The only thing I knew about Austria, was that my mom had been there once before in 1983, and my dad had been there in 1981. Naturally they had tons of advice on where to go and what to see, all of which I assumed was no longer relevant. Sorry mom. Once in a while the universe deals you a good hand and about 3 weeks before taking off on this adventure, I agreed to house-sit for a co-worker. While touring their home I met two girls, about my age. We chatted over dinner while my co-worker explained where the dog food was and how to lock the garage, and it turned out they were visiting from Vienna, on a California coastal tour. What are the chances? Over the next few days we got to know each other, hit the town in San Francisco, and had some lunch on the water in Marin County and as I showed them around my hometown, they offered to show me around theirs.
Since we now had some friends to stay with and wanted to make the most of our time together, we stayed in Vienna for 6 nights, our longest leg of the trip in fact. We arrived on a Monday so naturally my friend Melanie was working but her roommate happened to be home to let us in and drop our bags after a grueling 7 hour bus ride. She also made us pasta for dinner! On our first full day we walked around town, stumbled upon some casual palaces, unaware of their names or history. We found a rose garden to eat our lunch in and wandered around what we later found out to be Museumplatz, a joining of a modern art museums, with a large courtyard equipped with ice cream and funky chairs, perfect for our afternoon nap.
Traveling with your personal trainer has it's advantages, none more than the guilt you feel for not hitting the gym in the morning. While walking through the main street near our apartment, we stumbled upon a gym and told them we had just moved there and wanted to test it out. Free two day pass, and we are the happiest humans! After about two hours of catch up workouts, we found a grocery store, bought some cheese and wine and a baguette the size of my whole leg and headed home for a relaxing movie night.
Day 4 and were ready for action! The girls were off work, and we have a full day of sight seeing ahead! We began the day with a metro ride to Naschmarkt, a.k.a heaven. With over 120 market stands and restaurants, it reminded me a bit of the farmers markets in Paris but even more delicious. Rows upon rows of merchants selling all my favorite things, from olives, to cheese, to ice cream. I even got a house-warming tapestry for my girlfriend Alicia, knowing I would see her in Madrid a few weeks later. After a delicious brunch all together, we walked to Schönbrunn Palace or Schloss Schönbrunn in German where we spent the majority of the day walking the grounds. The palace is the former imperial summer residence, boasting a mere 1,441 rooms. Casual. Naturally, it's one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country. Sculpted gardens, named the Great Parterre, separate Schönbrunn Palace from the Gloriette, a large structure atop a 60-metre high hill, which Maria Theresa decided should be designed to glorify Habsburg power and the Just War. Today it houses a café and an observation deck, and panoramic views of the city. We walked around the palace, took some prom-posed photos on the stairs and talked to all the horses. We even climbed the zig-zag path up the 60-metre hill, pass the zoo and tiergarden, and fountain, all the way to the Gloriette an took some selfies with the rest of the tourists. : ) On the back end of the grounds, are some secret pathways lined with forests to cut the heat, and gorgeous fountains. We could have stayed there forever. But alas, the nightclub awaits!
Before we headed home we made a quick pit-stop to see Vienna's treasured Wien Stephanplatz, and shared a light meal - more sausages! After a long day of sight-seeing we were ready to unwind with out friends. We had a small get-together and played some German drinking games, and sang American rap songs. Made memories of a life-time, and headed out to Ramba Zamba! If there is one thing that crosses language barriers and country lines, it's having some drinks and hitting the dance floor.
We woke up on Sabine's couch the next morning, quite mangled and far from home. We laughed about the fun times, told stories and recaps from the night before and with make-up streaming headed to what can only be considered a metro-of-shame, back to Melanie's apartment.
The next day we toured Mirabelle Palace, climbed on all the lion sculptures which I am almost certain you are not supposed to do. Walked through some incredible tunnels covering in trees and wines, Vienna really has this concept down. And listened to a street performer perform 'somewhere over the rainbow' on his saxophone. One of those moments that just speaks to your heart.
With our last day in town, we decided to make a bold move and decided to go out to Salzburg where Melanie was running in a 10K race. The best part of backpacking is freedom. The freedom to change the plan, the freedom to have no plan. So, we woke up in the morning and road-tripped out to Salzburg, caught the end of Mel's race and spent the day roaming around a nice city we hadn't planned on visiting. Fun fact, Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg, and they have a love lock bridge, and basil ice cream. These are a few of my favorite things.