Sunday, December 20, 2015

Vienna, Austria

December 17-20, 2015

After reading several top European Christmas market lists last year, we decided to make it to one of these destinations this year. Top on our list: Vienna, Austria. With over 10 different festive markets around the city, the cool Alpine air in the valley of the Danube River, Austria sounded like a perfect setting for a weekend getaway. Jackie went to Vienna in the fall of 2005 when she was studying abroad. Her 60 year old Viennese professor toured them all around the city for its architectural wonders. This time Jackie was looking forward to being the tour guide with a little more pocket change, taking a more leisurely pace with a 14 month old and having the only main goal of visiting Christmas markets.

We had a 14:30 Thursday flight from Amsterdam to Vienna.
Joe had reward points to use up before the end of the year so we decided to stay at a fancy hotel in the city center instead of our normal 2 bedroom Airbnb or VRBO rentals. The Park Hyatt ended up being a great decision. The place was fancy. The room was big enough that we could put the travel crib in the hallway near the entry, still have access to the bathroom when Brooklyn was asleep and have alone time with the TV on in the main living/bedroom space. 
We had dinner at Café Central. 

Friday we began Rick Steve’s Vienna City Walk.
We started at the Kohlmarkt near the Park Hyatt Hotel. This street was lined with high-end shops.
Jackie could recall stopping to talk about many of these storefront designs with her architecture class 
Demel Bakery with its fancy chocolate window displays
Manz Bookstore, Loos designed
Loos House, now a bank on Michaelerplatz
Hofburg Palace, once home of the Habsburgs, entrance from Michaelerplatz

Hofburg Palace, once home of the Habsburgs, view under the dome 
We passed the Spanish Riding School, home of the prancing white Lipizzaner stallions, where we saw a few being moved for stables to likely prepare for their winter show.
We had breakfast at Bräunerhof, a quaint old-fashioned café with great coffee, bread and omelettes. Brooklyn drank some milk and gnawed on a big piece of bread.
Our camera battery died so we went back to the hotel.  Joe ran back up to the hotel room to get the backup battery while Brooklyn and Jackie walked around the Am Hof Advent Market, which was right in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel. 
Joe and Brooklyn walking around the Am Hof Advent Market, right outside our hotel, the Park Hyatt 
Since Jackie didn’t want to retrace their same steps again, they continued a different direction along Rick Steves Vienna City Walk. We walked down Graben, one of Europe’s first pedestrian only streets.
Holy Trinity Plague Column (Pestaule) from 1679 

Another storefront to a tobacco store that Jackie recalled from 10 years ago
Equitable Building on Stephensplatz screams Neoclassicism.
Haas Haus by Hans Hollein in 1990 
St. Stephen’s Cathedral exterior from 1300-1450 

Beautiful old doors into St. Stephen’s Cathedral 
St. Stephen’s Cathedral central nave 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral old stain-glass windows
St. Stephen’s Cathedral spiral stair around the column
The Stephensplatz Christmas Market of 26 booths had not opened up yet, but Jackie had her eye on a souvenir red boot mug.
We walked down Kärntner Strasse and to the Neuer Markt.
Albertina Museum is topped by a sleek controversial titanium canopy or as critics call it, a diving board. 

Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper): world-famous premier house of music. 1869 Neo-Renaissance building. 

We stopped in Café Sacher for an early lunch while we were in the area and because Jackie really wanted to try their famous Sacher Torte which was invented in 1832 and is a chocolate cake with apricot jam. Joe and Brooklyn shared some cheese spätzle and Jackie had a cup of potato soup. 
Brooklyn is so classy dining in such a fine establishment. We love how so many of the Vienna cafes still feel like they would have a century ago. 
The Sacher menus were on old newspaper style holders
Let’s have a look…
Happy momma at Café Sacher
They were both so filling that we couldn’t even finish it, but less, order a piece of cake.
The crosswalk signals were so cute! 
We hopped aboard the Ringstrasse tram. We had bought a 48 hour Vienna City Card which gave us free transit rides so we decided to save our legs a few blocks of walking.
Maria-Theresian-Platz Christmas village has 70 stalls. We bought some great Polish pottery Christmas ornaments. The market surrounds the Maria Theresa Statue which commemorates her father granting the right of a woman to inherit the throne.
Hofburg Palace In der Burg
Neue Burg (New Palace) with its curved façade from the 1900s, where Hitler celebrated their annexation with Germany. 
Äusseres Burgtor in Heldenplatz, a gate leading into the Hofburg Palace

By the time we got to Rathausplatz, Brooklyn was losing it in the stroller, beyond ready for a nap. So Jackie rested on a bench while Joe walked her in circles until she finally fell asleep.
Vienna Rathaus (City Hall) 

The Vienna Magic of Advent at Rathausplatz (City Hall) with over 150 stalls and tree decoration is one of the most photographed Christmas markets in Vienna but it was also the most kitschy. We did end up finding Brooklyn’s Christmas ornament there, a wooden goat, an animal she calls a “dach”. 
We got back on the Ringstrasse tram, to head to a museum to warm up. As we got off the tram, Brooklyn awoke from her nap. Perfect timing because we really wanted Brooklyn to experience of the Haus der Musik.
The Opera House again with its 1869 Neo-Renaissance copper mansard roof 
The Haus der Musik (House of Music) is a newer museum about sound and music in Austria. It has many hands-on activities making it great for little kids.
There is a stair up to the first floor with piano keys that play a note each time they are touched.

