Vienna was a third stop on the trip, and where we planned to spend a couple days so it was a bit more of a breather than the previous cities.
We stayed at the Hotel Altstadt, which I will highly recommend to anyone staying in Vienna despite its interesting choice of modern art (poor Colton had to keep his eyes down in various areas because he wasn’t quite sure what the next canvas would showcase). Staff greeted us, showed us around the hotel before taking us to our room, which you lock with an actual key (no plastic cards here!). Waiting for us in our room was coconut truffles and our sleeper train tickets to get us to Rome; so far, it was a good start.
Not far from the hotel, we came across a couple of side street Christmas markets, where we indulged on a waffle covered in custard sauce and caramel (messy but delicious). Colton got a mug of Kinderpunch and became slightly addicted (ok, he wasn’t addicted, but the second we finished our cup or passed a stall selling punch, he wanted more); I think it was the hint of citrus that did him in.
We left the small market and headed to one of the larger ones, the Maria-Theresien Platz market sits near the museum district in between to impressively large buildings with statues of horses and riders everywhere.
We wandered the stalls, noted some new items for sales such as scented dried fruits (heaven for the nostrils)
however not even a giant white chocolate covered pretzel could revive my body from the lengthy day it had already experienced so we decided to call it an early night. However, I refused to go back to the hotel without seeing the Rathausplatz market at night.
You see, we arrived in Vienna on December 23rdand most of the markets stop on the afternoon of Christmas Eve because that’s when most Austrians have their big Christmas dinner and I knew that the state building standing over the market looked beautiful at night with all of the lights. So, we made the hike to the other market and the sight of it made me forget my weary spine. The fog made the looming building look fantastic against the happy glow of the Christmas decorations and I might have taken a few too many photos of it.
To get us home we got the Austrian version of a hot dog—a bratwurst in a toasted baguette—much better than what we find in the US I’m afraid.
We attempted to sleep in on Christmas Eve, however we were both awake by 7 AM, and so we made our way down to the Red Salon and enjoyed breakfast. A mixture of fancy buffet and table service, with more options of breads and cheeses than you would know what to do with, even champagne if you wanted a bubbly start to the day. I ventured out from my usual orange juice and got some pineapple juice—big mistake, because my pineapple juice was in fact grapefruit.
We made our way out into the city and ventured over to Karlsplatz, whose markets had already closed for the season, but I wanted to take pictures of the pretty building overlooking the square.
We randomly went inside and the building turned out to be a church (I had no idea) and not just a church, but the one Colton had mentioned wanting to visit because of one of the features on the inside. It was dramatic compared to the other cathedrals we had visited, no dull stonework contrasting with bright strained glass. Instead, smooth marble comprised the structures, gold shone brightly; the small church seemed enormous with its high ceiling reaching for the sky. The only thing I can compare it to is the castle in Beauty and the Beast after the spell breaks.
Next we visited St. Stephen’s cathedral, a structure possibly grander than the fame Notre Dame (heads up, tons of Cathedrals are name Notre Dame, they just usually have something else after it).
Entrance to the cathedral, as well as exiting, required dodging the various individuals spouting various languages trying to get you to sign up for a concert—these people are everywhere and get supremely annoyed when you inform them that you don’t want to go to a concert before they even ask you.
Another visit to Rauthsplatz for more kinderpunch and a couple of Austrian specialties—soup in a bread bowl and a pasta dish that’s not really pasta (it was tasty whatever it was).
We wandered around the stalls, made a last few purchases (one included a spur-of-the-moment decision to buy me a hat) and then we returned to the hotel.
Me, my new hat, and some Kinderpunch
We had planned to go out, have a nice big Christmas Eve dinner and go to a church service, but an annoying foot declared that excessive walking was out of the question. So we stayed in, had tea and champagne in the Red Salon (the hotel likes to have a little get-together on Christmas Eve), Skyped with some family, and Colton watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time (his father-in-law’s favorite so he needed to be educated).
Christmas morning we enjoyed another leisurely breakfast, opened our Christmas presents (because getting something at Christmas markets in three different countries just wasn’t enough) and then checked out of the hotel.
We had decided to spend the day at the Vienna Zoo, supposedly the oldest in the world, and stop by one last market before catching our sleeper train to Rome.
Unfortunately, the Vienna zoo did not have quite as accommodating luggage storage as we had hoped, so poor Colton had to continue to carry his massive backpack around the zoo (he will testify that this was not a problem)—but this did come to our advantage.
We cannot be quite sure, but something Colton carried kept the attention of one of the tigers on display, so much that it would come up to the glass without fail if Colton was there (then of course everyone else would see the tiger up close, get excited, come over, and ruin our moment). Colton thinks it was his red water bottle; all I know is that it made for great photos.
Near the zoo is the Schönbrunn Palace, whose market remains open for Christmas, and so that was the last place we visited before leaving Vienna. Thanks to having to contend with our luggage, we only visit the market for a short while, but it was a beautiful site to finish off the night.