August was a busy month. An insanely crazy month actually. Most of which was taken up with all the Edinburgh excitement - which you can view in the diary I kept below - but that was the end of the month. The beginning saw me travelling too, spreading my wings across the sea, over the continent and into Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava. I fell instantly in love with the beautiful Vienna which was my base and I thought I would share some of my adventures with you. Whilst at the same time, letting you know some of the things I learnt about Vienna so you can make the most out of your own trip. Because I am assuming that you will want to take a trip to Vienna as well if you haven't been. I don't really understand why you wouldn't. Buy plane tickets now. Well, after this --
Vienna houses the most beautiful library in the world.
The Austrian National Library is situated behind the Imperial Palace and the Spanish Riding School, and is actually really easy to miss, even if you are looking for it. We walked around in circles for about 10 minutes, following the different signs until we realised that we were actually walking up and down in front of it. But it was worth the continued search. It was breathtakingly beautiful. 200,000 books were crammed in here. Yet they weren't crammed at all. Nestled is probably the better word. Nestled into a beautifully decorated, aesthetically pleasing long gallery. It was a total dream. I could have stayed there all afternoon, just gazing around. It left me with a feeling of such peace. Books have that effect on me.
The buildings are just breathtaking.
Jaywalking is a finable offence.
However, when you are walking around, be careful not to cross the road until you are told to. Bossily, it is actually against the law to cross on your own volition. Examine the traffic lights as you wait because there is a surprise for you...
Everything is within walking distance...
There's no need to pay for those expensive tourist buses. Great!
...except for Schonbrunn palace...
Even though it's 5 miles out of the centre, Schonbrunn Palace is easily reached by the metro and SO worth a visit. The day we spent there was possibly my favourite day of the trip. It had the most beautiful gardens you could imagine. Which was just as well because when we arrived we were told that we had to wait four hours to go in. That's right. Four. We had already queued for an hour to get tickets by this point so there was no way we were going to say no and proceeded to explore every inch of the gardens.
We paid to have the privilege of access to all of it (I might have pretended that I was a princess strolling in my grounds) but actually I would advise that you don't need to do that. Just buy a ticket for all the rooms of the palace because a decent amount of the gardens is open for free. And do leave a good amount of time for them because they are extensive and utterly wonderful. Four hours was actually perfect timing in the end. We ambled around, had lunch, visited the maze, and the fountain and the Gloriette. The Gloriette was potentially my favourite part of them because not only did it give us beautiful views over the parkland and the palace, but also, as it was on a hill, it offered us a wonderful view over Vienna itself. It was a great day. And the palace was so interesting too. I definitely need to read up more on the royal family of Austria. The little taster it gave me and the importance of the palace within history was absolutely fascinating.
...and the Danube.
The other long walk we had was when we tried to find the Danube. Which runs straight through the centre of Vienna so isn't hard to get to at all. Except we didn't go the easy way. Instead we decided to go this super long way around, via the Stadtpark, first of all, (to visit Strauss. Who I thought was Mozart. But is definitely Strauss) and then all the way down to Augarten and then through some dodgy ghetto area to finally find the Danube.
We almost didn't make it. We were so close, we could practically sniff it. But between us and the river, completely blocking our view, was a huge main road and a train line that we could not work out how to cross. Google maps was telling us to walk over this huge flyover that was definitely cars only. And then we saw people. Supposedly hovering in mid air. It was a footbridge, it was a footbridge, it was a footbridge. I can't tell you how excited it made us. We walked along the main road until we saw steps and then we were there. And this was our view.
The Danube is big. Really big.
What was really cool about the Danube was it was absolutely massive! I mean HUGE. In Vienna alone it could be called big, so much bigger than the Thames, but then it is long as well. We visited three countries on this trip - Hungary, Austria and Slovakia - and we encountered the Danube in all of them which was pretty awesome.
Our first day trip out of Austria was to Bratislava in Slovakia. After the neat grandeur of Vienna, Bratislava was like it's messy little cousin. It was definitely charming with its narrow alleyways and colourful cute buildings but it was very understated.
To get a proper view of the city, (and of this new part of the Danube) we climbed up the hill to the castle. Which wasn't a hard walk but in the 39 degree heat wasn't particularly comfortable. It was definitely worth it though to get that beautiful birds eye view over the rooftops.
