The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
Delta started new service to Vienna, direct
out of Atlanta, so of course we had to try it out! Surprisingly, there were empty seats
over Memorial Day weekend! Of course we had a back-up plan, but as departure day
approached, the flight continued to look promising for standby travel. So promising, in
fact, that we did something we very rarely do, and reserved a room! Rick Steves
recommended the Pension Hargita. As
a four group, we preferred two double rooms, but the Pension responded that only a quad
room was available. At 110 Euro/night, the price was certainly right, so we reserved.
We were in a quandary about what to wear on
the flight. Since Delta changed the dress code for non-revenue passengers, we had lots
more options. We are creatures of habit though, so we finally decided on our usual
business casual attire. I went a little wild and actually wore dark colored tennis shoes
with my outfit. Tonys concession to the more relaxed dress code was to wear pants
with patch pockets.
Checking in for the flight was a bit more difficult than usual. Thank goodness we ALWAYS allow plenty of time. The Employee Service Center at the airport was in the process of relocating to the lower level of the airport. We dropped by to take a look, but since we werent checking bags, we didnt see the need to stand in line and headed upstairs to the kiosks. When each of us checked in using the kiosk, we got an error message as we swiped our passport, so we had to go back downstairs and stand in line to see an agent to check in. The security line was particularly long, but we still made it to E Concourse in time for a beverage in the food court. We tried out Tonys new toy, a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. We were able to check the flight and find that they had already started clearing the stand-by list so we hurried to the gate to collect our boarding cards.
Business Class in the newly configured 767 was
quite comfortable. The seats recline just a little more than the old ones (160° to be
exact) and include a touch screen entertainment system that you can pause when the flight
attendant comes to see if you need more wine! Tony and I watched the same movie
(Because I Said So) about 30 minutes apart. Tony agreed it was definitely a
chick-flick. Before I started the movie, I studied the Vienna section of Rick
Steves Germany, Austria & Switzerland book where I highlighted
several things I wanted to see and do (including the Vienna Boys Choir and the giant
When we arrived in Vienna, we found the nearest restroom and changed into shorts. We could already tell it was going to be hot just from the walk up the jetway into the airport! We spotted a sign touting an express train into the city that would take just 16 minutes and cost 64 Euro for the four of us to travel round-trip. There was a grocery store on the way to the train where we should have stopped, to stock up on the essentials (Diet Coke, Wine and Chocolate). Next time Instead, we bought our train tickets from the kiosk and boarded the train. Sixteen minutes later, we arrived at the City Air Terminal which was conveniently located at the Landstrasse stop on the Vienna underground. A short subway ride to the Zieglergasse stop had us near the pension. We took the wrong exit from the subway station so we were a little turned around when we finally emerged into the bright sunlight. I stopped a passerby to ask directions. In my best German, I asked, Sprechen ze Englisch? When the lady answered yes, I asked Do you know your way around? She laughed and said, I hope so, I am living here. She helped us find the Pension Hargita.
The proprietress showed us to our room. Noting
that there was no air conditioning, we propped all of the windows open to cool the room
and then set out on our adventure.
We picked up a map from the hotel. The map is HUGE and confusing with tiny writing that is impossible for anyone over 40 to read. We finally figured out where we were and started walking down Mariahilfer Straße toward the Tourist Information bureau where I wanted to pick up some literature. Along the way, we passed the lovely Burggarten with its statue of Mozart.
We also saw Goethe sitting in his big chair, but we were so intent on watching the teenagers climbing the statue to sit in his lap that we missed seeing his trivia opponent Schiller across the street. The next sight was the Opera, an important cultural landmark for Vienna We are not cultured enough to want to take the tour, so we continued on. We saw several other famous Vienna sights.
At the TI, we picked up some free bicycling
maps for a subsequent trip and bought the Vienna from A to Z book. It is a
handy little 100+ page guide with numbers that are cross referenced on the free city map
(if you could read them).
