The second week of my adventures across Central Europe took me to Vienna.
My Monday morning began very early as the friends I was staying with had appointments before their work day even began. This resulted in me being kicked out of their house before 7am and I was on the first train from Munich to Vienna at 7.30am
The four hour trip from Munich across to Vienna went by very quickly, aided by free WIFI on the train which allowed me to catch up on a little bit of emails and talk to friends back in NZ and Australia. I also spent a bit of time watching the scenery go past the train window, including seeing the sun rise over the Alps and glimpsing the huge Stift Melk (Melk Abbey) in the distance as we approached Vienna.
Once I arrived in Vienna I had over four hours to kill while waiting for my travelling companion for the next week to fly in from Berlin. When he heard that I had arrived so early he forbade me from seeing any of the sights in the centre of town. So instead I decided to put my bags into storage and walk from the Vienna Hauptbahnhof through the Belvedere Schlossgarten and Stadtpark to the Donau Canal.
The gardens of Schloss Belvedere were extremely beautiful even in the middle of winter. When I got down to the Palais Schwarzenberg end of the gardens I took a break for a few minutes sitting down and admiring the beauty of the location. Continuing my walk, just outside the gates of the Palace is the huge and imposing Soviet war memorial after taking a few photos I then continued on my way to the nearby Stadtpark where I found the Johann Strauss Memorial.
By this time I had only killed around an hour and a half, so I kept walking. I crossed the Donau Canal and walked up Praterstraße to the Johann Strauss Wohnung, the house where Strauss composed the Blue Danube Waltz. Unfortunately for me, as it was a Monday, the museum inside the house was closed. At this point, in hindsight I should have continued walking up the road to the Prater, but instead I got on a U-Bahn to Vorgartenstraße to see the proper Danube river.
Once I had exited the U-Bahn and found my way across a couple of major roads I was on the bank of the Danube. At Vienna the Danube is a very wide river and along its banks are a lot of industry. Walking along the river at this point didn’t seem that much fun, so instead I walked halfway across the Reichsbrücke bridge which I was next to, and then came back and walked fully across the bridge on the other side of the road.
On the eastern bank of the Danube is the Donau City which contains a number of large office towers and the UNO-City complex. This area was very different from the rest of Vienna (and most of Europe) as it is extremely modern, but it was also rather boring as you couldn’t go inside the UNO-City without being approved for a tour beforehand.
Armed with a Lonely Planet Guidebook on my Kindle, next to the description of the UNO-City was mention of some World War II Flak Towers. Thinking they were close to the UNO-City I managed to get myself a little lost before discovering they were in fact in a park closer to Prater. At this point I had killed almost three hours, so I decided to try and find the Flak Towers while slowly making my way back to the Hauptbahnhof.
To find the park with the Flak Towers I jumped on a U-Bahn back the Prater U-Bahn station and from there headed up Heinestraße to the Augarten. The Flak Towers were then at the opposite end of the park, but you could see them from almost every corner of the park. They are huge concrete monoliths which are essentially indestructible.
By this time, I had walked a few kilometers away from the U-Bahn station that would have taken me back to the Hauptbahnhof so following my nose and offline google maps I hopped on a tram and found myself travelling towards the centre of the city. The tram then terminated once it got across the Donau Canal, at this point I was also a little lost, so I decided to start walking towards the Hauptbahnhof until I found a mode of transport that would take me there.
My walk essentially took me around the Ringstraße, during which I walked past the Rathaus, Burgtheater and the Vienna Parliament. After dodging a protest outside Parliament, I found a tram with a destination indicator that read Hauptbahnhof and I jumped on it worried that I was 30 minutes late meeting my friend. When I arrived at the Hauptbahnhof I discovered that he was even more lost than I was and had got on a train travelling the wrong way…