Vienna

Walter doing his workbook and enjoying the scenery

We extended our stay in Vienna, adding a night there to make it three nights and removing our Maribor, Slovenia stop. We had originally added Maribor to break the 6 hours Vienna->Ljubljana train ride up into 2 days, but given how relaxing we find the train rides it made sense to eliminate the extra stop and add a day in Vienna. Of course, I would prefer a 6 hour train ride with wifi, but I'm sure people on facebook will appreciate the break from our steady stream of updates. And besides, this encourages us to enjoy the scenery of southern Austria and Slovenia, which has been the best since Norway.

Vienna was by far our most museum-heavy stop on the trip. We subjected Walter to not one but two Hapsburg palaces, both with thorough audioguides. He was a real trooper, dutifully listening to every bit of the first audioguide as we wandered through the plates, utensils, and centerpieces of the Hapsburgs. Believe it or not, it was actually relatively interesting, at least for the first 10 rooms or so.

We could tell you all about Maria Theresa and her children and grandchildren!

We toured the Royal Apartments in both Hofburg and Schönbrunn, where Walter no longer consistently listened to the audioguide but rather figured out the maximum number that would play and then counted down until we got to the end of each tour. Jie and I enjoyed the tours as they provided a lot of color behind the statues and monuments we had seen in squares in Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. Particularly interesting was hearing about the allowance for self-rule provided by the Hapsburgs to Hungary (thus evolving the Austrian Empire into the Austro-Hungarian Empire). In Budapest the story was about how the brave and noble Hungarians had won the right from the reluctant Hapsburgs. In Vienna it was the the fair and just Hapsburg rules who granted Hungary their rights.

We found the food options in the center to be pretty limited if you wanted to avoid tourist traps or paying 20 euro per entree. So once again we defaulted to seeking out Middle Eastern or Asian food. The highlight was definitely a vietnamese noodle shop in a neighborhood about a 20 minute walk outside the tourist zone. I figured out the trams that would take us there and we enjoyed the best meal of our stay while surrounded by young Austrians rather than fellow tourists. Of course, you can't go to Vienna without sampling the cake, and we had two delicious slices (both gluten free!) at Cafe Mozart.

When we weren't seeing museums or eating noodles or cake, we were of course partaking in our two most frequent activities: playgrounds and churches. Once again, Vienna had great examples of both. We really enjoyed the play area at Schonbrunn where they had a hedgerow maze that Walter raced through.

Finally, we also spent a couple of hours in the Natural History Museum. It's an interesting museum that is making the transition from the style of museum they built 100 years ago (just row upon row of displays of inanimate things, rocks, minerals, animals in formaldehyde) to a modern museum with interactive exhibits. They had an excellent display on the formation of the solar system and Earth that Walter just ate up. He was interested enough that when I downloaded 4 episodes of Cosmos with Neil Degrasse Tyson he tore through them, watching episode #1 in particular more than once. Good stuff.

They don't make Natural History Museums like this anymore...