1. Touchdown Vienna and begins the committed platonic relationship with 'Tourist Information Desk'. Our first encounter, a redhead lady (just her hair were read, keep that urban dictionary aside, please) at the desk. While struggling to understand the streets and the sub streets and the sub sub streets, I guess the travel desk lady understood our bewilderment and said, 'It's 5.50 pm, if you can wait for anothet 10 minutes, I will drop you to your accommodation. It's opposite the street where I live'. And the first whiff of the beautiful Veinna air.But wait a minute. We didn't know that 'I will drop you' means 'I will walk you'. This city walks and walks with stride of an athlete. Not surprised by the 'thigh gap' being a commoner's commodity here. So the redhead not only helped us with carrying the luggage (3 women. Don't expect us to travel light) but helped us give an insider's overview of Vienna. We were amazed at the humility and camaraderie of this woman whose name also we didn't know. This was our introduction to the level of trust for a stranger that the Europe exhibits.2. Are you from India?- Yes!Ah! Na'A'maste!Our three days in Vienna echoed with the above. It was amusing to see how people knew about nationalities and the local pleasantries of various nations. It somehow boosts your confidence of 'being known' and automatically creates a sense of belongingness. When after 'Na'A' maste' with a few too many, I asked a gentleman that how does he have so much knowledge about different nations of the world, their demography and their local pleasantries, he said:'It's the fear of Unknown that makes us susceptible to people around. Once we read, understand others, we know that it's just the geography which aparts us. In today's time and age, it's a must to read about /to know about different cultures, practices and traditions of the various nations. It's not the treaties that maketh a better world, it's the heart'.
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Day 2- Vienna- (Temp- 8 degrees C) We took it slow and decided to acclimatize ourselves to the city. We walked our way (40mins away) from the hostel to the Schonbrunn Palace, though we had the option to take the trams/ metros we chose to walk and stop at local eateries and shops. The palace has a beautiful facade surrounded by an amazing garden. A trip to this palace is worth your time.
Stephansdom or the St. Stephen's Cathedral is a beautiful Gothic church in the busy centre of Vienna at Stephansplatz. The towering church is ornately patterned and invites you with its delicate and intricate artwork. I remember standing on the pavement across the Church, still and just admiring the architectural brilliance. Don't break your neck as you stretch it to take in the look of the Cathedral in its full glory, though! The Cathedral offers beautiful view of the city from the top. For the health freaks, there are stairs - 343 steps to be precise! For those who would rather take the lift, you are my friend! Just go inside the church and a lift would take you up, of course with a fee.
Where do you begin to explore a city with splendour like Vienna? The first evening in Vienna and I realized all my planned itineraries were starting to fail me. We decided to take the city bus from our hotel to the city centre and go with the flow. When we alighted in front of the Opera House, we got our answer! The Ringstrasse (or the Ring Road) is a 5.3 kilometres long stretch that traces the path of the Medieval city wall surrounded Vienna until 1860. Emperor Franz Joseph ordered its construction in 1857, replacing the Medieval wall with a grand boulevard – which today boasts of some of the most important sights in Vienna. The Ringstrasse was officially opened in 1865 and celebrates its 150th jubilee this year. If you are the walking kinds, then you can explore the area on foot – pausing in between to admire the grandeur of the buildings that you find along the way. Those who prefer more comfort, the Vienna Ring Tram departs every 30 minutes from Schwedenplatz and goes around the Ringstrasse, offering an interactive system with its audio-visual system. Another way to explore it is through the Hop-on Hop off bus tour. Just perch yourself on the top deck and you would find yourself going around the Ringstrasse. If you go around the Ringstrasse, you will acquaint yourself with almost all the important attractions in the city centre such as the Opera House, the Museum Quartier (housing the Museum of Natural History, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Modern Art Museum), Heldenplatz, the Parliament and the City Hall (Rathaus).