Every time she moves, it plays a key video
Banging on the giant drum with Daddy 

It focused on the city’s big composers: Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss.
At the end of the museum you can conduct a symphony orchestra.
We intended to have dinner at Gasthaus zu den drei Hacken but they were booked with a Christmas party so they directed us down the street to their sister restauarant, Magazin 3 Hacken.
We took the tram back to the Rathaus stop and took a scenic walk back to the hotel.
We passed through the Rathausplatz Christmas Market again, this time very crowded but beautiful all lit up 

We went to the Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung which was not as enjoyable straddling two sides of a busy street, but seemed to be extremely popular this Friday night.
When we got back to the hotel, we went for a family swim in the indoor swimming pool. Sadly the water was not that warm so little Brooklyn was soon shivering. Even after she would get out, she’d still want back in to swim with daddy despite the cold. I’m sure glad she likes the water and the swim lessons are paying off.
After swimming in the hotel pool, Daddy and Brooklyn played in the warm bathtub. She loves sticking her hand in the spraying water, having it splash all over. 

Saturday morning we went to Café Hawelka for breakfast. It turned out they only served soft-boiled eggs, bread and apricot jam for breakfast. We ordered some along with our morning coffees.
We took the U-bahn to Schӧnbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburgs. It is known as the Versailles of the east. It was a highlight for Jackie to see the gardens in its beautiful fall colors. Today we made the trip, mainly for a picturesque Christmas market. It was extremely foggy.

We checked another person’s Christmas present off the list at this market.
The backside of Schӧnbrunn Palace that faces the gardens
We walked around in the gardens of Schӧnbrunn for a bit. 
When Jackie visited in 2005, these free gardens were a big highlight for her as the autumn colors had just started to turn and fall.
The trees are pruned and look rather odd in the winter time without their leaves 

Brooklyn walking around the Schӧnbrunn gardens, near the Star Pool

Ooo pebbles! 
What do you mean we can’t stay here and let me pick each one up?
Sadly the Maze and Labyrinth were closed for winter as well as the children’s playground.
Neptune Fountain at Schӧnbrunn 

We walked around a little more by the Palm House and then head back to the U-bahn.

We stopped at Karlsplatz, which has another nice Christmas Market in front of St. Peter’s Church Baroque Church. Brooklyn had fallen asleep in the stroller and we were hungry as we head toward the Naschmarkt for lunch.
The Secession Building with its beautiful Art Nouveau exterior 
Naschmarkt is a lively outdoor market where we went for lunch. We sat down at Nene, a Middle Eastern restaurant.
After that we went back to the hotel so Brooklyn could take a proper nap at the hotel in the packnplay crib.
Brooklyn read about Vienna and had a little water

Ready to go explore more of Vienna on our last night 
We went back to Michaelerplatz Christmas Market for Jackie to get Joe’s hand-painted egg.
Jackie Christmas ornament shopping at the Michaelerplatz Christmas Market
Hofburg Palace In der Burg at night 

Neue Burg (New Palace) curved façade from the 1900s where Hitler celebrated their annexation with Germany
Christmas lights and horse drawn carriage in Michaelerplatz
Christmas lights
We walked over to Gigerl Stadtheuriger, a wine cellar in the city center that would be the most like a Heuringer, a wine garden restaurant, located further out of the city. Neither of us were that hungry, nor were we positive Brooklyn would like the options there to eat so we decided to keep walking until we saw something. Joe spotted a Mandarian restaurant for dinner. She’ll definitely eat something there.
On the way back, we stopped at the Stephensplatz Christmas Market.
Jackie at the Stephensplatz Christmas Market enjoying a mug of (kinder)punsch, basically apple cider without the alcohol 
Here not only do they have the typical German gluewein, but spiked punches are all the rage.
St Stephen’s Cathedral on a foggy night

Yet another jewelry shop Jackie recalled drawing during architecture school 

Sunday we had a 12:15 flight from Vienna to Amsterdam. We grabbed a quick breakfast at Café Condition Aida.
Equitable Building 
One last view of St Stephen’s Cathedral
We took the U-bahn to Wien Mitte and hopped abroad the CAT train to the Airport. We had plenty of time to kill at the airport before our flight but we figured it was better to have Brooklyn run around here than strapped in the stroller in the city. She walked a good portion of terminal B. We had a fruit smoothie, burger and fries before our flight. Brooklyn watching the airplanes 
The KLM flight attendants gave her an activity book and coloring pencils to keep her busy on the plane. Although it was prime naptime, we couldn’t get her to lay down comfortably on us. The box of color pencils were a lifesaver. She spent forever putting them in the box and taking them out. It’s great watching her learn new things and see how proud she is when she figures them out.
Once we picked up our bags from baggage claim, we got on the shuttle bus to our off-site parking location. Brooklyn immediately fell asleep in the stroller around 3. Jackie successfully transferred her into her carseat and we left Schiphol with one tired baby girl. Time to go pickup our other tired girl from the dog kennel. She was so excited to see us, Chance gave Brooklyn and Jackie big sloppy kisses. And she was asleep in the back seat. It was nice to be all back together again. Nothing beats the rearview of those 2 cuties in the backseat. 

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