October 27 and 28, 2019
We went from Prague to Vienna by train, Railjet, which is a fast train. It took us 4 hours and 10 minutes and we had good wi-fi aboard. I even watched a movie – but also watched the beautiful countryside as we traveled.
We stayed at the Hilton Vienna Plaza which was located very close to all of the beautiful museums and historical sights. Here’s the view from our window!
It was a beautiful day, so we went out walking right away. Here are some of the sights we saw.
We walked to the Jewish Museum where we saw this impressive memorial dedicated to the 65,000 Austrian Jews who were exterminated during the Holocaust.
We visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is the tallest structure in Vienna and is simply spectacular. Over 3 million people a year visit here.
The original church was built in 1147. Several fires and bombings led to reconstruction over the years.The multicolored roof tiles were replaced after a fire and add a very different artistic element to the church. Here are some pictures of the inside.
We continued our walk, had dinner at the Opera restaurant across from the gorgeous opera house, and headed toward the Kursalon for a concert.
The concert featured selections from Mozart, Strauss and others. There were voice and ballet performances as part of the concert. Photos during the performance were prohibited but here is the inside of the Kursalon. It was built in 1865-1867 in the Italian Renaissance style. Strauss earned his title as the “Waltz King” here and there is a golden statue of him outside the building.
Of course, before the concert, we had to have the famous Sachertorte! Good thing we shared it – delicious but very rich.
A terrific first day.
On our second day in Vienna, we had booked a NY Times Journey called “Vienna: Historical Food, Wine and Coffee Tour”. Their tours are based on the NY Times 36 hours series.
To see the actual specifics of the tour (which we HIGHLY recommend), you can click here.
We walked to the meeting place and were met by our two guides for the tour, Patrick and Wolfgang. They asked why we chose this tour and then told us we were the first two people to book it – and would be the only ones on the tour! They do other tours for Urban Adventures but this was the first NY Times Journey tour. They have been trying to work with the NY Times and it finally happened.
It was the best day! For one thing, we had individual attention all day. It was supposed to be a 3 hour tour and it lasted almost 5 hours. Wolfgang is on the left and Patrick on the right in the picture below. They were outstanding.
We had a stop at Daniel Moser, a coffee cafe, and the owner gave me a lesson on making the specialty coffees. Then we got to enjoy them. Wolfgang told us how coffee and wine bars are gathering places in the neighborhoods where people can stay as long as they want and are never pressured to order more. Lots of great conversations happen over coffee. On November 1, all public establishments will be non smoking – and there were still people smoking here.
What fun to learn how to make these drinks and they were delicious too!
And of course I liked the sign between the restrooms!
From there we went on to the synagogue in the Jewish quarter where we almost didn’t get in because we didn’t know we needed our passports. Luckily the guard knew Wolfgang and Daniel and our driver’s licenses were sufficient. Lots of security including armed guards around the synagogue.
We had a long talk by a guide in the synagogue – lots of information and context for the building and its history.
The Stadtempel is the main synagogue in Vienna. It is huge and beautiful. It was never destroyed in the war during Kristalnacht (when all of the other 93 synagogues and prayer houses in Vienna were destroyed) because it is in the midst of other houses (and does not look any different from them) and also there was an old church nearby and the Nazis were afraid to burn it because the church and other buildings would burn too. People took the scrolls out and hid them before the synagogue was entered by the Nazis.
We did get to see the beautiful doors behind which the scrolls are kept today.
Our tour was a walking tour and we did a LOT of walking! Next we visited the only kosher winery in Vienna. The owner is a former mechanical engineer who sold his company intending to retire but found that he missed people too much and so he ended up buying a wine store! We had both white and red wines and discussed the preparation of the wines with him.
Daniel and Wolfgang took us to a restaurant where they did the ordering for us. We had Viennese specialties – wonderful!
After lunch we went to Naschmarkt where Patrick introduced us to wonderful chocolate at Zotter. I could not believe the incredible variety. The picture shows only about 1/3 of them. We tasted two kinds and some kids kept coming to sample too! And of course, we bought some too.
Then we regretfully had to say goodbye to Wolfgang and Patrick. Later they sent us an email with all kinds of information since we will be coming back to Vienna when we are on the riverboat.
We chose another concert with Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss selections at Palais Schonborn. The same soprano singer from the night before was part of this concert too. The orchestra was smaller but equally wonderful. Again, no pictures during the performance were allowed.
Wolfgang recommended a restaurant called Zum Schwarzen Kameel – The Black Camel, so we went there for dinner after the concert. We sat outside and had a great evening.
A few other pictures from this beautiful city.
The next stop on our trip is Budapest. We will take the train there – about a 2 hour trip.