After leaving Klamath Falls we headed west and unfortunately closer to the fires but also closer to a more happening town. As is typical with my summer road trips we breezed into and out of Ashland Oregon in 24 hours but we had a blast while we were there. Ashland Oregon is known for its annual Shakespeare Festival is supported mainly by the lively arts and restaurant scene that built up over the years to the festival and the local college.
First things first we checked into the Ashland Springs Hotel which was built in 1925 as the tallest building between Portland and San Francisco. It is also reportedly haunted though we noticed no odd happenings or bumps in the night other than the fact that all of my pictures look slightly redish pink because of the smoke from the fires near by.
The hotel is on the National Registered of Historic Places and as such was renovated in a more historic style that it had existed in its prior life as the Mark Antony Motor Hotel. Very comfortable and cozy rooms. We didn’t spend much time lazing about as we only had a short amount of time to explore. It was clean, comfortable, the air conditioning worked great and the staff was extremely friendly.
The room came with free breakfast but due to the pandemic is wasn’t as robust as it would have been in different times. Retrieved in one of the ballrooms you were however free to eat anywhere within the hotel and we chose the balcony overlooking the lobby which was very pleasant and great for people watching.
We spent most of the day shopping since we knew we had to hit the road the next morning pretty early to make an important lunch date. My favorite stores in town were the book store (big surprise) Bloomsbury Books and a home store called Jupiter Row. The entire downtown is stuffed with cute shops, boutiques and great food choices. Back behind the main street is Ashland Creek which flows out of the 93 Acre Lithia Park which includes an outdoor music venue, hiking trails and a Japanese Garden among other features. This creek front area has a walking path where most restaurants have outdoor seating and there are often arts or farmers markets lining the area.
The creek while quite small packs a punch, there is higher than normal levels of lithium in the water due to natural geologic features, and there have been a number of studies done on the general mental health of the residents of the area showing a marked uptick in happiness.
After we went in nearly every single shop and walked around the park a bit we decided on a British Pub for dinner. The Black Sheep is upstairs in a building on main street, and decked out pretty much exactly like a British Pub should be, dark, cozy, lots of TVs blaring soccar games, lots of beer and delicious cozy food.
Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie was known as Vista Hills Vineyard, a 20 year staple in the Dundee Hills producing award winning Pinot Noir wines. In 2018 The Family Coppola acquired the vineyards and existing tasting room changing the name to Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie. In the acquisition it was my understanding that the employees of Vista Hills Vineyard were retained containing the company commitment to take care of the individuals and land that make great wines.
Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie – Francis Ford Coppola
Why yes I do mean THE Francis Ford Coppola, director of Godfather among many other movies. In the 1970’s Coppola and his family bought land in Rutherford, California with the proceeds from the first Godfather movie. And between the years of directing the second Godfather movies and Apocalypse now they produces their first vintage as a family affair under the name of the Inglenook Winery.
Later he created a family friendly winery and play area in Geyserville, California. At the site of the former Chateau Souverain Winery he displays many of his movie memorabilia and Oscars along side the swimming pools, restaurants and various other activities at The Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Wineries and movies are not the only businesses under his umbrella though he has owned theaters, restaurants, cafes, resorts and literary publications through out the years.
Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie – The Winery
Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie was already producing high quality award winning Pinot Noirs which the region is known for when acquired. By keeping the staff the winery managed to maintain said quality and experience to continue to produce the same level of quality throughout the transition. My favorite however is their Rose, a limited edition wine that sells out very quickly.
The tasting room itself is perched on the top of the hills of their own vineyards overlooking the Dundee Hills and surrounding valleys. The house newly remolded offers a nice mix of woodsy comfort that blends with the surroundings and subtle refinement fitting of the wines. The tasting room being a former home, is built in the daylight basement style of the 70s so when you enter from the parking lot level you are on the main floor but once you pass through the tasting room to the deck you are on the second floor overlooking the valley. The lower level is a slightly stark room housing a car from one of Coppola’s movies and gigantic doors which open up to a lovely little patio and outdoor fire place. The tasting room flights as well as wines by the glass as well as an excellent cheese plate.
In addition to traditional tasting rooms services they also host yoga classes in the basement from time to time which I have had the pleasure of attending. As well as rental for special and private events. I was there once when they were getting ready for a dinner with Francis Ford Coppola and his family but sadly didn’t get to sneak a peak of any of them.
The winery also participates in the Equestrian Wine Tours which I went on not too long ago, which was a complete riot by the way. And entirely beginner friendly. All in all I would say Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie is one of my top 5 wineries in Oregon thanks to the kindness of staff, setting, delicious wines, and variety of fun special events they offer.
