Day Five: Visions of Vienna

Vienna Christmas Market
Vienna Christmas Market

ABOARD VIKING GULLVEIG – This morning Viking planned a half-day tour of this elegant city, where we spent the day exploring the old and the new. Vestiges of the mighty Hapsburg Empire, which was established here in 1273, can be found throughout this beautiful capital.

After boarding yet another First Class bus and donning our “quiet vox” equipment, we met our guide Anna Lise who gave us an overview of the city during our 20 minute drive, weaving through morning traffic.

Pointing out sights along the way, she showed us where Strauss (apparently a big womanizer) lived and where he penned some of his compositions. Evidently women swooned over him to such a degree, that they used to ask for snippets of his black curly hair as a memento of their encounter. At some point, he had to pass the hair of a black poodle off as his – before he became bald! Many of his compositions were written – and named after – the women he loved…and left.

Hofbrau Palace
Hofburg Palace

Walking along the impressive Ringstrasse, our guide pointed out imposing palaces and grand residences encircling the medieval Innere Stadt (Inner City), which included ruins of an ancient Roman settlement.

We got to see the imposing Hofbrau Palace, St. Stephan’s Cathedral with its gleaming spire and the majestic State Opera House, before we were cut loose to explore on our own.

After fortifying ourselves with a steaming cappuccino and decadent strudel, we were armed to explore the largest Christmas market in Austria.

Hofbrau Palace Gate
Hofburg Palace Gate

Coffee apparently isn’t just a drink in Vienna – it’s an experience, as coffee snobs will tell you, and there are many varieties, from Schwarzer – a version of the espresso – to Kaffee Crème, a milder form served with a small jug of milk – and Goldener, regular coffee with milk.

Christmas Market Fun

Rathaus (Town Hall)
Rathaus (Town Hall)

The fun thing about Christmas markets is that each area offers different selections and no two seem to be the same. The scent of food – including the renowned sausages with cheese – hot beverages and delicate pastries filled the air as we pored over the brilliant selections.

Viking really has their port tours down to a science. The tours, guides and transportation are all excellent. Free shuttles went back and forth from port into the city, allowing passengers a lot of options to cover in their free time.

An optional tour to Schonburg Palace was offered, as was an evening Strauss and Mozart concert.

Roman ruins
Roman ruins

I decided that we needed some culture so I took my daughter Kimberly – who went very reluctantly – to listen to classical music. The concert was held in the Palais Auseberg by a very talented resident Viennese orchestra.

Requisite strudel and coffee stop
Requisite strudel and coffee stop

Kimberly deemed it “very pleasant,” so my work was done. We boarded our comfortable bus as strains of Mozart and Strauss filled our heads, for the 15 minute drive back to our ship.

Tomorrow….Bratislava!

Photos: Michelle da Silva Richmond

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