last friday morning, my landlord, martin (who lives in the flat below me) knocked on my door, inquiring whether or not we were free to join a day-trip to vienna the next day, as there were two free seats in his van.
….so, that was a no-brainer. české budějovice is fascinatingly only a two and a half hour drive from vienna and the idea of going there only for the day was blowing my mind! as in: i live somewhere where i can visit vienna. for the day. and then come home and go to sleep.
so began what seemed like two days worth of sights packed into one, waking up at 5am and not returning home until almost 11pm. i wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work out…. assuming martin may just give us a lift and let us free… but he actually went full-on tour guide escorting us and five other czechs to various locales. i had mentioned i’d like to visit schönbrunn palace since i’d never been, and to the palace we went! i have heard that only the majesty and beauty of versailles can top schönbrunn on the scale of great european palaces.
we approached from the area of the park at the top of the hill near the gloriette, which was a brilliant idea as it was all a nice and easy downhill walk from there. you may remember the gloriette from this past season of the amazing race where the contestants had to run up the hill (with their backpacks on) to the structure, where the pit stop was. (which was right about the time that i decided i am not cut out for the amazing race… i do not envy them)
the views of the city from up there are quite incredible and the weather was absolutely perfect for a december saturday. below, you can see stephansdom in the distance!
although i would love to go back and visit the inner-residences, we decided the best use of time would be to hit up the christmas market, which takes place in front of the palace (um, amazing). i had an apfelzimt punsch (cinnamon apple punch) before noon– just what a holiday should be like. is it just me or does it seem like punsch is totally taking over the glühwein market this year? i’ve barely noticed it in past years (2012, 2007) and it seems like it’s everywhere now… which is totally okay with me.
upon wandering through the naschmarkt to look for a bite to eat….. I FOUND KALE. the first bunch of kale i had laid eyes on since perhaps leaving scotland. be still my veggie loving heart. there was only one, and i snatched it up, along with a bit of koriander (cilantro) which unbelievably is barely available where i currently live. the naschmarkt was brilliant– not only for the abundance of fresh produce but also holy seafood, am i in the northwest again?
it was something like pike place market, and only then did i remember how deprived of variety i currently am living in czechland. it sounds bad, but it’s true. it’s a known and accepted truth. there just isn’t the demand for this kind of produce, and the produce we do get here is a bit sub-par compared to most western european countries because the shoppers here are willing to settle for less– perhaps carried over from being a former communistic country where coming across a store with any produce in stock was considered lucky.
martin was a fabulous guide, even though his english is “sparse”. i was not even expecting a guided tour, but he’s just that great. he would explain it to the czech group, then come over and try to do the same in english. i learned a lot about the architecture of otto wagner that is prevalent throughout the city (middle photo above, karlsplatz metro stop in his unique design) and i had no idea that adolf hitler tried his hand at studying painting at the art academy (above) but realized he was terrible and decided to go into a political career instead. perhaps he should’ve stuck with art.
“downtown vienna” (hofsburg palace and graben area) was absolutely packed with people. but what do you expect from a december saturday, right? there was a fantastic atmosphere of holiday magic and it was lovely seeing storefronts all decked out for the shoppers, lights everywhere, and christmas tree lots clogging up the medians.
there was a wonderful matisse exhibition at the albertina museum, showcasing his work and other fauvist painters of the time– completely worth it. i also popped into the permanent exhibition to gaze at a monet, some picassos, and a bunch of chagalls that were quite good. i really enjoyed this museum’s simplistic style and good design and would highly recommend it.
perhaps i’m out of practice but at one point my whole body was just aching. hey man, this isn’t my normal style of travel! but i was so happy to have a sit at cafe im schottenstift and enjoy an apfelstudel. WHEN IN WIEN…
wandering around the city in the dark was one of my favorite parts…. discovering streets, alleys, passageways, and hidden squares all lit up for the night hours.
and of course…. a much to short visit to the rathaus christkindlesmarkt– undoubtedly THE BEST christmas market in the city. the market at the palace was nice, but this setting was no less than stunning.
and although it only lasted three minutes, my other favorite part of the day was being driven through vienna at night with seven other people, a plastic cup of rosé in hand, singing to mariah carey’s “all i want for christmas is you” which was blasting on the radio. so surreal, so fabulous.
wien (vienna) is a great city to visit any time of year. whether december, march, or august. there is so much to do sight-seeing wise that it makes a fine winter city break, and after three visits i still have more on my list to see.
happenings of the past week…
got my short-term visa renewed, was told by immigration that i need to get a new passport because all the pages are full. the absolute epitome of “first world problems”, amirite? it does however expire next year so i really ought to get on that anyway. but man, this passport has had a fulfilling past ten years.
been having a nice bit of free time to bake cookies, decorate, and get ready for my mother’s arrival this weekend. i’ve been on the look out for a decent christmas tree lot in CB for a week or so now, and finally found one. so what if it’s 2km away and we don’t have a car? after carefully consulting this guide, alex and i picked out a fine looking jedle kavkazská (nordmann fir). apparently firs are the best (and of course, more expensive) choice because they retain their needles longer than pines or spruces. (a noble choice! pfffff) i had no idea picking out a tree required so much research, but when everything is written in czech, you sort of have to know what you’re getting yourself into!
then, we carried it all the way home. because we’re badasses. and were too embarrassed to try to take it on a bus. now it is fully decorated, stands in the living room, and is so beautiful (even when unlit) i could about cry. i leave you with a glimpse of this humungous box of czech christmas cookies to salivate over. a student gift bestowed to alex, and therefore, myself.