Part 3: Vienna

Two cities down, two to go! For those of you that haven’t already been following my 2014 Eurotrip let me catch you up! I was traveling to Salzburg (Austria) for romance, spending a weekend away in a stunning city with my favourite German.
However I had a bit of annual leave to use at work and figured I’d make the most of being in Europe, so extended my trip by a week to give me a chance to explore a little further.

I began my trip in Budapest, traveled onwards to Bratislava and here we are at part three of four. To get from Budapest to Salzburg I knew I’d have to travel through most of Austria so a stop in Vienna seemed rather inevitable.

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Bratislava to Vienna!

I didn’t have high hopes for Vienna, that’s nothing against Vienna but it was more of a time issue. I had 24 hours in Vienna and I just didn’t feel like it was going to be long enough to enjoy it fully. I was right, I barely scratched the surface in Vienna. To emphasise my point, if I’d wanted to, I could have traveled from Bratislava to Vienna by boat rather than train. The river Danube flows through both cities (and Budapest) and yet I didn’t even see a river in Vienna – numerous puddles but no river.

So if you’re looking here for numerous tips and recommendations on Vienna you’re wasting your time. Nevertheless I wanted to make the most of the 24 hours I had in the city. If I could go home with some memories and a taste of life in Vienna I’d consider it a success.

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I’d wanted to maximise my time in Vienna so it was rather unfortunate that I hit my first stumbling block pretty quickly. The first task of the day was to find my hostel for the night and that was easier said than done, my directions had only led me so far, I knew I was close but the hostel was nowhere in sight!
I was walking around back and forth in the rain and it must have been pretty noticeable that I was lost, an old woman approached me and asked if I needed any help.

That’s when I hit stumbling block number two – the language! I did need help but I didn’t speak any German. “No German at all?” she said with a wry smile. It didn’t take a mind-reader to know what she was thinking. She was helpful though and she’d soon put me on the right track. Luckily my room was ready early so I could quickly check in, drop my things off and start exploring the city.

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Miserable weather in Vienna!

I’d sadly missed the walking tour so I set off on a day of self-exploration and hoped for the best. Vienna’s public transportation makes it really easy to get around but it probably helps in knowing where you’re going. I had no plans whatsoever and as I walked in to the nearest U-Bahn (underground) station I realised I had to work out where I wanted to go. I hadn’t really done any prior research so I didn’t know where anything was!

St Stephen’s Cathedral is perhaps one of Vienna’s best known landmarks so I took an educated guess to visit a station called “Stephansplatz” in the hope that I’d wind up somewhere central, a guess that paid off! It was a good place to start exploring and my early impressions of Vienna were good. The only downside was the miserable weather so I opted to go and grab lunch somewhere in the hope the rain might stop.

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I found a traditional Austrian restaurant, particularly keen to have my first proper Wiener Schnitzel – it’s a dish I’ve grown up eating at home but it felt a little more authentic eating it in Wien (Vienna) rather than anywhere else. I’m not sure why it isn’t more popular in the UK though, escalopes are pretty close I suppose but not quite as good!

Whilst I’d heard how expensive Austria is, what you don’t hear people say is that it’s balanced out a little with their portion sizes. It was delicious but I struggled finishing it, it did set me up nicely for a few hours of exploring at least.

Sadly there was no sign of the rain stopping but coming from England it wasn’t enough to deter me from exploring. I wandered the city by foot and I was left in awe of the city’s architecture, it is a stunning city. I couldn’t tell you what half of the buildings were but they were impressive nonetheless – every street you walk down has something to catch your eye.

One of the more interesting discoveries was what I can only assume were preparations for a film of some sort. There were tanks, army vehicles and helicopters just casually sat on a lawn in the heart of the city. It caught me by surprise a little and had me pondering what they might be filming.

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Bloody raindrops ruining all of my photos – haha!

My afternoon seemed to fly by as I wandered aimlessly for a few hours before eventually admitting defeat to the weather. I knew I’d have to return to Vienna one day, 24 hours was never going to be enough so why wander just for the sake of it? I grabbed some food and then ducked in to a bar in hope of catching the Spurs game back home.

