So far this fall we've stayed in Luxembourg, beating our previous record for weekends at home by at least 3 weeks. To escape the wet and dreary climate in Lux, we decided to knock a few major cities off our Euro travel checklist by exploring Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic.
Vienna: Day 1
We started our trip to Austria's capital by catching a 7am Luxair flight. By 8:30, we were en route to our funky, hipster, circus-themed hotel, 25 Hours. We dropped our bags and immediately walked downed tree-lined streets past grand baroque buildings to the Austrian National Library, located inside the Hofburg palace, and home to more than 7.4 million books. Founded by the Hapsburgs, the library features ornate frescoes, sweeping curved architecture, a central dome and marble statues. The hall is cross-shaped and divided by the themes "war" and "peace" and each side includes books on multiple levels, akin to the Citadel library in Game of Thrones. We spent our time wandering around and marveling at the glorious paintings, old leather-bound books and majesty of the seemingly glowing library hall.
From there, we checked out the larger Hofburg Palace, the "winter imperial residence" of the former Austrian empire and the current home and workplace of the Austrian president. We shuffled through grand rooms featuring detailed ceramic fireplaces that were loaded through the wall to avoid any smoke or dust tarnishing the luxe fabrics and furniture. We saw gowns worn by former royal women and toured guest rooms, sleeping quarters, offices and dining rooms filled with table wear from all around the world. (no photography allowed)
All that luxury built up an appetite, so we headed to the famous Cafe Central, a traditional Viennese cafe. Opened in 1876, the cafe was frequented by famous and very infamous figures such as Sigmund Freud, Joseph Stalin, Hitler, and Leon Trotsky throughout the years. We enjoyed chocolate cake, apple strudel, pumpkin soup and risotto and some local Viennese fizzy lemonade drinks served by waiters in ties and we soaked in the scene.
St. Peter's Church
After lunch, we visited St. Peter's Church, done in baroque Roman style and Stephansdom cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, featuring Gothic details and dating from the 1100s.
St. Peter's was beautiful, but we both found Stephansdom to be haunting and cool. We were both taken in by the colored tiled roof, stained glass and spooky vibe.
After getting our church time in, we checked out Hundertwasserhaus, a surrealist city block featuring multi-colored apartment blocks, hilly sidewalks, overgrown roots and Gaudi-like architecture. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the river path and picking up Japanese takeout to enjoy in our room.
Nighttime at the Opera House
We took and afternoon nap and headed out to take in the city by night. We'd heard that Vienna was a lot like a fancy layer cake, with bright, clean buildings and ornate white and pastel exteriors. Walking through town with the structures all carefully lit, we marveled at how true the comparison is. We walked around the famed opera house, through the museum district and back to our hotel, totaling more than 12 miles for the day. We ended our night with some room service and rested up for the next day.
Check out our Day 1 Vlog
Vienna: Day 2
We rose early the following morning to make it for the opening of the famed Schonbrunn Palace, the imperial summer home located just a few miles outside of town. Although it was a rainy day, we spent hours exploring the immaculate gardens and hedge mazes outside and the plush, fanciful interiors. The palace features 1,441 rooms and started as a Roman hunting ground, then hunting lodge, then city escape for the ruling aristocrats. We took a short break for some fresh-squeezed orange juice and pretzels, then headed next door to the oldest zoo in the world.
Typically, we are not zoo people, as we feel bad for the caged animals, but this zoo was more like a piece of living history. It started as a menagerie in the 1500s for the palace next door, but over the years it became famous for its combination of animal conservation and classic baroque menagerie-style structures. We saw giant pandas, a rhino, elephants, giraffes, a wolf gnawing on a raw carcus and a polar bear playing in an ice cold pool. We had a good time exploring the exhibits, and since it was early and rainy, we experienced many of the sites without crowds.
After our morning of exploration, we headed to Mama Liu for some delicious steamed Chinese dumplings, and then we walked through the modern part of town, down tree-lined streets with vivid autumn leaves and headed back to 25 Hours for an afternoon nap.
Mozart at the Opera
At night, we headed to the opera to take in Mozart's Don Giovanni after checking out the rooftop bar at our hotel. Neither of us are total lovers of opera (Dave loves Phantom), but getting a chance to dress up, drink champagne in crazy ornate classical surroundings, in the home of Mozart, was too good to pass up. We arrived early and spent our time wandering the levels of the jewel box-like opera house, sneaking into fancy boxes and exploring marble staircases before the show started. We both enjoyed the music, but the sing-acting wasn't a perfect match for our tastes. We bailed after we got our fill and headed down the street for veggie burgers, and hit up Veganista for some delicious dairy-free ice cream on our way home - the peanut butter and chocolate flavors were shockingly good. We clocked in another 10 miles walking this day, so we passed out almost immediately.
Check out our Day 2 Vlog
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