After exams, Molly and I decide to get away for a bit, and our Googling decides that a few days in Vienna, followed by a few in Zadar is super cheap and gives us two types of holiday in one.
A long day of travelling plus one airport evacuation later, we bowl up at a quirky hostel near Vienna’s Westbahnhof and are ready to sightsee. In our four days there, we visit the Museumquartier to gawp at gargantuan old buildings, walk along the Donaukanal to check out cool street art and architecture and visit Schloss Schoenbrunn and Schloss Belvedere to see the grandeur of days gone by. It hasn’t hit school holidays, so we find most places are not too busy, which is a big bonus.
We also visit the Jewish Museum and swim at the lido in the grounds of Schloss Schoenbrunn – perfect in mid-30 heat. Eating isn’t the easiest – we only find small supermarkets and they offer little and charge a lot. When we come across falafel, we’re more than sorted though!
It’s not until we arrive that we realise we’re staying a hostel voted Vienna’s no.1 since 1968 (you can see why). Hostel Ruthensteiner is a hostel in the most traditional sense, so has your experience nailed to a T and is very welcoming and sociable. Not only does it have it’s own bar, it brews it’s own beer too! During our stay, there is a pay as you feel meal cooked by volunteers, plenty of people to chat and drink with and free soft drinks and instruments. If you’re interested, it seemed pretty easy to pick up work there too.
On our last night, we meet my coursemate Seb, who is
working living the life for the summer in Vienna. We eat and drink at Naschmarkt, where we feast on Mezzes of Baba Ganoush, hummus, sweet potatoes and yoghurt, walnut and pepper dip and pitas. Amazing. On a warm Friday night in Vienna we are surprised that the city is not buzzing with people drinking on the streets, last orders are even at 11pm! We leave at 6am for Croatia, so not exactly the end of the world…
Our verdict is that we love Vienna, but we reckon you might not get as good a feel for it as us if you don’t spend enough time there, or if you don’t walk round much. We used the WienXtra map – supposedly made by locals – which gives you lots of ideas for less touristy things to do, such as going to a 60s cinema, eating at a pay as you feel Pakistani buffet or going to the open-air film festival at the city hall. Now I’m making myself want to go back…
On a geeky side note: It was really fascinating to compare Vienna’s Jewish Museum to that of Berlin. Austria has faced much criticism for failing to properly acknowledge it’s role in the Holocaust whereas Germany’s institutions have visibly taken more action to acknowledge wrongdoing. The museum was nowhere near as good as the one in Berlin (it didn’t seem to demonstrate the significance of the Holocaust in the same direct or tough way as Berlin), but had exhibitions including one on department stores in Vienna and their subsequent Aryanisation in the 1930s and one on the escape of Trude Forsher from Vienna prior to the outbreak of WWII and how she later became Elvis Presley’s personal secretary which were both really interesting.