"I'm not sure." The exact words out of my mouth when my mother asked me if I liked or disliked Vienna, Austria.
I've heard you either love or hate it, want to go back or never return.
Perhaps my expectations were not in the right place, as ultimately everything I discovered in Vienna was on the contrary of what I thought it was.
Perhaps, I pictured it's neighboring city, Salzburg, with mountains in the distance and a small town atmosphere.
And perhaps I didn't do my research beforehand, it's the largest city in Austria with over 1.9 million citizens — no wonder it would be nothing like the other Austrian towns I pictured.
The grandeur and sheer size of the city is overwhelming, with the ringstrasse acting as an anchor to the city and it's main sites. Everything that is important in art or history, in some facet touches the ringstrasse. Also known as the Vienna Ring Road, it was built to replace the the city wall, and circle the inner city.
Here's what is on offer on the Vienna Ring Road:
Vienna State Opera
Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Palace of Justice (now Federal Ministry of Justice)
Austrian Parliament Building
University of Vienna
Wiener Börse (Vienna Stock Exchange)
Österreichische Postsparkasse (Postal Savings Bank)
Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Arts)
Ringstraßengalerien, also known as the Korso
Palais Schey von Koromla
Pretty incredible? Yeah, a bit mind blowing and perhaps that was one of my biggest struggles — I couldn't possibly soak it all in. During our time we ascended to the top of St. Stephen's Cathedral, and had a chance to see an almost 360 view of the city, I finally felt oriented.
The rich history could be felt in every corner and the luxuries of life awaited in most corners of the inner city. Posh cafes, small boutiques, and clean streets were signs that this city knew how to clean up. For a large city, it's level of cleanliness was, well, overwhelming — something I appreciated about Vienna.
Surely you couldn't say you went to Austria without trying Viennese coffee and pastries. The acclaimed Demel Bakery was calling my name louder than ever. Giving in, I tried a few, and was sold immediately. I can see why the rich tradition of coffee houses are alive and well, it truly is a way of life in Vienna. This of course was something I loved. An appreciation for taking a break, unplugging, and connecting with others — a key habit a few of us could learn to do, myself included.
At the end of the day, Vienna I liked you. What I didn't like was my expectations.
I set unrealistic travel assumptions and was sorely disappointed.
I made the mistake, not you Vienna.
Looking back there was much to love about Vienna — charm, history, and a lot to discover in the grand streets of the city. I'll be back.
Been to Vienna? What were your thoughts on the city?