Holidays and Other Excursions

Category: Austria

Euro Tour 8 – Vienna to Budapest

Sunday 30 July 2017

We have some spare time this morning but decide to take it very easy as we covered some ground around Vienna yesterday.  We have a lunchtime departure from the same new station at which we arrived and we can see it looks very new with clean track, nicely ballasted.  I manage to take some photos of trains but these are not brilliant.

Now we head east south east (roughly) to Budapest and as we go it is obvious that it is getting warmer, indeed much warmer.  As with all of our other trips the crossing of borders is unobserved without passport checks.

Budapest is in the grip of a heatwave.  It is a relatively short walk (of 600-700 yards) from station to our hotel but it certainly feels further as we adjust to the heat.  The oddity here is that we were originally told we would be at another hotel yet our guide assures us this is the facility which is normally used.  We are pleased the air conditioning works well and is noticeably quiet in our bedroom so we can sleep.  It is particularly welcome after the heat outside.

The Hotel Bristol may be convenient for the station (and be relatively attractive internally) but is surrounded by a less attractive selection of rough sleepers and what Jackie assures me are drug dealers.  Never having met one of either group to my knowledge I cannot be sure about the latter; the former are self evident!  During our stay here there is one individual sleeping on the same bench in both the morning, afternoon and evening when we pass.   By the last time we pass him, he did appear to have moved so was presumably still alive.  Another was sleeping on top of a wall, if he rolled to his left he would not just fall to the ground but all to the bottom of the steps down into the underground station – a long way down.

In normal circumstances the 600 yard walk to the Underground station would not be a barrier to moving around easily – but the high temperature (around 38 deg C) and the pain Jackie is suffering from her sciatica made the walk less than enthralling.  Luckily the nearest supermarket is very close by and we can get water with ease.

Budapest, as is well known, is actually two cities: Buda and Pest, separated by the same Danube river last seen in Vienna; I wonder if we are seeing the same water pass by?

Our group dinner tonight is just around the block at a very convenient local restaurant.  Good simple food.  Very nice.

Euro Tour 7 – Vienna

Saturday 29 July 2017

Today is a free day according to the Rail Discoveries itinerary so our plan is to visit the Vienna Ringstrasse and get much better photographs than were possible yesterday.  Also we are celebrating 28 years of marriage and a special dinner is planned.

We walk down the hill to the local tobacconist and obtain some tickets to roam the public transport network for not very much money and then a little further down the hill to the inbound tram stop (some of the roads are one way so the return journey will be on a different line – more confusion).  This takes us to a little short of the Ringstrasse in the Museum Quarter.  We can walk out to the Ringstrasse and walk quite a distance as far as Shottentor.  It is flat and we are going at a gentle pace as it is turning pretty warm this morning!

Shottentor is a great interchange and after studying the map I find that we can take a tram service direct to one end of the park which then requires a (perhaps too long) walk to the famous Ferris wheel at Prater, as seen in the Third Man film.  The walk is level, but further than anticipated.  Indeed so well landscaped is the area that we simply cannot see the wheel until we pretty close to it, like the observation tower in Prague it is hiding behind a bank of trees!  Around the Ferris wheel is a fun fair including another wheel – but we only want the Ferris wheel.

Half of the original cabins on the wheel have been removed and some are now used for little historical displays of the history of Vienna in the waiting area, to occupy people if the place is busy.  Today however we are able to join a short queue and join the third cabin to come round.  It is a bright clear day and we have a good view across to the end of the Alps- they end here as they run into the Danube river.

Jackie enjoys the trip and we hopefully have some decent pictures.  At this end of the park it is a short walk to the metro/underground and we find our way onto the line in the right direction (signposting is not as clear as we might like) but when we reach Opera station we nearly come out of the wrong exit.  Once we have the right exit we are only a short walk, now in a very warm environment to Sacher hotel where at Café Sacher we join a very short queue for a table.

I choose some wieners for lunch and get two as I have to avoid the inevitable sugar in the torte!  Jackie has ice cream cake and not the torte as it looks slightly dry when served to others. The ice cream cake looked like this:

All goes down rather well so it makes for a nice light lunch.

We wander to the nearest fiacre stand but Jackie does not like the look of the ponies (or perhaps their drivers), so we have a longer walk in the heat back to the St Stephens Church and take a pair of greys for a little trip of 20 minutes.

Jackie and I get serenaded on as we travel around!  Both photos from Jackie’s collection!

We have walked a lot today and we end up quite a way from the Museum quarter to be able to take a return tram to our hotel – so have another lengthy walk which requires several stops in the heat.  Once back we can have a nap before going out again.

In the evening we have about a 30 minute downhill walk to Restaurant Mini as there is no easy direct transport.  And taking the metro would probably have taken about the same length of time.  On our walk we noted that high end stereo systems are obviously selling well as we see a well stocked shop with no visible prices (so more than we can afford) including valve amplifiers.  Some fellow travellers also saw similar places.  HiFi is alive and well in Austria!

As ever Jackie recorded our stunning meal so with her photos and descriptions here we go:

On the left: “Tempura prawns with an amazing orange dressed salad! Gorgeous!”.
On the right: “Tuna ummm with wasabi apple! Was fab!”  Her words – my starter!

For main course: “We both had duck with Beetroot and mushroom.  Risotto! Divine!”

At the end of the meal: “We both had chilli chocolate soufflé with sour cherries! I want to move in!”.

We then had a 30 minute stroll back to our hotel but it was a bright warm evening; just slightly uphill rather than downhill.

Euro Tour 6 – Prague to Vienna

Friday 28 July 2017

An earlier start today as our train leaves before 9, so we packed up the night before almost ready to go.  Once again the train not only has our booked party but also a large number of back packers.  My journey is occupied with listening to podcasts and catching up with The Archers.  Not sure if our fellow travellers have managed to catch up with getting podcasts but it seems unlikely.  We are in a “quiet” coach so I can merely sing along to Barwick Green so only Jackie can hear me.

At points we are also rolling along at a decent speed as this on board display makes clear (with apologies for the quality):

In Vienna we arrive at the brand new Hauptbahnhof.  After 15 years of planning and building the railway lines have been connected across Vienna (no doubt at some cost to older buildings) and there are now through services and not just a ring of stations on the various sides of the city.  Our local guide is waiting and leads us down the escalator to the waiting coach as we are straight into a city tour.

Jackie does not get a window seat on the coach and so we decide to return in the morning for some better photographs of the magnificent buildings on Ringstrasse.  The coach then drops us, not far I note from Sacher hotel, and we are taken by foot to the central Cathedral.  At the suggestion of our guide we choose to visit the inside St Peter’s church which is very elegantly and wonderfully decorated.

After a break we walk through the City passing through by Hofburg Palace; we also pass the home of the Spanish Riding School (there are no scheduled training sessions we can attend in our short time here unfortunately); and some hugely impressive architecture.  A mixture of photos can be found here.

Our coach journey also provides some orientation of the entire city as we are also taken over to the newer part of the City on the other side of the Danube.  Our hotel is a little way out of town and we are given some guidance on the local buses and trams as well as how to buy tickets to permit travel as it is only just walking distance.

The dinner tonight for all tour participants is in our hotel and can be best described as a little plain.  The main course of wiener schnitzel is of course typical Viennese fare; however compared with a similar item seen on a plate when passing through central Vienna earlier it seems a little small!  This does not inspire us as far as breakfast is concerned!