We stopped for a Zipfer Pils at the
Rosenberger Markt Restaurant while we studied the A to Z guide. We were ready for lunch
and the Sunken City caught our eye:
gourmets and lovers of
international food will delight in the numerous restaurants, cafes and discos in Sunken
City We bought a 72 hour pass for the subway and headed for the Donauinsel stop. I
wanted to walk so that we could see the Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel) on the way but I
was outvoted by the hungry people. We agreed that we would walk back so I could see the
When we got off the train in the middle of the river, we noted the topless sunbathers on the grassy bank.
We arent sure whether we actually found the Sunken City What we found was a Coney Island-like area with lots of bars. A floating bridge connected the island in the middle of the river with one of the banks.
There were bars on both sides. We had a late lunch of Mexican food at the Restaurante Macondito accompanied by an Ottakringer beer.
We crossed the floating bridge and had some umbrella drinks at the Café del Sol, and then wine at the Couch Potato. We met an interesting couple at the Couch Potato. The girl was from Romania and thought that Vienna was Scheiße. She could not understand why we would want to come to Vienna on a holiday. The guy was a truck driver from Brataslava.
I was overruled by the hungry people once
again, so we hopped back on the train and went in search of dinner. We found the crowded
outdoor Brauhaus Plutzer and were fortunate to get the last empty table. Tony and I had
Goulasch while the other girls had chicken sandwiches with Pommes-Frites. (The restaurant
had an English menu which the waitress produced after hearing our
Tony hurried back to get us a seat at the Pizza Restorante mia Cucina across the street from our hotel for a night cap. We bought a couple of extra bottles of wine for the room. (We would have been better off paying the grocery store prices at the airport, but who knew we wouldnt find a convenient wine store in town?) The waiter let us take our glasses back to the room if we promised to return them.
Even with the windows open, it was hot in our room. The traffic noises on the busy Mariahilfer Straße made it difficult to sleep, but we were tired from the flight over so we managed to sleep. And sleep, and sleep. I finally got up around 10AM, took my shower and set out in search of a fix for the Diet Coke addicts. All of the stores on Mariahilfer Straße LOOK like they would be markets, but none of them are. There are a lot of cosmetic stores with grocery carts out front, but no Diet Cokes. I finally found some luke-warm ones at a bakery, and my roommates were happy with what they got.
We talked about
taking a side trip to the Maulthausen Concentration camp but it looked like it would be a
2+ hour train ride so we decided to save that for another time.
We walked to Westbahnhof to checked the schedule for a side trip to Melk. We were getting such a late start today (Friday) that we decided instead to take a shorter trip to Kahlenberg. We took the U-4 metro to Heiligenstadt and then caught bus 38A up to Kahlenburg. It was a little foggy, but the view was still impressive.
We sipped Zwettler 1890 bier while we lunched on paninis and wurst at the café overlooking the city and then took the 45 minute downhill hike to Nussdorf. None of us had on appropriate shoes for the hike, but the beautiful vineyards took our minds off of our throbbing feet.
As we wound our way into Nussdorf, we found the Heurigen (Wine Gardens)! We were pleasantly surprised by the taste of the young wine.
It was much heartier than some of the German wine we had tasted. We were always offered water with our wine often even free tap water (very unusual for Europe). We tried the Heuriger and Mueller Thurgau wine at Steinschaden. Afterwards, we walked 50 meters to the next wine garden the Schubel-auer. The carbonated water was served in this unusual container.
Boys Choir was to perform at 3:30PM, but I would not get to see them on this trip. We
walked 300 meters to the Weingut diem Im Brunnerhof for one more sample of Heuriger before
taking the D tram back to the Spittelau station where we connected with the subway. Dinner
was at our neighborhood pizza place, the Pizzaria Restorante mia Cucina. While here, we
bought some Diet Cokes to put in the hall refrigerator at our pension so that they would
be cold for the morning.
