Vienna, Austria & Bratislava, Slovakia

Karie on Apr 2nd 2008 08:39 pm

This was our first trip with sunshine since we went to Italy in September/October. How refreshing it was! I was so taken with Vienna, but I honestly don’t know if it was the beautiful city, the sophisticated culture, or just the fact that it was sunny. Probably all of the above.

I got a bit of the German vibe in Vienna, and not just because of the language. I think it was the tidiness and efficiency. The Viennese also have a soft spot for romance. Beautifully maintained (and restored) buildings, parks that beg you to stop what you’re doing and sit down for a while, appreciation for music and art, even their own waltz.

Austria claims to be the capital of classical music, and rightly so, as the home of some of the worlds most famous composers, including Mozart and Strauss, as well as one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, the Vienna State Opera.

It costs 15 Euros to tour the Wiener Staatsoper, or Vienna State Opera, and considerably more for a seat at an opera or ballet. However, we had heard that if you wait in line a couple hours prior to a performance, there’s a possibility of getting “standing tickets” for only 3.50 Euros. Hmm…. 15€ to visit the building while it’s empty, or 3.50€ to see it with a live performance.

Our “tip” said to arrive about 2 hours in advance, buy your tickets, then grab a quick bite to eat before the show. We ended up stopping by about 3 hours in advance, simply because we were in the neighborhood and wanted to check out where the peasant line would be. We did find the line, and the 30 people that were already in it! Let me tell you – these people were not messing around. Most of them had brought small folding stools, books, snacks… many of them were carrying gigantic bags with all sorts of unknown supplies. This was apparently an all day event for many of them, and probably one that they do with some regularity.

We waited about an hour and a half, snagged the tickets, and thought we’d have just enough time to walk back to our hotel, clean ourselves up and find a quick dinner. We noticed all our fellow line-waiters were going directly into the auditorium, so we ran instead… quickly put on the nicest clothes we had (which weren’t that nice) and choked down the dinner of choice for opera lovers around the world – take-away pizza. We made it back just in time to claim our 1 square foot of standing room for the performance of Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss. The opera house is actually quite small, so even the standing area is in a nice location. You feel a bit like the peanut gallery standing in the back in your jeans, while the closest person to you that actually paid for a seat is wearing a ball gown, but we were still pretty happy with our arrangement.

We had a few days in Vienna, so after we tackled all the major sights (and sat in a few parks), we decided to take a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. Did I just say that? Who takes a day trip to Slovakia?? There are several excursions we could’ve chosen, but I honestly think we might have picked this one just so we could say we took a day trip to Slovakia.

Apparently it’s actually pretty common. There is a “EURegio Bratislava Ticket” at a discounted price of 14€, which includes round trip train from Vienna, as well as public transportation within Bratislava. It was perfect for a day trip. Not too expensive, but still sufficient time to tour the small city. It has a ton of charm, and some great views if you hike up to the castle.

Our time in Vienna (and Bratislava) was so enjoyable and relaxing. That was until we got on the wrong train to go to the airport. The ride should’ve been 25 minutes. About 15 minutes into it Scott started to get suspicious. About 20 minutes into it we decided to get off, then stood on the platform and looked at each other for a few minutes. We didn’t have time to go all the way back and wait for the correct train, but we also weren’t going to find a taxi in this remote part of town. We ended up taking a different train back to a different station, where we knew we’d be more likely to find a cab. We gave it our best shot at speaking English with a German accent (combined with hand gestures of course) telling him to go really fast. Our $6 train ride turned into a stressful $50 cab ride, but we made it, and we were on our way to Poland.

Sometimes while we’re waiting in an airport or train station we like to count the number of people we see running by with desperate looks on their face as they drag their luggage behind them. This day, it was our turn to provide the entertainment.

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