For my last weekend while studying in Florence, my roommate and I decided to go to Vienna (because it was pretty cheap on Ryanair and we wanted to go somewhere). We left on Thursday morning and despite some bumps in the road (like not checking in at the airport since we didn’t have luggage to check) we made it on our flight (where flight attendants sold tons of different products to us) and to Bratislava, Slovakia, about one hour away from Vienna. We took a bus to Vienna which is MASSIVE! Oh my gosh is it big. We really had no idea. Our hostel was really nice-it was basically a hotel/dorm. We had our own bathroom, two twin beds and desks. It was fantastic and the people that worked there were really nice. The first day we walked around the main district of Vienna-or the historic center. The cathedral was beautiful! The Hofburg, where the Hapsburgs lived, was pretty cool, although some of the buildings need some MAJOR cleaning. We ended up going to a rooftop bar for dinner which was overpriced for okay food, oh well, the view was kinda cool. After that we got the Original Sacher Tart at Cafe Sacher. It was pretty good. I thought it was going to be much more choclatey than it was. We walked around and saw Vienna lit up at night which was really pretty. These old imperial buildings have many classic details that are so beautiful in the evening light.
The next day we went to Schonbrunn Palace, the Hapsburg’s summer home that is now within the city limits. It was modeled after Versailles and is beyond grand! I really loved it, partly because seeing palace/fancy home interiors is one of my favorite things to do. We went on the shorter tour with an audio guide that spoke for far too long in each room. The private rooms were “modest” aka they had a little less gilding and were filled with family pictures. The public rooms were full of gilding, elaborate murals depicting the Imperial Family as closely linked to God and beautiful curtains. One room is where a 6-year old Mozart played one of his first pieces. The gardens outside were extensive and beautiful. They reminded me a bit of the Boboli gardens here in Florence. In the middle was a giant fountain and then at the very top was a Gloriette which was beautiful-although I’m not sure what it was for. There was also a maze made from bushes/trees/topiary that I kinda want to go through but didn’t. Schonbrunn has a ton of stuff to do, including Apple Strudel demonstrations, Children’s Museum and zoo. We were going to go to the zoo but it was 14 euros which is just ridiculous. Instead we went into town and went to the aquarium. It was full of really creepy snakes, awesome birds, some monkeys, tons of fish and baby hammerhead sharks. I love aquariums so this was a really fun way to spend our afternoon.
The following day we headed to Bratislava, Slovakia. It is the capital of Slovakia and I could see evidence from the utilitarian architecture of the USSR. The country has just switched to Euros, so while it used to be really cheap, I felt like it was probably the cheapest European country that I’d been to for sure. Our hotel was 70s esque but pretty nice and REALLY cheap. It also had computers for guest use in the lobby with Slovak keyboards which were crazy! The z and y were switched, the number keys on American keyboards were all these accented Slovak letters or punctuation marks, all of the other symbols were all over the keyboard, it was a new experience to say the least. We got dinner at a Spanish tapas place which was really good! Slovak food looked a little crazy and my roommate is vegetarian basically so we opted to not have it. The historic center is really tiny so we walked around it the first night and then again the next day. Most of the historic center is from the days of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire so the buildings were similar to those in Vienna. It was really cute overall, but definitely a place to go for a day and not much longer. We headed back to Florence for our last week here-I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by!