[Day 26] Last day in Europe

Today was the end of my long vacation and I was going to make the most of it. I really wanted to see at least one artwork by Gustav Klimt before leaving Austria so we decided to go see one. We didn’t have time to do multiple museums since my flight back was in the afternoon so we had to pick one. After looking at which museum or palace we should visit, we decided to visit the Belvedere Museum.

This Museum was a former palace and was separated into Upper, Lower, and Belvedere 21 and you had to buy tickets to each part separately. Lower Belvedere featured artwork and artifacts from Middle Ages and Belvedere 21 was for more contemporary art. The Upper Belvedere was the main part of the museum and we decided to visit here since they had Klimt’s work.

I checked out of my hotel and stored my luggage here. Make sure your hotel provides luggage storage service before booking! Some hotels in Europe don’t offer this service for free.

The Museum wasn’t that far from my hotel so I decided to walk. On my way, I passed by the Soviet War Memorial. Europe has gone through so many wars and this was to commemorate the soldiers who fought against the German fascist. There was so much history in every part of the city and I wish I had more time to learn all about them.

After seeing the Memorial, I headed to Belvedere Museum and met up with my brother and sister-in-law. The entrance and the ticketing booth was located at the Lower Belvedere. We had purchased our tickets online and just needed to walked through towards the Upper Belvedere. To get to Upper, you had to walk through the Belvederegarten and this was huge.

I really wished it was spring time because this Garden would have been an sight to see! With all the greenery, flowers, and the fountains, it would be a great place to just relax. However, since it was wintertime, the Garden was rather bare and the fountains were turned off.

As we got closer and closer to the Upper Belvedere, I was really in awe of the building. I really loved the teal dom tops and the symmetrical look. There was a line outside and a museum worker checking the time slots on everyone’s ticket. For Upper Belvedere, all tickets have time slots so if you have a set schedule, make sure you purchase tickets early to get the time slot you want.

The line outside did not take long since we arrived right around our time slot. Once inside, there was another line for security. They checked bags and this took some time. After getting through security, we had to check our bag and coat. It was nice to walk around without any baggage.

We decided to see everything, starting from the first floor and we started with medieval art and it was mostly religious artwork. Lots of statues of Mary and baby Jesus.

Where we mostly spent our time was on the 2nd floor. This was were they had the Baroque, Romantic, and Viennese artist’s artwork and they had a lot more than just Klimt. I actually did not do much research other than that I wanted to see Klimt but the Upper Belvedere surprised me with a famous artwork that I’ve seen in my history textbook for years!

Tada! I know you all know this famous painting of Napoleon. I did not know this was at the Upper Belvedere but it was really amazing to see it in person. The painting was a lot bigger than I expected and it had charisma. Just looking at it, you probably would want to follow him. There were also works by Vincent van Gogh and Monet and these were all good surprises.

Once we entered the Viennese artist section, we saw several tour groups surrounding the first Klimt painting: Judith and the Head of Holofernes. At first, I didn’t even realize that she was holding a head! It seemed so modern and she had so much sex appeal. It was always interesting to see how different artist interpret the same theme so differently.

And right around the corner was the painting I was looking forward to seeing: The Kiss. It was so beautiful. The painting was larger in person and you could clearly see all the details of the gold, silver, and platinum. The way she receives the kiss from her lover and how softly he caresses her. And looking at the different patterns Klimt used on their clothes was great too. Artwork is something you really have to see in person to get the most of it.

Lastly, the 3rd floor featured impressionism and realism. Some of the paintings here were a bit hard for me to understand and there were several pieces that made me tilt my sideways but they were still beautiful art. You couldn’t take any pictures here.

After seeing all the artwork, we headed to the back of the Museum to see every corner of this Museum. The man-made lake and the old Palace building looked so majestic. I really wanted to get the reflective shot that is on the Belvedere Museum website but it was too windy.

