For my first full day in Vienna I woke up and enjoyed a lovely breakfast at my hotel paired with three cups of coffee before I headed out for my fifth day of exploring on my Europtrip. My first stop of the day was the Belvedere Palace and to get there I decided against taking the tram and instead walked the 2.8km a route that took me up embassy row to the great estate.
While I did not find the American embassy but the Brazilian mansion one was beautiful as was Taiwan. After nearly an hour of exploring and photographing gorgeous landmarks I finally entered the gates of the Upper Belvedere palace.
The name of the palace, Belvedere, translated means “beautiful view” and it was gorgeous. Once in the palatial complex I began at Upper Belvedere, the second palace that was built because the first simply was not big enough for the royal’s party needs. I rented the audio guide which allowed me to explore at my own pace and only listen to the things I was interested in. No photos of paintings were allowed but the Austrians know what they are doing -they created is a life size replica of the most famous painting, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, for people to take pictures with in the lobby of so they do not break the rules. They are so on top of it there is a red plaque to the side encouraging you to take selfies with it and tag the palace.
Grown up going to museums I learned if it doesn’t have an audio guide number, it’s not of great importance. At the Upper Belvedere there were only seven works highlighted on the audio guide map and thus, those were a must. And you happen to pass a guided tour and the docent spends more than two minutes at a work, go see that too. My favorite, per usual, were the impressionist galleries and I was particular taken with After the Bath by Renoir to which he said, “if god had not created woman I doubt I would have become a painter”. Thanks audio guide. Along with Renoir there were rooms filled with works by Manet, Monet, Degas, Krämer, and Florian with beautiful outdoor landscapes and outdoor portraits on the walls.
As I could not take pictures of the art I took photos out the window and my favorite views were those looking at the grand gardens. These gardens were stunning and were actually designed and built by the same guy who designed those at the Palace of Versailles. Perhaps my favorite line of the morning from my audio guide was part of the snippet about the grounds, the owner was rich from fighting wars and, “Prince Eugene acquired land vineyards on Rennweg, without undue burdening of his purse”. I would like to purchase lands half this grand without it being a burden on my purse!
After the tour ended I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the gardens and as it was half off peak tourist season, I would wait up to 60 seconds to get the shot with no people in it. The first palace which I visited second, Lower Belvedere, had nothing amazing to speak of, but none the less, a few photos:
After seeing both palaces I headed back to center city and for lunch I popped into a local shop and ordered something safe – a TBM melt. They advertised it was homemade mozzarella, Italian style, and you know it is true when there is water dripping out of the sandwich, the mozzarellas is that fresh.
In the early afternoon and I went on the tour I was most excited for in Vienna, the Hofburg Palace tour of the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments The actual palace has more than 2,600 rooms and while the tour covered only a fraction of those I was able to visit the ones I was most interested in seeing.
On my hour long tour I learned a great deal about Empresses Elizabeth, who the people call Sisi. During my tours in Hungary they spoke of her almost like a God and I was interested to learn she was not very popular when alive but has become tremendously famous since her assassination. Her gowns were on display in the museum and the dimensions did not physically look possible until she told us Sisi stood at 5’8″ and only weighted 99 pounds with a 20″ inch waist. I hate to judge the country’s favorite ruler but that is unhealthy anyway you slice it. Besides having a striking figure the empresses also had ankle length hair. That is not a typo. And it took servants 2-3 hours a day to take care of and in that time the empress , leaned 7 foreign languages. #okaythen
No photos were allowed in the museum but as I traveled from room to room covered in red silk, white paint, and gold trim with pineapple damask print on almost every wall I wanted to take out my camera at every turn. After the Sisi Musuem, an homage to the life of the Empress, it was on to the royal apartments. The tour covered the living quarters of the royal family as well as some public rooms, including ones where the emperor held audiences. My favorite room was near the end of the tour and it featured a life size portrait of Empress Elisabeth with diamonds in her hair and on the other side of the room the diamonds were on display. I am kicking myself a bit now for not taking sneaky pictures and I had planned to resign myself to take photos from the museum;s website but alas, they are not there. Instead, I leave you with postcards:
My ticket also included entrance to the imperial silver collection. Silverware is not really my thing but I appreciated just how much they spent on dishes and cutlery. And it should really be called the gold collection, it was enormous and must be worth a fortune. It was actually surprising they still have it all.
After the Hofburg Palace I excited at the back of the building into Heldenplatz Park and took a wonderful break on a grassy patch of this lush greenery. The backdrop was just too pretty to resist and I got a great shot of the beautiful earrings I bought after falling in love with a painting. After a lovely rest and a handful of photos I walked through the park to see the parliament building and Rathaus, the City Hall.
And there are no pictures of dinner, well, because I forgot to have dinner. Instead, I had drinks with a friend, yes, one evening of my solo Eurotrip was not really solo. We met up at the famous Church and then took a leisurely stroll. We first had cocktails at Palmenhaus overlooking the park and the palace. My friend, a native Austrian, told me a great deal about the the history of Vienna and filled me in on local scandal. I also had to thank him for introducing me to an Aperol Spritz, a cocktail I would enjoy for the rest of my trip.
From one drinks spot to the second we cut through the Hofburg Palace and journeyed through a series of small entryways and small passage ways – I felt like such a local! I stopped to take pictures every so often and my friend was a good sport – I am sure it is second nature when you grow up in the area, the same way 5th Avenue has lost all allure to me, but I was loving it..
Then only a few dozen meters from where I had taken this shot earlier in the day, we had another round of cocktails at the Volksgarten Pavillon. (Oh, and look at me saying meters, five days in Europe and my vocab had already changed). At this second drink spot my friend gave me recommendations for lunch and dinner the next day, both of which I took.
On the way home for the evening he continued to provide insider scoop on building, stores, and statues all of which were definitely not in my guide book. It makes sense though, he went to both grade school and college within a 10 block radius of my hotel. At the end of the evening before we parted ways and headed home we took a few selfies in front of the famous St Stephen’s where we had begun our tour.
A truly great day in the Austrian capital!