After a couple days of getting Jack situated in his new digs in Wiener Neustadt, we had some time for sightseeing. We’d contacted Hanna, a former exchange student who lives with her family in nearby Baden bei Wien, a spa town famous for its hot springs. Baden is a short train ride from Wr. Neustadt, and Hanna met us at the station to take us to her home for lunch with her mother, Monika.
Afterwards we took a walking tour through town, and Monika pointed out the sights. It had been really warm in Austria since we arrived. It was a relief to have some cloud cover and cooler temperatures.
Baden is the premier resort town of Austria, surrounded by forested hills. It’s historically known for being the favored retreat of Austrian emperors and famous composers. During the summer it hosts Europe’s largest outdoor photography exhibit. The theme this year is “I love Africa,” and we strolled through photos displays of wildlife and people from a different continent.
The town has a very upscale but relaxed vibe. It felt a lot to me like our own Sun Valley, only less cowboy and more Mozart.
While Jack was on exchange in Denmark, he’d had the opportunity to take a broader European tour, which included a day in Vienna. He told us later he was determined to live there one day, he loved the city so much.
So, I guess there’s something to be said for setting your intentions.
We had planned a day trip to Vienna so I could see what the fuss was about. We were going to spend all of Saturday there. As per my MO, I had compiled an impossibly long list of things to see. After our lunch in Baden on Friday, I’d hoped we could take an advance half-day trip into town to knock a couple of those items off and make our list a little more manageable.
Unfortunately, just after we arrived in Vienna, the clouds opened up and it rained hard for a good hour or so. Jack and I stood in a doorway for a while, weighing our options and watching horse drawn carriages pass with soggy tourists. We decided to brave the storm with our one, broke-ass Idaho umbrella for a short walk to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Then we ducked into a casual place for dinner – Hungry Guy Street Food – where you can get schnitzel stuffed into a house-made pita. Interesting concept, but too much food for me (maybe the name of the place could have been a clue?).
I’ll probably just go with the falafel next time.
The next day we headed back into Vienna for a more substantial (and we hoped drier) tour of the city. Hanna had some time to spare, so we met up with her again, starting over at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. From there, we walked to the Vienna State Opera House to tour along the Veinna Ringstraße. The historic “ring street” runs along some of the city’s most famous historic buildings. We ducked down a few side streets with Hanna, and spent a good deal of time in the city’s 6th district, called Mariahilf. The guide books describe this area as quirky and bohemian. Hanna says it’s popular with university students. She showed us where she took drawing lessons, and pointed out her favorite hangouts, paper shops, restaurants, and cafes.
The rain held itself to a manageable drizzle and kept the temperature down, which was perfect. A single day was clearly not enough time to see everything on our list. It never is. I’d also wanted to see Vienna’s famous amusement park – the Prater – and maybe take in the sunset from the top of its signature ferris wheel. Jack had wanted to show me the gardens of Schonbrun Palace, which had made an impression on him his first trip here, and we didn’t even bother paying admission to see any of the museums or palaces from the inside.
The good news: with Jack studying in Austria (if all goes well, for most of the next three years), we have a built-in excuse to return, and there’s gobs more of the country to see, of course.
I tried to focus on all of that as I said goodby to our successfully-launched oldest kid just a couple days later.