Vienna, the capital of Austria, lies along the Danube River and was the second stop on my European adventure. Upon arriving in the city, I felt an air of refinement and sophistication as I walked along the streets. The city center is a mix of contemporary, designer shops, gothic cathedrals, and grand palaces. Every street seemed to have something beautiful to offer, whether it be as simple as a creative store window display or as elaborate as a 13th-century Gothic cathedral. Although I had a tendency to get lost a bit in the city at first, I was never disappointed in the things I saw and experienced along the way.
Vienna’s roots go back to the Roman Empire as a former military camp in the first century AD. Since then it has seen a varied past, a large part of that being the Habsburg monarchy. The Habsburgs were one of the principle dynasties in Europe from the 15th to the 20th century. Their great influence is seen especially in Vienna, a city in which they based Hofburg Palace, the seat of their monarchy, in the heart of the city for centuries.
The imperial family’s summer residence is now just a short metro ride away. Although the palace is open to visitors, my time there was spent simply taking in the beauty of the exterior, wandering the magnificent gardens, and relaxing on the open rolling lawn, which offers views of both the palace and the city. Taking in moments like that tend to make time melt away for a moment.
Jumping into a little more recent history lesson led me to the Sigmund Freud Museum, located in the very apartment in which he based his practice and raised his family before fleeing to London to escape the Nazi regime in 1938. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, spent his career and life working to understanding the complex human psyche. The museum was both a display of his professional accomplishments and an intimate portrait of his life at home as a husband and a father.
The history in this city is so vast that a person could spend years researching all there is the know about Vienna’s history. However, I believe the goal is not to learn every detail; rather, it’s to listen to stories, choose the ones that speak to you, and explore them further.
City of Music
Vienna is often referred to as the city of music because it has been the home to many world famous composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. Today, it continues to be one of the world’s leading stages for many concerts, operas, and theatrical performances. I toured around the city, looking at the very buildings where many masterpieces were written and performed. When planning my trip, in anticipation of my visit to Vienna, I looked to see what was playing while I was in town. How perfect that Eugene Onegin, an opera composed by Tchaikovsky, was playing one of the evenings. My advance planning was
How perfect that Eugene Onegin, an opera composed by Tchaikovsky, was playing one of the evenings. My advance planning was useful here as I had bought the ticket well ahead of time in anticipation of my trip, so the price was reasonable. While there are many impressive opera houses and concert halls in Vienna, the State Opera House seems to stand tall above the rest. My first step into the magnificent opera house took my breath away. With decorations so beautiful and ornate, one could easily spend hours admiring the building itself. However, the show was about to begin, and as I ascended the steps to find my seat, I felt like a princess or that I had stepped back in time. The set and the costumes were magnificent, but of course, those paled in comparison to the performance of the opera singers and the orchestra. That evening I was reminded that no matter what language is being spoken, music is universal and understood by all.
However, the show was about to begin, and as I ascended the steps to find my seat, I felt like a princess or that I had stepped back in time. The set and the costumes were magnificent, but of course, those paled in comparison to the performance of the opera singers and the orchestra. That evening I was reminded that no matter what language is being spoken, music is universal and understood by all.
Of course, this article would not be complete without mentioning all of the delicious food that Vienna had to offer. From the first day walking around the city, I could tell that finding vegan options would be no problem. The very first snack I got in the city (baguette and an espresso) from a popular bakery chain had an entire section with vegan breads and pastries. With espresso and baguette in hand, I strolled through the city and over to Vienna’s largest market.
Naschmarkt has roots going back to 1780 on the banks of the Wien river, prior to 100 years ago when it moved to a location in the city where it currently stands. Today the Naschmarkt is a bustling place where locals and tourists can go to explore and discover new foods. Passing through cafés and into the merchant area, I was greeted with colorful displays of produce, exotic spices, and enticing aromas. Austria’s regional favorite dish is schnitzel, breaded and fried meat, so I thought it was going to be impossible for me to get an authentic taste of the country. That is until I realized that there was a small café near the city center that served a vegan schnitzel made of seitan. I had to investigate! It took me a few wrong turns and redirections, but I finally found it. It was a quiet, quaint café tucked away on a small cobblestone pedestrian street. Bio Bar was the exact authentic, comfort food experience I had been craving.
Balance is the key to anything, so in addition to the traditional, I had to experience what is new to the scene and what the future looks like. Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen is a modern take on fast food offering a 100% vegan menu. They focus on sustainability and preservation of the environment by offering packaging made from renewable materials and choosing quality and fair-trade ingredients for their food. With four locations around the city, I see the popularity of Schillinger’s as a testament to the appreciation that people have for good food made with quality ingredients.
Whether you want to spend your time exploring the lives of royalty, listening to classical music, exploring museums, or just sipping espresso in a café, Vienna has something interesting and unique to offer everyone.
Also by Kathryn: Castles, Cafés & Operas. Just A Day In The Life Of A Vegan In Prague
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Photo: Kathryn Farrugia