Two years ago, I met Basti while he was exchanging at USC and I mentioned I would let him know if I ever traveled to Austria and needed a local guide! The beginning of March, I decided to visit Vienna for a weekend where he is currently studying, and it was great catching up after all this time.
Thursday night when I arrived in the student housing, I met some of his friends (watching their version of America's Next Top Model), and Basti offered some delicious schwarzbrot (Austrian Rye bread) before I unpacked and got settled in for the rest of the trip.
MARIAHILFER STRESSE + NEUBAUGASSE
I purchased a three-day travel card, and the first official morning we started off with exploring Mariahilfer Strasse, offering brand name stores, and Neubaugasse for the smaller shops. Although I didn't buy anything, it was nice walking around and enjoying the sun after coming from London!
All the streets in Vienna reminded me of less crowded Parisian streets.
We walked through Maria-Theresien-Platz on our way to lunch, and in this public square is the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) and the Naturhistorisches Museum (National History Museum). These two impressive buildings are nearly mirror images of each other, and in the center is a monument of Empress Maria Theresa.
The National History Museum.
The Art History Museum.
We got lunch at Le Bol, a French Restaurant that Basti recommended, and we both got his favorite salad, the Monsieur Seguin. It had the perfect combination of fruits (kiwis, pears, figs, etc.) and greens, and the goat cheese is to die for. I also tried a pomegranate beer and although I don't enjoy beer, I really enjoyed this one.
AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY
Afterwards we decided to check out the Austrian National Library for the State Hall. However, at first we had mistaken the impressive building we saw (pictured below) to be our destination.
Despite it's grandiose exterior, this is a multiple-story study area.
After being thoroughly confused, we eventually ended up at The State Hall around the corner.
THE STATE HALL
Despite the simple exterior, we were blown away once we went inside.
I only wished that we could peruse the book stacks; they seemed to go on forever.
It was one of Basti's friends' birthday celebration, but before we bought drinks for the party, we went to the Freyung Passage.
Inside I bought some chocolate from Xocolate. My favorite out of the 4 pieces I got were the Rose, and surprisingly, Balsamic Vinegar truffle.
Afterwards I got currywurst at a local stand before the party.
WEI'S (BELATED) BIRTHDAY PARTY
Everyone was really friendly, and we talked about everything from politics, stereotypes and humor differences (Austrians are very sarcastic), the different school systems, and public transportation. One girl I met is even studying at USC next fall! I played foosball (and ended up scoring on myself once -- oops!), but we all laughed it off, and throughout the multiple games I played, I scored 5 goals overall (beginners luck?). We won at beer pong, and I learned after this night that Absinthe exists (~72% alcohol) -- Yikes! Although I don't have any photos from this event, I would say looking back it was one of my favorite experiences from this trip.
The next morning, we went to a flea market (where I got a shirt for 1 euro!), and Basti had me try a krapfen at the food market -- a jam (typically apricot) filled donut.
Basti with the krapfen.
Krapfen are eaten all year, but are typically popular during “Fasching” and on Fat Tuesday.
I tried my first apfelstrudel (apple strudel) at Café Ritter, and unlike the very sweet and artificial apple pie flavour that I expected, the strudels here are very mild, using the natural sweetness of the apples instead! We also met up with Basti's dad here, and this is when he confirmed that almost no one from Salzburg watches The Sound of Music. Despite how much I love the movie because it reminds me of my childhood, everyone from Salzburg says that movie is an inaccurate portrayal of the town, and that it's only popular in other countries.
Schonbrunn Palace would be the place to go in Vienna if you're here. However, I would recommend going in spring where the trees are green and the flowers are in bloom. Despite the lack of greenery, this was my favorite place on this trip.
Behind the palace is a large hill with walkways to the top, and the hill offers a great view of the whole city. There is also a zoo, and many people exercise here by jogging laps around the gardens. On warmer days, I could imagine the hill being a perfect place for picnics and relaxing in the sun.
Despite the sun, it was especially windy that day!
Basti and Emma created a small theatre group where those who are interested can join to play games, participate in improv, and put on a show at the end of the semester. Although I have no experience in acting and improv, I had a great time playing the games, and everyone spoke english for my benefit so I could participate. For one exercise, two people had to pretend to be the news anchors while the crowd shouts out any news header that pops in their mind. Me and my co-anchor would have to talk about that topic until another is shouted out. We would also play games like "what's in the box" where two people act out -- what the name implies -- what's in the box, and continuing the scene with a group of 5 people. Everyone was hilarious, cracked a lot of jokes, and I had a lot of fun!
For dinner, we made a typical mac and cheese dish called kasnockerl, and although everyone loves it, it is usually cooked for bigger groups since it takes a lot of work to make this dish. Sophie played LP in the background, and we bonded over our similar music preferences and favorite artists like Florence + the Machine. Click on each photo below for the individual steps on making this delicious meal!
ST STEPHENS CATHEDRAL
For the last day, before visiting St. Stephens Cathedral, everyone told me that I HAD to get wiener schnitzel before leaving. Unfortunatly, Schnitzelwirt -- the place that everyone recommended -- was closed on Sundays! We ended up going to Glacis Beisl, and although I got the schnitzel because it was my last day, I would plan on getting schnitzel elsewhere where it's a lot less expensive. If you're here, I would recommend getting the kärntner kasnudeln (a potato filled pasta) instead!
Afterwards, I went to St. Stephens and enjoyed the stunning gothic architecture and birds-eye view of the city while Basti went back to the dorm to rest a little from his cold.
After paying for your ticket, they take you up to the top on a lift.
After the cathedral, I got a Mozartkugel while waiting for Basti. If I had enough room in my suitcase, I would have bought a whole bag to take home with me since they were so good!
Mozartkugel (Mozart ball): a small, round sugar confection made of pistachio marzipan, and nougat, covered with dark chocolate.
It wouldn't be right to come to Vienna and not get sachertorte! The line to Café Central was out the door, but the line moves quickly so don't let that discourage you.
Vienna is known for its beautiful cafes, and after coming to Cafe Central, I could see why.
Sachertorte: A layer of apricot jam is in the middle to keep the chocolate cake moist.
Afterwards, I had to pack my things, get a train ticket to the airport, and leave this lovely city. Thank you Vienna for your beautiful cafés, delicious food, and finally, the chance to catch up with an old friend, and the new friends I've made this weekend as well.