Monday, September 28, 2015

The Problems With Vienna, Austria

After leaving Budapest by dodging the migrant crush that closed Keleti rail station, see e.g.

Our next stop was Vienna, Austria - soon also to be a primary destination of migrants after Angela Merkel welcomed them to come to Germany three weeks ago. Our problem with Vienna was two fold: First, we were only there for 5 days (actually 4 1/2 taking into account a day trip to Bratislava) and so how could we maximize our time? Second, the costs, in juxtaposition to Budapest were shocking.

In Budapest one could get a fairly good meal (grilled pork steak, roast potatoes, salad) for maybe the equivalent of $13 U.S. In Vienna, just one evening's dining of beet soup, bread, and apple strudel dessert came to over 42 euro or nearly $44 U.S. We were wondering how we'd get through our time without going broke!

As far as maximizing our time, we decided that it would be madness to try to "do Vienna" in the limited time as some delirious Americans often try, and instead narrowed our targets on what we both really wanted. Eventually we came to agree on: going to the National Library, going to the Museum of Natural History, and going to Schloss Schonbrunn - both to look around this spectacular place, and to attend an evening dinner and concert. (We also briefly considered going to the Sigmund Freud Museum & Archives, but decided that would be taking on too much   - and besides, Janice wasn't as interested in the origins of Freudian psychology.)

Our aims were arguably limited, but also focused, so they wouldn't wear us out, and that included not putting excessive strains on my injured right foot. (Which slowed my pace considerably).

As for food, we soon discovered a place (Mueller-Beisl) not far from our hotel, that offered reasonably good value for the money.

Shown below are images from our various Vienna  forays.
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Inside the entrance to the National Library.
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Outside the Museum of Natural History.
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Exhibit inside the Museum of Natural History
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Grounds of Schonbrunn Palace where we attended a concert.
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Yours truly outside Schloss Schonbrunn.

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End of the concert scene at Schonbrunn.

In the end we could make no claim that we saw even a small fraction of what there was to see, and as a hotel assistant pointed out, we'd "probably need at least two weeks to do Vienna justice". But in the short time we had, and our proximity to the Old Town and "Museum Square"  we felt we did all we could.

The high point was perhaps the dinner and Mozart concert at Schonbrunn castle. The setting was splendid, the dinner superb (although they charged $4 each for water) and the concert one of the best we've attended. The problem with the Museum of Natural History was that while its exhibits were world class we had to be very selective in order to efficiently navigate such an expansive bldg. with thousands of exhibits (the lapidary exhibits alone comprised three rooms with thousands of rocks, ores, etc.) in the single day we had.

One of the oddest aspects of Vienna, as well as the other places we visited,  was the nonchalant way the mail was treated. When I went to mail postcards in Budapest, for example, I was asked by two Hungarians (of whom I'd asked directions to the P.O. since the hotel didn't mail any): 'Why bother when you can just send email with images?". Well, because postcards bear the stamps of the place!  Interestingly, the post office was right next door to our Vienna hotel and I posted them on the Monday after we arrived, Sept. 7th.

Following on from this, I've since learned only 2 of the 8 or so total postcards we sent had been received up to Friday last week, and they were mailed that same Monday.  This makes me wonder when the ones mailed from Prague will arrive.

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