This post is also available in: German
Travelling through Europe can get a bit repetitive. Especially, if you stick to the big cities and are doing a long trip. You find yourself standing in front of pretty buildings every day, staring at the facades and trying to find the beauty and uniqueness in the 100th church. Don’t get me wrong, Europe’s architecture is amazing, but after a while, the churches, cathedrals, palaces and monuments all start blending together. You begin to forget what day of the week it is and if it was that dome that you saw yesterday, the blue church or the clock tower.
I’m usually an advocate of actually spending some real quality time in a country. Starting off in a big city or the capital – since airports are usually there – and then soon afterwards moving on to exploring the backwater places, small villages and everything in between. Slow travel, you know. I love taking my time to really dive into a country’s culture, history and get some interaction with the locals.
The way I’ve been travelling through Europe, can barely be described as scratching the surface. But Brendan and I had gotten it into our heads to explore Europe by train (and I still stand by that decision, the train was an awesome choice) within a fairly small timeframe. From Berlin all the way down to Istanbul, with our schedule not allowing much diverting from the big towns and the main train lines. All in all, I’m currently in the middle of a fairly rushed “big cities of Europe” trip. And at the beginning of winter too.
I was several cities into my travels, when I reached Vienna and started to feel the monotony of it all. My brain was signaling an architecture overload. Clouds weighted down on the capital of Austria and sometimes it was so dark in the middle of the day, that the street lamps needed to be turned on.
Still, I decided to go visit what Vienna is famous for – it’s architecture. Schönbrunn is supposed to be what fairy tales are made out of and it was the home of some of history’s most well known empresses and emperors. It’s a beautiful, yellow rococo building with extensive gardens, arches, pillars, ponds and lots of horses and carriages. I moved on to the Hofburg and the Belvedere Palace, visited the impressive opera house and then made a detour to the Hundertwasserhaus, a colourful apartment building by the famous artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It was an architects dream come true.
For me though, it was just a bit boring. I hate saying this, especially since I did enjoy myself and the buildings are nothing short of beautiful and impressive. But Vienna had the misfortune to be the fifth city on my trip. By the time I reached the beautiful Schönbrunn palace, I had already been gazing at architecture almost every day for three weeks.
I needed a change and I needed it fast. There wasn’t much else to do that fit my budget. The famous fairgrounds, called the Prater, were about to close down for winter and apart from stuffing myself with Schnitzel, I didn’t find many activities that diverted from the usual “looking-at-pretty-buildings” route. My solution: furry monkeys and a tank full of jellyfish.
The “Haus des Meeres” (or “house of the sea”) displays tropical and local fish, sharks, crocodiles and a myriad of other creatures. Giant lizards and snakes rest languidly in huge terrariums and monkeys and birds roam freely. It was exactly the diversion I needed. As far as zoos go, this was a pretty good one too and it comes with a bonus: a beautiful panoramic view of Vienna from the roof terrace.