Adventure in the City of Music

“FINALLY!”

My train pulling into the Wien Hauptbahnhof

This was the first thing I said as my train pulled into the Wien Hauptbahnhof, and I began my three-day, four-night Birthday Adventure in the Vienna, The City of Music.

Cany Knight's Arrival at the Wien Hauptbahnhof in Vienna, Austria. June 2021.
Arrival at the Wien Hauptbahnhof in Vienna, Austria

A year of not traveling the world takes its toll.

I was set to travel to Vienna in May 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted those plans. On the bright side, I had travel insurance and wasn’t out any significant amount of money.

Yeah, don’t think any of my friends will ever laugh at me again when I highly encourage them to purchase travel insurance with the cancel for any reason option.

Back to my Vienna Adventure.

I decided to take the train from Germany to Austria.

Enjoying the ride

A flight would have been faster and a few dollars cheaper, but after factoring in travel time to airport, shuttle cost, cost of getting a COVID test (even though I’m fully vaccinated), and the headaches dealing with the ever-changing airline policies, the train was actually cheaper and provided more peace of mind.

Also, I got a lot of my homework done during the eight-hour train ride, thus I could enjoy my adventures without worrying about school.

GERMANY TO WIEN VIA TRAIN

The train ride wasn’t without an issue though. The first was a seating issue. The lady sitting next to me decided she wanted a better seat, so she told the conductress that she needed to change seats because she feared getting COVID sitting next to someone.

The conductress must have been wise to the trick because she asked me if I wouldn’t mind changing seats. I said no and ended up in the premium business class section. The lady was a little peeved I guess, but I don’t have a good handle on German yet, so she could’ve been showing her appreciation. Whatever, I was happy and went back to enjoying the nice ride.

The second issue happened on the ride back home. Apparently the ticket person’s scanner wouldn’t scan my ticket’s QR code. He tried to make me buy a whole new ticket for €250, saying I could apply for a refund once I got back to Germany. I asked him to put that in writing.

He scoffed and went and got a supervisor. She came, checked and said something about it being a Germany app or something, but she said she clearly saw I had purchased the ticket and was okay to ride. When we reached the Germany border, the new ticket person simply looked at her system, then the overhead seat reservation, then smiled at me and went about checking the new riders’ tickets.

The adventure went much smoother once I arrived in Wien. I used Welcome Pickups for transport to my hotel as I wasn’t familiar with the metro system, yet.

My Welcome Pickup

HOTEL MERCURE WIEN ZENTRUM

My stay at the Hotel Mercure Wien Zentrum was sweet. This was a lovely hotel with a wonderful staff. My room was compact. My first impression was “OMGosh, I’ve checked into another Moxy Hotel.” Moxy is one of Marriott’s hostel chain brands masquerading as a smart/stylish boutique hotel. I hated the one night I stayed at Moxy, and felt I would have the same experience at Hotel Mercure Wien Zentrum.

Glad to say I was wrong. My room was compact, but it was a clever use of space, including the sliding door for the bathroom instead of a door that opened into the bathroom. The A/C wasn’t very powerful, but it worked, and cooled off the room while I was out. The staff was awesome, especially Michael in the restaurant.

The hotel location was nice. It was a nice 10-minute walk to the center of the city, which was needed after the lovely breakfast that was included with the room. Breakfast was the highlight!! If the hotel keeps the breakfast, I’ll be back when I visited Vienna again.

After freshening up, I hit the town. Vienna has retained the feel of an imperial capital. There are an abundance of museums and palaces. For me, I just walked and snapped photos of city life.

I did avoid places with large crowds as COVID-19 is still lingering around, and I noticed people weren’t vigilant with their mask-wearing in those situations. Also, a few places I wanted to visit, like the Crime Museum and the Third Man Museum, were still closed. There were still many places to visit and enjoy.

WIENER STAATSOPER

The next day, I explored the world-famous Wiener Staatsoper – The Vienna State Opera House. WOW! A beautiful example of Renaissance architecture.

