Okay, so mini prelude: If I’m being completely honest, Vienna was forgettable. Like, I literally forget to mention it the majority of the time when asked about my holiday travels (whoops!). Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful city but in comparison to others, it just kind of fell by the wayside. Mini prelude over; on to our journey.
My sister and I took a train from Vienna to Prague the day after Christmas, not realizing that this day is apparently also a holiday in Vienna. This meant most shops were closed and the streets were pretty empty- it felt a bit like a ghost town. Since there wasn’t much to explore that day we took to our hostel to leave our bags and plan the rest of our stay in Austria.
Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. My sister had warned me that the hostel she booked was in a good location, but didn’t have much going for it aside from that. No problem I thought- hostels aren’t meant to be luxurious so we could make due for a couple of nights. And to her credit, the hostel was in fact in a great location, but that really was the ONLY great thing about it.
A couple minutes walk off the Main Street, we saw a seedy looking hostel sign in the distance…that couldn’t be ours we thought….and of course, you know where this is going, it was indeed our hostel. The inside was so much worse than the outside. It looked like it was under construction (although I think there really just hadn’t been even the slightest attempt to make it look presentable). Naturally, we were feeling apprehensive about it at this point. Then we were told that the room we were staying in was actually in a different building about a block away and that we could not see the room until we paid for our entire stay. Even more sketch…..At that moment we thought to cancel our stay, but the staff warned us that there would be very little, if any availability because of the holidays. We decided to give this place a go, hoping that the room could be better than the front desk. But of course, it only got worse. The room looked -and this is no exaggeration- to be in what had previously been a night club. There were no windows, the walls were painted dark colors, the lights looked to be fluorescent remnants of club lights, and there was an old bar window that been boarded off. To top it all off, the only two other people in the room were two older men who seemed to have recently escaped prison (bless their souls, they seemed nice enough, just also very…….intimidating).
We panicked and ran to the nearest McDonald’s to get wifi and weigh our alternatives (looking back, we spent a lot of time at McDonald’s in Vienna trying to figure out accommodations and travel plans). It didn’t take long to realize that since it was so last minute and during the holidays to top it all off, any other hostel/hotel we looked at was ridiculously expensive.
After what seemed like hours of looking for alternate accommodations without any luck, we started to lose hope. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try couchsurfing.com. though we were almost resigned to staying in the sketchy club hostel by this point. Despite sending hosts requests with just a few hours notice, by some miraculous turn of events we actually had a couple of people accept!
Fortunately, we only lost the first night of payment at the hostel- I had to go full lawyer and demand the rest of our money back since what they promised on hostel world.com was not what they were actually offering (We paid for a 12 person room, but it was really a 22 person room with small dividers). After a long argument, the hostel staff finally refunded our money for the other nights. Success!!
Once I was done threatening the hostel staff for a refund, we moved over to our host’s home. And what a friendly and chatty guy he turned out to be. He recommended quite a few things in Vienna and even shared some of his homemade tiramisu, but unfortunately couldn’t join us in exploring the city as he was in the middle of exam season.
So we ventured off into the grand streets of Vienna. I’ve gotta say that although the city is undoubtedly beautiful, there’s something about it that makes it feel cold and uninviting. Maybe it’s the sheer fact that the buildings are so large and the streets were so wide and the weather was (is?) so cold, but we never quite got comfortable in the city.
We did get to see the last of the Christmas markets in Vienna, which to be fair, were very cute. I had my sister try gluwein for the first time. She wasn’t a fan of the taste but liked the warmth it provided on that cold vienna night.
The highlight of our time in Vienna was probably our trip to the famous Vienna Opera House. Protip- you can get 3/4 euro standing room tickets if you queue a couple of hours beforehand in the side entrance of the building. This is exactly what we did, and let me just say it was well worth the wait. That day, “La Fille Mal Gardee” was the featured act. This was the first I’d ever heard of a comedic ballet, so I was a bit hesitant as these two things don’t seem like a natural pairing- after all conventional ballet is pretty much the farthest thing from funny. To my surprise, it turned out to be awesome! The symphony was immaculate, the comedic elements kept the ballet from feeling stiff, but the dancers were still poised and very clearly talented.
I’m not sure Vienna would be a city I would recommend taking a special trip for. But if you’re passing through it, it may well be worth a visit for a day or two!
– Sinceramente, Gigi