Wanderthirst: travelling to Vienna as my final hurrah to the EU
21 Jul 2019
Illustration by serina.kitazono
Since moving to Germany last summer, I’ve travelled to different countries, but it wasn’t until the ever-looming prospect of Brexit drawing nearer, that my interest in exploring Europe increased. So, I decided to add Vienna and Naples to the list.
I thought Vienna was going to be a weekend full of bliss with my housemate Jackie. Hours into our trip I was quickly reminded, like on all adventures, that this one would be another test of my sensibilities and commitment to calmness. After all, what’s more European than waiting around for your delayed overnight coach? Almost ten hours later, we finally make it to Vienna. If it took my whole childhood for Bristol to capture my heart, it says a lot that Vienna stole it in four days.
“In Vienna, almost every city park is worthy of being a national park, with a palace in view or a historical monument right next to you”
In Vienna, almost every city park is worthy of being a national park, with a palace in view or a historical monument right next to you as you lay on the grass, such as the Mozart Monument located in the inner city “Burggarten” (castle garden). By this I mean that there’s an actual Disney-worthy castle in the middle of the city. Casual.
En route to Wieninger am Nussberg for an afternoon at the family-run vineyard, I spied the most luxurious McDonald’s I had ever seen. Hidden amongst Vienna’s famous Jugenstil and Baroque architecture, the only giveaway was the yellow “M” discreetly held above the tastefully carved wooden doors. I couldn’t help but laugh – even Maccys looks beautiful in Vienna.
Once we finally reached Wieninger am Nussberg, opting for the longer forty minute stroll following the winding path out of the city and through the vineyard, we turned around for a breathtaking panoramic view of the Austrian capital. Situated in the famous Kahlenberg viewpoint overlooking the Danube river, we settled into the benches and low-hanging deck chairs dotted across the hilltop, with a few glasses of wine and Viennese cold delicacies to hand.
“Thankfully, even in the more rural parts of Vienna I felt safe and not consciously aware of my blackness”
Our bottle of Nussberg Riesling sweetened the slow sunset; the view of families, couples and friends of all ages laughing away in the backdrop reiterated the same dreamy feeling. Thankfully, even in the more rural parts of Vienna I felt safe and not consciously aware of my blackness, which is the stark opposite to how I felt when travelling to other European cities like Prague and Budapest. Afterwards, we slowly made our way back down, elevated and tipsy from a blissful evening of nothingness.
The next day, we’re up early and cravin’. Following a quick Google search, we headed to Erich for brunch, the sister restaurant to Vienna’s famous Ulrich breakfast spot. We ordered from the all-day breakfast menu, which includes many vegan options and the sweet, doughy “kaiserschmarren”. It’s an Austrian classic best described as shredded pancakes, drizzled in a plum or apple sauce, coated with berries, and topped with cinnamon or confectioners sugar. Basically, it is mouth-wateringly delicious.
With no concern for our sugar levels, we headed around the corner to our new favourite vegan ice cream spot Veganista. For a zingy-biscuit balance, I’d recommend scoops of the mango, minty lemon and chocolate chip combo – you won’t be disappointed.
From there, we travelled to one of the city’s most exquisite landmarks, the Baroque-style Schönbrunn Palace, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are anything like me, you may not be well versed in famous sights and what to generally expect of them. I’m the kind of person to roll my eyes at Buckingham Palace and keep it pushing. Ultimately, nothing could have prepared me for the grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace. It translates to English as “beautiful spring”, aptly named after the artesian well from the lands’ original use, and is a running theme seen across the numerous fountains – i.e. everything is beautiful.
We spent a whole afternoon touring what must only be a quarter of the 500 acre garden, and that consisted of the pristine Privy Garden, the jaw-dropping Neptune fountain, which was more like a large pond, the Obelisk fountain, the artificial Roman Ruin fountain, and a surprisingly complicated maze.
To get your head around the inner city transport systems and the various concessions available, the WienMobil app will become your best friend. Vienna is one of the three cities who also offer the Queer City Pass, offering transport concessions and discounts to events and venues from their city-wide partners, which also spotlights many of the LGBTQI+ events happening throughout the year. This seems to reflect much of the liberal parts of Vienna that I felt, with no personal instances of racism or misogyny during my trip.
“Vienna is one of the three cities who also offer the Queer City Pass, offering transport concessions and discounts to events and venues from their city-wide partners
While researching about the different passes and their discounts, I came across the Albertina museum’s exhibition of original Monet and Picasso works. This felt especially poignant as I grew up with prints of Monet’s work all over my house, fuelled by my mum’s love for Impressionist art. Yet, in the same museum, I was also personally touched by this large painting of a black woman by Afua Michela Ghisetti seemingly lost in thought while radiating beauty.
Working in the creative industry, I’ve lost count of how many times I have gone to art galleries and not seen myself. The simplicity of the painting; seeing someone who looks like me, unsexualised and not depicted as an enslaved person, blown up to that magnitude in the same museum displaying originals from the likes of Picasso and Monet; left me speechless with all of the feels.
I always saw travelling as a privilege, something my working-class background could only afford to dream of. Sadly, Britain pulling up the drawbridge to Europe will only make travel even more inaccessible. My trip to Vienna reminded me of this and refreshed my interest in the exchange of ideas, relaxation, and inspiration that comes with visiting a new place.
As we were there during the famous Ostermarkt Schloss Schönbrunn (the palace’s Easter market) the grounds were full of people of various ethnicities. While you’d be pressed to find many places in Europe as culturally diverse as the UK, it was refreshingly common to hear multiple languages and accents while walking around Vienna. This was an obvious reminder of how many diasporan people are native speakers to other non-English languages despite the constant portrayal of whiteness across Europe and erasure of the people of colour who call it home.
It was in these moments my housemate and I looked at each other and realised how deeply in love with Vienna we were. It’s no surprise it is apparently the most livable city: families were deep into their picnics, solo joggers paced across the gravel seemingly used to the novelty of the landscape, and we tucked ourselves under a tree canopy in one of the many secluded parks for a light nap.
• Explore the Naschmarkt (market for “titbits” or nibbles) for some of the best seafood restaurants; it is best to book in advance for Trattoria Pulcinella. While there, make sure to stop and try the numerous olives and hummus variations as well as grabbing a drink at one of the cute shack bars along the market.
• Check out Erich, Ulrich and WIRR as they offer a variety of goodies for both meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans alike, with a lovely brunch cocktail menu to match, and contemporary twists on traditional Viennese dishes.
• Ristorante San Carlo is an intimate Italian restaurant with the sweetest staff, who were as passionate about the food and wine as they were about you enjoying it.
• Check out Burggarten park if in the city, and make sure to explore the many gardens within Schönbrunn Palace.
• The Albertina is great for seeing works by famous artists, from Picasso and Monet to Lichtenstein and Warhol, but it also has a lot of contemporary works and smaller exhibitions within.
• If staying in a hostel, remember to bring your own lock as many hostels will provide a safe storage but charge you to borrow a lock during your stay.
• Hostels truly are the most inexpensive accommodation option and I’ve found Booking.com the most rewarding site for regular customer perks.
• Consider staying in districts further out which are still well-connected to the local transport routes, such as around the “Wien Hauptbahnhof” (Vienna’s main train station).
• Download the WienMobil app for a quick and easy way to purchase transport tickets and keep track of your routes.
• Save internet data by downloading offline Google maps of the main districts, particularly the “Innere Stadt” (inner city) to get around most landmark sites.