Our second full day in Vienna was Christmas Eve, we knew not much would be open in the evening but some of the tourists spots were still open. Though this did mean that those that were open were especially jam packed. And the Sisi Museum at the Hofburg was no exception.
The Hofburg Palace is the documented seat of the Austrian government since 1279. The palace itself has been expanded over the centuries and rather than serving as the winter palace for the royal family and the seat of the empires government, today it is the official residence and workplace of the president. As well as housing a multitude of museums within its many buildings.
On Christmas Day we decided to stick somewhat close to home, we knew we wanted to get any last minuet supplies to get us through the holiday closures, as well as pick up a few more gifts for our stockings. After visiting the Naschmarkt we looped around and visited the Christmas Market in at the Hofburg. Then on a whim we decided to pop in the Sisi Museam because the line didn’t look too long. Though in retrospect given the route we took to find the ticketing counter, we may have actually cut the line.
The museum itself doesn’t take up very many rooms and I cannot reiterate enough that it is a very popular stop. If you do not like crowds or tight spaces I would honestly skip the museum all together. The first portion is a bit of history on Sisi herself, otherwise known as Empress Elizabeth the wife of Franz Joseph. She herself is a bit of a hot topic in the area. Franz Jospeh was a beloved monarch, and Sisi was met with mixed reception during his reign. She hated court life, and was often out of the country. Allegedly had a long standing affair with a Hungarian statesman. But on the other hand it is said she was very kind, passionate, beautiful and people did seem to love her.
As you enter the museum you will see personal effects, dressed and various items related to the woman herself. All set up in an oddly modern display in a series of small, dark, narrow hallway rooms. After this portion of the museum comes the staterooms which is much more open. Highlighting the apartments that were occupied by the couple and their children when they spent winters at the palace.
It felt incredibly crowded and we sort of figured it was due to it being the holidays, but it seemed to only get worse as the week wore on, there were times where the line was down the block to get in. I am glad we went but I think there are probably better places to go to get more information. If you are particularly interested in seeing royal apartments the crowds at Schonnebrun are much easier to handle and if you want to learn more about Sisi herself I have heard the museum in Possenhoffen (her birthplace) is really fantastic. Otherwise if you are up to the possible crowds the Sisi Museam is a lovely look inside the life at the Hofburg and Empress Elizabeth.
After our Christmas day adventures we scooted over to Budapest for Boxing day and came back to the day after. Our next full day in Austria was pretty low key as we had done about as much walking a human is capable of the days prior. We got more groceries as the stores would be closed again the next day and decided to just explore what Innere Stadt also known as the inner district or first district.
We had originally decided to stay in this area due to convenience. Most of the transit options go through or at least easily connect from the lines in and around the Innere Stadt. It is also home to the Hofburg (and all museums there in), The Opera House, The Albertina Museum, stunning churches, a huge amount of shopping and a large number of other historic sights and small museums. It is the oldest part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Prior to 1850 the Innere Stadt (the area inside the Ringstrasse) was the sum total of Vienna, but as the population boomed and the suburbs were built up people moved out to find cheaper accommodations. Today the Innere Stadt is the least populated district in Vienna, and serves mostly as a business and tourism center. Though in truth during popular times of year it doesn’t feel the least populated as it is host to many a holiday celebration.
We spent the morning wandering around the main shopping streets Graben street (which used to be the city gutter) and Karntnerstrasse, a road that once had troops marching across Europe to the Crusades. Today both are paved, lined with high end shops and meet at St. Stephan’s Cathedral or Stephansplatz (Stephan’s square). Graben has gorgeous memorial statue for victims of the plague but it was difficult to get pictures of it with all the various holiday booths and decorations.
There are quite a few other walking streets connected to these two which make up the pedestrian shopping section of the city. No cars are allowed to drive on the streets except very early in the morning for deliveries. I preferred walking around early in the moring because I could actually walk around without getting jostled by all the holiday travelers. But it is prettiest at night with all the lights over head on each street.
After that we wandered down to the Plamhouse connected to the Hofburg for lunch, it was very crowded but I had really wanted to eat in the converted royal green house. However once we got up to the door and read the menu we decided to seek food elsewhere. It would be great for picky eaters and those missing more American style food, but it wasn’t the culinary adventure we were seeking so off we went.