No luck! For some reason they weren’t showing this particular game and I had to wait until the next morning to discover our fate – switching on the Wi-Fi to find a message from a friend along the lines of “Harry Kane in goal – LOL”. A disastrous message to wake up to without any context. Spurs had actually won comfortably courtesy of a Harry Kane hat-trick and the infamous Erik Lamela rabona goal – a real “I was there” moment (I wasn’t!).

Back to the bar.. I’m not a “pick up a girl at a bar” type of person but the upshot to not being able to watch Spurs was that I found myself stuck at the bar chatting to some local woman for the next hour. We talked about Vienna, travel, work and a number of other things. It was a nice way to end my evening and provided me with a memorable moment to take home with me.

We went our separate ways and I wound up going to bed via the hostel bar, I’d been given a free drink voucher when I checked in so it would have been rude not to. Perhaps surprisingly I did just have the one though as I was keen to head for Salzburg at a reasonable time the next day.

It would be easy to have considered Vienna a waste of time, I didn’t really see much and I can’t offer any genuine reasons for you to visit. I wish I’d had longer in Vienna and I wish the weather had been better too but let’s focus on the positives!

I knew beforehand my time was restricted so all I wanted from my day in Vienna was to leave with some good memories. I left having had a taste of the local cuisine, spent my evening with a local and got to see a small glimpse of what Vienna had to offer. Everything considered I’d call that a successful first visit, albeit a brief one.

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It was a little bittersweet to be leaving Vienna so soon but Salzburg beckoned. I left on the Friday morning excited (and nervous) for the final part of this story.
The goodbye was made easier in the knowledge that I’d return someday.

If you’re planning on going to Vienna, go for longer than a day! I still feel like I have unfinished business with Vienna so it’s somewhere I have to go back to, fortunately I’ll do so with much more knowledge of the German language. On that note there’s only one thing left to say..

Bis bald Wien!

Jason

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Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg – why?

In my last post I spoke about my plans for a 30 day trip to the USA this summer.  Planning a multi-location trip takes a lot more work than a one-stop holiday and that’s certainly true with the US where there is an endless number of places to visit. Planning this trip has given me so much to think about to make it work, fortunately it’s not my first multi-destination trip and that takes us on to my next batch of posts!

My last destination post focused on my trip to Berlin! in August 2014. A couple of months later I was jetting off again! Back in October 2014 I embarked on my biggest adventure yet. Alright, it’s perhaps debatable as you could say Sydney was a bigger adventure but that was just one location to plan for. This trip would see me visit four cities across three countries in 10 days! A mini-European tour featuring Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Salzburg!

My next few posts will be dedicated to those four destinations so stay turned but first let me explain why these particular places as they’re perhaps surprising choices. I mean, does anyone really go to Bratislava?
“Haven’t you seen the films?!”

Spoiler: Bratislava is lovely. Go now!

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Bratislava castle – so recognisable!

Anyway, to explain why we have to start at the end of the trip! You might recall from my Lisbon (Mar 2014) and Barmouth (Apr 2014) posts that I was in a “long” distance relationship which was slowly coming to its conclusion.
Long distance relationships are tough, I seemed to spend half of my time traveling back and forth on trains (and bus replacements!) between Peterborough and Birmingham and at times it was a little draining.

It would have been easy to be put off of the idea of long distance after that experience but instead I went the opposite way and continued a cycle of falling for women further and further from home. I don’t think I limit myself to a “type” but you see movies and such glamourise the “girl next door” whereas my dating history is more like “girl 20,000 miles away”.

“Where are you from?”
“Peterborough”
“Bleurgh.. how about you?”
“Mars!”
“You’re fantastic, I’ll fall in love with you!”

It’s not that simplistic. I don’t do it purposely of course but nevertheless my dating history makes for comical reading. Things didn’t work out with Jasmine (Birmingham) and I’ve since become close to Nicole (Germany), Mella (Georgia, USA) and currently Haleigh (Washington State). Each subsequent relationship has resulted in me falling harder and typically being further away from home. Birmingham suddenly doesn’t seem so far away! Haha!

Anyway there’s a little background for you, now back to the story. Leading up to Berlin I was a little resigned to the fact that I felt something for Nicole, we’d been talking pretty much daily for a few weeks and we’d become pretty close in that time.