Walking around for hours and it being lunch time, we needed to find a place for our last meal together and we ended up at an Italian Restaurant named Pizzeria Pozzuoli. We were pretty lucky to get seated right away. It was a small, hole-in-the-wall sort of restaurant but the food was fantastic and the servers were really nice.

We enjoyed each others company as much as we could before I had to leave first to catch my flight. I was so glad that my brother and sister-in-law surprised me with a visit in Vienna last minute and I was really happy to share this experience with them.

I walked back to my hotel, picked up my luggage, called an Uber, and headed to the airport. The airport was pretty busy but I was able to check in and do some last minute shopping before heading home. This was the longest trip I’ve taken but it was so worth it. I wish Europe was closer to home so I can visit more often!

Until next time!

[Day 25] Exploring Vienna

This was my only full day in Vienna and I was going to make the most of it. I was going to meet my brother and sister-in-law for brunch so I had the early morning to myself.

My first stop was Karlskirche, a baroque cathedral. It was walking distance from my hotel so I thought of it as a morning stroll. When I got there, the square was empty and it seemed like the cathedral was closed. So I enjoyed the architectural details while walking around the square. I knew they had a huge Christmas Market here so I was hoping to see it but they had already cleared the market. But judging by the size of the square, it would have been worth a look.

You can also look at Karlsplatz station. They have the old station pavilion that serves as an exhibition hall. The actual station is underground but this pavilion served as a landmark. I really liked the old feel of it.

After looking around the square, I slowly walked towards Naschmarkt, Vienna’s biggest outdoor market for food and others (you can say everything and anything), and met up with my family. When we started to look around, I only saw restaurants so I assumed it was all food related but once you get to the end, they have vintage stalls for clothes, electronics, and even artwork!

The Market was bigger /longer than I expected! And it was packed with tourist! Navigating from one end to the other took some time and on top of that, it started to rain! So we decided to eat first. We did some quick google search and headed to Zur Eisernen Zeit, one of the restaurants on the Market strip.

The restaurant was pretty small on the inside but we were able to get a table. There menu also had information about the restaurant and I learned that this restaurant was the oldest restaurant at the Naschmarkt and that it started in 1916! They served mostly Viennese cuisine but they also had popular breakfast food during brunch time.

We ordered the Fiakergulasch and Wiener Schnitzel vom Kalb and they were both really good. It was a great combo: warm soup and fried veal. When we ordered the Fiakergulasch, we weren’t sure what it was going to be like and it was really interesting. Goulash with sausage and fried egg on top. We knew it had to be good and it was.

After a filling meal, we decided to walk around the market and luckily, the rain had stopped for a moment. The first couple blocks of the market was under a tarp so we were good. This area was mostly food and restaurants. And once the tarp ends, you could see a wave of stalls selling all sorts of goods. Most of them were vintage items and there were several people bargaining with the vendor.

One thing that caught my eye was the vintage camera stall. They were selling the camera body and parts and while they had newer styles and brands available, they also had vintage ones as well. There were lots of brands that I’ve never even heard of so it was a lot of fun looking at them.

We wanted to look around more but it started to pour so we couldn’t stay here anymore. So we started to look for something to do indoor and my brother found a sparkling wine cellar we could tour called Schlumberger Kellerwelten. It was about 15 minutes away from the city center and we took an uber.

They had a reservation section on their website but since it was off-peak season, they were able to accommodate us without a reservation. They had several different tour and tasting options and we went with the classic tour. The tour itself was a self guided audio tour and it took about an hour or so. There was a lot of history here and the cellar had several places that were used as exhibition space.

When you return to the lobby/bar area after the tour, you can start the wine tasting. With the classic tour, we got 3 glasses: Sparkling Brut, Rosé Brut and Grüner Veltliner Brut. They gave us all very generous pour and I ended up giving mine to my sister-in-law. I don’t know my wines and I usually prefer sweet wine so I thought I would enjoy the sparkling wine. However, they weren’t actually that sweet and quite strong for me. I still enjoyed the tour.

