Life in what was once the capital of one of the most powerful 19th century empires unfurls at the pace of a slow waltz. At the same time, it is the city of lively flea markets and modern fashion stores, of Sachertorte, appfel strudel, schnitzel, the unique viennese coffee and select pastry shops, of the Habsburgs and the headquarters of different international organizations. Now you see why it is impossible to describe Vienna in one single word.