One weekend I bought us a couple of first class train tickets to Vienna, which is only about 150 miles away. The tickets were very reasonable and the station is a ten minute walk from the Boscolo. As we walked through the beautiful old station I had to remark on the very sleek looking modern trains all lined up at their relevant platforms, until we got to platform 12, where there was an old rattler that looked like it was on its last legs, all set for Vienna.
"Bloody typical" i mumbled to myself as we boarded the ancient locomotive, until I realised that once on board it was really rather nice, we had our own compartment and a dining car next door where a portly old gentleman in a red waistcoat served excellent gin & tonics all the way to Vienna. British rail could learn a thing or two from these boys and as for Amtrak, don't get me started.
On arrival in Vienna we bade farewell to our friendly waiter and the lovely old rattler and found ourselves in a very impressive modern station, Wien Westbahnhof, I think it’s an old station that somebody spent an awful lot of money modernising and they did a great job. From there we got a cab to our hotel which I’d found online and thought it might be interesting. The amusingly named ‘Rathaus Wine & Design hotel’ is very near the Parliament building and within a good walk of the whole city centre. Whether you’re into wine or not this hotel is fabulous, read a review of it here.
We spent the whole of the next day on foot, just wandering around Vienna, which I highly recommend. It’s a very clean city, I’ve never been anywhere so clean. At one point during our meanderings I noticed a McDonalds wrapper that some Neanderthal had dropped on the street and I was compelled to pick it up and dispose of it properly, it just seemed so wrong. You could eat your Schnitzel off the pavement, but fortunately there is an abundance of restaurants and cafes where they will gladly give you a table instead. I’d like to make a return trip to Vienna just to have coffee, beer and cake in all the cafes. Most of them are beautiful and there is a rich culture of the café society, one in particular, Café Mozart, is famous for being a favourite haunt of Graham Greene and is where he wrote ‘The Third Man’ a classic spy novel if ever there was one.
Anyways, we had some really good coffee at the Palmenhaus Café, a stunning place that’s an old converted Palm house, it looks like something out of Kew Gardens in London. We sat outside as it was a beautiful day and just people watched for an hour or so, fascinating to watch the locals, mostly whole families all wearing their Sunday best mingling with the tourists, it seemed to be a regular thing in Vienna, which is nice.
To spend just one day wandering around this city is of course nowhere near enough, but you can get a sense of what it might be like to spend some real time there. Given the opportunity I’d come back here for a couple of weeks and really have a good look around, there’s a lot of wonderful architecture and the museums would take 2 weeks at least. The worst thing about coming to Vienna is having that awful Ultravox song stuck in your head for a week, it means nothing to me...
Palmenhaus Cafe, Vienna