After ending the wine tasting, we headed back to the city center. We had booked a tour with Tripadvisor called Historical Hitler Walking Tour of Vienna. We wanted to learn some history on Vienna and thought this was our chance to learn more. The tour started at Albrechtsbrunnen and we walked for about 2 hours, learning about Hitler’s early years on how he wanted to become an artist to his rise in power, the relationship he had with Austria, and lastly, the Holocaust.

The guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out several building that influenced Hitler. One of which was the Vienna Opera House. Hitler used to draw postcards of the Opera House and sell them on the streets. The guide had a reprint of Hitler’s artwork and they weren’t bad. He was rejected from art school twice but history could have been very different if he became an artist. We also visited the institution that rejected him but it was under construction.

We also visited Heldenplatz (part of Hofburg Palace), the infamous place where Hitler made the annexation speech. Our guide point out exactly where Hitler made the speech and it was weird to know that I was looking up to where Hitler stood years ago. It was interesting to learn that when Hitler first came to Austria, many people welcomed him at the border. Austrians just thought that the power was being moved from one fascist to another. They did not know what was to come after the annexation.

And one of the last places we visited was the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial. The other name it goes by was “The Nameless Library” and you can see all the books that are on the shelf. However, no one can enter this library because there is no door knob and no one can read what type of books these are because the spine is on the inside. It represents the number of unknown victims and their lost stories and it was very hard and sad to hear this from our guide. It is part of our history and it is something we should never forget.

When the tour ended, we visited Cafe Central for a quick dinner but since the line was long, it wasn’t very quick. The line moved relatively fast and we were able to look at the menu before heading in. This cafe had a long standing history (opened in 1876) and became a famous meeting spot for key political figures in Vienna. They said that Hitler was also a regular here.

The cafe was huge! They had several sections and we were seated in the front side by the cake display. I was able to walk around and in the back section, they even had a live pianist playing some tunes. We ended up ordering several different desserts (Viennese Apple Strudel, Kaiserschmarrn, and tea cakes) and Viennese coffee and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Once we were done with our desserts, we headed to see our concert with the Wiener Royal Orchester. During my tour, I have seen several different concerts and I think this one was my favorite. This concert showcased classical music, ballet pieces, as well as opera pieces. I think it would be a great entry concert to the classics. For something we bought last minute, it turned out great.

After the concert, we ended up back at Albrechtsbrunnen and ended up eating some hotdog/Würstel at Bitzinger Würstelstand. This was a simple food stall and while they did not have seating, they had a small bar area to eat at. They didn’t have a full English menu so we ended up getting 3 würstel, all different styles, and just trying them. And it was really good! I would totally recommend this if you needed something quick and were on the go. They also sold alcohol here so a great combo could be a hotdog with a local beer.

We did not want to part yet so we ended up on the balcony of Albertina which was right next to the Würstelstand. The view of the Opera House from up here was really pretty and I could see people just relaxing up here. It was really too cold for us and we ended up just taking some pictures and heading out. It was really a full day!

[Day 24] Things to do in Hallstatt and off to Vienna

I had a pretty packed morning scheduled. I had booked a train to Vienna at 3:07 pm so I needed to be make sure to get on the ferry before then. I made a quick breakfast with the materials from yesterday’s shopping spree. It was really nice to have a kitchen!

I left the apartment at 9am and headed to the Luggage Depot. There were several places to storage luggage in Hallstatt and this was one of them. They opened at 9am and was close enough to the ferry pier. It was €5 for luggage and €3 for handcarry/backpack. I stored both my luggage and backpack here and luckily, they took card!

With nothing to hold on to, I ventured around town. There were several cute locations that seemed like photo zone. One was behind one of the restaurant and it was a small pier at the lakeside. You could see across the lake and see the other city, Obertraun. The air was cool and the peaceful atmosphere just made me want to sit here (and I did!)

Another one was up from the square. I was really aimlessly wandering and I found this spot was accident. There were signs pointing towards a set of stairs but I could not read them. The view of the city from up here was very beautiful. Again, since it was early morning, it was really quiet and I really loved that.

