Three Capitals Trip Part 1/3: Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria – Budapest, Hungary – Bratislava, Slovakia. The famous ‘Three Capitals’ trip.

Getting on the bus from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, my passport’s about to expire, so it’s probably the last time for a while. I’m using pm2am again and hopes are high for a good trip.  We’re spending two nights in Budapest, with a bar crawl the first night and boat party the next.

There’s a short delay on the road, but we make it to Vienna (Wien) on the Thursday morning. It’s warm further south – we’re in line with Munich here. There’s a large group of Indians & Indonesians again. I talk to some briefly, but as I changed seats on the bus and everyone slept overnight, I didn’t manage this a great deal. So the bus arrives, and I’m pretty much alone. But I find a group of a few other guys, and with a bit of courage ask if I can hang out with them. Good news, they’re fine with me, and are basically on their own as well. They’re from India, Ghana, Bhutan and Brazil – two studying in Dortmund this year and two in Frankfurt. We get to know each other throughout the morning, setting the trip up nicely.

Stephansdom – St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Considered the gateway to Eastern Europe, Vienna’s also known as the City of Music and City of Dreams for historical reasons – famous Venetians include Mozart and Freud. It’s also one of the oldest and diverse: Vienna has had major Celtic, Roman, Jewish and Czech settlers. It’s also key in times of the Habsburg Dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Weimar Republic. After Austria regained full independence in 1955, Vienna’s importance remains today: hosting HQs of many international organisations, UN agencies, OPEC and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Statue and fountain on concourse outside Stephansdom.

We soon find ourselves in Stephen’s Square (Stephansplatz) in the heart of Vienna. And we pay a quick visit to the famous Stephansdom – St Stephen’s Cathedral (or Wiener Steffl, ‘Viennese little Stephen’). And continuing past the Mozart opera house, we reach the City park, and follow the famous, and central icon of present-day Vienna, Ringstraße. Think of it as an open-air architecture museum: this was one of Emperor Franz Joseph I’s first acts when he came to power in 1848, replacing the old town fortification (Glacis). In 1869 came the first building, the State Opera (Staatsoper) and later the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum), Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum), Parliament and Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus). These were all visited, along with Karlskirche and the others in the MuseumsQuartier area.

Wiener Staatsoper – Vienna State Opera. Badly damaged in World War II and not restored and reinaugurated until 1955.

That afternoon is even warmer. Drifting out to the old amusement park “Wiener Prater”, or “Wurstelprater”, we get lost on the way back. Oh well, at least we got to sample its impressive U-Bahn. We’re glad to get back to the bus at Schwedenplatz as the evening approaches – where nearby you can also find many famous Viennese coffee houses.

Close-up of the Austrian Parliament.
Giant ferris wheel (Riesenrad) at the open-24-7 Prater.

Tools & Tips

One day definitely wasn’t enough to fully appreciate this great city…but we compensated with my first ever visit to Hard Rock cafe! pm2am trips were great again with the guides and information. Amongst their suggestions:

  • Cat cafe! Blumenstockgasse is home to Cafe Neko, where customers can bring and play with their pet cats. “Only cats allowed!”
  • The Musikverein on Musikvereinsplatz (near Karlsplatz) hosts Vienna’s famous New Year’s Day Concert.
  • Secession – another exhibition hall, neo-classical found on Friedrichstraße. So-called due to the movement of Austrian artists who resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists in 1897.
  • Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) – established in 1572, where Lipizzan horses are trained, for later performing prancing Renaissance ballet to classical music.
  • If you’ve a sweet tooth you’ll be at home in Austria. Their many famous desserts are commonplace in their traditional coffee houses – I didn’t get to sample any on this trip, but tried some Linzertorte on my introductory German course.
  • If you’re into art, music and culture, no shortage of that here (as you’ve probably realised).
  • There is plenty free Wi-Fi in public areas, such as Rathausplatz and Stephansplatz.
Bronze statue of sculptor Josef Lax outside Parliament. With Greek & Roman marble pieces.

Random Takeaways

Though I didn’t need to speak too much on this trip, I didn’t have any serious trouble with the Austrian German (Österreichisches Deutsch, A). However, Austria hosts a wide variety of dialects, and again has different words from Standard German (Standarddeutsch, D) – a bit like British and American English. Some examples we touched on in my German as a Foreign Language (Deutsch als Fremdsprache) back in Dortmund:

  • das Krankenhaus (D) = das Spital (A) = Hospital
  • der Kiosk  (D) = die Trafik (A)= Kiosk
  • der Januar (D) = der Jänner (A) = January
  • das Abitur (D) = die Matura (A) = High school diploma

Vienna struck me as very clean and liveable – reflected by consistently high quality of life ratings over the past 15 years, including those by UN-Habitat and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Vienna held the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015, and famously kept some symbols behind!


Next: Part 2/3: Budapest, Hungary>

Part 3/3: Bratislava, Slovakia

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