Friday 9 March 2018

Not off to the best start. The train to the airport was cancelled.

They were already running a reduced service. And with ours being cancelled, we did not have time to wait until the next one.

So we drove to Gatwick instead.

Driving was much faster and we arrived with plenty of time. Lunch in the lounge (the BA lounge here is much better than at Heathrow – much less chaotic). Then ready for our flight at 3.30pm.

To Vienna.

We were meant to go to Vienna in October 2016. But instead of being on a plane, I was in A&E. So attempt number 2….!

And more excitingly, country number 90 – Austria.

We landed early at 6.30pm.

Getting out of the airport was very quick and we were on a train into the city by 7pm.

The ticket system is confusing. I bought 48hour metro tickets. But these only go to the edge of the city. The airport is outside that zone. So need a top up ticket. From the airport to the city zone. Not the most easy ticket system to navigate.

We arrived into the Hauptbahnhof. A huge, newish building. Full of escalators to various different levels.

We headed onto the metro. A few stops to where we are staying.

But given it was still fairly early, we headed for some dinner at a nearby vegan fast food restaurant. It was so good. We had a burger, chips, coleslaw and a local style chocolate cake.

We are staying on a long pedestrianised street – Mariahilferstrasse. Full of shops. But most of the shops were closed, or closing by now.

Very handy location.

Saturday 10 March 2018

We headed out around 9.30am. Back to the Hauptbahnhof.

The bakery at the station (Anker), had a huge vegan selection. So a hazelnut (?)(but thought it was cinnamon) whirl for breakfast!

This time, on a train to Bratislava, in Slovakia.

Our train left at 10.15am. Out of the city. Across the Danube river (which was partly frozen!) and into the countryside. It took an hour and was mostly an hour of fields. With a few hares running across.

The border between Austria and Slovakia was a small stream.

And shortly afterwards, pulling into Bratislava station.

The station was small. But a bit hectic outside.

We wanted to catch a bus into the city centre. It was a little confusing, but eventually found where the buses depart from (a different place to where they drop off…!)

The bus ticket was included in the train ticket we had bought in Vienna. Handy! But it wasn’t a long journey. Barely 10minutes.

The city centre was almost deserted. A very strange capital!

We walked around a few streets. Through the old city walls. And ended up in a main square.

The fountain in the middle of the square – Roland’s Fountain – is thought to have been built in 1572 as a fire hydrant. And opposite this, was the 1421 Old Town Hall

A few streets later, past the 1886 Slovak National Theatre (an opera house),we headed to the river.

The river runs around the edge of the city centre. And wasn’t too exciting! Despite being cold, there were a few people out, sitting on benches.

We wandered around the old streets. Didn’t seem to be much other than bars and restaurants.

We headed up the hill, towards the Bratislava Castle. There were good views, heading back across towards the city.

Today, the castle is mostly a 1950s reconstruction of the original which was burned down in 1811. It was busy up here. Seemed to be where most people were!

On the way back down, we found some vegan gelato in a shop that had apparently just opened for the first time 10minutes previously! It was good, but quite expensive.

From here, we headed back to the train station. And by 3.45pm, we were back in Vienna.

After a quick hop on the metro, we headed out at Stephansplatz, one of the main squares in the city. And home to the large Stephansdom cathedral.

The cathedral was very decorative – a colourful tiled roof. And gothic stone spires. Apparently a church has stood on this site since the 12th century. It was busy, so we didn’t go in.

Instead, we wandered around the chaotically packed streets. All the main shops are here. And it was so busy, you couldn’t see the pavement in front.

The city centre district is a Unesco World Heritage site. There are churches dotted around. Statues. Old buildings. Very pretty.

We ended up, by accident, by the Hofburg palace. Outside the front of this huge, white building were lots of horse and carts. The palace now houses the offices of the Austrian president, but for over 600 years (until 1918) was the home of the Habsburgs family, who were the emperors.

We passed through the courtyard of the palace, and across to the museum district. So many different museums all together – some in very old buildings. Some in very modern buildings.

I’m not really into museums, so we didn’t go into any. And it was getting late, so we headed back to the hotel. From here, it was a 20minute walk along the pedestrianised shopping street. Again, it was busy here too. So many people.

After a rest, we headed out for dinner. But after a lot of walking, didn’t fancy going far. So went back to the same vegan restaurant as yesterday evening. We tried something different – a burger, nuggets and tiramisu! It was good!

Sunday 11 March 2018

Back out at 9.30am and everywhere was quiet. A contrast to yesterday evening.

We walked for about 15 minutes, to a different tube line. Through streets of identical tall stone buildings.

We were headed to a metro station, which was on a different line. This metro was overground. And had very old fashioned stations and platforms.

The metro didn’t take long, about 3 stops, and the Schloss Schönbrunn Palace was only a short walk away. It seemed that everyone from the tube had got off here. We were in a long line of people headed in the same direction.

The palace grounds were huge. A large front courtyard. Then heading around the side, into the massive gardens at the sides and the back.

We wandered around a small part of it. Which still felt like a large part! Around the back gardens. And up to the large fountain which faced opposite the palace. The Neptunbrunnen (Neptune Fountain), a collection of statues from Greek mythology, which was built in in 1781.

We had tickets to head inside the palace at 11am. We wandered around the 22 rooms which are open to the public. A collection of elaborately decorated bedrooms, dining rooms and entertaining rooms. There are 1441 rooms across the whole palace. No photos were allowed inside.

After this, we headed back on the metro, back into the city centre.

We got off at Karlsplatz. Another old square, with a large church at one end. And a park area. Near to here was the Mozart statue. Which we popped to see.

Then lunch.

Another vegan cafe. I had a quinoa curry – really good. But far too large! The vegan food selection has been good in Vienna!

A bit more wandering around the town. Past the Sacher hotel – home of the Sacher tort cake. Of which they had lots. And back to the Stephansdom cathedral. This time we went inside. Dark, full of candle smoke. And a choir practising. Very atmospheric.

Enroute back to the hotel we stopped off at a gelato place that we have been wanting to visit for the past 2 days. But they were sold out of most vegan flavours. Very disappointing. So just had pistachio. Despite not being a flavour I would usually get, it was surprisingly good.

Then picked up our bags. And back to the airport, ready for our 5pm flight back home.


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