TIP: If you want a city view, I think this place and the postcard photo point are the best. If you want the lake view, the alley behind the restaurant would be the best.

Around 10:30am, I headed to the funicular. I bought by tickets for €38 euro and headed to the top. Do not throw the ticket away until you get back down if you bought a roundtrip ticket. I headed to the World Heritage View point first since it wasn’t very crowded. It was amazing up here! I highly recommend it! The view of the lake and the mountains were just breathtaking.

At the view point, I asked another tourist to take pictures and since the line was starting to form, I didn’t stay long. But right above the view point, there is a balcony that provides a similar view so I took lots of pictures here.

After all the photos, I headed to the salt mine. If you are on a schedule, you might want to do the tour first. They have time slots and limited spot for each tour. I was able to get in the 11:20am tour and it was about an hour and a half long. The tour was interesting. They gave us suits to wear on top of our clothes and had lockers in the lobby area.

The tour is so much fun! You learn about the history of the salt miners and how salt was formed and how it gets harvested. The tour was in German and in English. There were some jokes thrown and the guide made it fun for everyone. And the highlight. The miner slide! It was awesome! I wish I could have done it more than once. My top speed was 22.3 km/h and I thought it was pretty fast. However, our guide’s record was 42.6! Amazing.

At the end of the tour, you are given a small souvenir (salt) and a chance to purchase your slide photo. After the tour, it was already 1pm so I headed back to the funicular and made my way back to the city. I had some time to do some shopping so I looked around several souvenir shops and made some purchases. They have several handmade shops that were worth a look.

Afterward, I picked up my luggage and headed to the pier. The line for the ferry formed rather quickly so I suggest getting here early if you need to make the train. Since it was during the off peak season, the ferry did not get packed but I could see the ferry turning people away during peak season. I took a last look of this peaceful town and I hoped I could come back again.

Since it was only one platform, make sure you listen to the announcement before boarding the train. My train had a connection at Linz so I stayed awake till then. Once I got off the platform, I checked the info display to find where the next was going to be. I made memorized my next train’s number so it was easier to find the platform.

When I got on the next train, I was surprised! When I made the booking online, I couldn’t figure out how to book tickets with seat reservation. I had a choice between coach and regular and I assumed coach was the cheaper option. When I got to the coach 2nd class, it was a 6 seater compartment! And on the door, there was a sign that indicated that a seat was booked. The conductor came around to check people in and it was really cool! I have never been in a closed compartment train before. Since I had the whole compartment to myself, it was able to get to Vienna in peace.

Vienna was already dark when I arrived and I took an Uber to my hotel. I checked in as fast as I could and headed back out. My brother and sister-in-law surprised me with a visit in Vienna! This was a total surprise for me but I do love a good surprise 🙂

So we met up at Ulrich for dinner. My sister-in-law found the place and it was a good pick. When I got there, it was pretty late but the place was still packed. It was a cafe/bar type of restaurant and they had a lot of healthy options, including their drink section. I ended up getting their schnitzel and here, they made it with boar! Plus, they used pumpkin seeds in their breading to make it more “healthy.”

After a good meal, we went for a stroll. Most of the places were closed but we were still able to enjoy the Holiday decors and architecture. One that stood out was Domkirche St. Stephan (St. Stephan’s Cathedral). It was huge and very hard to miss. The tower and roof was what made this unique. It was too dark to see all the features of the Cathedral but even with a short glimpse, I was in awe. The design and colors of the tiles on the roof was really pretty and I wished it was light out so I could see all the details.

After seeing the Cathedral, we visited Zanoni & Zanoni for some dessert. Luckily, this shop was opened until 12am so we had some time to eat. We ordered ice cream shakes and cake and they were all really sweet. I mean, REALLY SWEET. And the portions were pretty big for a dessert. So if you are not that into sweet things, be prepared to share.

Since it was a surprise, we had to go our separate ways to our accommodation. But we promised to meet up in the morning for brunch. What a day!