Berlin was probably the last trip I had where I was “off the grid”, no contact with anyone back home or in the South of Germany. If I’d had any doubts about long distance with a woman in Germany, spending 2-3 days of not talking quickly made it clear how I felt.  There was no guarantee it was mutual or, even if it was, that long-distance was a good idea but I couldn’t keep my feelings to myself any longer and had to say something! Fortunately the feelings were mutual.

Talk quickly developed in to actually meeting up and spending a little time together to see if the spark between us worked as well in person.
One of the things we had particularly bonded over was our taste in music which meant we talked about possibly going to a gig together. We kept our eyes peeled for any bands touring and soon found a band touring Europe that we both liked.

We browsed through the tour dates and Salzburg (Austria) stood out as one of the best options. It was a weekend gig which suited both of our schedules perfectly and it meant that we both got a little adventure out of the country!

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Beautiful Salzburg!

So that covers why I went to Salzburg! Why did it end up being a multi-city trip and why these particular destinations?

I was excited for a weekend together in a country I’d yet to visit, however I also had a decent bit of annual time left to use at work and we were approaching the end of the year so I had to use it up pretty soon!
Whilst Nicole’s schedule was less flexible there was nothing stopping me exploring solo for a little longer before winding up in Salzburg, so that’s what I did and I extended my trip a week!

I booked a one way flight home from Salzburg and just had to figure out where I was going to start and how I was going to get to Salzburg.
I knew Salzburg was somewhere near Germany and in Austria but as it was somewhere I hadn’t been to I couldn’t really visualise exactly where it was in Europe. I figured once I knew where Salzburg was that I could then narrow down my starting points.

The problem with Salzburg in particular is it seems to be, smack, bang, in the middle of Europe. Take Amsterdam for instance – unless you fly you can only attack it from Belgium or Germany which helps the planning process if that’s where you want to end up. As I looked at Salzburg on a map I realised there were places I would happily visit North, South, East and West of the city – having one location on the itinerary was of little help.

It also didn’t help that, at the time, I hadn’t seen an awful lot of Europe. As far as mainland Europe was concerned I’d only really been to Köln, Brussels, Bruges and Lisbon which were all too far away to have been realistic starting points on a 9/10 day Eurotrip anyway. It was back to the drawing board.

As I planned out the various routes, costs and attractiveness to each place I kept leaning towards Budapest – I feel like in the four years since I visited that Budapest has boomed but at the time it wasn’t somewhere I’d seen much of, nor did I knew anyone who had been. Nevertheless I stuck a pin in Budapest and had my starting point.

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Overlooking the Danube River in Budapest

Budapest to Salzburg! That cut down the possible routes and I figured I’d have to travel through most of Austria to get to Salzburg so one obvious destination that sprung out was Vienna. All that was left to decide was whether I keep it at a 3 city trip or 4. If four, would it be between Budapest and Vienna or between Vienna and Salzburg.

Costs played a part, Austria was expensive so squeezing in a third Austrian city was going to make it a much more expensive trip. Between Budapest and Vienna was another small country (Slovakia) and another capital city, Bratislava.

Bratislava is often overlooked in favour of its illustrious neighbours Vienna, Budapest and Prague. I’d only heard bad things about Bratislava which is sad and I imagine can only be from people who’ve never actually visited. It did put a little doubt in my mind but what swayed me was the fact that it was super cheap! Two nights in Bratislava plus an extra train journey still worked out to be cheaper than a night in Vienna so I gambled and slotted it in to the itinerary.

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Vienna!

This was my final itinerary and thoughts if you were considering doing similar.

3 nights in Budapest – not long enough. I would recommend 5 days.
2 nights in Bratislava – just right. Doable as a day trip if you’re traveling onwards but I would personally recommend staying overnight. I loved Bratislava’s charm and it has a good nightlife too.
1 night in Vienna – impossible. You can’t do Vienna in a day. A city I’ll have to return to.
3 nights in Salzburg – good weekend trip. I would personally recommend 2 nights.

Personally I have no regrets, as much as I would have liked an extra night in Budapest/Vienna I wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice a night elsewhere.

Anyway, that is how my October 2014 trip came together. In my next four posts I will be going in to much more depth about experience in all four cities and my quest for love!

Stay tuned!

Jason