We wound up accidently stumbling on Ferstel Passage, which wasn’t even on my radar of sights in the area. It is a historic arcade, indoor shopping street not video games, inside Ferstel Palace. In truth you wouldn’t even know the building was a palace, not because it isn’t beautiful it is. And it is one of the few palaces named after its architect rather than its sponsor/former owner. Rather it just blends into all the other incredible buildings in the area and you wouldn’t even know what is hiding inside but for a small sign above a walkway. Inside the passage is lined with high end shops. Our two favorites was a small French restaurant and wine shop where we ate lunch and a chocolate shop just across the street. This is must see in my opinion as it is rather unique to the rest of the sights.
We spent the rest of the day laying low as it had gotten quite cold. We ate at another small local pub, where I had a salad. Shouldn’t be note worthy but it can be hard to find salads in Europe, and certainly salads in the American sense of the word. This one was no different, it was delicious but in addition to the normal fixings it included canned beans and pickles.
There are an endless amount of things to see and do in this area of town, which I will try to cover in other posts. At this point we were only halfway through our two weeks in Vienna. But I hope this gives you a little glimpse into the Innere Stadt and answers some of your questions.
Prater Park, or more commonly just called Prater is an astonishingly large park in Vienna’s 2nd district. I looked up the exact size while writing up this post and said “holy sh*t” when the number 6 million square meters came up, to us Americans that would be almost 1500 acres, or 1500 football fields for you sports fans. Its a big park.
On Christmas day we actually visited two parks, we knew not much would be open. So after eating our pastries, drinking our coffee, opening our stockings (which we fill with local consumable treats and little souvenirs) we headed off first to visit the Flak Tower at the Waldspielplatz Augarten. There are actually quite a few Flak towers in Vienna, two a tad more hidden amongst buildings. And four others in two parks in the city. We chose to visit Augarten due to it location. The park itself is huge and absolutely stunning. It shares property with Porcelain Manufacturing facility, several resturants and recreational areas as well as two antiaircraft gun blockhouse towers, Flakturm VII towers L and G. The towers are traditionally use to hold large anti aircraft guns, you can see areas of both towers that took damage during the war. They are currently gated off, though its clear by the graffiti that people still get into them. I think some you can tour, though I honestly don’t know which.
After walking through one rather large park getting a load of pictures of the towers, lots of history buffs in the family. I marched us over to the Prater to take in an even larger park. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and almost warm so it was nice to be out and about.
The first mention of Prater was when Emperor Fredrich gave a large area of land to the Prato family in 1162. In 1560 the land was bought my Emperor Maximillian for hunting grounds. And in April 1766 Emperor Joseph opened the large plot of land to the public, at which time the Wurstelprater (amusement park) began to take shape. However the space continued to evolve over time. In 1873 a worlds fair was held on the land. In the 1920s hunting was banned from the public space and in 1937 the Rotunda from the worlds fair burnt down. In 2004 major renovations started on the park and in 2019 Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon around the park which broke the world record for being the first time someone ran a marathon in under 2 hours. The 1482 arce park also houses a motor way, a national stadium a race track, multiple playgrounds, restaurants, and monuments. We obviously did not get to see all of this.
Rather we took a leisurely stroll through the amusement park, which was relatively empty, though quite a few families were enjoying their Christmas day outdoors in the sun. It is a little bit unsettling being in a large mostly empty amusement park, but it was really quite fun walking around the streets checking out the rides. Most were open but we chose not to ride any. My favorite was the haunted house. Wolfman with his teeny little swim shorts was cracking me up, most of the figures on the ride were animated and he was wiggling this arms to some not so spooky music.
After we left the park we wandered toward the river, we were in Vienna after all we had to see the Danube. Rather than walking through the park which would have been spectacular we chose to take a shorter route (we had already walked almost 5 miles).
We found an observation deck above a restaurant on the river and spent some time spying the goings on. Across the river is the newer part of the city which houses more of the business district and suburbs than the inner city side of the river. The weather was threatening to turn so we decided to turn back and hit the subway with our handy dandy week long tickets. We were back at St. Stephan’s in no time, grabbed currywurst from a small stand that happened to be opened and went back to the apartment to get some sleep before our 4am wakeup call to catch a train to Budapest the next day. All in all it was a really wonderful Christmas day and a great visit to Prater Park.
In this months installment travel inspired multi media and foods we are going to travel at home to Ireland. A couple years ago now I hiked for a week on the western coast of Ireland and had the absolute best time. In preparation I read as much as I possibly could to try to get my head in the right space to be in a new place. I have included all my favorite books that I read during that time period, as well as movies I love and movies that were filmed where I visited.
I am not a historian and would never be able to do any place justice by recapping its long and complicated history but somethings to note before you start diving into Ireland multimedia.
