***Viennese Splendor***

First, let me say that Vienna is not a city for a backpackers budget.  The backpacker index is almost as expensive as Paris and I had no idea!  To give you an idea the average daily 'backpacker' spend in Paris is $78 a day and in Vienna it's about $71 a day.  This includes a bed in a dorm room at a hostel, 3 budget meals, 2 rides on public transportation, a tourist/cultural attraction, and 3 cheap drinks for entertainment.  These stats can be found on priceoftravel.com and I highly suggest you do your research before setting out on a trip abroad!  Thank goodness we are headed to Budapest, Hungary for our next stop.  The backpacker index is only $32 per day!

Blake chose most of our European itinerary since I explored quite a few places in college.  When he said he wanted to go to Vienna, I happily obliged.  I had been to Salzburg (the other side of Austria) but never made it to Vienna and really didn't know what to expect.  We've been downloading free guidebooks and reading them on the bus the day before we arrive in a city, so the brief research I did was enough to get me excited to spend my 30th birthday in this GRAND city!  It almost rivals Paris, in my opinion!  The architecture (mostly baroque and rococo) is gorgeous and makes you feel like you're in a fairy tale. 

Day One: We strolled through the popular 'Naschmarkt' market on our way to the city center.  Blake led us to the famous Sacher Cafe where we had coffee and their world famous chocolate torte for breakfast!  We spent the day wandering around the city and seeing some of the top sites.  Due to budget, we had to pick and choose what to see.  Blake loves libraries and Vienna's National Library is a feast for the eyes (7 euro to get in).  We walked through the Hofburg Palace grounds and then made our way to Cafe Central, another Coffee House that famous writers used to frequent.  We shared an entree and another piece of cake.  

We continued our walk around town and eventually made it to Stephansdom, the famous gothic cathedral.  You can go inside for free but you have to pay to go up in the tower or down to the catacombs.  We chose the free option.  For the sake of our budget, we went to the grocery store and bought more bread, peanut butter, jam, fruit, and miscellaneous other snacks for dinner and breakfast the next couple days.  We hung out at our Air Bnb and drank a cheap bottle of wine for the evening.  Sure, it would have been great to have a fancy dinner and go out for drinks on my birthday, but I'm just happy to be traveling!  We've got savings that need to last us through March, if not longer!  

Day Two: Another palace!  We paid way too much for a visit to Schonbrunn Palace.  They really get you on the ticket prices and make you think you should add on a few extras to be able to see it all... (insert annoyed face).  I'm sure if I had a "Rick Steves, Vienna" book, he would have told me this.  We did the "classic pass" (22 euros each!) which included a tour through 40 rooms of the palace, 2 of the gardens, a labyrinth/maze, and the Gloriette, which is basically a fancy structure overlooking the gardens and palace.  Sounds wonderful until you realize that you can see most of the gardens for free, and even peak your head into the ones that cost money.  Also, the hike up to the gloriette would probably would have taken us 30 minutes and it was just for another view of the castle.  We desperately needed to save our feet at this point.  So, we would have been better off paying less and would have gotten to see everything we wanted.  Next up, Belvedere Palce.... this time we were smart and just walked around outside.  The inside has a great art exhibit, including 'The Kiss' by Klimt, but that will have to wait for another visit.  

We made our way back to the center of town (totally starving) for a classic Viennese meal- I had dumplings with spinach, feta cheese and gouda cheese.  Blake had a beef stew.  He tried some Austrian beer and I had an Austrian wine (my wine was only $2.80 euro!).  We spent the rest of the day/evening with more wandering, more coffee, and this time ice cream instead of cake!  However, our ice cream sundae had pieces of cake in it!  We took the circular tram to some different parts of the city and stumbled upon a night circus, the famous theatre, and a great local neighborhood with cool restaurants and bars.  We sampled more Austrian beers at a pub and then headed home for the night.  

I LOOOOVED Vienna and wish we had more money to spend!  I'm sure we'll be back some day to try more of the local cuisine, take in all the great art museums, attend a concert, and do some shopping.  :)