25.09.21 — Travel


I left my last blog post revealing that I eventually – after two bouts of COVID – managed to escape Spain for a quick holiday. I can now reveal that this little four-day trip took me to the Austrian capital, where I was reunited with my friend Loredana! I’d not seen her since she joined Megan and Heidi in coming to visit me in Madrid back in 2019, so I was looking forward to a few days relaxing at her place and exploring Vienna.

The trip kicked off with a rather early 05:30am start, which had me in a taxi and through airport security in time to catch the beautiful sunrise from Terminal 4 of Madrid’s airport. I didn’t have long to appreciate it through, as between breakfast and an early boarding, I was soon flying east over Europe and prepping my immunisation documentation to enter Austria.

I arrived in Vienna around midday, was waved through the health checks by the grumpiest man I have ever encountered, and headed straight outside to eat the soggy sandwich that I’d bought in Madrid before setting off. This killed a bit of time whilst I waited the 45 minutes for the next bus, with some other time took up by a moment of intrigue as the fire brigade turned up to put out a fire that had started in a bin thanks to a stray cigarette butt.

When my bus finally arrived in the centre of Vienna, I was met at the station by Loredana. Reunited, we then headed down to the metro headed to her apartment so that I could leave my bags and freshen up a bit before an afternoon exploring the city!

A surprise awaited me, as Loredana and her boyfriend, David, had prepared an old bike so that the three of us could explore the centre of Vienna on two wheels. I’m always banging on about how I love cycling around Madrid – they know me so well!

Our bike ride then commenced, and after some teething problemas as I accustomed myself to the lack of electric motor and the unfamiliar back-pedalling method of braking, we were soon zipping down towards the city centre. We passed through a couple of the city’s numbered zones before arriving at the museum area, a lovely pedestrianised zone full of gorgeous buildings, museums, and terraces. We sat down on the terrace of a café where David’s brother worked and I immediately ordered a plate of Kaiserschmarrn, an Austrian dish consisting of shredded pancake with sugar and a fruit marmalade for dipping. Delicious!

Pretty much every single building in the centre of Vienna looked like it was out of a fairytale.

After a coffee and this sweet indulgence, we continued our bike ride, passing by a lot of iconic buildings which I didn’t have time to photograph or which were currently undergoing repair work. Loredana did snap a photo of me wandering around with a helmet on, but it’s not a look – I’ll leave that one out for now…

We then circled around the “ring”, a road which – as the name suggests – circles around the centre of the city. This took us past the river, and we seized the opportunity to have a cycle along the banks of the water and stop for a drink at a pretty riverside bar. To go alongside my lemon gin and tonic, and to quell some of the first rumblings of hunger, I also grabbed some mini dumplings – and in the process used up the 10 words of German that I know.

This drink stop left us tired and weary, so we headed back home for a rest before heading back out for our evening meal. As I’d just arrived in Austria, I was keen to try out the local fare, and so Loredana and David took me to one of their favourite Austrian restaurants to try some typical dishes from the region. These included fittatensuppe (a soup with strips of crepe), meat with spätzle (a kind of doughy noodle), and – of course – schitnzel. This was all topped off with some apple strudel and a shot of schnapps – which it turns out is nothing like the sweet stuff I used to shot at university!

The taste and strength of real schnapps has to be one of the biggest shocks I’ve had recently.

Before heading home, we then wandered down to have some drinks on a street lined with bars set into the arches of the metro viaduct near Loredana’s place. I polished off a few tequila-based cocktails there whilst we all had a good laugh whilst chatting about all kinds of nonsense, eventually winding our way back home once we were all to tired for more.

The next day was the only day that the three of us would be together, so we made the most of the good weather and planned our day over a delicious breakfast spread that Loredana and David laid out on the table in their pretty little garden. Leaving the bikes behind, we decided to move around on foot or public transport, and so headed back into the centre of Vienna via a tram and then a metro.

I even made a couple of new furry friends along the way.

The metro left us bang in the centre of the city, at Stephansdom, the city’s iconic central cathedral. In a happy coincidence, there was a street market set up and in full swing, and so we headed in to have a snoop around whilst I admired the colourful roof and striking height and architecture of the cathedral in the centre.

The patterned roof of the Stephansdom has turned it into an icon of Vienna.

In the market I had my first taste of sturm, a young wine which is still very sweet and relatively low in alcohol. It was absolutely delicious, and could definitely become an easy vice if I were to have easy access to it. Now I find myself wondering if there’s any kind of equivalent in Spain – but perhaps its best not to go there…

We then headed further into the centre, checking out some more iconic buildings, squares, and sights before making another stop to relax in the shade with a drink. As we polished off or radlers, we spoke about where to go for lunch, as so much exploration had stirred up quite the appetite. Loredana suggested a Lebanese restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious and very, very filling meal.

