I'm back from Vienna, wgphich was wonderful, with a stinker of a cold which is not. It's been 4 hours now and my ears still won't pop back to normal, which is disconcerting, and there is the guilt at having passed on this horrible lurgy to my travelling companion- so that's back home with a bump.
This was my first visit to Vienna, although it's somewhere I've wanted to go ever since a teenage infatuation with Gustav Klimt. We were there for 3 days which was long enough to get a feel for the place, and know I want to go back to explore all the things we didn't have time for on this trip.
I like traveling in January, I don't mind the cold, or the relative dark - especially in cities, and appreciate the lack of crowds for big attractions. It's a while since I've been out the country which made this trip even more exciting. There's an element to every big city that feels familiar - the same big brands, and even the same kind of things you 'must see', but I'm always delighted by the things which are slightly different (in Ireland it's green letterboxes). In Vienna this was Spar shops, specifically the Spar Gourmet in the corner of 'our' street. It was housed in a beautiful Art Deco building, and was like a Waitrose (but better). It was infinitely superior to the English equivalent - the ubiquitous Tesco Metro.
Our hotel was in the heart of the historic city centre which meant everything we wanted to see was within easy walking distance, and whilst there might have been a few more sign posts for things we coped with a map. We went to the Belvedere to see the Klimt's (though due to a re hang not many of them were on show). There was a crowd around 'The Kiss', but nobody looking at anything else in the room - and if they were, only for as long as it took to focus a camera and click, which doesn't seem like the most satisfactory way to interact with a picture. The Belvedere itself is stunning, as are its views, and it's collection of medieval art was a surprise highlight (surprise because it's not what we'd specifically gone to look at, but the details are utterly absorbing.
We also went to look at Hundertwasserhaus, which stands out even more for being so crazily at odds with the sensible streets around it. We also found time to poke around a whole lot of streets and churches - Peterskirche, a baroque jewel which only got a passing comment in our guidebooks was the most impressive in a city that doesn't lack for impressive churches. We both wanted to see the Kaisergruft; the crypt where generations of Hapsburgs are buried in incredibly ornate sarcophagi. It's hard to describe the place, but it made both of us wish we had a rather better grasp of Austrian history.
There was also time for quite a lot of coffee and cake, though it would take a much longer stay to do the cakes real justice. When we were booking this trip a travel agent told us Vienna isn't a very popular destination, something that surprises me even more now I've been. It was easy traveling for us, flying via Birmingham. The city felt safe and friendly, it isn't stupidly expensive, there's a lot to do, as well as a lot of places to just sit and enjoy the view (which given how important cafe culture has been to Vienna is a tourist must anyway), people were friendly, and there's gourmet Spar. It's hard to imagine what else a visitor could want.