The first settlers of the area were neolithic people, hunter gatherers who wandered up into land that was newly released from last glacial period. During the Iron Age the Celtic language and culture emerged, though from where and how is still largely debated. Between then and now they were invaded by Vikings, Danish, Romans and the English. Through all the invasions, the brutal political upheavals and oppression they still maintained their Celtics past. In fact even though English is the official language of Ireland, Irish (celtic) is primarily spoken on the western coast of the island. For those folks of the Gaeltacht region English is second language and people from all over Ireland send their children to schools on the west coast for immersion programs to learn the ancient language.
Before I left for my trekking trip in Ireland I wanted to get a good sense of the history of the place so I made sure I read Edward Rutherford’s books The Princes of Ireland and Rebels of Ireland. What I learned very quickly was that there hasn’t been a lot of cheery goings on in their history. But what I learned immediately upon entering the country is that despite that fact they are the nicest people on the planet. Needless to say it can be difficult to find books that take place in Ireland that aren’t completely gut wrenching but that’s kind of okay I think. It’s important to understand the struggles of our pasts, so I cannot guarantee any of these books will be tear free.
The Yellow House is a novel about politics in Northern Ireland during the 20th century which is only really touched on at the very end of Rebels of Ireland. For something a little lighter Santa Montefiore wrote a series called The Deverill Chronicles which are easy reads but still provide a feeling of being in Ireland. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes was quite popular for a long while. Forever by Peter Hamill takes place mostly in New York but the first bit takes place in Ireland and was a really incredible read. Or you could go classic with James Joyce’s Dubliners. Or if you do not like the sounds of any of my suggestions there are nearly 600 books set in Ireland listed on goodreads to help you find your way.
If you aren’t in the mood for books there are quite a few movies with Ireland scenery or about Ireland. Angela’s Ashes again as the book was made into a movie in the late 90s. Far and Away as well as Ryan’s Daughter were both filmed where I was hiking a couple years ago, as well as scenes from the new Star Wars movies. Braveheart, Enemy at the Gates, Saving Private Ryan and Princess Bride all have scenes filmed in Ireland even though they did not take place there. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Leap Year and Laws of Attraction two very cheesy romantic comedies that are easy watching and oh so happy.
I should also mention there is a very lovely youtuber that goes by the name Fairyland Cottage who lives in Ireland and discusses slow living and sustainable choices. She is wonderful and her videos are so relaxing.
I was a little hesitant to try Irish food, by no fault of theirs I was more worried about the English influence. This was before I had spent any time in England and my only experience was terrible airport food during a terrible layover. Turns out Irish food is phenomenal. There is nothing quite like tucking into a good Irish Stew with Soda Bread, it will warm you right up on the coldest winter days.
My favorite meal while over there was actually a zucchini soup, topped with cheese toasties. The area of Ireland I was in was especially know of their shellfish, particularly oysters and mussels but I cannot eat them so I never got to experience that part of the cuisine. Fish and chips in all the pubs though were honestly some of the best meals I have ever had. We also saw a lot of oatmeal at breakfast (if you weren’t eating a full Irish) and mushy peas on the side of dinner dishes instead of potatoes. As well as simple tomato and cheese sandwiches which were packed in all our hiking lunches.
And you can of course wash it all down with a nice glass of Guinness or Irish Whiskey. Or if you are a lightweight like me a nice hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea.
I hope this little snippet of information will help keep you busy in the coming months. And helps inspire you to travel to new places whether that be physically or travel at home to Ireland.
I love food, it is one of my favorite things about travel. So I am always especially interested in visiting historic markets when visiting new places. Naschmarkt Vienna is definitely worth the visit if you are looking for a local experience.
We visited Naschmarkt Vienna on Christmas Eve, in researching it seemed like going late morning was the best time. Many locals and local business buy meat and produce here so in the tradition of not being pest, avoiding times popular with locals is best. So please avoid early morning.
The market has been operational since the 16th centurty, first mostly selling milk, then eventually produce and now everything from spices to meats and even includes a flea market on Saturdays. It is a sort of two lane walking strip between the streets. One entire side of kilometer and half market is resturants and cafes, the other produce, spice, dried fruits and nuts, pastries, meat, seafood, coffee, tea, you name it they have it. Had I known the volume and variety of food that would be available I probably wouldn’t have bought so much at our neighborhood store, we could have been well stocked over Christmas with high quality food from this market alone.
