We had a terrible scare!! We kept shouting at the taxi guy to drive faster!! This is for the first time that we came to know what it feels as if your heart’s almost stopped. This was exactly what happened when we had to board a 9:35 p.m. flight to Vienna from Mumbai. We will definitely miss our flight, the thought kept haunting me. And to top it all the moment we entered Chatrapati Shivaji International Terminal; phew! it was nothing different. There were plasma screens of arrival and departure times on the wall of the airport, and a crowd of people glued at them. What is wrong with everybody? It seemed as if everybody was leaving Mumbai that day! After a few minutes to frantic running around and cutting queues, we somehow managed to clear the immigration. Now it was 10 hours to Vienna, with a 3 hour layover at Abu Dhabi. And we entered the aerobridge to board the mammoth Airbus A380, which is one of the most luxurious planes that we have set foot on.
Few friends, who visited the Austrian capital, told us that Vienna is actually a blend of urban layers surrounding the oldest historic center. And believe me – that was exactly true. The Austrian capital embraces all the traditions of a European city, from Roman foundations to pure artistic structures. The city’s exciting combination of the royal-imperial flair of the past with the latest trends and precious heritage and charming traditions is what one can surely get an essence too.
We checked in at our hotel – Donauwalzer, a boutique hotel set up during 1901, and after spending sometime admiring the blend of old and modern at the hotel, we were out to explore the splendor that the city had in store for us. The first place up at out itinerary was the Schönbrunn Palace.
It took almost an hour to reach Schönbrunn Palace and the guard at the palace gate, smartly dressed in the traditional attire welcomed us, joie de vivre of the baroque world! (Enjoy your life to the excitement of European architecture). We were strangely awestruck at the sight of this palace that covers more than 120 acres of land. The Imperial glory and rural idyll come together as a unique combination of an aristocratic palace, a magnificent terraced garden and a tranquil estate farm. The entire palace complex is surrounded by lush green laws, roman construction and beautiful hewed fountains. The palace interior is a classic combination of past roman and European artifact. Most of the walls and ceilings are covered with white-lacquered surfaces with ornamentation covered with gold leaf. Crystal chandeliers and white porcelain tile are also part of the harmonious design.
The palace also houses a Zoo and Nikhil begged like a 5 year old kid, ever since he saw a picture of a Panda on the Zoo poster. Finally I budged, and we went on to spend around 2 hours at Tiergarten Schönbrunn and saw a Panda for the first time, including Penguins and two POLAR BEARS!!!!
Since childhood Opera has always enticed me. But witnessing one was always a dream, but I always believed that dreams do come true and mine, well! I was living a dream. If old buildings, crafted fountains, excellent museums and world-renowned works of art turn Vienna into a city of beauty, it boasts to be one of the top opera addresses in the world with theaters staging music at its best. That one and a half hour of extreme melody took my heart away. Nikhil, at first was quite interested, but I swear I never saw him so relaxed. The tranquil, soulful blend of rhythm, story and background of harmonic accompaniment kept us glued to our seats during the entire journey of lyricism.
We decided to head back to the hotel, so hopped on the Metro, to which by now, we were so accustomed, that we didn’t even pull out the map and we exactly knew where to get off.
We started the next day by visiting the Naschmarket at Weiden, which is without a doubt, the best place in the city for shopping, where you get to see both the young and old Austrians doing their daily shopping as well as the visitors to the city from all over the world. It’s not a mall or a shopping arcade kind of a thing, but what you’ll see are small shops and restaurants lined up against each other, giving way for thin corridors through which you had to move through. Amidst the hustle and bustle the market is a nest to a wide range showcasing the multicultural city, what Vienna is. Nikhil and I grabbed sandwiches and coffee, and roamed around the narrow streets of colourful display of many fresh fruits stalls, multi cuisine restaurants, souvenirs and florist. There were many shops fresh selling meat and fishmongers selling fresh food of the highest quality.
As we were passing by suddenly a shopkeeper asked Nikhil Want a cheese burger with double thickness pork chop? Or a filleted piece of fish? Nikhil did a “Namaste” to him as if he wanted to say – Please, and then asked in return – Don’t you have anything in vegetarian? We suddenly saw the famous eye brow raise (WWE – The Rock) from the shopkeeper and we both knew it was time to move on. Luckily we found an Indian Restaurant – Indian Pavilion, which served us delicious Palak Paneer, Daal Makhani and Butter Naan. I couldn’t move Nikhil from the table for at least 3 hours.
However, by now, the weather was doing its own magic. The sky was tar-black and the large clouds were moving. The weather was lovely, cold and had a chill. We engulfed ourselves under sweaters and jackets and headed straight to Prater, which is an amusement park. Throughout the journey I prayed for the rain to stop, because usually they don’t operate rides when it’s raining, but it kept on drizzling. The moment I saw that giant wheel, a kid inside me came out and I started jumping. Prater an amusement park for many, place of nostalgic dreams for some, oasis of greenery for almost everyone – and the location of the Giant Ferris Wheel, is Vienna most famous symbols. I spent almost the entire day going up on a roller coaster (Nikhil clicking pictures as he was scared), a horror ride to a haunted house, a sizzler, and a swinging pirate ship. The list seems to be never ending.
It was two days well spent in Vienna covering awesome other places like St. Stephans Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, Museum Quartier, etc. The picturesque sights took our breath away and we were in awe of the city architecture and supreme magnificence which surrounded the area.