Before I get on to Vienna, I have to share a picture that was meant to go in the Prague post. We snapped this photo of a restaurant in Prague because we thought it was just a little too close to Mad Cow Steakhouse.
Anyway. We were surprised how chilly it was in Prague, but we were not even close to prepared for the August winter that greeted us in Vienna. It rained without stopping, and the cold and wind kept us bundled up almost beyond recognition—I swear it's really us in these photos.
Our room was close to downtown, so after we put our stuff down, we went out for a preliminary investigation. The first thing we ran into was this Mozart memorial.
They love that guy around here, probably because of that sassy swagger.
As we wandered through downtown, we agreed that Vienna looks quite a bit like Prague, only on a larger scale. The architecture is very similar, but Vienna's wide promenades and tall buildings make it as imposing and impressive as Prague is cozy and quaint.
The anchor of Vienna's tourist district is the towering mass of Stephansdom. It's impossible to show in a photo just how enormous it is unless you have a helicopter or a very tall tree, so I lifted this photo off a travel site to give you some idea:
It is large. The tower is 445 feet tall.
We wandered around it for a bit, then watched a street artist paint one of those spray-paint pictures with the shooting stars and fantasy waterfalls and whatnot. That's some talent, but who really hangs those things on their wall?
We took a restaurant recommendation from the Austria book the Ladners gave us for Christmas and enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip and a much-needed break from the cold.
The first order of business the next morning was a(nother) tower climb.
We put on our game faces and charged up the many, many stairs of Stephansdom's tallest tower. The view was great and all, but really, we were just happy to get out of the rain for a few minutes. It was terribly drafty in that stairwell, though—couldn't anybody do anything right in the twelfth century?
Cool double-headed eagle.
I'm getting cold just looking at these. We climbed back down and tried to catch the Ankeruhr at noon, but it was broken.
Phil had to drag me away from my shelter.
After that, we headed to the Prunksaal—a baroque library acknowledged as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It cost seven euros just to go in, so I went alone to get some photos. It absolutely lived up to the hype.
I could have stayed in there all day, snapping photos and smelling those old books, but we had things to do, and poor, wet Phil was falling asleep on a bench in the library foyer.
We took the subway out to the Belvedere complex, once the summer home(s) of some Habsburg prince who apparently needed two palaces right next to each other. It now houses an art museum with a beautiful Gustav Klimt collection. It was cold there, too. Weird.
The grounds were gorgeous. This next photo was taken from inside one of the palaces, and at the far end of the gardens is the other palace. In the gloomy distance, you can see the massive silhouette of Stephansdom.
I might as well have jumped in; I wouldn't have been any wetter.
We sloshed onto the train and rode out to Vienna's HUGE cemetery (approximately one square mile) in search of some of our favorite dead people. It was a spooky place, all overgrown and deserted (maybe on account of the driving rain?). This guy was particularly creepy, and the handles on the slab are disconcerting.
A sign at the entrance mapped out several sections of the cemetery devoted to particular religious groups—Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and, to our surprise, Mormons. They weren't hard to spot:
Over 2.5 million corpses, and look who we ran into!
We also said hi to Brahms, Schubert, Schönberg, several Strausses, and another Mozart memorial. We sprinted back to the train station to avoid a miserable half-hour wait for the next train.
Our Austria book yielded another culinary jackpot—definitely the best meal of our trip. Potato pancakes, pork loin, roasted vegetables, and chanterelles in the most heavenly sauce.
Vienna was beautiful, but our perception was colored by the oppressive weather. We were eager to move on to the last (and hopefully slightly warmer) leg of our trip: Croatia!