Closed Restaurant Side
Late morning it seemed like the majority of the restaurants were closed, though a couple cafes were open and despite the time of day it was still fairly crowded. The market website suggest afternoons as more of the restaurants would be open then. The walkways are not wide and it could definitely be a spot to look out for pickpockets. But like all areas of Vienna it is perfectly safe. Though you will have to fend off the hundreds of market owners trying to get you to try their products, or just given in to the culinary adventure and enjoy all the random offerings. If you like food and you like local experiences I cannot recommend the Naschmarkt Vienna enough.
The Museum of Military History was the first major stop on our recent trip to Vienna. Though in truth it was the second day of our trip. When we arrived around midday sans-luggage we had to stay on call close by the apartment to await the eventual arrival of our belongings.
Anker Clock – By Franz Matsch
The majority of that very first day was spent trying to stay awake, walking around the inner city in a haze, eating dinner and playing cards while trying to stay awake for the 10pm baggage drop. We wandered around our neighborhood, past St. Stephens for the first time. Scoped out the local grocery store (Merkur Hoher Markt) which happens to be next to the stunning Anker Clock funded by the Anker Insurance Company in 1914 during the expansion of their offices and designed by Franz Matsch a friend/student of Gustav Klimt. We also ate dinner at Ofenloch which shares the same building as the apartment we stayed in. It was a very delicious traditional Austrian meal. Open on Sunday which is a huge plus as not much is in Austria.
This while I called the airlines no less than 7 times trying to get a confirmed delivery time, it was…fun (insert eye roll). But lesson learned, and a lesson you do not need to repeat thanks to my mistake, an hour lay over in Amsterdam is enough time to catch your flight (if you run) but not enough time for you luggage to be unloaded off an international jet and sorted to its proper regional carrier. Don’t be like me, give yourself more time for a layover.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral
The First Full Day of Our Trip
So our first full day of the trip started with a trip to Bakeri Grimm (which was repeated most days) as nothing else was open yet and we were all horribly jet lagged and starving. We loaded up on pastries and sandwiches and scarfed those down while we waited for the grocery store to open. Once the grocery opened we stocked up on food to get us through Christmas (everything is closed Christmas Eve through Boxing Day), unloaded our haul and headed out towards The Museum of Military History. This included a walk to the St. Stephens Platz underground stop, buying our weekly transit pass. Not understanding how the weekly transit pass worked and validating them (not needed), shockingly getting on the right train and landing at the Vienna Central Station. Where we bought our train tickets to Budapest since the office one again, would not be open on Christmas Eve through Boxing Day. Sensing a theme yet? We then set off from the central station to The Museum of Military History, on foot, during the worst weather of our entire trip.
The Museum of Military History
The Museum of Military History was a site that my husband and I had every intention of visiting during our honeymoon but ran out of time. So it was pretty exciting to finally get to visit it. The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum – Militärhistorisches Institut is the leading museum on Austrian Armed Forces. The building itself amazingly was built as a museum by Emperor Franz Joseph with the intention of housing the Imperial Arms Collection and paying memorial to the Imperial Army.
The exterior was completed in 1856 but work continued until 1872 on the interior. The front hall housing statues of 56 of Austria’s most memorable field commanders. The museum was nearly entirely destroyed by allied bombs in 1944, but was rebuilt and officially reopened 24 June 1955. The museums consists of 8 different halls, a tank yard and several Artillery Halls.
Hall I is called “From the Thirty Years War to Prince Eugene” and it covers history from the 16th and 17th centuries. The highlight, if you can call it that, of this period in Austria was the 30 years war. And this portion of the museum houses suites of armor, weapons and a lot of details on the wars with the Turkish armies. Hall II covers the Spanish War of Succession through the years of Maria Theresa’s reign (Marie Antionette’s mother).
Hall III covers the period of France’s revolution, a time period where much of Europe was going through revolutions. Austria was embroiled first with the last of the Ottoman Wars, and then took to fighting off Napoleons advances across all of Europe. Hall IV is dedicated to Joseph Radetzky Von Radetz, a truly impressive military leader who served for 72 years under 5 emperors. In fact on 31 August 1848, Johann Strauss first performed The Radetzky March a piece of original music in memorial of the famous commander.
Hall V covers the assassination of Franz Ferdinand a conflict that continues into Hall VI for WWI and the end of the Hapsburg Monarchy. These halls made the most sense to me as it is a period in Austrian history that I know the most about. I was also really loving all the ornate military uniforms.
