Route and arrival
On day eight of our journey our minimal gang arrived in Vienna, Austria. We came from Munich, Germany and passed by Salzburg, Austria, situated close to the border. The journey by car from Munich to Vienna is about four hours and a half (one hour and a half to Salzburg) but we had a stop of a couple of hours through the picturesque mountain town, which expanded our trip to 6-7 hours.
When we first came in we were slightly disappointed but that was mainly due to the fact that Google maps had a completely wrong idea of where the town centre is. What is interesting about this town is that it’s situated between steep hills and when you come in you need to drive around a big hill to get to the central part. The streets are narrow and go along a river and the town is a pretty little gem once you pass the initial parts of it.
Parking in Salzburg was really complex – there are designated car parks but most of them are quite far from the inner streets. We ended up looping around the whole centre a couple of times until we found a not-so-distant parking spot. The distances aren’t really that long so even if you park slightly further away you will be able to reach the core of the town by walking.
The alleys are small, full of character and most of them are blocked for cars. We walked up for a few minutes and reached the Christmas market – a very familiar scene by now. But there was something even cuter here in Austria every detail was beautifully crafted.
The market offered Christmas decorations, ornaments and souvenirs, local food – mulled wine, chocolates, cheese, and in the heart of it there was a toy train busily circulating on its tracks. That made the little man’s day brighter.
Another attraction that was the height of our experience was the outside ice-skating course. It was Sylvie’s first time learning to skate and mine in many years. But we had a good laugh and without a doubt – an unforgettable memory.
Accommodation and area
We arrived late in the night at our AirBnB apartment. The prices here were already lower compared to Germany and we had a lovely spacious two bedroom flat in an original Viennese building. It was located in the 2nd District of the city, not too far from the Danube canal (a former arm of the river, now a water channel).
The streets were wide and clean, the buildings – simple and beautiful. The evenings and nights were very quiet.
The parking situation was slightly complex but manageable. It’s easy enough to find a space to park on the road but you can only get a ticket for two hours and you’ll have to renew it after that time, every two hours except for early mornings and late nights.. Also there aren’t any ticket machines on the roads so you’ll have to find a shop where you can get one, usually a block or two away.
In the city centre parking is quite expensive – there are designated car parks but they charge from €4 per hour. It’s certainly better to use public transport than driving and there’s plenty of options. There are also cheaper car parks – park and ride – but as the name suggests they’re quite far off and again you’ll need to get on a bus, tram or subway.
All that said, we did get fined (about €30) on the morning before we left Vienna. So they do check!
Things to do in Vienna
Our host was thoughtful enough and we had tons of maps and booklets about Vienna. And it was really hard to decide what to do – there is loads to see.
On our first day we visited this impressive building and gardens. It reminded me of the Powerscourt House and Gardens in Ireland. We wandered there and admired the old Baroque statues and beautifully manicured gardens, despite the chill November air. Luckily in the backyard we found the common by now Christmas market and warmed ourselves with the local yummies.
Ferris Wheel Square
That was our second attraction to visit in Vienna – the vast amusement park which houses the “giant Wiener Riesenrad“, the local Ferris wheel. The wheel is quite dazzling, especially on the evening dusk light, and it provides a great opportunity to observe the city from an eagle-eye perspective.
The amusement park offers a diversity of attractions plus giant roller-coaster, water park, spooky house and much much more. Many of them were closed for the season but still there was plenty of choice. Yet another market flavoured our experience in a warm chocolaty sweetness.
On the next (sadly our last) day we walked down to Vienna’s city centre. We were only about 15-20 mins walking distance and we strolled down the water channel. Now this place was striking! The walls were covered from top to bottom, from beginning to end with colourful graffiti by apparently a very activist youth. Some of the messages were somewhat political and I got a lovely rebellious vibe from them!
I personally come from a country where people tend to express their animosity towards political and other injustice in such creative manners and I support that. Because I see a willingness for change and moving forward which isn’t stifled down or funneled into aggressive violent behaviour. Although you can also notice the downside of that when things go too far and some old monuments are being disgracefully painted over. But in overall, I saw graffiti only in this area and not on building walls, etc. Which is the way to go about it – to have a place for that sort of art and the freedom to creative expression.
I also noticed some other creative projects along the water channel like, for example, the remnants of a nature garden with wooden flower and plant pots, where it seemed people could come and grow their own stuff. Unfortunately it was late season and everything was abandoned for the time being.
There was also a colourful playground and some coffee shops which I bet would be lovely chill out places in the warm months.
We only had a couple of hours in the city centre but I was enchanted – none of the places we’ve visited so far had the same feel of magic and fairy tale wonder. The streets and squares were beautifully decorated with ornate details. The shops, the lights, even the public toilets were pretty. We passed the Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral, walked along the Stephansplatz and wandered in the small streets until we reached the canal again and made our way back.
Vienna offers an immense amount of beauty on every corner. Cobbled streets, antique coffee shops, traditional food restaurants, unique architecture and art, museums, parks, and much more. What I saw was only a fraction and a couple of hours were enough to make me want to come again. I only regret we had just a little over a day to spend here.
Vienna had too many things that resonated with me really well: I loved the spirit of the city and the sense I got from the artistic expressions of the younger generations. What I felt was that people want to move away from the old and oppressive, they are open and progressive. This all makes sense on the backdrop of Vienna’s chief influence – Germany and the Germanic culture. I’ve no idea what is the political scene in Austria but I did get the feeling that the people (at least the young ones) don’t want the rigidity, stiffness and even suppression. And this is the feeling which I got in Germany – I was spooked there. But again, this is totally my own personal vision and feeling, not based on facts but impressions.
In Vienna I also got the feeling that the country of Austria is in between the western and eastern customs and ways of being. Once we’ve crossed over to Hungary everything was much more similar to my home country Bulgaria, where we have a lot more from the Orient. In Austria we’re still in the west but you get lovely vibes from a more cordial and warm attitude. Everything felt more human, more imperfect, more down to earth. (Again I’m comparing with Germany.)
And last but not least, Vienna is a representation of beauty, detail and taste in its purest form. And you see it everywhere. But not in a way that’s in your face. It’s also flawed and coloured and more real.
Of all the places I’ve visited this autumn, Vienna is where I left a piece of my heart. And will have to go back to get it, or even maybe put down roots.
See for yourself: