Category Archives: Vienna

Austria Day 5: Along the Danube

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After a good day in Bratislava, it was time to come back to Austria for the rest of the trip.

The GPS was programmed successfully for a 2 hour drive to Krems. We went there to walk the quaint town, to buy from a Thomas Sabo store and to visit an Orange store to try to straighten out my SIM card problem. We were successful on 2 of 3 fronts. The town was lovely, the Sabo charms purchased, but after 1.5 hours of backing up and restoring my iPhone, the card still didn’t work. Chances are very good that Verizon/Apple didn’t execute the unlock successfully. In hindsight, not a good use of time and not very important. Hotels have wifi and not difficult to find a hotspot in many places.

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We then decided to drive to Melk. Our cruise had visited there and we had enjoyed the town. A beautiful abbey sits atop the hill, and the town has winding streets with cute shops. We first dat and had coffee/tea in the square.

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I was looking to recreate a great picture from our cruise, when after a morning tour of the abbey, a few of my shipmates and I grabbed a beer at a supermarket and sat on a bench drinking well before noon. Alas, while the bench was still there, the supermarket wasn’t. When I get home, I’ll publish the original picture.

We drove along the Danube to Durnstein, where we are staying in a fancy hotel, the Hotel Schloss Durnstein. It is our splurge for the trip.

After arriving. We walked through the town and were headed to the ruins of Richard the Lion Hearted’s castle, but it proved too steep to make it all the way up.

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We walked back to the hotel and enjoyed dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, which sat on a patio above the Danube. The food was delicious, we both had salmon, but we mainly enjoyed the sun setting and the cool air coming off the water.

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Austria/Slovakia Day 4: Czech’ing Things Out

Might have to skip pictures for now, as hotel Internet is very slow.

I got a decent night’s sleep, but Ellen still hasn’t. That needs to come soon.

After breakfast, I walked to the Europcar office 2 blocks away to pick up our rental car. This is always a fun part I the trip, finding out what kind of car and beginning the part of the trip where we have complete control over the transportation.

First news I got was great news. Our last city in Austria is Innsbruck, so we decided to fly back home from Munich, which is much closer than driving back to Vienna. The rental car woman said hey had a car with German plates for us, so that would save a €100 one-way fee. Pretty sweet!

The car is a Renault Megane wagon, 6 speed. The only implication of German plates was it lacked the required Austria autobahn toll sticker. An auto club was just a block away, I was told, and I could get the sticker there. So that’s just what I did, gladly paying €8 for a 10 day sticker instead I €100.

Went back to the hotel to pick up Ellen and get started. The car came with built-in GPS, but the maps only included Germany and Austria. We had brought our own Garmin, so I entered the address of our hotel in Bratislava and we headed out.

We drove along out of he city, through farmland and with sign pointing to Prague. It dawned on us hat this wasn’t right, just about the time we crossed into the Czech Republic. It was a weird border town, with casinos, a zoo and adult “entertainment.” I re-entered the hotel information and we set out again. We needed to retrace most of our path back towards Vienna before heading east to Bratislava. Luckily, a lot of the trip had a speed limit of 130kph.

We made it to our hotel just about 1pm. It is in an old palace just north of the Danube. We set off almost right away to explore Bratislava. We did the Rick Steves walking tour, which took us through the old town, seeing the town hall, restaurants and shops and the holocaust memorial.

We then climbed up a very steep hill to get to the Bratislava Castle. Not much to the castle now, it is being restored, but a great view of the UFO bridge, the defining contribution of the Communist era.

From on top of the hill, it almost looked like the Communists created the city using Sim City. The ugly apartment buildings were all south of the Danube, with the factories all next to them. Hard to change everything all at once.

We stopped for a Slovak beer (yum!) and a snack. It was late enough that we went from there straight to dinner, to Flowers which was recommended by Rick Steves. We both had pasta and ended up stuffed and happy.

Tomorrow we head back to Austria for the rest of the vacation.


Austria Day 3: Successful Day

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We didn’t sleep well, still adjusting to the time change. But is should surprise no one that we still made a full day of it. Breakfast at the hotel, then onto the U. We had bought 24 hour passes on the public transit system that cost only the amount of 4 one-way trips cant imagine that in DC. We took 2 trains to Schonbrunn Palace. Billed by Rick Steves as 2nd only to Versailles, it was the summer home to the Habsburgs.

We had purchased tickets online so we were able to avoid lines and go right in. The tour included audio guides, and we saw dozens of ornate rooms. We then walked the gardens outside. It was a pleasant day, not nearly as hot as yesterday. The grounds were a delight, would be glad to have a summer home like that!

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We then took the U back into town. We ate lunch at Rosenberger Markt, the same place we had lunch during our river boat cruise in 2005. We both had salads, feeling a need to eat a healthy, light meal.

Next, we went to the Albertina Museum. We had seen ads at the airport for a Picasso and Monet exhibit. It was good, but the highlight was several Habsburg staterooms. Unlike the places, you could walk though them and get close to the paintings, wallpaper and furniture. On the way down from the steps from the museum, Ellen noticed a design on the steps.