Hall VII covers the era from 1918 to 1955, and as a military museum focuses mostly on the campaigns and conflicts that occur by the hands of the Austrian people. This is not a Holocaust museum, it by no means glosses over the period in history but if you are looking for in depth information this is not the museum to find it. If you are looking for a Holocaust museum and memorial I would honestly suggest visiting Mauthausen, they have put tremendous effort into the memorial and museum. It will be a very somber visit but if you are interested in the topic it is truly incredible. Most of the information here covers the civil war Austria endured between the world wars, the dissolution of their monarchy, and the assassination of Federal Chancellor Dollfuss which lead to the annexation of Austria by Germany.
Hall VIII talks about Austria’s Navel History, which is surprising given it is land locked. But once upon a time Austria was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and had lands stretching down to the Adriatic Sea. This section also touches on patrolling the Danube which connects with Hungry which was once under Ottoman rule.
The Tank Yard and Artillery Halls are closed in the winter so we didn’t get to visit those. But there was a small outdoor section with a couple tanks as well as a temporary building full of information on more recent peacekeeping campaigns that the Austrian Military has been involved in.
The lobby also has a nice little café and gift shop. We wound up eating here and had a delicious lunch. After we left the museum the weather had cleared up a bit, I had used the museum Wi-Fi to locate the closest transit stop so we didn’t have to walk all the way back. We hopped a very toasty street car over to the Rathaus (city hall) where one of the many Christmas Markets was being held. We spent the rest of the evening doing a little shopping, sipping Glühwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate. But it was very cold and we were still pretty damp from the earlier rain so we grabbed some food to go and went back to the apartment for dinner and cards.
This was by far one of our favorite sights in Vienna, it covers a lot of information and it also covers a lot of information from a local perspective which I think is really important if you are interested in studying history. Most of what we are taught is strictly from an American perspective of world history, and it can look very different from the perspective of those on the ground. So to get that insight in things like the Ottoman Conflicts and the Napoleon wars is really fascinating. If you are ever in Vienna and have any interest in history I would highly suggest The Museum of Military History.
Lets talk about the logistics of staying and getting around Vienna Austria shall we? Because to be honest I have really been struggling with writing up our trip to Austria over Christmas. For one reason only SEO. If you will allow a mini rant, SEO (or search engine optimization) really takes a lot of creativity out of blogging. Basically if you want traffic you have to follow certain rules and formats and the whole thing is a real buzz kill. So I am still wrestling with a way to share the trip with all of you, while also making sure things show up on search engines, but also wanting things to feel organic. You can read about our overnight in Budapest here, and hopefully by next week I will have figured out how to get you the goods.
Getting to Vienna Austria
If you are coming from the United States, or really anywhere other than mainland Europe it is best to fly into Vienna. The airport is small, easy to navigate and only about 25 minutes from the city. There is public transit from the airport, as well as rental cars and taxis. We organized a car to pick us up from our apartment rental because while you can save a lot of money by taking public transit, after 23 hours of travel we knew we would just want to be there already.
One thing I will say about flying into Vienna is don’t repeat our mistakes, unless you like to live on the edge. Many airlines will sell you short layovers at connecting airport like Amsterdam, and yes we did make our connection. But our bags didn’t and the stress of getting through passport control in busy connecting airports is not worth it, in my opinion. If you find yourself in Vienna without your baggage the booth next to the first carousel will be able to handle everything. But if you having a driver waiting for you, send some one out to let them know what is happening. Thankfully ours didn’t leave us, but he did say eventually he would have had to go onto his next pickup.
If you are coming from mainland Europe by train you will most likely be headed to the new Central Station located on the boarder between the 4th (Wieden) and 10th (Favoriten) districts. It’s new, its big, it’s glossy and has everything you could possible need including bus transfers (top level), ticketing office (top level), subway connections (basement level), and food (all levels). The kind people at the ticketing office most certainly speak English, and to be frank most people in Vienna do.
Getting Around Vienna Austria
Absolutely 100% buy some sort of public transit pass. We bought the weekly passes and used them daily. They are about 18 dollars a person, last a week and you can hop on and off any bus, trolley, street car or subway within city limits. The system is incredibly easy to use, with pictures at every station of the entire system, color codded by line, and each station has maps of its own line with every single stop pictured so you know exactly which platform to wait on. Getting lost is nearly impossible as long as you can keep yourself from getting swept up with all the commuters.
Passes can be bought in subway stops, though not bus stops or trolley stops. The underground stops are on nearly every street corner it seems like, and the ticket kiosks are in multiple languages including English. I wouldn’t really suggest a car, unless you are staying in an outer district and are planning on taking a lot of day trips (but even then the trains are great) because parking in the city is very limited. I saw one public parking garage in two weeks.
