It waited for me, and I finally made it
Walking alone through Innsbruck at 5:00 in the morning wouldn't have been my first choice - except that it was. The train ride from Innsbruck to Vienna takes four and a half hours, so I figured: The earlier the better! Walking alone through a strange city at practically the middle of the night? A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. I mean, I decided to spend my whole fall break in Austria; the least I can do is make it to Vienna.
A word about the trains in these German-speaking countries: the subway and local transportation run like clockwork, but the long-distance trains can be counted on to reach their destinations at least 20 minutes late. It's really a five hour trip to Vienna, but they sell more tickets by lying and promising to get there at 10:30.
Four hours of sleep, then five hours on a train: these are the hardships I went through for one day trip, but it's a testament to the city that Vienna was completely worth it.
As soon as I finally got off of that train, I forgot all about my ridiculous morning. I bought a cappucino and a subway pass and just wandered through the streets. I'm telling you, I don't think a city could ever be more beautiful than Vienna. It reminded me of Washington, DC, because every building looks historical and important, except that the Viennese buildings don't just look like monuments and museums: every block looks like a palace. It's impossible to photograph, although the photo above of the State Opera House is just a typical street corner. The art museums are beautiful inside and out, then there's the Imperial Court Theater
, the Spanish Riding School
, and holy crap, the National Library. The Nationalbibliothek
is housed in the Hofburg Palace, which used to be the home of the Habsburg dynasty, so it makes sense that the building is impressive. Actually, impressive is an understatement. It was unsettling to stand next to this monstrous feat of architecture. The Hofburg Palace was so beautiful that it was difficult to look at, like something out of Greek mythology. The whole of downtown Vienna is like that.
The problem was, every street looked a) so pretty that I wanted to take pictures and b) so important that I felt guilty for not knowing what every building was. Eventually I made my way to the more touristy shopping district and visited a couple churches. At least I knew what the purpose of a cathedral was. The first cathedral (there are at least two) had a free organ concert starting at 3:00, so I stayed and listened to the organ playing for about 20 minutes; it was good to just sit and absorb, take a break from the the city for a while, although obviously the inside of any European cathedral is not the place to escape from ornate decorations. After this church I went to St. Stephan's Cathedral, and although this gothic architecture was still breathtaking - I kept staring at the towering columns inside the church - it was full of tourists and cameras, so I don't think I fully appreciated it.
By the time I made it to the Belvedere Palace
, I was becoming immune to fancy architecture, and my high expectations beforehand meant that my impression of Belvedere was a little disappointing. I appreciated that it was gorgeous, but I think once you visit too many palaces (including a couple castles in Germany), you can't really take it in like you should. Belvedere has a permanent art collection, however, including Gustav Klimt's The Kiss
, which was very cool to see. I'm glad I went to Belvedere, to see the palace, to see the paintings, and especially to see the residential neighborhoods surrounding (more like the cities I'm used to, although definitely still more beautiful than any neighborhoods in New York or Berlin).
I was abruptly broken out of my spell of enchantment when I got lost trying to leave Belvedere. Apparently there are three train stations in the area, and they are all named "south-something." I took a bus to Südbahnhof, only to realize that the subway doesn't go there and I needed Südtirolerplatz, so I needed to find another bus to get to the subway - fast, or I wouldn't make my train back to Innsbruck. Long story short, I made it back in one of those hurry-and-wait frenzies without saying a proper good-bye to Vienna. I really loved it and I'm so glad that I went; six hours in Vienna were definitely worth ten on the train. I feel bad that while I left I was cursing the bus system instead of taking one last look at the gorgeous city... I guess that just means I'll have to go back someday.