Slow down, you crazy child
And take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
It's alright, you can afford to lose a day or two,
When will you realize Vienna waits for you?
And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through,
Why don't you realize Vienna waits for you?
When will you realize Vienna waits for you?
………..lyrics from “Vienna”, by Billy Joel
I love Vienna. Its centre core is my favourite place in the world (so far, anyway), and now that we’re retired and able to be here for the third time (a brief fourth visit pending in November) it does feel a bit like this is what all our hard work was for: a waiting Vienna. Billy Joel’s lyrics remind me that I don’t want to “just get old”; I want to see and do as much as possible before I “kick off”.
Excluding our travel days to and from, we only have 12 days here, shortened from our originally planned month when our world cruise used up a portion of our 90/180 Schengen allowance. I had to look back at what we’d done on our previous visits (Postcards from Vienna) to help prioritize what we’ll do this time.
On my list for this visit: the Augustinerkirche, the Prater Park, and three museums: the Albertina, the Belvedere, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (or its mirror image Natural History Museum), plus at least one major cemetery. And then there’s the FREE summer film & music festival at the Vienna City Hall Square… and all the cool Beethoven-themed places Ted has discovered on a great app called “ivie” which highlights Vienna places and events.
We’re staying in a completely different neighbourhood from last time: the Yppenviertel, in the Ottakring (16th District). While only a 40 minute walk (we won’t be walking it, for various reasons) from the inner ring of the city, it’s definitely not like living right across from the Opera House right in the Inner Ring (District 1) where we were in 2016. It’s grittier, more diverse, and younger – we may be the oldest people we’ve seen in the neighborhood, not counting the people at the homeless shelter beside the Underground station, who appear somehow sadly both ageless and timeless. District 16 is not posh enough to be properly “Viennese”, but not rural enough to be truly suburban (by European standards). It’s a neighbourhood in the process of becoming gentrified
I read on a Vienna tourist we site that “There are three national icons that originate from Ottakring: The Ottakringer Beer, the Meinl coffee roasting company, and Manner Schnitten (wafers with hazelnut filling that are sold in a legendary pink wrapper). That means that the average Austrian could basically survive on nothing but Ottrakring products.” Clearly, we’ll survive!
Our apartment itself is typically tiny: a bed/sitting room, kitchen, vestibule with small eating area, and a bathroom.
The décor tends to the bohemian: a mix of metallic gold, red, purple, and steel grey fabrics and accents over white walls.
Everything except the wide solid wood plank and ceramic tile floors has been modernized.
There’s even a dishwasher and an induction stove-top… but no oven, which we’re learning is fairly common, Live in an apartment and want something baked or roasted? Just walk down to the nearest bakery/restaurant. There’s also the typically small (bar-size) refrigerator, reflecting the very European habit of buying fresh and almost daily.
As we’ve found in most European cities, the windows have no screens. And as we’ve found in most 200-year-old buildings, there is no air conditioning; the rooms are kept cool by a combination of thick stone walls and open windows.
But it’s summer in Vienna! Restaurants and cafés are open until midnight (later on the weekends), and kids are on summer vacation. The up side of living in an area replete with restaurants and beside a big park is obvious – the down side is that it’s not quiet at night. Folks play ping pong and basketball in the park until 03:00 (that’s 3 a.m. to us North Americans), and the morning activity on the street begins at 06:00, since bakeries, groceries, and even some cafés are all humming by 07:00. The bakery one street over is actually open 24/7. There’s a limited window of opportunity for deep sleep.
We’re not doing much of anything on Day 1 here. Yesterday was a long travel day, with our 7 hour train ride from Berlin extended to 9 hours due to unauthorized people on the track in Berlin, switch problems in Nürnberg, and a blocked tunnel in Austria that forced a detour onto rail lines through the Vienna Woods (cue the Strauss waltz here).
We’ve had coffee. The sun is shining. There’s a neighbourhood to explore, including our first foray into the Brunnenmarkt for fruit, vegetables, and meat – and to check out all the Middle Eastern food stalls – in Vienna’s second oldest street market. We’ll head into the city proper tomorrow.