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Austria & Hungary - Part 1, Austria

I just returned from my best vacation yet, starting in Vienna and ending in Budapest and an absolute joy from start to finish. I planned the entire trip myself, with help from the supportive and knowledgeable people on this website as well as Rick's books and various websites, and I'm pretty pleased with myself for pulling it off. I am a HUGE fan of the movie The Third Man, so sought out numerous locations and activities based on that.

Due to a mechanical problem with the plane in San Francisco I arrived in Vienna at 6 pm instead of 1 pm so my first day didn't include anything but an exhausted trek from the airport via CAT and then the metro to my lovely hotel on Opernring, Le Meridien. When I emerged from the metro and saw the Staatsoper I knew I needed to go 2 blocks to the left and there it was. I had an enormous room on the top floor that was beautiful and quiet, extremely comfy bed and lots of amenities.

The first day I wandered through the Burggarten to the Albertina, 1/2 price admission due to only one floor of art on display. Next I had lunch at the Café Mozart and then walked up Kartnerstrasse to St Stephensdom area, then to the MAK, really enjoyed the exhibits there. Out to the Prater to ride the Riesenrad, not at all scary as it moves very slowly. Wandered the Prater amusement park a bit then on to the Leopold, open late that day. I think the Leopold was my favourite of the museums in Vienna, big interest in the art of the Secession movement and their Klimt and Schiele exhibits were wonderful.

Friday was a day trip to Melk, caught the train at Westbhf and arrived in the town a little over an hour later. Charming little cobble-stoned village, toured the Abbey and had time to explore and have a nice lunch outdoors before catching the boat for a 1.5 hr cruise on the Danube, ending in Krems where I caught the train back to Vienna. While the scenery was enjoyable, I was having a bad day due to a blister so curtailed some of the exploring I might have done.

Saturday I stocked up on blister band-aids and banished that problem on my way to the Naschmarkt and Flohmarkt, 5 min from my hotel. Oh, the Naschmarkt was fabulous! I would eat/shop there every day if I lived there. I love poking around flea markets and antique shops so the Flohmarkt was great fun, found a couple of old things as souvenirs. Visited the Secession where I was a bit disappointed; loved Klimt's Beethoven Frieze but that was all there was to see. Not a fan of the type of modern art special exhibit they had, a few odd pieces of furniture in a huge room...I asked the clerk if that was all there was and got a somewhat testy response, so I'm guessing other people have done the same! Still, worth it for the frieze and the building itself is fascinating. Too early to visit the Third Man Museum so I set off with my map to find the Harry Lime Door on Schreyvogelgasse and poked around Graben before heading back to Third Man Museum, which I absolutely loved. Not just for fans of the movie but a well-done presentation about life in post-war Vienna.

Sunday I took the train to Salzburg, very cold and drizzly but I set off on the HoHo bus to get my bearings and toured Hellbrunn Palace and Mozart Gebursthaus--excellent little museum. Had a great lunch at Triangel and checked out the Old Town area, many shops closed but lots of craft vendors out. Train going back at 6 pm was very crowded and I had to ask a woman to move her purse so I could sit, got the evil eye all the way back to Vienna.

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Monday I took the tram out to the Belvedere and toured the Upper after having brunch in the lovely café. Lots of art that I found especially interesting, can't photograph the Klimt, though. After that I decided to joy-ride the tram a bit and found the Hundertwasserhaus on Lowenstrasse, took photos and checked out some of the shops before heading to the Stadtpark metro exit for the Third Man walking tour; I know so much about the movie but still learned that much more and got to see numerous locations used in the film. It ended at the Harry Lime Door, but with a lovely surprise that made it extra-special for me. I won't give it away in case someone decides to take the tour, it's only on Mondays at 4 pm.

Tuesday was my last full day in Vienna and I had a big agenda, starting with Schonbrunn, definitely pays to heed Rick's advice and buy your ticket in advance, by the time I was done at 10:30 huge crowds were heading in. Seeing Schonbrunn made me want to see the Sissi Museum, which I did later in the afternoon. Back to Naschmarkt for lunch, then off to the Wien Museum at Karlsplatz, very interesting exhibits but much of it in German, still highly recommend for anyone interested in the history of this beautiful city as well as more Secession era art. I could hardly resist seeing my favourite movie in the city where it was filmed so went to the Burg Kino and indulged myself.

Overall impression of Vienna was a fast-paced, elegant city full of very kind and helpful people, English not a problem, metro system a marvel of efficiency (I bought an 8 day ticket), streets clean, felt perfectly safe walking alone anywhere.

I fine-tuned my museum choices based on specific art and since I was alone could move quickly if need be. I did not visit the Kunsthistoriches or the Hofburg aside from Sissi and Imperial Apartments, did not go inside St Stephensdom. The Freud Museum and Zentralfriedhof were on my agenda but I didn't get to them. I most certainly plan to return!

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Reading your detailed report on the day to day experience in Vienna reminds me in part of my visit there this past May. It's definitely a city for revisiting as I do when I am in Central Europe...must include Vienna as part of the itinerary. Two places you mention I should have seen since I was close in their vicinity...the Naschmarkt and Belvedere... but didn't know it. I am familiar with Zentralfriedhof, saw some of the famous composers' gravesites but focused on the World War 1 military cemeteries.

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christa, I've never been to Vienna, but I really enjoyed reading this. One of the best written trip reports I've ever read. Thank you.