Tuesday, December 28, 2010

20 Dec Monday @ Salzburg, Vienna 0 to -5 C

Our last base in Austria at Kartnerstrass

It will be 6 days in Vienna before heading for sunny Singapore. We had earlier purchased OBB tickets in Salzburg, bound for Vienna for this day. It was an open ticket for travel on the 20th of Dec, family offer of 101 euros. There was a few time slots for us but we opted for the 9.01 am train, RJ61 , bound for budapest, enroute Vienna. It would take us 2 hours and 40 minutes to go east, traveling at a cool 200 km/hr at most times.

My first mistake regarding the ticket was not reserving seats, an extra 10 e for three of us, which I thought was not necessary. Boy ! Was I wrong ! We started our trip at 3 different seats until Linz, where a departing passenger meant I could sit beside H. We hugged the northern edge of the Alps and traveled through snow and more snow ( think Spring Waltz , the Korean show, and it is more or less like that ).

Nearing Vienna, pockets of white snow gave way to brown and trees showed more bare twigs. Vienna is warming up and getting out of the cold snap, at least for the coming week. H is not thrilled that we would probably not have a white Christmas but that means travel gets easier that way.
Stephensdom, the main Cathedral near our apartment

We alighted at Westbahnhof in Vienna and continued our journey by U-bahn. There was a little delay from figuring out what ticket to buy for H but we decided she qualifies for "apprentice" ticket, 6.60 euros, for Monday to Monday. Adults weekly tickets costs 14 euro, which was what we bought, although we would be there for only 5 days.

We took U3 from Westbahnhof to Stephansplatz, a 5 stop ride. There, we lugged our luggage along Kartnerstrasse, enjoying the buzz of tourist crowd and shops along the pedestrian only mall. At the end of Kartnerstrasse, at Walfischestrasse, we saw our Pension at the left. At the end of the glitzy mall was this non-descript lane that was quite alarming. Pension Suzanne is contained in this plain old looking building - accessible only by buzzing the proprietor. Oh-Oh!

We cart our luggage up a couple of steps to the next level where the reception is. Our room was not ready so we left the bags in a store room and went around Kartnerstrasse, in search of lunch.
All  one euro each. We ate as fast as we ordered.Tsk!
Vienna was supposed to be warmer than Salzburg that day but the feeling was anything but. The air was damp and snow was melting, making puddles of icy slush everywhere. We walked around the States opera house and then towards Stephensplatz. Off Graben, we sampled one of the must try : Buffet Trzesniewski, a sandwich buffet shop where everything goes for 1 euro. The sandwiches were good but would have been better if they had been warm. We had to jostle for a few seats available but coming from Asia, we have much practice in this aspect.
After lunch, we walked round town anticlockwise, starting from Stephensplatz, along Graben towards the Hofburg palace. Pat managed to locate the Hofburg Kapelle, where we would be seeing the Vienna Boys' Choir sing on Christmas morning.
Palace in downtown Vienna. Vienna Boys sing here every Sunday

We walked past the Spanish riding school ( smelt it mostly ) , past Josephplatz, the AugustinerKirche, Albertina and ended our land tour at the State Opera House.
State Opera House
Living Area of the Pension

We went back to the Pension Suzanne to settle our luggage issue and sort out formalities. Our room was located in room 401 in the next building, separated by a courtyard. Internet could only be accessed from the dinning room in the main lobby, which is a no-no. It would mean walking through the cold and up to the breakfast area for internet access. Moreover the stairways and lobby is not lit by motion sensor, only when a switched is pressed. This I know, through the accounts of forummers, but still it miffed me. Our apartment is Ok, except that the toilet is not heated, kitchenette not adequately equipped and breakfast starts at a late 7.30am. In exchange for excellent location, I have sacrificed connectivity and creature comforts. That's what you get for 130 e for staying in the middle of Vienna!
A Christmas market as our steps reassures us of a constant supply of snacks. Restaurants line the streets as well.

We located Arcadia music, a CD store where H hopes to get a Borodin Quartet CD. By now, we know it is mission impossible, as the Quartet is not well known. Dorothea, Arcadia's staff, managed to order one for H, available a couple of days later.  As a matter of precaution, we went down  to EMI at Kartnerstrasse. Luck was with H today and she got herself an original Borodin Quartet CD playing Borodin!

After contemplating a few places and exchanging woeful but hilarous restaurant reviews with an English woman, we found ourselves in the first Italian place in this trip. Al Caminetto offered us very good Roman pizza and pasta.  The popularity of the place was obvious - the restaurant filled up shortly after we entered. For 30 euros , it was a value for money meal, a feat not easily repeated in the capital of Austria.

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