Vienna is possibly the prettiest city I have ever been to. I didn't even know it was possible for an entire city to be so clean and pristine. Almost every single building, be it a multi-story home or a royal palace, had beautiful, exquisite detail. The buildings sit in neat rows at about the same height, and are all painted in light shades of grays, creams, and pretty pastels; the cobble stoned streets and sidewalks are swept clean. Hopefully the photos will do it some justice.
Day 5: Airbnb in Neubau, Hausmair's Gaststätte Restaurant, Museum Quartier, NASCHMARKET
I woke up to the sound of wheels rumbling along train tracks. It was 6 am, and we had been on the train for 8 hours already. It was dark by the time we had departed from Florence the night before, and once the train took off, it was hard to make out anything in the darkness, despite our large windows. Now, we had finally arrived in the Austrian country-side, and our train weaved through the lush, green valleys and rolling hills dotted with trees and adorable farms.
Our first stop in Vienna was settling into our Airbnb. Lisa and Mina's centrally located atelier in the Neubau neighborhood might be one of my all time Airbnb stays. From the winding stair cases that led up to the top floor of the building, to the beautiful built-in wall shelves and antique furniture, their Viennese loft was so full of personality, charm, and character. It felt like an experience just staying there -- especially as Mina showed us how to use their funky stand-up shower (with no shower curtains!) and the correct order of buttons to press in order to work the vintage, stain-glass window'ed elevator.
After taking a billion photos of the Airbnb we headed out for an afternoon stroll in the neighborhood. We didn't have to go far to see great architecture. Every building had intricate, unique details and every door seemed like a miniature work of art. Compared to touristy Florence and Cinque Terre, Vienna seemed super calm and empty (and normal -- our first destination was a grocery store that looked like any other grocery store).
Our first Viennese meal was amazing. We went to an "authentically Austrian" restaurant a couple of blocks away from our Airbnb called Hausmair's Gaststätte. We started off with beef soup and dumplings, potato salad (that was liquidy!), and then had deer ragout with cranberry sauce and pork schnitzel. Dessert was apricot-filled bread-crumby thing.
After lunch, we headed to the Museum Quartier, a district that contained a lot of big museums. But first, we passed through a neighborhood that Mina described as "a place for artists and makers". Basically, it turned out to be my neighborhood in Brooklyn. There were beautifully outfitted shops selling everything from handmade bags to wood-carved kitchen supplies to artisanal coffee, and of course, Kinfolk magazines. My favorite was a cozy little coffee shop called ZAMM.
By the time we got to Museum Quartier, most everything had already closed for the day. It was still lovely to walk through the beautifully sculpted gardens and look at the breath-taking buildings. Before heading home, we stopped by the Naschmarket for a snack. We got some of that famous Viennese sausage, with these amazing circular buns.
Day 6: Porcelain Museum, Cafe Central, Belvedere Palace, Musikverein
My secret confession, living in NYC, is that I'm not actually a big fan of museums -- especially large museums that contains a million pieces of art from a gazillion different time periods. They make my head spin. My favorite types of museums are small, and focused, which is what drew me to the Porcelain Museum and Augarten Wien. Augarten Wein is one of the few places in the world that still makes porcelain by hand, in small batches. We went on one of their guided tours in the morning and it was amazing, one of my favorite activities on the trip. They took us through the factory itself, as they shared the process of making and manufacturing porcelain. The most astounding part is that they have just 25 sculptors and painters that produce all of their porcelain -- and we got to see them in action (though unfortunately no photos were allowed). Afterwards, we got to tour their collection of most exquisite and historically relevant pieces of porcelain.
Afterwards, we strolled around nearby, getting lost in baroque-styled gardens lined with carefully sculpted trees and bushes. Vienna, why are you such a perfectionist?
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Belvedere Palace, one of the bigger and more famous museums in Vienna. The place is ginormous, and since we had only an hour before closing, Rob took the Upper Belvedere, and I took the Lower Belvedere. It was definitely beautiful and epic and all of those things, but it was not super memorable for me because (as stated above), I'm not a fan of museums.
A couple weeks before our trip, I bought some tickets to the symphony at Musikverein, one of the "non-touristy" concert halls in Vienna (where performers don't dress up like Mozart). We got to hear the Dresden Symphony Orchestra (from Germany) perform some pieces by Wagner and Schubert, as well Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 ("Romantic"). It was definitely a crowd-pleaser and the orchestra was fantastic. Having never attended a symphony performance outside of the U.S., it was interesting to note some differences: 1) people get really dressed up, 2) there is standing room behind the orchestra in the front, 3) people on the sides will stand up during the entire performance just to get a better view, and finally 4) the audience yelled "Bravo!" and clapped forever at the end of the concert. In general, people seemed more passionate about the music than in the States, which kind of made me really happy.
Day 7: Cafe Florianihof, StephAnSplatz, City Center
Our last day in Vienna was pretty short, as we planned on catching a train to Budapest in the late afternoon. We started off by getting brunch at this super adorable restaurant called Cafe Florianihof. I ordered something called "crispy pancakes" and I got something strange and delicious that more closely resembled a funnel cake with yogurty syrup. One thing I miss about Vienna is all the fanfare you get when you order a simple espresso drink. If I order a cappuccino, they not only bring you the drink, but also: a napkin, a small glass of water, a little pot of sugar cubes, and a tiny spoon, all laid out perfectly on a fancy silver tray. I love you, Vienna.
With our final hours in Vienna, we tried to see as much of the city as we could, making stops at the "city center," which is full of high-end shops and chain stores, as well as Stephansplatz, the biggest and most magnificent cathedral I have ever laid eyes on (though remember, this is my 5th day in Europe, ever).
This brings us to the end of our stay in Vienna. Budapest is next!