Monday, February 23, 2009

Ah, Vienna

This weekend just gone I have been having a holiday (not associated with a meeting or conference, just a regular break) in Vienna. I have a friend who lives there and decided that it would be nice to visit her and see a new city (I'd heard good things about Vienna from couple of people). I'm very glad I did have my friend there to visit, because otherwise I may have wasted the weekend due to a complete lack of preparation. I have discovered (well it was partly evident from my Caribbean holiday) that I'm not really the type who plans ahead that much, so I'm in debt to my friend who took it open herself to find things for us to do. And a good job she did to.

On Saturday (after a late brunch) we took a wander through the city centre (via the University - I'll pretty much always head to the nearest University wherever I am, I think they make me fell more comfortable), before going on a guided city tour. This started off from behind the famous Opera house and took us through the Hofburg Palace (which houses, to name one thing, the national library), then down some of the major shopping streets, and finishing at St. Stephen's Cathedral. One thing I'd also not done prior to travelling was check the weather - I'd expected it to be quite chilly, but not as cold as it actually was. The walk was very nice, but had left me lacking feeling in my toes and face, which I tried to remedy by climbing up the Cathedral Tower, but was more comprehensively dealt with when we went into a cafe for hot chocolate and cake - as we were in Vienna I had some of the famous Sachertorte. That evening, after getting ourselves properly frozen again by walking around outside (and with a brief look into one of the best known Viennese Café's - Café Central) we went for dinner. I had the biggest Schnitzel that I'd ever seen, probably about 12" in diameter, which I struggled to eat - a German guy sitting next to us told me that if I didn't finish it there would be bad weather the next day, but even with that incentive I couldn't manage the whole thing. After being so massively stuffed with food the only option was to digest the food by going to the cinema, where we saw Frost/Nixon.

On Sunday, again with no planning on my part, we had a busy schedule. First stop was the Schönbrunn Palace, which was the summer residence of the imperial family. We took a tour round the family rooms, in which I was most impressed by some of the beautiful wood panelled floor, and I also learnt a bit of history - my knowledge of the Austrian Hap/bsburgs is now greatly increased (although it started at a very low level and I hadn't even realised [or maybe very vaguely knew] that Marie Anionette was one). The snow out by the palace was quite a lot thicker than in the city centre, but we walked though it in the gardens. We headed back into the centre for our lunch of kaiserschmarrnn [corrected at the request of my friend] (a thick pancake-like thing, covered in icing sugar and served with plum jam - very tasty) before more culture in the form of an art gallery. Vienna has many, many museums and galleries, and we went in to the Leopold Museum, where there was a large exhibit of the musuems extensive Egon Schiele collection - I liked a lot of his work, but my friend was horrified to hear that I'd never heard of him before going to the musuem (this happened with a lot of the artist's she mentioned - what can I say, my knowledge of large swathes of art, history, classical music, etc, is very poor). During our time in the museum the snowfall had picked up considerably and there was a thick covering as we headed to the openair ice rink in the park in front of the Rathaus (apparently, according to our tour guide the day before, the largest outdoor rink in Europe!) It was a lovely scene seeing the rink and town hall in the snow and all lit up, and it was fun to get out on the ice (the rink had two main skating areas that were connected by an ice path through the park), but we eventually had to stop as my feet were hurting from the hired skates (I later found a very large blister on my foot!) The evening ended with what my friend told me was one of the best foods in Vienna - Käsekrainer - sausage with bits of cheese through it, served with mustard (or horseradish) and bread. I enjoyed my Käsekrainer and it was a very nice way to end the day.

I travelled home this morning (my friend even helped with this by looking up the timetable of buses to the airport for me - I am useless!) after a very nice weekend. I now have to go back there when it's a bit warmer. I also now have another airport to add to my pointless airport list :)