Waltzing in Vienna: Vienna- City of Music, Dreams and the Waltz
This visit to Vienna for Waltz Week is my first - in fact it will be my first time ever in Austria, and I realized early on in the planning stage that I knew very little about the city, or in fact the country. With my recent travel adventures to other foreign areas as diverse as the Amazon Jungle and the Black Sea, I have developed a short word-association brainstorming tool to see what I associate with a place, before I actually begin my pre-trip research. I mentally list the first things that immediately spring to mind when I think of a place name. Then after my travels it is always interesting to me to see which aspects I actually encounter and how my associations with a place have changed.
Here in order was my Vienna list - Vienna Schnitzel, Sacher torte, Viennese waltz, Mozart, the Strausses, the Blue Danube, Lipizzaner stallions, Hofburg Palace and Viennese balls with ladies in white dresses and men in tuxes waltzing around a beautiful ballroom.
When you think of Vienna what words spring to your mind?
After looking through the informative Waltz Week website, links from the site and other sources of information, I realized that the part of Vienna that we would probably spend most time in and around is the historic first district or inner city. The city spreads out on all sides from this area. The Ring Road which runs around the periphery of the inner city is a boulevard constructed along the site of the old city walls which were demolished at the end of the 19th century.
Knowing that we would be in Vienna for at least 11 nights, we opted to stay at the Hilton Vienna on Am Stadpark 1. From there it was a brisk 10-15 minute walk to the Svabek Tanzschule at Judenplatz 5 where our group dance classes would take place. Its marked by the red button on the map. The Hilton is just at the top-right hand corner og the big green area on the right - the city park or Stadpark.
On the first morning after we arrived in Vienna, we took a Big Bus Tour to get oriented. We got tickets from the hotel concierge, and caught the bus at a stop right by the hotel. We took the red line tour. The bus basically follows the Ring Road and takes just over an hour. At the end of it I felt I had a fairly good idea of distances realtive to the maps that I had, and was ready to walk to the major landmarks that I wanted to visit.
We also took a walk from the hotel up to the Judenplatz to see how long the walk to the dance school would be, and I was happy to find out that at our usual brisk waiting pace, it was in fact maybe a ten minute walk. So unless it was raining, this would be a good warm up before the classes.
As it turned out the weather was fantastic the entire time I was in Vienna. There was only one afternoon when it rained. The rest off the time it was cold but clear and sunny. My warm coat was often too warm and I rarely needed my furry hat or gloves.
With the realization that Salzburg was a mere 252 km or 2 h 22 min away by train from the central Vienna train station, I planned to stay an extra day so I could visit Salzburg. With a little more knowledge and a little less impatience to get a good airfare, I would probably have extended my stay by a few more days to get the opportunity to do day or overnight trips to Bratislava in Slovakia (56 km), Budapest in Hungary (215 km) or Prague in the Czech Republic (252 km) all easily reached by train. My first and only visit to Prague was in 2005, when I also visited Montenegro with my friends Michael and Janet. I was entranced by the city and should have planned a repeat visit while I was so close. From Vienna to Bratislava there is a high speed catamaran that travels back and forth 3 times daily.
There are so many reason to go back to this wonderful city: next time I would leave more time to visit museums and art galleries. I would see an opera, having seen the Vienna State Ballet this time. I loved my dining experiences and would love to try more places
So how has my word-association list changed? Here goes my new list
Vienna Schnitzel, Sacher torte, Viennese waltz, Mozart, Blue Danube, historic inn-restaurants, Hofburg Palace and Viennese balls plus great coffees, chocolate, Opera House, polka, Quadrille Francaise (read more about this later), vibrant theatre scene, and a very walkable, pedestrian friendly city (cars actually stop for you!).