24 hours is not a long time, especially for exploring a brand new city in a brand new country. We arrived in Vienna around 8am following a long night on the train and immediately set out to make the most of our time there.
Luckily for us, our hostel was located right across the street from the Naschmarkt, the post popular market in Vienna. The Naschmarkt is roughly 1 mile long and features shops, restaurants, cafes, and vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, candy, the list goes on and on. We walked through the market a few times on our way to and from various locations, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. On one particular stroll through the market, I heard someone in the crowd yell out, “Rachel!” The only person within several surrounding countries was right behind me and this was not him. I looked up to see a familiar face coming towards me in the crowd- a girl a year younger than me at Virginia Tech and part of the same service organization as me. She was a participant in one of the service trips that I led, and I had just been talking about her a few days before, as I knew she was studying abroad and had been to a lot of the same places we were visiting on our trip. To say the least, it was a very unexpected encounter, but was so incredibly wild at the same time. The only word to describe it is insane. It’s insane when you run into someone you know (or someone who knows someone you know, etc.) on the other side of the world. But it’s also insanely cool.
Aside from my highly unanticipated reunion, I don’t have any crazy wow moments or stories to share. Vienna is beautiful and we spent the entire day walking over fifteen miles around the city, seeing as much as we could. We were tired from lack of sleep on the overnight train, and the weather was a bit cold and cloudy- while it wasn’t terrible, it was the worst weather we had on the trip so far. These factors, along with being pressed for time, unfortunately made it difficult to be able to fully enjoy or experience Vienna. Below are my recommendations on how to spend your time in Vienna (or if you look at it from a general point of view, any major European city) in a limited amount of time.
Pay attention to the small details. You’re only there for a limited amount of time, making it absolutely impossible to see and do everything. Instead of trying to hit all the major landmarks and check everything off a list, take time to look at the little things that make that city what it is. One of my favorite things about Vienna were the cross-walk signs. I had read about this new development in an article about a year ago. It talked about the new pedestrian cross signals and how they were installing signals that showed LGBT and straight couples holding hands. Having forgotten about the article, it was really cool to be reminded of it again in real life. This small detail adds a lot of character to the city and was one of the biggest things that stood out to me during my time there.
Look up. European architecture is fascinating. The buildings, the history, the cities, they’re all older than just about anything you’ll find in the U.S. and they all have unique characteristics and detail based on the time period in which they were built. It was always fun noticing the variety in the styles of architecture we saw along the way.
Visit a park. Being in an environmentally-focused field of study has really brought the design and management of natural resources to the front of my attention. Noticing how different cities prioritize their natural features tells you a lot about the city, as well as the entire country. Vienna has some beautifully-landscaped parks that help to show off the beauty of the city as a whole.
Pick one or two major landmarks to visit. Because you don’t have time to stop in every museum, climb every tower, and visit every cathedral, just pick a few, or even just one, that really stands out to you. Go visit, spending some time in the area really taking in the building or statue or whatever landmark you’re seeing and absorb what that particular spot is all about. Who else is visiting? Are they locals or tourists? How crowded is it? What is the purpose or significance of the place you’re in? Spend some extra time seeing the landmark you’ve selected from a variety of angles. Try to see it in a different way than other tourists, or even the people who pass by it everyday.Understanding these characteristics helps you to understand the value of what you’re seeing.
Views in and around the Rathaus (City Hall):
Views in and around the Schonbrunn Palace:
Try some new food (or the same of your favorite food). You’re in a new place. It only makes sense to sample the local cuisine. If you’re not feeling trying something new, get your usual, and see how it differs from other places you’ve had it. I had goulash soup and a cappuccino (strange combination I know) for lunch. Goulash is a very common and popular dish of Austria, so I had to try it. Cappuccinos, on the other hand, are not indicative of Austrian culture specifically, but I needed caffeine, and that’s my go-to, so I tried it. For dinner we got some street kebabs from the Brunnenmarkt, Vienna’s less touristy market that does a great job of featuring the multicultural aspects the city has to offer.
Relax and have fun. Enjoy what time you have in the city and make the most of it. You can’t do everything, so do what you want and forget the rest.