“I had no idea where that path would lead; I just knew that I wanted to walk it wild and wide-eyed, daring to dream” -Don George
I decided to spend my free weekend in Vienna with a mix of people from my group and the first group. I had heard so many wonderful things about Vienna but hadn’t had time to stop by in my previous trips to Europe so I was excited for this getaway. While we wanted to sightsee, we also wanted to relax after such a long week, so with a half baked agenda we set into the city center.
Our only collective “must do” was to buy lunch at the outdoor market and picnic in a park. The market was huge and buzzing with primarily tourists. Vendors reached out from behind their displays of fresh and exotic fruits, home style cooking, and odds and ends. The whole market was overwhelming at first with its array of choices, but eventually we settled for a variety of falafel, hummus, cheese and pita, with baskets of berries and dried fruits to go around. We carried our spoils off to a park and reveled in the Viennese sunshine.
When I had arrived in Budapest, my mom’s only advice was, “keep walking” with an appropriate running-man emoji attached. My mom’s MO is to just start walking and eventually you’ll find something interesting. Luckily, I seemed to be traveling with likeminded people. On our way to one site, we would stop at a few random places then keep repeating the process. We saw sites like the top of the cathedral, the opera house, the Mozart museum* but we also saw things like a random record shop, back alleys and cafes, the graffiti lined walls of the Duna that you can’t really see from street level, a fake beach on the Duna where we obviously stopped for a drink. While it’s nice to go, go, go, it can be just as nice to amble about and absorb everything you come in contact with.
*I put an asterisk there because I do want to talk about the Mozart museum. Classical music runs deep in my family–we all grew up playing the piano, listening to classical music, and some of us went on to be very accomplished musicians, so the Mozart museum was an obvious must-see. To my surprise, it was a lot of, “well there are no records of what mozarts dog looked like, so here’s a sketch of a dog in a book that existed during his time” and “we don’t know what Mozart’s chairs looked like, but this was the most popular chair at the time so it probably looked like this.” In other words, I don’t recommend it…
Of course, no trip to Vienna is complete without a heaping serving of schnitzel, provided to us by the famed Figlmüller restaurant. Fun fact: one person did manage to finish his entire plate of schnitzel, which was about the size of a small child. Vienna is great.
Because of some last minute bookings, part of our group had to stay in a separate hotel, so after settling into our respective homes for the evening, we decided to meet in the middle for a Viennese drink. Seeing as none of us had ever been to Vienna, we picked a spot on the map and met there. We ended up in an eerily quiet part of town, where the Biergarten we’d picked had closed, and the neighboring two bars were filled with a handful of senior citizens enjoying a drink amongst themselves, eyeing us non-locals as we walked in. Though we didn’t stay, it was neat seeing this little slice of Saturday nightlife in off-the-beaten-path Vienna.
In the morning, we trekked to the Schönbrunn palace. Half of my group left, and I lost the other half, so I ended up wandering about on my own, which was kind of nice as it was the first time I’d been by myself. I haven’t been to Versailles, but this palace is stunning. They’re all different, but they’re also kind of the same in terms of their opulence. I’m always aware of the excess of these palaces, but it never ceases to blow my mind when I’m there in person. The palace also has a great lookout point at the top of a hill that’s surrounded by some nice forest paths, where I sat and took it all in. There’s a lot to see on the grounds, which I highly recommend despite the big crowds.
Trying to find your friends without a cellphone in one of the most crowded tourist destinations is like a terrifying game of Where’s Waldo, or you know, every day life until a few years ago. Once I found my friends though, there was more food, more walking, and then back to Budapest to gear up for another week of activities.