The other exciting thing about Bratislava was I found an English bookshop/coffee shop. Which is an amazing idea - to have the tables in amongst the shelves. We settled there after we had made it back down from the Castle to cool off with a mint lemonade. And could I resist a book or two? Definitely not.
The second of our day trips was to Budapest in Hungary. We arrived in good time but we were on a tight timeframe. We only had 8 hours to blitz the place. Two of which we then wasted by walking in the wrong direction out of the train station. Don't even ask how we managed to walk for that long without realising. All I will say about that is we made it to the very end of the metro line. The end. Thank goodness we didn't go any further or we would have had no idea how to get back into the centre.
Once we had metro'd it back, we conveniently enough managed to get off by the Parliament Building. Not because we are clever or anything (you can tell that we are a little geographically challenged from the previous paragraph) but just accidentally. And now it finally felt as if we were experiencing the real Budapest.
Again this was architecturally a very beautiful city. It was a little less well looked after than Vienna but had the same kind of grandeur. St Stephen's Basilica was probably my favourite but we weren't allowed to venture far in there as there was a wedding going on. Imagine getting married somewhere as huge as this. It was beautiful and the bride was beautiful. I did stay and watch for a while despite not understanding the language.
The main thing I did notice about Budapest though was I heard a lot more English voices when I visited. It is quite an up-and-coming place for English tourists who are attracted by the cheap beer and copious amount of clubs/bars. I personally was glad that I wasn't staying over in the city because the whole 'going out' aspect did not interest me at all. And I was more than happy to return to the slightly more chilled out, Vienna for tea and cake and lounging around in the sweet little pubs.
Get to know the locals
While I was in Vienna I did actually make a few buddies throughout the week, much to the amusement of my friend who I was with. Which actually, if you can manage it yourself, was a great way to receive advice and recommendations on what we shouldn't miss. Either in terms of how to entertain ourselves or, perhaps more importantly, for what/where to eat. I always feel when it comes to eating, insider knowledge is always essential. I am forever at a loss what with all the choice. Plus I never know if a restaurant is genuinely good or just touristy. So a few recommendations are always helpful.
The food is gooood
Really good. It was like my kind of a dream. There were beautiful cafes EVERYWHERE. Because going out for tea/coffee and cake is kind of their thing. We visited this absolutely beautiful café called Café Gerstner where we sat in a booth and had a latte and a chocolate torte. Oh it was wonderful. The old fashioned atmosphere, the beautiful interior, the paintings, the little booth. It couldn't have been more perfect.
The only other day that we had time to treat ourselves to afternoon tea was when we were at the Glorriette in the Shonbrunn grounds. On the top of the hill, you could see nothing out of the window except sky and it was just delightful. Until we got plagued by a bluebottle who was determined to try some of my cake.
Our evening meals were mostly spent at the Naschmarkt, which was just round the corner from our hotel conveniently. This really was the perfect place. It is the oldest/biggest market in Vienna and the little wooden huts housed pretty much anything you wanted from bars to restaurants of every nationality. We tried a different one every night, just picking whichever one had space and looked decent.
The churches are super gothic
Almost everything in Vienna had the air of tradition and old school romanticism about it. And this was especially the case of their churches and cathedrals. I adore gothic architecture with it's sharp lines and impressive spikey fronts so I was in my element. I think the pictures do it enough justice here.
The gardens are pretty
I have talked about the architecture a lot within this blogpost but Vienna wasn't all buildings. There were some really wonderful gardens as well. We did find that they were mostly quite structured in their layouts with long straight paths being lined by trees. But a little more flowing was the Volksgarten and this was definitely my favourite with its stunning roses. The Burgarten was also wonderful and it was where we met Mozart, finally, after I mistook him for Strauss in the Stadtpark. Which was vaguely stupid.
You might not want to come home
Have I sold Vienna to you yet? I think if you aren't intrigued by it now, you probably never will be. I did learn that you should be careful what you wish for on this trip though. After lamenting, the whole journey back to the airport how I didn't want to go home, I almost didn't make it. That airport is a proper maze. The signs are little help, leading you on long looping circles. And it has the odd addition of security being situated at each individual gate. So you only go through security when you are about to get on the plane. For someone who is a bit anxious about security and likes to get it out of the way as soon as possible, this is so not good. Especially when you have to go through it twice because they decide to move your gate after you have already made it through to the airport lounge. So irritating. Maybe I should have simply stayed. Would have saved me a lot of aggravation. And I couldn't imagine a better place to get stuck in.