Our initial intention this morning was to head to the Schönbrunn Palace and spend the majority of the day there, yet after strolling around for a short while, we decided to do that tomorrow and check some others off the list instead. First up was “St Stephen’s Cathedral”, which stands on the ruins of two other churches, the oldest dating back to 1147. It’s an impressive sight; built from limestone, the highest point stabs 446ft into the skies and towers over the buildings beside it, yet the roof itself is equally as noticeable. Using 230,000 glazed tiles, it is ridiculously ornate, and shows a double headed eagle, Vienna’s coat of arms, and Austria’s coat of arms. It’s free to enter, so we fought through the hoards and went through the giant doors.
Inside, there are a multitude of things to take in and enjoy. Beside the weirdly high volume of altars (there are 18 in the main segment of the church alone), there’s the “Maria Pötsch” icon of St. Mary and Jesus, which is said to have shed real tears, and the catacombs and crypt tours. It’s only EUR. 5.50, but we knew we were getting our fair share of the macabre later on.
Just next door is “Mozarthaus” , a museum dedicated to, in my opinion, the greatest composer of all time, from the rooms of his apartment. Mozart lived there from 1784 to ’87, and amongst others, wrote “The Marriage of Figaro” somewhere within those four walls. Each floor represents a different exhibition; the first is the apartment tour, where the museum curators have reconstructed the apartment to look as it would do in his time; the second is about his musical works, and includes some original sheets of music to peruse. The rest of the museum is about life in Vienna and Mozart’s excessive spending, and overall we both thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Over a Kaiserkreiner hotdog, we were halfway through making plans for the evening when a Christian youth dance team decided to throw a random show – this has got to be the funniest thing I have witnessed in a very, very long time, and is making me chuckle as I even think about it. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but it didn’t represent anything as an attractive cause.
Anyway, after enjoying ourselves a bit too much, we shuffled off the to “The Imperial Crypt” . It was EUR. 15 for both of us to enter, and we were both somewhat excited at experiencing some macabre in a trip otherwise spent celebrating life. We weren’t disappointed. The crypt is where the Habsburgs are buried, and when I say all, I mean literally 149 of them; an entire dynasty kept together in 4 long rooms. Aside from the double sarcophagus of Maria Theresia and her husband, the crypts contain rows and rows of impossibly ornate caskets, riddled with skulls, swords, and crucified figures of Jesus. Some of the design and effort involved was beyond belief, and you can also get a guided tour explaining every little inch of the place for an extra EUR.4
Right. Onto the Schnitzel. Throughout the day I’d asked around 14 Vienna locals where to find the best schnitzel; they all said the same place, except one person who misunderstood the question, and that was “Schnitzelwirt”. I even googled the place and saw that they’d been named in an international newspaper as being one of the best, and we set off for the half an hour walk with high hopes indeed. When we got there, the place was packed but cosy, and reminded me of a village pub back in the Peak District. I saw the schnitzels and couldn’t believe the size of them – they were literally bigger than my head, and Jacob and I look at each other and smiled, safe in the knowledge we weren’t going to go back to the hotel hungry at any rate. There were no tables, so we were invited to sit with a few of the locals, which we accepted. There are over 15 varieties to choose from, but our new friends said if we didn’t go for the “Cordon Bleu Schnitzel” we would be fools, and we listened, only having to wait five minutes before it was in front of us, even with the crowds.
It’s big. Boy, is it big. I sat for a second trying to prepare my body and soul for the food that was about to destroy it, then tucked in. Amazing. The breadcrumbs were perfectly crisp, and the inside was unfathomably tasty, with the veal, ham, and emmental cheese oozing out at every bite. Jacob is a big meat fan and was essentially holding back tears as he wolfed it down, and we both decided that we were going to return here at some point in the very near future. There was even a German bloke we met who had come to Vienna just for it, which is a level of commitment I don’t think I could match.
The best thing about it, however, is the price. For two of the largest plates of food I’ve seen, and two beers, it was only EUR. 33.30, and I’d happily pay it again. If you want some real Austrian calories, there’s only one place you should consider.
Tomorrow, we’re off the Palace, the war museum, and hopefully getting to the Freud museum before we run out of time; then it’s off to Bratislava!