I got back to Vienna around 10am, but fortunately my hotel let me check in early. I was able to drop off all of my things and get ready for a busy day. My hotel had free bike rental which I really took advantage of. I got a bike and rode 40 minutes to Schloss Schonbrunn, which used to be the summer palace of the Hapsburg dynasty. Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth spent time at this palace. The palace was built (amongst many others) to look like Versailles. It is easy to see the connection between the two. Just like Versailles, Schonbrunn was a type of tourist Disneyland. Once I arrived, I was hungry for lunch so I got a sandwich and some fruit in the cafe. Then I stood in like for 10 minutes in order to buy a ticket. Then I had to wait another 40 minutes until my scheduled entrance time. When I was finally allowed to enter the place, they were out of audio guides due to the high volume of people circulating through the palace; so I received a print out version of the commentary instead. I opted to do the Grand Tour, which allows you to see some more rooms than the basic tour and I am really glad that I did. Walking through the place was crowded, of course. Crowds don’t inspire me to linger or contemplate too much so as I walked through I simply read about what the room used to be used for and by whom, then I took a look at the furniture and decor and moved on. The Grand Tour is supposed to last about 1 hour and I did it in about 35 minutes. Partially because I can read way faster than the audio guide can talk, but also because I was anxious to get away from the huge crowds. Either way, the Schloss is a rip off tourist trap. Of course the history of the place is interesting and of course it’s beautifully decorated but for 12 Euros?! It’s a concept of supply and demand and quite frankly I don’t know how they continue to have so much demand. It’s just a typical European palace but the charm has been stripped by the masses who move through every day.
At least I can report that the gardens are worth a look. The beautifully manicured, fully in bloom area behind the palace was pretty and made more impressive by the giant fountain and the Glorietta (a massive viewpoint over Vienna constructed atop a hill). I enjoyed walking through the gardens and looking at the fountains. I only climbed about half way up the hill because it was boiling outside and for that same reason I did not pay a visit to the zoo. Instead I retrieved my bike (at least when you are cycling there is a nice breeze!) and rode into the center of town. I wanted to visit the Manner store for some Mozart chocolate and I wanted to get a Vienna shot glass. I accomplished both goals do then I cycled towards the Danube to see Vienna’s famous ferris wheel and ride around the Prater park. I didn’t ride the ferris wheel – it cost 9 euros! After all of this cycling – at the end of the day I had covered about half of the entire city on my bike, maybe 40 kilometers or so – I was hungry again. I had seen a Mexican restaurant right by hotel and since I haven’t had Mexican food in a while I decided on that = good decision! I started with black bean soup then I had chicken enchiladas with a Coco Loco cocktail, since it was happy hour the prices were great!
Then I hurried into my hotel to shower and put on some clean clothes since I was going to the orchestra/ opera concert at the Hofburg Royal Palace. I rode my bike 20 minutes into down town and parked it right outside of the concert hall. I got a pretty good seat since it was first come, first serve seating. I had a ticket for the first section and I found a seat not too close and not too far from the stage. The performance was just the right mix of fun and seriousness. The opera singers really put on a show with the girls wearing a new sparkling ball gown for each number that they performed. The orchestra had one multi talented member who showcased his skills with a bird whistle and with a chopping block – of all things! Which added some comic relief in between some serious numbers. The convert lasted almost 2 hours and I am really glad that I got to enjoy music in one of the cities most famous for concert performances in the world. I’m also glad I got to see a whole lot of Vienna in one day thanks to my bicycle!