The second adventure of our Euro trip involved us travelling to the beautiful Austrian capital, Vienna. I visited this pretty city six years ago in the height of summer and fell in love with it. As an older and wiser self, would I still love the city?
Arriving in the city was a doddle and the public transport links were brilliant. We managed to get to our hotel with no problems, this time we checked into a four star hotel with a sauna. Our room was board only, so no breakfast, but hey, we have access to a sauna and gym and were only spending one night in the hotel.
We unpacked and changed then headed off to explore the city with our trusty ‘proper’ map and my companions sat-nav. On our way in to the city we had a little fright. Two gentlemen wearing horror masks parked up in their car thought it would be hilarious to jump out and shout boo at us. They certainly gave us the fright of our lives; in return we made them take a photo for us. I don’t know who looked more scared at that point, the boys or us.
Armed with only a few Euros and hunger pangs kicking in, we decided to get some money changed. Getting money changed in any other country is an easy task, but in Vienna it’s like mission impossible. We set of towards StefanPlatz the city centre, along the way we admired the cobbled streets, River Danube and windy streets. The city was as beautiful as I remembered it.
Once in StefanPlatz we were surprised to hear Urdu and Punjabi poetry, on turning around we were surprised to see an old Sikh man chatting away in Punjabi. We smirked and giggled as we understood what he was saying. All of a sudden I felt a thump on my back and it was the Sikh man. He decided to gate crash our party for the next 20 minutes and proceed to recite Urdu, Persian and Punjabi poems as well as giving us a history lesson on the dividing of Pakistan and India. This is not the type of conversation we expected to be engaged in, least of all in Vienna. We wanted to chat to the Viennese locals, not a Punjabi TV show host from Luton. We made our excuses and made a quick sharp exit towards a street, where Austrian Hip Hop street performers were warming up for their show. I love a bit of Hip Hop and dancing and these boys did not fail in putting on a good show. The dancers were so good they were break dancing just like Justin Timberlake. The dancers took their tops of, I’m sure you can imagine our reactions.
Conscious we needed to get our money exchanged we set of on our travels to explore the streets. We walked towards the grand Opera house and city park. The walk around the city was breath-taking and we took over a hundred pictures along the way. We walked for what seemed like hours to my companions, but only 15 minutes to me. I can walk for hours with ease, but my light weight cousin and friend struggled to keep up the pace. My cousin had a car accident about a month ago where her beloved Nissan Micra was hit by a lorry so she was in a lot of pain, and loved to remind us of her back and hip injury.
We ended up in the Turkish and back packing district of Vienna. We only had 5 Euros between us, we knew we would struggle to get a hearty meal. We scanned the streets looking for a money exchange place. Did we see one? No. Apparently, there are only four places in the whole of Vienna where you can get money changed, StefanPlatz and they were closed now, and this was disappointing. Vienna is an international city with a booming economy yet it does not cater to the needs of those wanting to get their money changed. Armed with only Pound notes we hit a brick wall. Luckily, my cousin had her trusty Halifax card and took some Euros from the local cash point which charged her £5. With our new found riches we were spoilt for kebab choices. I settled for a falafel wrap and chips. Thank god they made fresh food and their chips were ‘fresh’! How I had missed the taste of fresh chips.
After an overdose on kebabs and chips we visited the sauna in our hotel. Wrapped up in our towels and dressing gowns we entered the sauna only to be greeted by two naked men. We didn’t know where to look or what to do. We sheepishly sat down and were later told that it was the norm to go Al fresco (naked), in the saunas in Austria. As much as we wanted to immerse ourselves in the local culture, this was one tradition we weren’t keen to follow.
We didn’t quite know what we would encounter on a Monday evening in Vienna. We walked along the River Danube and stumbled across a Noodle place, Happy Noodles. The place was a cool Noodle and kebab shop which was open till 4am and the owners were Turkish, Afghani and Thai, to our delight they spoke English. My friend decided to order some food and she was greeted with a huge pot of noodles which she couldn’t finish.
We soaked up the sights as night fell, we fell in love with the lit up buildings. We walked along the streets, people watching, when we spotted an American looking confused at his phone and the street signs. Being the helpful people we were and having a trusty Sat Nav we asked the stranger if he needed help. It turned out that he was looking for a local hot spot and we all ended up joining him and his friend on his mission. Our first venture took us to a rooftop café which had an amazing view of the city but was full of pretentious silver foxes and an odd couple who had the most bizarre dance moves that I have ever seen. We settled on a live music joint near the river, which had a very interesting mix of people. You had the Austrian sugar mommy in her red pants who kept grinning like a Cheshire cat at our American new found friend, the well-dressed business men in suits who thought they were the next Pavarotti and belted out Opera at any given opportunity, then there was the old man who though he was Mick Jagger, proven when he attempted to got his swag on, on the dance floor. It was a hilarious evening full of laughter and fun, to top it all off, I was serenaded by the Opera dancers who quite frankly made me want to vomit.
Determined to get our money changed we decided to visit one of the many banks in Vienna. We entered the hugely impressive ‘Volks’ bank building which took up a whole block. We were disappointed to learn that the only person in the bank that could change money was on his lunch break and there was nobody else in this huge bank that could fulfil this task which obviously required a great skill set and a PHD. We were told to return in approximately 48 minutes when the exchange person could fulfil our task. How hard can it be to change money in this city? We decided to try our luck at the bank of Vienna and were delighted to learn that they had more than one exchange person and lunch time cover. Hooray we finally had Euros and could afford to buy more than a kebab to eat.
We spent the day visiting the grand sights that Vienna had to offer, such as Belvedere Palace, the House of Music and the theatre. A must to do thing in Vienna is to sit for hours in the grand tea rooms with a pot of coffee. We visited the oldest and grandest tea house in Vienna and ordered two Mocha’s and a pot of tea. The waiter came and took our order and didn’t bother us again. We could have sat there for four hours and not be kicked out. We soaked in the scenery and people watched. The bathroom at the tea house was rather odd and different. On first glance you assume that the door which is made of glass, so is see through allows fellow toilet queuing people to be able to see you while on the toilet. I know the Austrians like to visit the sauna naked, but this again was too much for me. I was baffled along with a few other people in need of the toilet as no one was brave enough to actually use it. We learnt that once you lock the door, the glass becomes frosted and is no longer see through. It was an odd novelty that looked out of place at the grand tea room.
We decided to visit the Slovakian capital of Bratislava with our new American friends. Our friends were spending a few days in the sleepy town; we were determined to see what the entire town had to offer in a few hours. The weather was gorgeous in Bratislava and my budget conscious cousin was delighted to learn that the town was cheaper than Vienna. We would be having our lunch here. We walked around the pretty town centre and were surprised at the amount of tourists looking around. We walked up the steep hill to see the views from the castle. The castle itself was a bit of a let-down and nothing amazing, but the view was incredible. We managed to have lunch in a cute green friendly coffee shop and explore the whole town in a few hours. Alas, it was time for us to leave Bratislava, say goodbye to our new friends and head to Berlin. Bratislava is a city that only requires half a day and can be missed out on a trip, but if you have time I would certainly check it out.