Wiener Staatsoper - The Vienna State Opera House
Wiener Staatsoper – The Vienna State Opera House

The tour was fun, though the initial climb up the nearly 300 or more steps to the roof was a bit much.

Great view of the street below though.

After the climb, the tour explored the highlights of the venue, including the Grand Staircase. Tea Salon, Marble Hall, Schwind Foyer, Gustav Mahler Hall.

My favorite room was Emperor Franz Joseph’s Tea Room. The room is roped off from the public, and not because of not because of COVID-19, but because it costs €500 for 20 minutes to enter the room. The room is decked out with gold all around, including the doorknobs and handles.

Me in front of Emperor Franz Joseph’s Tea Room
Me in front of Emperor Franz Joseph’s Tea Room

The most interesting tidbit I learned was that the venue showcases a different opera every day of the week. This means the Vienna State Opera produces nearly 60 different operas in approximately 200 performances during the season.

My original itinerary had time set aside to catch an opera. I even included a three-hour ‘stand-in-line’ block so I could a cheap seat ticket in the ‘Standing Room Only’ section ticket, though COVID-19 restrictions/protocols forced the staff to add chairs.

I passed on the opera though because I didn’t like that day’s selection, and the next day’s option was over six hours long. Sheesh!

ST. STEPHEN’S CATHEDRAL

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was next up. Actually, it served as my reference point when making hotel reservations and when using public transportation. I’d planned to visit the cathedral before touring the Opera House, however, it was Sunday. The cathedral was closed for tours until after mass, though visitors could still enter for services.

Although I wanted to take photos of the beautiful interior, I respected the sanctity of the service, and the individuals who came to worship. I waited until later in the day to return and take photos.

WIENER RIESENRAD

Okay, so I couldn’t adventure in Vienna without taking a ride on Wiener Riesenrad, the oldest ferris wheel still in operation. Built in 1897, it was the tallest preserved Ferris wheel in the world from 1920 to 1985.

Me in front of Wiener Riesenrad (Photo by Candy Knight)
Me in front of Wiener Riesenrad

The views from the top were spectacular … and quite scary when you’re stopped at the very top.

  • View of Prater Park from Wiener Riesenrad
  • View of Vienna from Wiener Riesenrad
  • View of Vienna from Wiener Riesenrad
  • View of Vienna from Wiener Riesenrad
  • View of Prater Park from Wiener Riesenrad

The worst part is my ‘gondola’ was on the top for a good five-minutes. The ride technicians took their COVID-19 protocols and cleaning regiment seriously, and spent a five to seven minutes wiping down every inch inside the ‘gondolas.’

But it was still a very cool attraction. I even ponied up and bought the souvenir photos.

  • Me on the Wiener Riesenrad
  • Me on the Wiener Riesenrad
  • Me on the Wiener Riesenrad
  • Me on the Wiener Riesenrad

VIENNA CHOCOLATE MUSEUM

I decided to visit the Vienna Chocolate Museum because I had so much fun at Musée du Chocolat in Paris. Plus, it’s CHOCOLATE! I decided to also do a chocolate-making workshop as a birthday treat to myself.

The workshop was fun; the museum not so much.

In fact, the museum was a major letdown. My expectations were high because of Paris’s museum. I soon discovered the story of chocolate is about all the Vienna and Paris museums have in common. Vienna’s museum is very small and designed more for school-age children birthday parties.

The workshop was cool. I was the only person in the workshop, and that made it more fun.

The chocolate bars I made were #scrumdiddlyumptious. They made a nice treat with the late night hot chocolate I enjoyed in my hotel room at day’s end.

Had a blast making my own chocolate

SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL

When my friends and coworkers learned I was going to Vienna, everyone said I just had to check out the Spanish Riding School. It was this adventure’s ‘If you don’t get a photo of Spanish Riding School, did you even visit Vienna?’ tourist sites.

I don’t have a particular interest in horses, but decided to try and catch a performance. I was able to get a ticket to their training session, due to COVID-19 limiting the number of shows.