Also take advantage of walking, the inner city (district 1) which has an endless amount of activities is very walkable, many sections of the inner city don’t allow cars so it is actually easier to walk than drive. But do download a map to use while you are there, like most European cities the streets evolved over hundreds of years. Roads twist, turn, have multiple point intersections, streets come off spoke like in some areas, and in others in grid like patterns.
Staying in Vienna Austria
I would highly recommend staying in the inner district (innere stadt) in Vienna simply for the convenience. This is the main tourist area, it can be a little more expensive to stay in this area. But the things to do and number of restaurants is truly endless. Additionally it seems like a lot of the public transit routes either ring the inner district or travel through it. So if you are planning on visiting other areas of town it makes for a great base.
We rented an apartment from a company called Elegant Vienna I had originally found the apartment on a vacation rental site but after speaking with the owner Christian I booked directly with them which saved me a lot of money. They have apartments of all sizes, and ones that are multiple bedrooms which can often be hard to find in Europe. So if you are traveling with a large group or want lots of space I would highly suggest giving them a look.
Vienna is a huge tourist destination and as such there is no shortage of hotels, rentals and hostels to meet any persons need and budget. The further you get from the inner district the cheaper your accommodations will become. And while some districts may be prettier than others, there are really no unsafe areas of the city. The worst you may encounter, unless you are actively picking fights with people, is you may get pick pocketed.
Eating in Vienna Austria
Eating in Vienna is probably my favorite past time, the food is so good. No matter what flavor you are looking for they have it, even Mexican food which is so rare this was the first time I had encountered it. Austrian food in delicious but heavy, it is hard to find a fresh salad that is not covered in something pickled. So if you are staying for an extended period of time I would pepper in a few lighter home cooked meals.
Grocery stores are easy to come by, though they often don’t resemble grocery stories especially in the older sections of the city. There are three main grocery chains in Vienna, Merkur which is a high end grocery, Billa fairly standard and SPAR a bit more on the budget side. There are also loads of small intendant shops. But don’t forget these aren’t standard American supermarkets. You don’t find toilet paper, cleaning supplies or makeup in them that you have to get at a store called BIPA. And you won’t find medications of any store, that you have to get at an apothecary, which is run by an attendant who you tell your symptoms to and you buy what they give you. For us this included the single most disgusting cold remedy I have ever tried (shame on you Bayer for even inventing something so foul).
You will also find bakeries and coffee shops on every single street. Pick any random one you really cannot go wrong. Strock and Anker are common around town. Our favorite was Grimm because it was outside our front door. The most popular is probably Central Bakery due to its famous former patrons and the interior is spectacular. But if you want the experience, get there before they open and be the first in the door, otherwise you are in for a very long wait.
Staying and Getting Around Vienna Austria
I hope this helped answer some of your logistical questions. Next week I will be starting the series on the trip even if I can’t figure out how best to organize and appease the SEO gods. Thanks for tuning in for staying and getting around Vienna Austria.
Budapest is without a doubt one of my favorite European cities. And honestly it is hard to articulate why. It just feels different, it feels like something is waiting to be discovered. And while it is a rather large city which you could spend months exploring (someday I plan to do just that) you can easily get a good feel of the place in a short amount of time. So here is what you need to know in order to spend 48 hours in Budapest.
Getting There – 48 Hours in Budapest
Last week I wrote about everything you need to know about taking a train to Budapest. But obviously there are other ways to get there. The airport commonly known as Ferihegy (officially Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport) is a 24 min drive to the city center. The airport website suggesting taking a taxi, you could also rent a car for a quick trip. Public transit looks possible, thought not without at least one exchange. If you aren’t in for flying or taking the train into the city. You can also drive, hotels appeared to have parking available, though there was not a lot of public parking in the city. Or you could take FlixBus which was suggested to me by a couple European acquaintances.
Staying – 48 Hours in Budapest
We stayed at the Danubius Hotel Astoria, I had stayed here before and knew it was a clean safe hotel in a central location. I wrote about the hotel and my first experience in Budapest here. The second stay at the hotel was just as fun. The hotel has an excellent breakfast service and the rooms are well furnished and clean. With the exception of the toilet door handle, which fell off in my hand while my husband was out of the room. It took me nearly half an hour to catch the outside portion of the handle and free myself from the tiny room. I had to laugh since in high school we were all convinced the hotel was haunted and then this happened. Don’t worry the hotel is not haunted and is in no way creepy.
There appeared to be quite a few youth hostels in the area, many in what I would consider safe parts of town. If you are of the age and looking for cheaper accommodations this could be a great option. Or if you are planning a longer stay the selection of vacation rentals look really fantastic.