I was really lucky with the weather during the whole trip, the sun just kept on shining.

Fit to burst after such a large lunch, we continued meandering the streets of Vienna, finding ourselves crossing one of the city’s many beautiful parks after David had to dash off to meet some other friends. Now in a different and rather fancy area of the city, me and Loredana wound up engaging in a spot of what an American would call “dumpster diving” – I found a nice tie that had just been thrown out and sported that for the rest of the afternoon!

Now tired from so much walking, we headed back home, where Loredana had a surprise in store. Although the space is technically off limits, her building has an access hatch which leads to the roof, and so we snuck upstairs and quietly lowered the ladder to the forbidden terrace.

Loredana marched up that ladder without a hint of respect for the rules.

The views from the rooftop were unexpectedly spectacular, with a near 360° view over Vienna and its suburbs. We’d also happily timed our little adventure just right, and caught a gorgeous sunset over the rooftops. I don’t really have to say much more here, the photos speak for themselves…

Still full from lunch and exhausted from so much wandering, we opted to spend the rest of the night in at home, and so Loredana dragged out Sing Star for her Playstation 2. I’d never played the karaoke game and I am possibly one of the most tone-deaf people out there, but we had a great laugh singing out hearts out until we were too tired to carry on.

The next day I awoke to an empty flat, as both Loredana and David had headed off to work. I’d been left with a key and some instructions on where to go and visit to entertain myself until Loredana got back home around lunchtime, and – after mooching around in bed until l late – I dutifully headed off in the direction of the Schönbrunn Palace.

With the sun beating down on the city quite relentlessly, I hopped off the metro with a cinnamon roll in hand (that I had managed to order in German, miraculously) and looked for the entrance to the gardens which Loredana had promised me were rather beautiful. I eventually found the main gate of the ex-royal residence and pottered in, amazed by the sheer size of the place.

As you can see from the photos, the promised beauty of the place did not disappoint one bit, with the giant yellow structure almost paling in comparison with the vast expanses of gorgeous gardens which surrounded it. I walked around the area quite slowly at first, in awe of everything and taking photos of every small detail, but I soon realised that I wasn’t getting anywhere at that pace. I thus grabbed myself a delicious kaiserschmarrn and strawberry flavoured ice cream and headed off to see the first spot that Loredana had marked on my map, the Palm House.

As soon as I saw kaiserschmarrn (the shredded pancakes) as a flavour option I knew I had to have it.

After this leisurely walk around the lovely, flat gardens, it was time to brace the huge hill that stood behind the palace in order to visit the next spot that Loredana had marked on my map, the Gloriette. This is a vantage point atop a hill with views over the palace and the city beyond. As I got close, I deduced that I’d need more calories in me to make the climb, and so grabbed a snack in the form of a wurst covered in ketchup and mustard.

I then began the tedious climb upwards, stopping every now and then to catch my breath and finish off my fizzy apple drink of apfelschorle that I’d grabbed form a kiosk. Once atop the hill, however, the views were definitely worth it, and I spent a good while just taking it all in and snapping a few photos before I headed back down.

I arrived back down at ground level as lunchtime approached, and so I took a few last potos of the palace and gardens before heading back to the metro to be reunited with Loredana at her place. She was tired after a long day at work and I was exhausted after my morning exploring Schönbrunn Palace, so a nap was in order before we commenced with the outings marking last evening in Vienna.

Before we headed out for my last meal in Vienna I had one last errand to run – a trip to a local supermarket to pick up some Austrian snacks for the team at Erretres. Loredana helped me pick out some sweet and savoury goodies to take back to Madrid, and we grabbed a local snack favourite – a kind of formed spiced meat patty in a fresh bread roll. It felt quite unnatural to be eating meat with that shape and texture, but it was delicious and we were hungry, so it really hit the spot!

As the afternoon gave way to the evening the three of us then headed out to an Asian fusion restaurant, where we devoured dumplings, ramen, and more delicious goodies. To work off some of the food, I insisted we should climb up the many, many steps leading to the roof of a local building – maybe not the best idea after a recent COVID infection, but I made it!

We snooped around up there for a bit before heading back home, where we had some shots of Berliner Luft, a mint liqueur which I noted tasted exactly the same as mouthwash. I then had to begrudgingly pack my bag ready for the trip back the next day – it felt like I’d only been in Vienna for five minutes!

The next morning I’d to wake early to shower, pack the last bits and bats, and say farewell and thank you to Loredana and David for having me stay at theirs and for being incredible hosts and tour guides for my first time in this very pretty city. Even though I’ll definitely be back to visit again, I also insisted that the two of them should come to visit me in Madrid whenever they got a chance – I enjoy hosting just as much as I enjoy being hosted!

There’s not much left to add with all of that said, apart from thanking Loredana and David again, and promising that I’ll be back in Austria again just as soon as possible!