Midway through the tour, we had our one and only free day. We woke up to rain, but it didn’t deter us! Seven of us embraced our tourist-ness, and navigated our way by foot to a segway tour company. We fastened our helmets and modeled our ponchos before a Segway 101 lesson from our instructor and tour guide, Chris. Within minutes we were masters and cruising our way down the bike paths, roads, and sidewalks of Vienna while dodging pedestrians and posing for other tourists’ photos (John Sabo was an especially popular model.)
Along the way, Chris shared quick facts, figures, and history lessons. A city of 1.9 million, roughly 10% of Austria’s population lives here. The University of Vienna welcomes 60,000 students a year itself. With 50% of the city’s land reserved for green space and parks, dogs and their owners thrive here. According to our guide, Vienna consistently places in the top for quality of life ratings in Europe. And don’t be fooled by the graffiti; Vienna is an incredibly safe and otherwise clean city.
Following the segway tour, we explored the old downtown square shops and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the symbol of Vienna.
I was shocked to see a shopper enter a Louis Vuitton store with his three dogs, no questions asked (clearly, his salary is far above what one makes as a blogger! ;). While my wallet couldn’t take a hit from Prada or Gucci, I did find the most adorable sneakers for my son and authentic Austrian Manner wafer cookies for him, too (Shhh, it’s a surprise!).
With tired legs and hungry stomachs, we made our way to the Vienna Bier Fest to taste some authentic Austrian beers, with soft baked pretzels, of course. Tempted to stay there the rest of the afternoon, I managed to talk Rachel and Sarah into a quick visit to Schoenbrunn Palace. It’s a “must-see” of Vienna.
We tackled the subway system (with confidence and without mistake!) all the way to the enormous palace. Formerly the summer home of the renowned Habsburg family, it now welcomes tens of thousands of visitors a year. We took a 25-room tour, but could have easily spent the entire day exploring the buildings, grounds, museums, zoo, and more.
A return visit to the Vienna Bier Fest for dinner and drinks rounded out a very long, but incredible day. That was our itinerary, but with a group so large, there are more stories to share.
Quotes of the Day:
“Today I visited Buchhandlung Loewenherz, one of the world’s largest LGBT bookstores, located only a couple of blocks from the hotel in Vienna. Established in 1993, the bookstore opened alongside a very popular Cafe Berg, and only stocked around 3,000 books. But today, the shelves of the bookstore are overflowing as they stock over 12,000 titles of historical and contemporary LGBT literature, art, music and more. The bookstore itself has served as a long-time symbol of Austria’s inclusive culture and only adds to the list following (the country’s) recent legalization of same-sex marriage in 2017 and host to the Life Ball, one of the world’s largest AIDS charity events this June. The Ball’s theme centers around solidarity, tolerance, and education, directly in line with the work of Loewenherz as they continue to be a focal point for LGBT education and awareness. Plus, I got these cool postcards sharing messages of love!”
“It was truly a strange experience to sit just above the training arena at the Spanische Hofreitschule, the riding school attached to the Hofburg palace on our free day today. My mom and I both fell in love at a young age with the Lippizaner stallions as they were depicted in the 1965 novel Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart. So sitting in the 18th century balcony, leaning against stone columns and watching dappled white horses prancing in step with famous waltzes was magical. Up on that balcony it was not hard to see how these beautiful animals could inspire over 500 years of tradition. As much as the rest of the day was full of fun: a carriage tour, a lunch at Gösser, a meet up with friends at Weiner Bierfest in the evening—I couldn’t quite let go of the feeling of watching the strength and grace of 20 stallions and their predecessors dancing through history.”
Amy Tooley Radachi
“This tour has been an amazing experience. It was an added bonus to be able to spend time with family who came from Salzburg (the land of the Von Trapps) to visit.”
Jenny and her husband, John, attended an evening of cultural performances including the renowned Vienna Boys Choir and the famous Lippizaner stallions.
“The boys choir was good and the footwork those horses do is like ballet. It was neat to see their tradition. Beautiful stallion horse riders dressed to the top; they removed their hats at the start and end of the show.”
“Just a casual night at the Vienna Opera. 😉😮💗 (3.5 hour wait for SRO tickets for 4euro? Totally worth.)”