Things To Do – 48 Hours in Budapest
The main tourist attraction to the city seems to be the Buda side waterfront which is home to Gellert Hill, Buda Castle and The Fisherman’s Bastion. You can easily see all of this if you don’t enter any of the museums on this side of the river. They are quite large (and amazing) but take up a lot of time. If you have more than 48 hours do them all, we wished we could have gone into the Citadel and the Military Museum but as we were there on boxing day everything was closed.
I would suggest starting with a walk across the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság Híd in Hungarian), hike up the trails on Gellert Hill, and enjoy the views from the top, the fort at the top was shelled during the war and you can see quite a bit of damage in the walls still. From there walk back down the park toward Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) named after Empress of Austria Elizabeth, Franz Joseph’s wife. She was instrumental in encouraging Hungarian home rule in 1867, she spent a lot of time in Hungry staying away from court life as much as possible. There is also rumor she was having an affair with a Hungarian Statesman.
Once you get to the bottom walk under the bridge along the water to Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthais Church. Then cross back over the river at the Széchenyi Chain Bridge built in 1849 the bridge was considered an engineering marvel, honestly it is phenomenal still.
On the Pest side of the river you can find the Parliament Building, the Opera House and the Market Hall. If you are just in it for the walk and seeing the outdoors, once you cross the bridge take a left and walk along the water, you can’t miss the parliament building, from here walk away from the river to see the opera house, or catch the street car which runs along the river back toward the Liberty Bridge, ticking kiosk is across the street from the stop outside parliament. The Market Hall is probably the only thing in town best visited in the afternoon. Since this is the main source of shopping for a lot of restaurants and locals, it calms down later in the day.
One of the main things I wish we had time to do was visit a bath house, they seem especially fantastic in the winter months. Because of the Roman and Turkish influence on the history and architecture of the city there are more than a couple throughout the city. The most well known is probably Széchenyi Thermal Bath and is one where woman are allowed in (not the case at every one). I had thoughts of taking everyone early on but due to timing had to trim it out. My research suggested that you bring your own towel(s) which posed a bit of a barrier for us, taking a train 3 hours with a bag of wet towels didn’t sound fun. But the bath house shares a rather large park with Vajdahunyad Castle and the Museum of fine arts so this would be a really great way to spend a day if your preferences lean this way.
Eating – 48 Hours in Budapest
Since we were there at Christmas we ate our main meal at the Christmas Market on Vörösmarty tér. It was exactly the eating experience I wanted and loved every second of selecting from a giant booth the Hungarian favorites I wanted to eat and then sitting outside with locals all doing the same. Goulash in a bread bowl was the favorite amongst our group but I really loved the cabbage roll with sauerkraut, sausage and a large piece of fried dough (they called it a pancake I am still searching for exactly what it was). We also ate at the Market hall for lunch which has quite a few options on the upper floor.
It was suggested to me to eat at the restaurant at the Fisherman’s Bastion, but honestly it was just too crowded for us. Though if it is less crowded or if you don’t mind crowds the views are incredible. I also really wanted to try the New York Palace Cafe which is fairly close to the train station but since we were only there for one dinner we had to skip it. The main shopping areas near the river are also filled with restaurants of all flavors I doubt you will have any problem finding something delicious.
Tips – 48 Hours in Budapest
My biggest tip to visiting Budapest is pick the things that mean the most to you and go early. 20 years has changed the level of tourism quite a bit and it can get crowded, but getting up early allows you the chance to experience things with out the crowds of selfie takers.
If you are planning on visiting Parliament, or the Opera House get tickets online and reserve a time. We didn’t know this as the website says just go to the entrance and buy a ticket, thus we didn’t get to tour, by the time we got there every tour in every language was sold out for the entire day.
I would also suggest avoiding the night life. My husband ran across some articles that would suggest while locals don’t mind the flocks of tourists in their city, they do mind the partying, late nights, hubbub on the streets and general nonsense that is escalated by out of towners in their bars and clubs. We also hear a fair amount of fighting on the streets overnight which even if you aren’t involved is always best to avoid.
I always like to ensure I am not a pest when I travel and this includes staying out of the way of locals and not causing trouble. Additionally avoiding public transit during commuting hours, coffee shops and lunch stops during times that would be rushed with locals as well as making sure to learn a few pleasantries in the local language. This is especially important in a country where English is not as prevalent.
You really can’t go wrong this any amount of time in Budapest and what I have learned from both my visits is you will always find more to do, and always be tempted to come back for longer next time. That being said due to how the city is laid out you can see quite a bit in a short amount of time and have a really great 48 hours in Budapest.