Habsburg Monarchy, Schnitzel, Austrian Strudel, Austrian Schnapps, and Arnold Schwarzenegger…
Wien, Salzburg, Innsbruck…
Those things are all I know about Austria — I’m too shallow to believe that I used to study political science, majoring in International Relationships. As an excuse for my innocence, I keep reminding myself that not all International Relationships students know that Rendang is originally from Indonesia.
Our Schengen visa was still valid until May 2019. Just after the NYE holiday ended, with a very strong enthusiasm, I started to plan my next holiday, annoying my husband as I brought up the idea when we had just arrived home with tons of laundry.
The Schengen visa poses a dilemma: when you don’t get it, you will cry, full of disappointment. But when you get it, especially when the embassy gives you longer than you need, you will also cry, full of panic, thinking about where you will spend those precious 3 months of a total duration during 6 months.
As an exotic country, from my point of view, Austria sounds so tempting to me. Moreover, everybody who has ever been there, kept convincing me that Vienna is well worth a visit. But is what they said true?
1. Full of historical places with tons of tourists
Playing a central role in European History for almost 200 years (from the late 18th century to the early 20th century), Austria served as the heart of the Habsburg Monarchy and, as a result, left a myriad of museums and historical places with millions of priceless collections to visit. That was probably the reason for tourists visiting there, even though some of them have no idea about what they will see and what it actually is. The most important thing is that you can tell everybody you have been to Vienna!
Vienna is a real beauty in my eyes – if only there weren’t so many tourists flooding the town. It’s quite hard to stroll along the old town and enjoy yourself in the middle of a crowd, especially if you are agoraphobic. Nevertheless, to ignore the crowd, you can be an early bird like me and enjoy some parts of Vienna when the normal tourists are still out for the count.
Some places that usually have a high tourist density are St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hofburg, the Belvedere Palace, Schonbrunn Palace, Kunsthistorisches Museum and Maria-Theresien-Platz (and don’t forget the museum complex).
2. What about tipping?
In some countries, tipping is not necessary, or even forbidden as it is considered an insult or part of a corruption culture. How about in Vienna? Although they don’t mention it explicitly, tipping is recommended. Actually, my first day in Vienna taught me that tipping is highly recommended. What you need to do if you pay by card is add a tip to your total spend right on the machine — 10% is a good rule of thumb. Don’t be like us – we incorrectly typed 0.02 euros instead of 2 euros and that was enough to annoy our waiter…
Additional notes: Tipping is acceptable not only in restaurants, but sometimes also in cafes and bars.
Conclusion: Tipping is not a must in Vienna, but it is highly recommended, if only just to avoid a situation like I had.
3. Lost in underground
The transportation system in Vienna is well developed, but it doesn’t mean that it includes the simplicity in itself. Trying to reach Belvedere using subway, we got lost inside and when we asked the locals, they even didn’t have any idea which trains on which tracks we needed. The best place to ask is surely, the information center. Yet, be prepared to read the map well before you decide to use the subway. My favorite one is tram: it is much easier and we can enjoy the view while the wagon moves through the line towards our destinations.
Let’s make it simple. Compared to other cities we visited (Bratislava and Brno) at that time, Vienna was the most expensive one. Yet, it was nothing if we put Helsinki or Stockholm into our lists of comparison. The average price for one meal – one plate (it depends on the restaurant) is 15-20 euros. Meanwhile, the price for a one night stay in a 3 star hotel is 90-100 euros (a room with king-size bed, in-suite bathroom, plus breakfast).