Despite the heat, we slept fairly well, (with the door opened so we would get a breeze), but we were awakened by a man in the street below screaming repetitively. It was a pretty good alarm clock and got us up and moving so that we could make the train to Melk. For Melk, we were able to get a combi-ticket which included a train ticket, a tour of the Benediktinerstift (the Melk Abbey) a boat from Melk to Krems (Milk to Creme!) and a train ticket from Krems back to Vienna. Planning ahead, we purchased some refreshments for the train at the convenient grocery store located in the Westbahnhof station.
After a short train ride, we wandered around Melk taking in the sights.
We stopped for a Kaiser bier at the Restaurant zur Post run by the Familie Ebner. Then we toured the Benedictine Abbey with its impressive architecture and beautiful painted ceilings..
All of the books in the library were bound exactly alike, like they had accumulated years and years of the Encyclopedia Britannica!
Spiral staircases were a prominant feature of the Abbey.
There was a nice view of the town from the Abbey atop the hill.
Passing back through town, we were enticed by the smell of fish being cooked on the grill so we stopped for lunch at the Cafe Restaurant zum Fursten run by the Familie Madar.
The less adventuresome opted for spaghetti or wursts while we trail-blazers had the Forelle (Trout) on a stick. It was delicious but could have used some side dishes. It came with only bread. The wurst on the other hand came with both pommes frites AND German potato salad. The wurst was covered in cheese, wrapped in bacon and then grilled. Need a little grease in your diet?
We hurried to the boat dock, stopping briefly to look back at the elaborate Melk Abbey.
Aboard the Austria, we found seats outside on the front and ordered a carafe of wine. It threatened, but never rained as we cruised past the beautiful little villages centered around church steeples and castles atop the hills. We found that it is better to secure a seat on the outside of the boat because on a crowded day if you sit on one of the inner seats looking out, all you get to see is butt.
In Krems, we climbed a steep hill to the
Winegut Schlussel zum Gluck. There we had a nice conversation with the proprietress about
the early summer they are having. The fruit on the cherry tree in the wine garden was
starting to turn red, very unusual for this time of year; a far cry from ready to eat
We miscalculated the time it would take to get to the train station, so we thundered, breathless, up to the entrance just in time to miss the train. We decided to have a snack at the Conditoria Raimitz just outside the train station while we waited for the next one, but were disappointed to find that they did not serve pommes frites. While we ordered bier and wine, Tony went in search of pomme frites. He scored a major win with the girls when he came back with a huge styrofoam box full from the Schnitzelnax. We actually had to send him back for a second serving! We stopped in the grocery store on our way through the train station for chocolate and almost missed the train again!
It was late when we got back into Vienna, so
we decided to go back to the Pizzaria Restorante mia Cucina across from our hotel. They
were happy to see us again and wanted us to take their wine glasses home as a souvenir. We
thanked them and took them back to our room that night, but left them outside the
restaurant the next morning.
We made very good connections on the subway and train back to the airport so we arrived extremely early (as usual) for our flight. Since Vienna is a new city for Delta, we played our part in training the staff in the handling of non-revs. They did an excellent job and had us checked in with a couple of hours to spare before the flight. The security for our gate was not open when we approached and there was no place to sit, so we found a table at the Cafe Bistro Johann Straus. The only available table was in the smoking section. It seems so odd now to see smoking in an airport. As soon as we spied a family leaving a non-smoking table, we sent Tony over to lay claim. Another man beat us to it but he offered to share. He was from Montenegro but had spent 30 years in Australia. After we sat down, we noticed that the man at the next table was sweating so profusely that his shirt was drenched. We joked that we were going to catch something from him.
The flight home in Business Class was as
delightful as the flight over. I watched 3 movies, The Painted Veil,
Music and Lyrics, and Holiday. When I got home, I found that I had
The Painted Veil on Tivo, but it was the original version from 1934 with Greta
Garbo. It was interesting to see the two versions back to back.
Were already planning a subsequent trip to this area, hoping to do a bicycle trip from Vienna to Budapest. We found a promising website at http://www.pedalpower.at/