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We could not leave Vienna without a return trip to theCafe Sacher, home to the Sacher Torte. It did not disappoint.

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We had seen the Radhaus, the town hall yesterday from a distance and wanted to see it up close. We took the U and enjoyed a walk around it. A film festival plays on a large screen in the summer, with mini-restaurants set up around it. With more time, would have been a great place to hang.

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It was time to take a quick rest back at the hotel. I used the time to try to fix my SIM card issue, talking to Apple in Austria and Verizon Wireless back home. Fingers are pointing in all directions, but I’m now believing the problem might be with Orange here in Vienna. So maybe we’ll get it fixed after Bratislava.

We had our first real dinner of the trip at a restaurant Ellen had found in the guidebooks,Oesterricher Im Mak. Known for modern versions of traditional Austrian food, we had a delightful meal. I had a roast vanilla dish, which is beef with garlic, and surprisingly no vanilla. It was delicious.

We strolled back to the hotel, and will leave Austria tomorrow briefly for a quick stay in Bratislava.

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Austria Day 2: Full Steam Ahead

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While we might have gotten a slow start, we made up for it today with a full day of sightseeing in old town Vienna.

We slept fairly well and had breakfast at the hotel, included in the rate.

First destination was the Opera House. We chose to have a tour, which got us inside many rooms and the opera house itself, as well as backstage.

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We then used a Rick Steves app that allows downloading of audio tours, all fr free! Instead of reading from his book as we went, we listened and walked, pausing when we saw fit. The next big stop was St. Stephen’s Church, perhaps the most famous building in Vienna (feature picture above). We walked a little inside, then all the way around.

We stopped for small sandwiches and gelato for lunch. But then the tour took us by Demels and we had to stop for cake.

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We then walked around the grounds of he Hofburg Palace. We had remembered it from our 2005 visit, so don’t need to do the armory or museum. We then walked over to the Parliament building for pictures.

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A walk through parks on the way back to the hotel allowed us to see the Mozart statue and clef topiary.

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Ellen then rested while I did the geek stuff. The idea was to take advantage of our iPhone 4S’s and get SIM cards that would allow for data access while we were here. I went to an Orange store and purchased the cards. A complicated ballet of Verizon arranging with Apple to unlock the phones, Orange providing data and Apple servers updating went well for Ellen’s phone but failed for mine. A call to tech support when I got back to the room accomplished nothing, as did phone calls and tweets with Verizon. It is supposed to work but no one is responsible for making it work. We later found out the personal hotspot is activated, so if in nice, Ellen will let me share get connection.

It was hen time for our first foray into the subway system. We were off to the Prater, an amusement park Ellen visited as a child and that we had visited last time we were here.

We had no problems taking 2 trains to get to the park. We first had to ride the old ferris wheel.

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We then had dinner at a restaurant on the grounds, sharing wiener schnitzel and turkey schnitzel. We had started out dining outside, but a rainstorm came through and they insisted on moving us inside. The rain let up and we walked the park as it got dark and the lights came up.

We u-bahn’ed home and are resting up for our last day in Vienna tomorrow.

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Austria Day 1: Slow Start

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After two conferences back to back, I was very glad to have this vacation to look forward to. We had been through Austria in 2005 on a Viking River Boat cruise. I call these cruises samplers, as you get a taste but not much more of the places you visit. We had just a few hours in Vienna and it rained the whole time, so we needed to come back.

We had used points for the flights, so we were in business class in all directions. That meant we had access to the lounge at Dulles before our flight departed at 10pm on Thursday. We taxied for awhile and then stopped. The storms were north of us, which wasn’t a problem to take off but it was our flight path. We sat until 10:55 and then took off on a modified flight path.

The impact of the delay and rerouting was we arrived over an hour late to Paris. We had to get through immigration and change terminals to make our flight in just 30 minutes. After quick walking though a hot airport we made it to our gate in 28 minutes. But the flight had already closed.

We went to customer service and easily got rebooked on the next flight to Vienna. Only problem was it was 5 hours later. But we were able to use he lounge and were given a voucher for a meal. So we lost a chance to wander a little in Vienna on Friday, but also got to relax at de Gaulle and eat a leisurely meal (off a special Air France flight delay menu!)

The flight from Paris to Vienna is scheduled for 2 hours, but got in a little early. Our luggage came quickly, and we bought tickets for €12 each for an express train into the city. I navigated the 15 minute walk from the train station to our hotel, a Radison Blu in the city centre.

We got to the hotel at 8:45pm. The hotel clerk commented on Ellen’s tan, which Ellen said was a benefit of being a teacher. Once we were checked in, the clerk said she upgraded us to a nicer room because Ellen was a teacher. Nice!

The room is nice, queen bed, period furniture and a large bath. It is in a former palace. We dumped our stuff and headed out for a little walk. Ellen got a snack, I had tea, and we strolled the area around the hotel.

We normally would have used the afternoon today to nap and then begin exploring the city. We missed out on that, but didn’t really lose much of the vacation. Just a slow start.

Tomorrow we’ll spend a full in the city, and then we bought tickets tonight for the Schonbrunn Palace for Sunday morning.

We have the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on television in the room. It is a small world.