Despite only being an hour apart, the feel of Vienna is quite different to Bratislava. The non-existent hustle and bustle in the Slovakian capital is present in the Austrian city. Vienna is also much bigger, and the languages are both different, with German and Slovakian meeting at the border.
But they do share some similarities. One such resemblance is in the architecture, which is, in most cases, intricate, beautiful and grand.
We saw one example today, riding Vienna’s U-Bahn (their equivalent of the London Underground) about 20 minutes away from our hotel to Schönbrunn Palace.
The 1,441 room Baroque palace is celebrating its 20th season as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has been a major Austrian tourist attraction since the 1950s.
Perhaps even more stunning are the palace’s grounds, where you’ll find over 100 acres of greenery, numerous water features, a labyrinth and maze area and Schönbrunn zoo.
Throw in horse-drawn carriages ferrying around excitable tourists, a queue forming to visit the orangery and an amazing view of the surrounding area from the Gloriette, a ceremonial gate, and there is enough to keep a tourist occupied for a full day.
Wanting to look inside, one of the first things we did was queue up for a ticket. Admittedly we had arrived a little later than anticipated, but we still weren’t expecting to be told there would be a three hour wait for admittance.
With a day of activity ahead of us, we decided not to pursue it and enjoyed the rest of the grounds instead. But a word of warning for anyone else who wants to go – buy your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
It wouldn’t, however, be the only place we wouldn’t be getting into. Next on the list was Rathaus, Vienna’s town hall. Yet we noticed it was shut due to the city’s 2016 Film Festival – not that anything was actually playing whilst we were there. The festival – now in its 26th edition – began on 14 July and will be running right through to 4 September.
Still, it was nice to be able to see the impressive building – even if it was from an obstructed view.
Following Rathaus on the itinerary was the Sigmund Freud Museum, but being tight for time we ended up moving that to the start of the morning and heading straight to Prater.
Weiner Prater is a large public park in Vienna’s second district and houses Wurstelprater – a large amusement park with two big, iconic ferris wheels.
Wurstelprater is commonly known by ‘Prater’ alone, and just walking around the place brought memories flooding back of childhood trips to the fairgrounds in Blackpool and Southport.
Our trip wasn’t without some fairground classics, with vintage noughties hit O-Zone’s Dragostea din tei reminiscent of the type of music blasting out of the rides’ speakers.
There were some impressive looking rides with a giant log flume, and several rollercoasters. But we chose to take a turn on one of the ferris wheels, opting for the majestic views instead.
From the top, it was easy to appreciate Vienna’s size, even though a 360-degree image was needed to take in the vast urban sprawl.
Vienna has definitely given me a great first impression, and having two more days to explore is saliva-inducing.
If Vienna can produce another similarity in being as good as Bratislava, then the second leg of this trip will be a very good one, indeed.