Two countries and capitals in four days is generally a much but it does depend on the size of the city. Having never been to Bratislava before I wondered how much he I could fit in and how much I would have to miss. It’s true that you can see most of what is available inside the city at a fairly leisurely pace in a day but I personally would like to go back and explore some more. I stayed with a guy called Sefo using AirBnb, his flat had everything that was needed, if you had forgotten something he pretty much had it. Phone chargers, shower gel, sanitary products, everything. In my opinion this is how most B&B’s should be and Sefo has really upped my expectations of any private B&B that I go to from here on in. Bratislava itself is not a big city and the old town is very pleasant indeed, it has a castle that you can wander up to but I decided not to go around it in favour of walking more around the old town and exploring more. I only had a day here after arriving on a late flight out of the UK. So yes even I am guilty of using it as a transitioning city to enable me to get to Vienna cheaply but I know that I should go back and dive more into the city and surrounding area.
There are two main ways to get to Vienna, the boat from Bratislava takes 2.5 hours and meanders up the Danube which I am sure on a nice day is really beautiful. The cost is a bit much at around €30 (one way) but might be one of those things you just decide to do. The Train is cheaper costing €17 for a return and €14 for a single and takes just over an hour to get you into Wien Hauptbahnhof. Arriving in Vienna I was taken back slightly, by the number of people in the station in a state of transition. My heart goes out to these people and I cannot blame the Austrian’s or the refugees for the unmistakable smell of stale sweat and bodies in the air. These people are taking shelter from a war zone and camping inside the main station before moving somewhere else no doubt. The news before I left the UK was all about how the Hungarian borders were not coping with the influx of people. There were reports of them being mistreated and all sorts but I’m sure that any country would struggle trying to cater for the amount of people that fled. I’m not making excuses for anyone here, I don’t take sides on this all I can see is a lot of humans in a state of transition that are doing so to hopefully make their life better somehow.
I was staying close to Westbanhhof in a managed apartment which is only a short trip by metro into the centre. Since I had travelled in from Bratislava a decision was made to not move too far the first night and I took dinner locally in a place called Quell. I must say that I love that places like this still exist in Austria. Quell has been running for over 75 years and provides excellent food that is delicious and fairly priced. Think dumplings, schnitzel, soup and things to make people on a diet wince. I could not eat like this every day but if I had something like this near me I would want to visit at least one a month to eat and probably more regularly to drink.
I had a very odd picture in my head about Vienna and it did not match at all with the city that I found. This is not necessarily a bad thing but was a little strange. For some reason I imagined the central part of the city to look older and not so modern but it’s a lot more up to date. Old Vienna was probably destroyed in the war, and the bits that were not were probably under threat at least. The main cathedral (St Stephens) is seriously impressive in its design and build. The museum quarter is really impressive but incredibly pricey in my opinion. You could easily spend a few days just in the museums alone and see very little of the city if you wanted to. I was much more interested in roaming the streets. I had travelled here with a friend from London who wanted to see the Jewish museum. My friend is by no means of strict faith and it would not be something I might think of seeing on my own so it’s good to have a prompt and an open mind about the whole thing. I think we all should know the history of Jews in Austria but I can always learn something new. After getting lost a bit trying to find it we paid €8 each (a special price with the Vienna card) and walked in to a very small but full of information museum. In fact the Jewish museum is actually split into two and the ticket that you buy gets you into both and is valid for 4 days so make sure if you see one you spend time seeing the other. Although saying that unless your really into reading about how badly people were treated (and in some cases continue to be), maybe avoid it. It’s one of those moments where history is just bloody horrible, bloody being the operative word here. Yes time has moved on and some people may still have some aversion to the Jewish people but I don’t. I see people as people and they have to first of all prove or show me something I dislike before I dislike them. The Jews as a race/tribe of people that have traversed many lands for centuries and set up many communities and have done nothing to me personally and even if a certain one does I cannot judge them all the same. I’m sure that they can be as selfish or horrible as people of other faiths or of no faith. Yes it’s true faith has caused wars and problems across humanity and all of this can probably be resolved if we just accept that people have the mindset to disagree and be different, I’m all for that. Okay I’m getting off my high hippy let’s love one another horse now. The fact is that the museum was interesting, really powerful and made great use of the space they had. Very much worth the €8.
You should know by know that my trips usually revolve around a few things. Observation (watching and trying to absorb the life of locals), participation (involving myself with locals or local customs or experience some history) and consumption (eating like a local) and I must say I ate very well I Vienna. Being a city they have everything from every country available but I try my hardest to eat the food local to the country. My theory is that you can learn a lot about the people from both the food and drink habits they keep. Vienna is cake central, you can’t pass by a coffee shop without seeing some sort of yummy thing that you might want to eat. You could end up the size of a house of course but then you just travel our a little and hike up a mountain or two. But yes I had my fill of coffee and cake and strudel.. Oh my gosh the strudel.. But time has to move on. I never even planed to see Vienna but it’s wonderful to finally get into a city I have been curious about for ages. My route is onwards, a night train to Venice and the start of the journey that I have had in my head for a while.