Vienna is divided into 23 districts, and numbered 1-23 for easy reference (gotta love German simplicity). The first district, the Innere Stadt, is the Old Town, where all the historical things are. I believe it was the entirety of Vienna before the expansions in the 1800s to include the suburbs.
Unfortunately, unlike the old town in Prague for example, since Vienna has always been inhabited by the rich in each period, many of the buildings in the lnnere Stadt have been built, blown up, rebuilt, blown up again, then rebuilt again, etc.
One thing that stood relatively unchanged in the centre of the old town is St. Stephen’s Cathedral (it was built on the site of earlier churches, but it hasn’t been blown up yet in a few hundred years… so hopefully it will stay?).
Funny story – back in the good old days of rivalry between Catholicism and Protestantism, Catholics tried hard to convince people that their god is the true one because their god is obviously richer.
But it wasn’t until the plagues hit that people really started believing in them. They were able to accurately predict when the plagues would come and go, and people were amazed.
How did they do that? The church archives. Literacy was low, and people generally didn’t read, so no one remembers anything from more than a decade or two ago. Plagues came every few decades, and those smart church people found a pattern by studying the church records of history – plagues always worsen during months of high humidity (summers), and go away during months of low humidity (winters).
Of course they didn’t understand why at that time, but it didn’t stop them from making up some cool stories and prophecies, and converted the whole city to Catholicism.
The Graben has been one of the main shopping streets of Vienna for the past 700 years. For the past couple hundred years, the Graben and 2 adjoining streets (Kohlmarkt and Kartner Rd) have been where the city’s richest shop. Today they have stores like LV and Chanel. Back in the days they had their equivalents of those brands. According to the tour guide, nowadays most of the rich clients come from Russia in the winter, and western Europeans in the summer.
Another one of the most prominent landmarks in Vienna is the Hofburg Palace. Once the imperial palace of the nation, it now houses a few museums showcasing the city’s rich history.
In front of the palace is the famous Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square). There are two equestrian statues (men on horses) in front of the palace. One of them was more impressive than the other – the one that the artist successfully balanced on just the two hind legs of the horse.
He was not able to repeat the feat with the second statue, which required additional support (tail of the horse). He also went insane while constructing the second statue.
There were a few cool things inside the museums. One of them has all kinds of historical musical instruments, like a travel-sized violin, violins with a gazillion strings, and… what seems to be 2 guitars stuck together?
Really cool armour with a built-in pole?
I also visited the house of Mozart (in the First District), and also the house and clinic of Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud graduated from the University of Vienna, and stayed in Vienna until the Nazies came. He then escaped to London with most of his belongings (only possible because he had a lot of money, from one of his patients). Most of the furnitures in the museum were donated by his also-famous psychologist daughter, Anna Freud, and shipped back to Vienna (from London).
It was a small practice that only has a few pieces of furniture, and of course, plenty of penises.
Unfortunately, neither of those places allowed photographing.
I went back to the hostel relatively early, and met a few more people at the hostel bar.
Israeli girl #1 was from Tel Aviv. Apparently Tel Aviv is a pretty modern western city, except everything is super expensive. So they would often come to Europe to shop, because everything is much cheaper in Europe. It’s a lot like how many Canadians living near the border go to the states to shop.
But still. Vienna. Cheap?!? It’s one of the most expensive places I have been to!
She also doesn’t recommend visiting Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem is fun if you are into religion or history.
German girl #3 is studying medicine in Frankfurt, and is a violinist and a fan of Lindsey Stirling. Yay for Lindsey Stirling!
German girl #4 is a second year mechanical engineering student in Cologne (IIRC?), trying to decide what to specialize in. Apparently traveling is good for that? Their options for specialization are pretty similar to what we have here, and obviously I recommended mechatronics :D.
She spends all her free time restoring a car that has sat on her grandfather’s farm for decades, and hopes to finish by the end of the year. Way cool.
She is also allergic to the sun. Way uncool, but pretty cool in an uncool way. Did you know that some people are allergic to water and can’t even take long showers?
Japanese guy #1 worked for a company that acquires land for the government to build highways on. So when the government wants to build a new highway, they would tell the company to go buy all the houses and land along the way. And no, those people aren’t allowed to say no. Though apparently they do offer above-market $$ as compensation.
We also talked a bit about Japanese work culture. It’s a bit shit IMHO. Japan is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to work there. They strongly value seniority over merit, and many high up people don’t really know what they are doing. There are also many unwritten rules – like how everyone stays till very late even if they have not much to do, because they don’t dare leaving before their managers. And sometimes their managers don’t leave even when they have nothing to do, because they don’t want to seem unimportant (being able to leave on time = you are not important enough). So everyone stays very late. You get about 3 weeks of vacation just like in the US or Canada, but no one dares taking more than a week at a time, or 2 weeks in total. You will be jobless when you return if you do (he made a throat-slashing gesture), and since Japanese people typically stay at the same company for their entire career, it’s very hard for someone who loses their job in their late 30s or 40s to find another one.
And then there’s sexism. Women are expected to start a family and quit their job, so they are generally never promoted. There is also the unwritten rule that they should always bring tea and coffee (and sometimes lunch) to their male colleagues, even if they have the same job. That’s also pretty BS.
Egyptian girl #1 was born in Cairo, Egypt, and moved to Los Angeles when she was young, and now lives in Germany. She grew up just learning new languages for fun, and works as a translator now, speaking 5 languages – Arabic, English, French, German, and something else.
She specializes in translating legal documents, but enjoys doing live translations more. For example, she has been translating for refugees in Germany for the past little while (most refugees speak English pretty well, but not German). She enjoys the human contact.
Translation is not just about languages, and in fact, sometimes it’s not about languages at all. For example, many companies also contract her to do “cultural reviews” of videos and ads to be shown in a different country for example. People from different cultures can see and interpret the same things very differently, and it takes someone who has lived for extended periods in different countries to be able to see those things.
So she tries to move to a different country every few years. How cool is that?!
You may have noticed that they are mostly girls. It’s not an isolated incident, and I’m not intentionally avoiding contact with guys! Solo travellers tend to talk to each other, and it seems like there are many more girl solo travellers than guy solo travellers. Don’t ask me why, but yay for finally finding a hobby that is not 90% male? Only took me 20 tries.
Roommate for the night was Australian guy #4. He was in his 60s, and still travelling around the world by himself! He came all the way from Australia, and this trip has taken him through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Switzerland. I loved talking to him. He talked poetry. Loved his poetic descriptions of all those places.
For future reference, Zurich is very nice if you have a lot of money. Though it sounds more like a couple-y place than a place for solo travellers. Maybe I’ll save it till I become couple-y.
And that’s all for Vienna! I booked a train to Budapest, Hungary, for the next day.
To be continued…