I got into Vienna after 10pm and was scheduled to leave on a 50-euro train the next morning (Friday) at noon, meaning I would have to spend the night touring the city if I wanted to see anything (à la Before Sunrise). After a little thought and discussion with my friend Paul who lives in Vienna, I decided to skip my Friday morning train and book a cheap bus for Sunday, staying with Paul for a night to make up for the cost. Vienna turned out to be absolutely worth it, so I don’t regret the extra expense to experience the city.
I spent my Friday morning in Vienna alone (for once) and grabbed a seated breakfast and latte at the Nachtmarkt. It was an egg cooked over pan seared halloumi cheese, soft bread, avocado spread, jam, salad and a shot of freshly squeezed carrot and orange juice – simple but delicious.
From the Nachtmarkt, I headed to Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens. I walked through the gardens and up to a fountain that you could walk into and look back over the palace and grounds. After, I tiredly trekked up a high hill for an even nicer view, stopping to sit on the grass and take in the view of the palace and Vienna beyond.
I headed back to my hostel after strolling around the gardens a bit more, meeting an English girl who I would spend my evening with. We sat down for coffee at Café Sperl, where I had a memorable plum cake that was one of the highlight foods of my trip. The cake was moist and the fresh fruit topping tartly sweet. Vienna is known for its Café-Kultur, and I was happy to indulge.
We left the café to walk through Vienna’s “ring,” the road going around the central area that contains most of Vienna’s most famous buildings (sans the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, also called Stephansdom). Because it was not a guided tour, I had no idea what I was looking at while I was looking at it, but the architecture and buildings in Vienna are the prettiest I’ve seen in Europe.
My companion and I stumbled across a film festival with a large selection of international food stands. We both opted for schnitzel and a stronger-than-expected sangria-like raspberry drink. We took a long walk through the city centre to see Stephansdom and then headed back to the film festival to catch a bit of an opera being projected in front of the Rathaus, which is basically Vienna’s town hall (it looked more like a cathedral).
At the film, I noticed a guy who I was sure went to Northwestern but didn’t know his name. I figured he must be some Austrian lookalike and didn’t end up approaching him. Later in the hostel, I would confirm that he was an NU classmate when I ran into him on the hostel. He had actually met my freshman roommate in a hostel in Barcelona – small world! I went to bed early for the second night in a row (Marseille/Prague/Budapest really took a toll out of me with late nights).
The next morning, my companion and I grabbed another breakfast at the Nachtmarkt (truly some of the best food in Vienna), a spicy Indian omelet that was as good as my breakfast before. After a quick gelato stop, we split up and I left to visit Vienna’s modern art museum, Mumok, and grab coffee and a mini-obstkuchen (a type of cakey fruit pastry) from Café Halle in the MuseumsQuarter, a stop suggested by The New York Times’s 32 Hour Guide to Vienna.
After my second café visit, I left to grab my luggage and meet up with Paul, my friend from Marseille who lives in Vienna. Shortly after I reached his apartment, which he and his roommates had just moved into earlier in the day, we all sat down for a nice homemade pasta lunch. Paul and I left to explore the city a bit and ended up spending most of our afternoon at Vienna’s Street Parade, which involved numerous 18-wheelers with bars and DJs on them parading through the city’s ring. People were drinking and dancing on the trucks and in the streets; Paul and I both grabbed beers at a food stand nearby. Gotta love European street drinking!
Later that evening, Paul took me to a friend’s birthday party, where I met a lot of really friendly Austrians (and a few Germans and a Belgian). We conversed on our countries and life experiences before heading out to some clubs on Vienna’s “belt,” or the outer ring that goes through the more residential areas of the city. We stayed out late, and I only had a few hours to sleep the next morning before getting on my bus to Munich, where I managed to actually get some sleep.