The Show Off City
Vienna, much like Prague and Odessa, is beautiful. Stunning, in fact. There is so much wonderful architecture, from palaces to libraries to opera houses. Plenty of places worth visiting, not that I was able to see everything I wanted to or, indeed, was entitled to (for free) with the Vienna Pass I purchased. Whilst it does mean you go to some places and walk out thinking, "I am glad I did not pay for that," forgetting you absolutely have, just indirectly, it is worth it in cities like Vienna with lots to see. If nothing else, you feel quite smug not paying for an attraction at the attraction itself.
Most of Vienna is helpfully, obligingly even, located within a couple of square miles. There are four art galleries within walking distance, three next door to each other. Only two of them were worth visiting (Albertina and The Leopold Museum), both utterly superb, whilst the other two (Museum of Modern Art and Kunsthalle Wien) fit in the 'I am glad I did not pay for that' category. I suppose it is all subjective, but I gave up with the Museum of Modern Art when it tried to pass off a half-empty (or half-full) glass of water as art. I cannot say I was especially impressed, though I am sure it was some sort of comment on the futility of mankind's quest for an answer to philosophical questions. Or something. Perhaps my favourite place in Vienna was the Belvedere Palace. Set just outside the main centre, there are wonderful views of the main cathedral, whilst the place itself is nothing short of beautiful, even in the drizzle. Inside it is somewhat more understated than other buildings I had been in, but that was part of its charm and houses some spectacular art. Well worth a visit.
Other places of note include the Kunsthistorisches Museum, set in an absolutely incredible building with what must be the most unbelievably stunning cafe in the world, the Austrian State Library and Winterpalais. The two large, central Cathedrals are striking buildings but epitomise, for me, all that is wrong with Vienna. Yes, wrong. Do not get me wrong, Vienna is beautiful and absolutely worth visiting - indeed, I will be back to finish off some of the sights I did not have time for on this visit. It is, like many places in Europe, filled with history, iconic landmarks and cute coffee shops, good restaurants and the like. But it is all a bit too much. Take St Peter's Cathedral, opposite my hotel. It is just far too big. So big in fact, you cannot really properly appreciate it at all. Everything here is so decadent. You can barely move for large buildings filled with gold and exquisite ceilings and you can tell, with every turn, that this was the capital of a vast
empire. And that is pretty much where I was left with Vienna. It is too much. Sure, it is beautiful and has a hustle and bustle to it this time of year. But the whole place just feels as if it is trying far too hard to impress, to be noticed like the older child being completely ignored when his/her younger sibling comes along. Whatever the older child is trying to get attention for is much more impressive than whatever the baby is doing, but no one likes a show off. Prague is the perfect juxtaposition. Everything there was so effortless, it just worked. When you are in Vienna, you get the feeling it is shouting at you to love it, appreciate it. And as beautiful as it is, that just turned me away a little bit.
The boring stuff: Plenty of cute coffee shops and good-looking restaurants. Kosher food is plentiful and good. Beer and alcohol in general, if you like that sort of thing, is not especially cheap. Public transport is what public transport in any major Central European capital is - reasonably expensive. There is plenty to do and see and you probably need 4 days to do most of it.