I studied abroad in Dijon, France in the summer of 2003. My mom came over to spend a week and a half with me after the program. We traveled to some really fun spots. One of them was Vienna, Austria. However, our timing was a little bit off, because we spent less than 24 hours in Vienna – not enough time to visit the Hofburg Palace. I knew I wanted to get back to Vienna to see it, and this weekend, we did it. Two friends were free and willing to go, so we road tripped to the airport on Friday night and headed out.
A late night dinner was the first order of business, and unfortunately, we simultaneously watched France pummel Switzerland in the World Cup. Poor Switzerland. But even that loss couldn’t put a damper on our excitement about goulash!
The next morning, we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We left the hotel at 9:00, and it was SO quiet in the streets. The crowds picked up later in the day, so perhaps Vienna just starts a little bit later. ?? We took advantage of no crowds to take in some sites. Like I do in most cities, I suggested we climb to the highest point. In this case, that meant 343 steps up the church tower for some pretty great views of Vienna. You can also see how cool the church roof is with all of the colored tiles in cool patterns. The roof was badly damaged by fires during WWII, but the city rallied together after the war to completely reconstruct it.
We meandered our way over to the Hofburg Palace complex, which is HUGE! This was where the Habsburgs (rulers of the Astro-Hungarian empire…if you remember, WWI was when this empire ended) lived for many, many years. Most of the complex is now a collection of museums.
We went to the Kunst Historisches Museum first. We were on a mission to find an elusive painting that I’ve been looking for in all of the art museums I visit. Why? Well, one of my good friends from college had a print of Lovers (better known as The Kiss) by Gustav Klimt on the wall of her room. I know a simple Google search could tell me where it’s housed, but I never took the time to look. Instead, I wonder through every new art museum wondering if I will find it. When I was planning for this trip, I saw it pictured on numerous sites, so I was thrilled to realize that I would finally get to see it in Vienna.
We made our way through all of the Kunst Museum, which is basically a showcase of the Habsburgs’ personal collection of artwork and artifacts. There were a lot of really amazing things, but after making our way through the entire museum, we didn’t find Klimt’s famous painting! Where was it?! It was then that I decided to let Google take over…only to learn that it doesn’t live at the Kunst Museum…or anywhere in the Hofburg palace. It resides in a different museum across town! WHAT?!?!? Add that to the list of things to do on Sunday before we leave… While I was looking for the painting, I decided to capture some of the outrageous busts we saw. I didn’t capture all of them (or even the best one), but these will give you a flavor of some of the ones that made us laugh…
Next up was the Treasury. There were a lot of robes and staffs and fancy things. Including a unicorn horn?! But, there were far fewer jewels than I hoped to see. My favorite piece was something called the Turkish Crown. Again, a representation of the ENORMOUS collection of the royal family’s treasures.
It was time for a break. We stopped for a drink and a snack. Apple Strudel sounded like a good decision, and it was delicious!
Afterward, it was time for the Sisi Museum and the Royal Apartments…still part of the Hofburg Palace! I told you this place was huge!
“Sisi” was Empress Elizabeth, who lived during the 1800’s. From what I could tell, she was a workout fiend, who was flirting with anorexia. After one of her sons committed suicide, she wore black for the rest of her life. Over time, she became more and more depressed and withdrawn. And ultimately, she was assassinated in Geneva, Switzerland (of all places!). She really didn’t get much public attention in her lifetime, but became much more famous in death. Since 2004, a portion of the Imperial Apartments are now dedicated to telling her story. It’s sad to see similar stories over and over again in these countries – royals who were sad and depressed, even though they had “everything.”
Talk about having everything…I mean, how many candelabras does one palace need? And who really needs a decorative centerpiece like this that can extend to be 90 feet long?!? Apparently, the Habsburgs did!
So much decadence! We stopped for one final selfie in front of the palace before moving on to other sites…
We saw a really pretty building that turned out to be City Hall, and we wanted to go find it. We wondered through the city, which is just lovely. So much beautiful architecture! We even stumbled upon a rose garden on our way.
City Hall was completely closed. I don’t know if it was because it was Saturday, or if the building isn’t used any more. Either way, there was nothing more to see other than the magnificent exterior. We spotted a park across the street with lounge chairs, and thought a nap in the sun sounded like a good decision!
After our nap in the park and a stroll through the bustling city center, we went back to the hotel to change for dinner. We had some more yummy Austrian food. This time, it was Weiner Schnitzel for me.
When in Vienna, it’s a must to take in a performance at one of the theatres. We decided on orchestra and went to the Musikverein for a “Best of Mozart” orchestra concert. (Mozart is from Austria, and they are obsessed with him! All of the souvenir shops are gushing with Mozart products.) The performers dressed in period costume, and we had great seats to take in the show!
And to end the night, we had to stop by the Sacher Café for the famous Sacher Torte. It’s a chocolate cake that is coated with apricot jam and chocolate icing. It’s served with whipped cream, and according to Hotel Sacher, it’s been famous since 1832.
On Sunday morning, we were back on the search to find the picture of Lovers by Klimt! We taxied to Belvedere, which is another palace from the Habsburg dynasty. It was built in the early 1700’s, and it is now a World Heritage Site. While not nearly as huge as the Hofburg Palace from yesterday, I actually thought it was more beautiful. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, and I really enjoyed the art museum.
After many art museums across Europe and a couple of museums in Vienna, I’m happy to say that we found the painting. And it. is. gorgeous! There is so much detail! I snuck a photo to prove we found it!
I actually really enjoyed the works by Klimt that were on display. And I really enjoyed the Impressionist room in the museum.
Once we made it through the art, we spent the rest of the morning walking through the gardens. So many fountains and statues and flowers! It was just lovely.
[Not only did we capture a selfie of us with the palace in the background, but we captured another couple taking a selfie! Love it!]
We enjoyed an ice cream and a glass of DELICIOUS homemade lemonade in the sunshine before heading to the airport. Another weekend full of culture, sunshine, and friends in the books!