My husband and I were in Austria for 11 days. We didn’t get to see and do everything on our list, but I think we experienced the flavor of the areas that we visited fairly well. We spent 4 nights in Vienna, 3 in Salzburg, and 3 in Hallstatt. We stayed at Rick's B&Bs and took public transportation everywhere—buses, trams, subways, trains—and walked a lot. The weather was mostly good—sunny, between 50 and 65 degrees. We wore jackets and only needed our umbrella on the last 2 days. The trees there are already filled with the oranges and golds of autumn. We drank lots of coffee in cafés and had fun trying the different pastries. We made sure to try apple strudel and Sacher Torte in many places and were only disappointed once.
Our main goal in Vienna was to see the Vermeer painting, “The Art of Painting”. I had written to the art museum before we booked our flights to be sure the painting would be there. We had a moment of panic when we discovered that Room 17, where it is normally displayed, was closed. I turned around to go ask the last docent I had seen, when I saw the painting hanging right behind us. We spent several hours in that spectacular museum, taking a break in their elegant café. In Vienna we also went to the Kindertransport Museum, the Holocaust memorial, and the two Jewish museums. We walked on streets that, in all probability, my dad’s family walked on in the late 1800s. We also found many stumble stones, which are the small brass plaques in sidewalks in front of houses where Jews lived and were deported from during the Holocaust. As in Germany, we found those to be very moving and emotional reminders of that dark period of human history.
We went to Café Neko, the cat café. Vienna is one of the few cities in the world with such a café, and we enjoyed visiting with the cats and the other cat-lovers from around the city and the world who come to do the same thing. To see the Vienna Woods, we took a tram and a city bus to Kahlenberg and saw the Danube (Donau) River at sunset. We ended that day by taking a tram to the Beethovengang stop in Nussdorf to have dinner at a Heuriger. Fabulous!
We thought we would see lots of Syrian refugees at the train stations, but really there were only a handful. I’ve read that they are mostly in the underground parking garages, which we didn’t need to go into. We did see a massive stage being set up in preparation for the Voices for Refugees concert, fundraiser, and support rally that weekend in Vienna. We heard that 150,000 people attended.
In Salzburg, we took Rick's self-guided walk of the old city and spent an hour at the rather dumpy Mozart’s Birthplace (Geburtshaus) Museum. Hey, you gotta do it just once, right? One night we attended a fantastic Mozart piano sonata concert in the Romanesque Hall of St. Peter’s Church. It is a small venue and the pianist, a Romanian, was superb and very animated. We went to the fun Mirabell Gardens and took the elevator to walk above the city in the beautiful nature area--the Monchsberg. We hiked up an extremely steep set of paths to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which is fabulous from the outside but very disappointing on the inside. I wanted to see the Marionette Exhibit, which turned out to be very hokey. The funicular ride down was the best part.
Hallstatt--wow! Everywhere you look is like a picture postcard. You really have trouble deciding what not to photograph. We took the guided walking tour of the old town from the TI. The guide, a young woman from Italy, was very informative and friendly. We were the only people on the tour. We took the funicular above the town to the Salt Mine tour, stopping at the panorama viewpoint. Part of the tour is sliding down wooden banisters like the miners did in the 1700s. Great! We rode the cable car up to Dachstein Mountain and our tour of the Giant Ice Caves.
I hope I’ve captured the essence of our trip for you. I’m still struggling with jet-lag, so please forgive any mistakes.