Over a month back, we went on our second trip to Europe. Now there’s laziness and procrastination, and then there is this! I am totally unsure whether this kind of delay lends perspective or just blurs the details. Maybe both. Let me do my best anyway.
We flew Emirates to Dubai and from there to Vienna. Emirates is a very child friendly airline and our kids got sling bags full of stuff (I was thinking No, No, not more stuff!!) to keep them entertained. My younger one even got a soft toy. With judicious sleeping and waking, we managed the long flight well enough to be fresh and awake when we reached Vienna.
We were staying at the Novotel – the most boring stay the whole of this trip! As with all of our prior experiences with this chain, this hotel too had a bathroom that could not be locked. However, we were prepared this time. What’s an unlockable bathroom to a couple of scrunchies strategically tied?
We only had about half a day in Vienna, so there was not much we could do. Novotel is close to the city centre and we planned to walk around. A tip: Vienna is a cycle friendly city with well marked cycle paths. People ride by really fast and you don’t want to be in their way, so keep an eye out for cycle path markings. There was one right outside our hotel and we had to keep a hawk eye on the kids!
Our first stop was to have been the Hotel Sacher but we could not find our way and missed eating the famous Sacher Torte.
We did see St Stephen’s Cathedral which was very close to our hotel – we just walked down. It was a very pleasant walk. We had to cross the Donaukanal or the “Danube Canal” which is an arm of the Danube.
We ate street food – pizza and shawarma kebabs which were surprisingly cheap! Our last trip to Europe had been to Switzerland and Paris which are both fairly expensive. In Vienna you can get tasty street food at surprisingly low rates. The helpings are enormous and for most of us, one slice or one kebab was enough for two with some left over.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is beautiful. There is a fabulous view of the whole city from the top.
There was an enormous bell there as well which made me think of The Nine Tailors, not one of my favourite books by Dorothy L. Sayers but much loved by the world in general.
After that, we walked around Stephensplatz. The cobbled streets are a little hard to figure out but after a while we realised that the sizes of the stones distinguish the footpath from the carriageway.
Later, we took a tram and explored the city. We were not able to find Sacher-Torte but we did find a park and turned the kids loose. Since we had an early morning train to take to Prague we returned to our hotel soon after that.
Although we did not see much of Vienna, we saw more than we had expected to given how little time we had! One of my uncles used to live here and he had told me to go to the city centre since most tourist places were close by. From what city centres are like in India, I had expected a glass and chrome sort of place but Vienna is a happy mix of old and new.
What really defines Vienna though is the music. We even had to deal with an angry cabbie because we were talking about Beethoven and everyone of course knows he can’t hold a candle to Johann Strauss! But for all the famous composers who were born in or worked in Vienna, for me it is finally about the song by Billy Joel. When I listened to it first, I spent some time wondering ‘Why Vienna?’. On looking it up, Google informed me that Joel’s parents had separated when he was young, with his father, a classical pianist, moving to Vienna. His mother for all her bitterness and struggles, insisted on her talented child learning music alongside school and work. In fact, he missed an exam as he was working at a piano bar the night before. On being denied a diploma he said, Oh well – if not Columbia University then Columbia Records (or something like that). Years later, when he tracked his father down and went to visit him, he was surprised to see an old woman sweeping a road. On being asked why she was working, his father told him that it was because it made her feel useful.
Vienna is a city that is kind to its old.
I didn’t see any older people working on the streets while I was there but based on what I saw and the people I met, it is a city that’s kind to its visitors!