Weekend Outings: Vienna, Austria

Previously, I had expressed that the idea of traveling alone is a scary idea to some. Facing the unknown, the independence required, and a very direct sense of personal responsibility. Even with the most planned of trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was time; we were given a fall break, and I had ambitiously planned to travel to 4 different countries in 10 days. Alone. Sometimes a small push is required to get us moving, and challenging ourselves to do what we haven’t before.

My trip to Vienna won’t be one that I soon forget. As I arrived in the city, the first thing I noticed was the cleanliness. There was a brightness  and pleasance that I immediately felt drawn too. It was different to what I’d grown accustomed to in Florence; The roads were paved, cars and bikers moved harmoniously in their separate lanes. The buildings were more modern. This small part of the city had already charmed me and I was only 5 steps out of the train station. I contacted my Airbnb host. He informed he lived a short three-quarters of a mile from the train station. I set off with my heavy backpack.

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Praterstern train stop

On my short walk to his flat, I passed through a park. It was something that I cherished. I forgot how much I missed the quiet, and separation from constant traffic and dullness of concrete. Children laughed on the play structures and parents sat quietly watching their children at a distance. As I entered the quiet neighborhood I felt immediately at ease. It was homely. People held quiet conversations in the street and walked their dogs. Cars seldom drove by and the fall leaves made for an atmosphere of complete peace. My host greeted me at his apartment, He was polite and brief, and soon after left to go study. My room was cozy, a converted sewing room.

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Cozy Airbnb room

My goal for this week-long trip was to see as much art as possible in as many cities as possible. And Vienna was high up on my list. Vienna is home to the MuseumsQuartier: home to a cluster of buildings that supports the arts. It contains museums, theaters, children’s play areas, restaurants and an open area in the middle with seating.

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Exterior of Leopold Museum

I was looking forward to visiting the Leopold Museum and the MUMOK. During the time that I visited, the Leopold Museum was hosting an exhibition of work from painter Egon Schiele, one of my artistic heroes, and Gustav Klimt. I had been obsessed with their work since high school, and I had never seen one in person before. I considered myself extremely lucky; because Schiele’s work is extremely photosensitive, it cannot be a permanent exhibition. The exhibition contained 42 paintings and 187 works on paper by Egon Schiele. I stayed in the museum for hours in total awe.

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Egon Schiele, Self Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant, 1912

 

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Gustav Klimt, Medicine, 1900-1907

 

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One of the qualities of Vienna that I found amazing, was the convenience and ease of using public transportation.When my host showed me a map of the city, I found that I was a good three miles at least from the sites that  I planned on visiting. He told me that public transportation was the fastest way to get to any of the locations. Dispersed through the city, there are rental bikes. To use one, you simply enter in a credit card number and an email (once) to sign up at a machine; And the first hour is free. It was by far the best way to get around a city that I have experienced in my travel. Unlike buses, you can stop at nearly any time to get off at see something interesting along the way. The bike lanes are safe roads of their own, complete with stop signs and traffic lights, completely separated from the metropolitan traffic ways. I rented a bike three times while I journeyed around Vienna. The other means of transportation that I used were the subway systems, a convenient labyrinth of underground trains that reach to every part of the city. The train I used was a 5 minute walk from my host’s home, and 10 minute ride the MuseumsQuartier, and the subway stop was right outside.

Vienna was an amazing city. The people I interacted with were direct, helpful, and friendly. The city itself was a cultural melting pot, and gave lots of opportunity to show of the rich variation in art and architecture. If I ever come back to Europe, Vienna will be one of the first stops on my list.

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