Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vienna Day Trip

By train, Vienna is only 1.5 hours away from Brno. Miran came up from Murska Sobota for the weekend and we took a day trip on Saturday to do a little sightseeing and visit the Christmas markets. I can't believe that I've been so busy this year that this was the first time I've been to Vienna in 2011, aside from going to the airport.

Wien is a great city!! It's always funny to me that people consider Vienna as part of Western Europe and Prague is viewed as Eastern Europe when Vienna is actually further east than Prague. I know it goes back to the days of the Iron Curtain. However, one thing is for sure, Vienna is a major capital city with one of the highest quality of life standards in the world.

We started the day of by walking around the Schönbrunn Palace which used to the the summer residence of the Habsburg imperial family. It is one of the most impressive Baroque complexes in Europe. It was built to rival Versailles in France but the Habsburgs didn't quite have the funds necessary to outdo the French palace. The Schönbrunn complex contains the Gloriette, massive gardens, a palm house and a zoo. The entire complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was the first time I've been to Schönbrunn. I really want to go back in spring when all of the flowers are in bloom and, of course, to take a tour inside the palace.

However, my first visit will be to the zoo before next summer. Built in 1760, it's the oldest zoo in the world. Plus it has pandas! In 2010, Fu Hu was born but he will return to China in 2012 so I need to get to the zoo before he leaves.

Stephansdom, St. Stephen's Cathedral was built in 1147. It's in the city center and for many years its 137 meters (~450 feet) made it Europe's highest building. The cathedral is nice enough but the exterior has been undergoing renovation since before I moved to Europe and the inside is quite dark. Stephansdom is also very crowded but worth the visit. Here's a Rick Steves video I found out on YouTube.

©Rick Steves

I much prefer Peterskirche, St. Peter's Church. The medieval Baroque church was built in 1733. Many experts believe that the church was adapted from a previously secular building because it has three alters with an apse in the south instead of the normal eastern orientation. Renovation was completed in 2004. The inside is bright and quite lovely. Highly recommended.
There is always so much to see and do in Vienna but it seemed that everyone else had the same idea we did which was to visit the Christmas markets.

It was such a nice day and the markets were great as usual. Granted it was a Saturday but it seemed so much more crowded this time compared to last year and the year before. I heard more Czech, Slovak, Slovenian and Hungarian spoken than I did German.

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