Yea, uhmm. I wasn’t impressed. Maybe if I seen an actual performance, my view would be different. However, the only highlight of the training session was a horse taking a crap 💩 six feet in front of me.

At least the horse obeyed COVID-19 social distancing rules.

 AUSTRIAN THEATRE MUSEUM 

‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’

My visit to the Austrian Theatre Museum wasn’t planned at all. In fact, I didn’t even know this museum existed. However, I came across it after I decided to forgo a visit to The Albertina due to (1) cost, (2) too crowded, and (3) people not adhering to COVID-19 protocols on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Hey, I may be fully vaccinated, but I’m still taking precautions. I know, I know. I get a flu shot every year too, but that doesn’t mean I go out seeking to catch the flu either.

Anyway, the Theatre Museum was actually a very interesting museum. The highlight was the ‘After the End and Before the Beginning’ video installation. The installation comprises nine short films featuring fictional continuation of both the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ of nine iconic characters from classic plays. Visitors decide which character and which story they want to follow, and each station featured a presentation design inspired by old movie theatres. #Awesome

I chose to watch Lady Macbeth after she just bumped off another enemy and is explaining the finer points of the art of murder to the taxi driver. Then I followed Blanche DuBois drive aimlessly around town after a lousy date.

These films were right up my alley, as I love knowing what happens after ‘Happily Ever After.’

HAUS DER MUSIK

The Haus Der Musik was the #2 favorite place I visited during this adventure. Another place that wasn’t on my list to visit, but thanks to the Visit A City app, I found this Hidden Gem. And what a gem it is.

I mean, where else would I ever get an opportunity to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic?

Me conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the Goldener Saal of Wiener Musikverein (Photo by Candy Knight)
Me conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the Goldener Saal of Wiener Musikverein 

This place no doubt lived up to its tagline – “Take a Trip into Sound.” And what a trip it was for me! From Mozart to Beethoven to Gustav Mahler, and more, the Haus Der Musik was an interactive musical bus ride.

One of the coolest parts was “Namadeus.” Seriously, how fun is it to turn your name into an original Mozart interpretation?

Pretty cool souvenir too at €3, particularly when your name is never found on the standard street sign keychains every souvenir shop sells. I mean, Candy is a pretty common name nowadays, right?

If the Haus Der Musik isn’t on your ‘Must See’ when in Vienna’ list, ADD IT!

WIENER ZENTRALFRIEDHOF

This top all the places I’d visited in Vienna. Yes, it sounds creepy that a cemetery would be my favorite, but read other entries in My Travel Journal. You’ll discover eating at the Hard Rock Cafe is more out-of-the-norm for me than visiting a cemetery.

Wiener Zentralfriedhof occupies close to 2.5 million square meters, with more than 300,000 graves and crypts, and more than 3 million ‘guests.’ This makes it one of the biggest cemeteries in the world.

It’s so large; it has its own railway station and a bus service INSIDE the cemetery itself. It’s also multi-denominational, with dedicated areas for devotees of such religions as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and various Orthodox

The cemetery was a place of interest to me, but it didn’t make my initial itinerary due to time constraints. I also thought it wouldn’t be open to the public due to COVID-19.

However, Schönbrunn Palace was still closed due to COVID, so I had some additional time. I booked a taxi and headed to the cemetery in search of Beethoven.

The cemetery wasn’t crowded, but it is HUGE, so it was easy to avoid people as I strolled through the sites. My friends wanted me to take a photo at Beethoven’s grave, so I went searching for his grave first.

And this search reminded me how dependent I’ve become of Google Maps/GPS. I misread the cemetery’s maps.

His grave was in Group 32A, Number 29. My map-challenged self thought he was buried near the cemetery’s entrance and spent 10 minutes walking back to the entrance. It was only when I read another map again that I discovered I had been standing in Group 32A, and only needed turn around.

Oops!

I also went searching for Falco’s grave, having researched that he was also buried here. His grave is in Group 40, #64. Now, this didn’t sound too far from Beethoven, right?

Think again.

I walked for another 20 minutes until I found the “Rock Me Amadeus” singer’s final resting place. A very beautiful grave that is as unique as Falco.

I spent the rest of my visit wondering the peaceful cemetery as Beethoven and Falco were the only gravesites I wanted to visit.

Considering its purpose, Wiener Zentralfriedhof was actually the most relaxing spot on my adventure.

THE HOFBURG

Just stopped by to take a few photos. It wasn’t on my list to visit, but thought I’d check it out. However, check their operation hours. It wasn’t opened on the day I stopped by.

FOOD

“I’ll travel anywhere for good food.”

And Vienna has some good food. I avoided American food chains like Five Guys and Burger King.

However, I did grab some McDonald’s and a coffee from Starbucks, but only because I had online class I had to attend and the restaurants would be closed by the time class was done.

Don’t judge me! LOL

No Judging

GO!Wien This was the hotel’s restaurant, where each adventure day began with a scrumdiddlyumptious breakfast. And not just a continental breakfast, but a full hot breakfast was unexpected, yet #AWESOME.

Food was delicious but the customer service was outstanding. Michael, my server, was terrific. He made sure I was comfortable and that the food was prepared to my satisfaction. He didn’t hover, but was there when needed. He explained the food and the menu perfectly.

Also, he made my birthday special with a nice surprise cake.

Birthday special cake

Customer Service: A++

Food: A+

Prices: B+

Kiang Rotgasse Chose this restaurant because it was close to my hotel and I wanted something different than fast food. Ordered the crispy duck. It was nice and filling. Service was okay. Wasn’t looking for anything authentic, just a nice hot meal that was edible. Got that here.

Customer Service: B+

Food: B

Prices: B+

Fischrestaurant Kornat Great food and service. I recommend this restaurant. I needed some fish to balance out the beef and chicken I’ve been consuming, and chose Kornat because it was a quick walk from my hotel.

Made a reservation & had no hassle when I arrived. Had a nice selection of items. Prices are typical for seafood restaurants, so if you’re on a budget, beware.

Food was good, though I could have done without the large veggie side dish. Loved the fish selection of the day. It was cooked nicely and was edible. However, I had to be careful as they didn’t remove the bones from the fish.

The trio of fish pâté was good, offering different flavors and textures. The tomato soup was tomato soup – nothing special there. Be careful not to feel up on the bread and olives, because the bread is good. I wanted dessert, but my stomach was full.

Customer Service: B

Food: A-

Prices: B-

Neuzeit Chose this restaurant because it was more relaxing compared to others. Plus it had some shade, which was needed as the sun was shining brightly. Customer Service was good and food was edible.

Prices were what I expected for an amusement park/tourist area. Ordered the chicken and bacon salad. It was tasty, but a bit too oily. Overall, a nice healthy salad helps to digest all the chocolate & junk food.

Customer Service: B

Food: B-

Prices: B+

Chicken salad

Hard Rock Café, Vienna Okay, so I did eat at the HRC Vienna. The visit was more of an inside joke between friends. Plus, the restaurant was literally around the corner from my hotel. Nevertheless, the food was good and hot. Customer service was excellent and they get extra props for actually sticking to the COVID-19 protocols and verifying patrons status.

Customer Service: A++

Food: B+

Prices: A

I initially gaved HRC Vienna prices a B+, but they honored the US military discount, so extra credit were awarded.

Surf & Turf Burger

Om Indian Restaurant I needed to try something different, so I chose Indian. Plus I had a hankering for chicken tandoori. Om Indian delivered. The Tandoori Chicken Shaslik was flavorful and not too spicy. It was also a lot of food for €8. Check out the picture! Authentic Indian cuisine in the heart of Vienna’s City Centre.

Customer Service: A

Food: A

Prices: A+

Tandoori Chicken Shaslik

PHOTO SAFARI

I spent the rest of my adventure doing my usual Photo Safari. I walked and snapped photos of whatever interested me.

I spent this time simply enjoying my adventure and being thankful I’m able to travel and explore the wonderful world around me.

Until the next adventure — #KeepCalm, #StaySafe & #ExploretheWorld.

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