After the beauty of old-world Budapest, I was expecting Vienna to be grand and ostentatious, and it didn't disappoint. I was devastated not to see much of the city itself, as the rain and extreme wind meant I had my head down facing into my umbrella most of the time so I couldn't look up at the buildings. However, the hotel we were staying in, Hotel Imperial (click for my review), more than made up for the weather, as I think it really was the definition of Vienna. We quite literally stayed in a palace - just look at that lobby!
We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and after a tour of our hotel we headed out to the baroque Belvedere Palace so Bella could see the Klimt masterpiece 'The Kiss'. We just got tickets to the Upper Belvedere part of the palace as we didn't have time to do the lower half as well, and to be completely honest, I was happy about this because I'm very very fussy when it comes to contemporary and modern art. The inside of the palace was disappointing, it's been stripped out and the walls are a clinical white. The inside doesn't feel like an 18th century palace, but a modern museum; sterile and uninteresting, just like the art that hangs on the walls.
After the museum we raced back to the hotel through the pouring rain, and got showered and dressed for the opera. We decided it was an excellent occasion to dress up all fancy, especially as we were going to be in the opera house for a while - we were seeing Tannhauser by Wagner, which is a notoriously long opera.
I rarely take expensive clothes with me when travelling as I'm always terrified of losing my lugggage, so I wore a Primark skirt, plain black top, bag by Iris Boutique, and my Yull Cornbury Shoes. Bella wore a Dorothy Perkins dress and her Yull Beaulieu shoes. We took some photos in the beautiful Hotel Imperial where we were staying for the duration of our Vienna trip...
The opera was so, so long, but so, so worth it just to hear that incredible overture live. The hairs on my neck stood on end as the music soared up towards us. My heart was overwhelmed with emotion while tears prickled my eyes, and all at once I felt incredibly content and I felt a massive grin creep across my face. After the first act it was slow-going (I'm not ashamed to say I fell asleep in the third act), with the odd moment of heart-soaring intensity when the main piece of music came in. The opera house was absolutely beautiful, and I had the most amazing cherry strudel in the interval which was so cheap!
The next day we got up bright and early to see the Spanish Riding School rehearsal. The concierge at our hotel kindly got us some tickets the day before, so we didn't have to queue. You weren't allowed to take photographs or videos, but I managed to get some sneaky ones!
All of the male riders were insanely attractive, I spent most of my time drooling over them all and choosing which one was going to be my future husband. It was a tough choice, but I managed to narrow it down to two of them. As well as the super good looking men, the horses really were amazing, our minds were completely blown watching them perform such intricate steps, jumps, and routines, and that was just for the rehearsal! I loved our visit, and think it's well worth the 14 euros.
We then went to find lunch when our tummies started grumbling, and found that it was very difficult to find somewhere that didn't look touristy. We eventually found Burg.Ring, which was a pretty cool cafe that seemed quite 'hipster'. Naturally we had Schnitzel, however we went for pork rather than the traditional veal. It was tasty, but there's only so much breaded meat you can eat before it gets a little boring (aka, a few bites).
After lunch it was on to the Albertina for the Monet exhibition. I was slightly disappointed with this, there were actually only 3-4 Monet pieces in the exhibition. Boo. Thankfully though there were plenty of Warhol's and Lichtenstein's to keep me occupied. Apart from those pieces though the museum was full of weird contemporary works of art that did not interest me in the slightest. I find art is such a personal thing, and I'm just so fussy when it comes to modern and contemporary art.
After the Albertina we then battled the wind and rain to try and see a bit more of the city. We walked over to the University, Rathaus (town hall), and a large church next to the University.
The one thing I really did love about Vienna was that I could speak the language, albeit badly. In Budapest we literally had no clue about the language, it's so different that we struggled with just saying hello and thank you, so I was thankful to have a couple of days in Vienna where I knew the basics, and it's strange how it all comes back to you so naturally. By the time we left I found myself being able to direct a taxi driver to our hotel to take us to the train station as he couldn't speak a word of English. Sadly I didn't get to use my two favourite words though - Langweilig (boring), and Warum (why).
Anyway, we wandered back to the hotel and stopped off at Cafe Sacher to try the famous Sacher Torte. Everyone had told us we had to go here, however we were quite disappointed. The cake was dry and not that great - it was just a plain chocolate cake, I don't know what all the fuss is about to be honest! However, the hot chocolate was pretty good, creamy and rich, it felt as though I were drinking melted chocolate - YUM!
After our disappointing cake, we finally headed back to the hotel to get changed and showered for dinner at OPUS (review on this soon). The following morning we woke up early, had our champagne breakfast at the hotel, and then wandered through the centre of Vienna to see St Stephen's Cathedral. I didn't find it very impressive. In fact we looked at it, went inside, walked back out, and both went 'Huh'. Compared to St Stephen's in Budapest, it was sehr sehr langweilig! Here's some photos of the horses outside instead...
However, we did stumble upon a much more impressive gem a little while later...
A Greek orthodox church on a backstreet towards the river. It was stunning. We went inside and it was empty, unlike the cathedral it wasn't packed with tourists, and yet it was magical. The walls and ceiling were covered in opulent artwork. Gold lettering and detailing shimmered all around us, while two lonely candles flickered in the quiet darkness.
Vienna also have their very own version of the Walk of Stars! Except theirs is the Walk of Composers. I took a photo of a favourite of mine...the magnificent Schostakowitsch, or better known to us Brits as Shostakovich. We used to play his Festive Overture in concert band, and it was one of the hardest pieces of music I've ever played (even more difficult than Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave!), it was so insanely fast! It is beautiful though, and I have so much respect for him.
Vienna is a beautiful city, it was just such a shame about the weather as it really did spoil it. I'd love to go back in the summer to really experience the city and visit Schonbrunn palace. Thankfully our hotel more than made up for the weather though, it was wonderful staying in a place so steeped in history, it was the epitome of Vienna, and I loved every minute of our stay there. I can't wait to share our experience at Hotel Imperial with you tomorrow, I'm so so so excited for you to read about it and see the photographs!