Vienna – All class!

We didn’t quite know what to expect from Vienna.  Three months ago we were in Salzburg and while we enjoyed it, on reflection we expected something bigger, brighter and a little better. Vienna is a much bigger city and we found that three nights (two days) was really not enough to see what we wanted to see.  Yes you can scrape  the surface but it really deserves a bit more time.

As we were only there 48 hours we tried to get the best overview of the city that we could by getting on a Hop on Hop Off bus tour.  This is a good idea.  We usually don’t get off, rather just use it to orient ourselves to revisit places later if we want to.  Before we committed to this tour, we tried to do it ourselves as we had purchased two day transport passes.  It really was just easier to listen to a commentary.  We didn’t have to struggle trying to work out which building was which, why it was significant and whether or not we were indeed looking at the right building!

 

Again, like the previous 2 weeks, we were foiled by the weather but being in a big city doesn’t really matter that much. To get out of the rain, we took refuge in the Butterfly House (6.50 Euro to get in), which was not really worth it as most of the butterflies were high on the roof.  We really only saw about 4 or 5.

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We also had coffee and cake in Central Cafe and braved the queue to get in.  Coffee and cake was average (cakes look much better than they are) however it is a cafe of historical importance (Trotsky, Freud and a number of poets) and the environment is beautiful.

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Vienna is full of breathtaking buildings and we enjoyed walking around looking at them.  The architecture is really something else!

If you are an art lover, Belvedere is worth a visit.  This is where you can see the famous Austrian painting The Kiss.  The Kiss is the Austrians answer to Mona Lisa! You can buy any number of souvenirs with a print of this painting on it. Allow at least half a day for a visit.  Close by there is also the Museum of Modern Art is about a 10 minute walk from Belvedere so you could make an arty day of it.

 

We also took the underground (U Bahn) out to the Schonbrunn Palace to catch a show.  You must see a classical performance in Vienna right! It was a beautiful environment but the acoustics were poor.  I think the Opera House might have been a better choice.  The palace gardens are meant to be beautiful but when we got there they were closing the gates (despite everyone telling us it would be open).  Make sure you go before 4pm to ensure that it is open and that you have some time to walk around.

Vienna Tips

  • If you are driving in, you are looking for signs that say Wien not Vienna
  • There is very little parking in the city.  You might be lucky to pick up a short stay parking spot (less than 2 hours) however the locals use the parking garages (Park and Ride).  We paid 10.50 Euros for 2.5 days.
  • You can buy transport tickets for 1 or 2 days which give you access to underground trains and the trams which get you everywhere you need to go.
  • If you want to see a concert ask questions… what is the programme, how long, where is it,  how many musicians etc.  Shop around.
  • There are museums for everything… art, technology, Freud, national history, military history, Mozart…
  • Check out the Vienna Card.  It gives free transport and discounted admission to many places in the city.
  • Enjoy!  Vienna is a beautiful city.

 

Dubrovnik – Paradise lost

Dubrovnik was on my bucket list.  It was the whole reason we came to Croatia and I have to say I feel a little let down.  The Old Town is truly beautiful and the walls give a stunning view.  Why am I disappointed?  The city is so overwhelmed by tourists (Split was busy but this is next level)  that I think they have got greedy.  It is much more expensive than any other place in Croatia we have been and we have had rude and or indifferent service at restaurants in town.  Our tour guide told us to do everything we want to do this year as next year it will be even more expensive (prices for entry have increased significantly this year).

We spent 5 nights (four days) in Dubrovnik doing the following:

Old Town

There are lots of buildings to look at, the usual walking tours, restaurants and souvenir shops.  We visited a Dali Exhibition,  which had a number of his smaller more minor pieces on display.  We also visited the War Photo exhibition which was very good.  It had photographs from all sides of the Yugoslavian war period.  Many very powerful images and well worth the entry price of 50 Kuna each.

We took two city walking tours, one of which was a historical tour which focussed on the war.  We have taken walking tours from each of the other countries in the conflict that we visited so thought it was good to have a more complete picture.  The tour guide was very balanced and explained some of the areas that were not clear from other tours.  We also took a Game of Thrones tour because … well you have to don’t you!  A decent amount of season 2-6 was filmed here.  Our guide (who was hilarious although not trying to be) explained with photographic examples where things were filmed and how the area was prepared. It was a really good tour and if you are  a GoT fan, one of these tours is really worth doing.

City Walls

Dubrovnik has one of the most beautiful (and restored) city walls we have seen.  The area was bombed in the war but the community has restored the area using the same design and materials.  Apparently the price increased 50% this year so if you are going to Croatia, get here quick!  The view from the walls is truly stunning and was a highlight.  We managed to get up there for sunset which was picturesque.  It is really hot and crowded so get there either in the morning or in the evening.  The latest you can go up is 7pm and they like everyone to come down by 7.30.  The day we went the sun set at about 7.35 and there was no one rushing you down and the bars still served drinks at key viewing points.  You do need at least an hour to get around as it is 2km.

Cable car

The cable car is another opportunity to see the view from above.  It is about 20 Euros to go up.  You can also walk up the hill or get an Uber for much cheaper!  We took the cable car and the views are stunning.  You can grab a drink at the cafe at the top so that you can enjoy the views for a bit longer.

3 Islands Day Cruise

This seems to be a standard tour that lots of boats offer.  It was a nice day out however don’t get too excited by the food offered.  Ours was inedible (the chicken was so hard we could have knocked someone out with it) and the drinks were some very strange tasting fizzy that we tipped out and wine that was like a bad home brew.  The three islands we visited were in the Elafiti archipeligo and included Lopud, Kolocep and Sipan.  Kolocep and  Sipan are cute little islands where you have time to grab a drink or have a swim.  We spent time jumping off piers as it was hot!  You spend quite a bit more time on Lopud as it is famous for its sandy beach.  Our boat docked on the rocky side of the island and you then walk through town, up a hill and grab a golf cart (like a taxi) which takes you to the other side of the island where the sand is.  So… we got there, surveyed the scene, decided it was too crowded, the water didn’t seem as clear and that we preferred the rocky side!  We promptly got back in another golf cart to return us to our rocky beach where we spent the afternoon.  I think we have to hand in our passports… we now prefer the no mess, no sand version of the sea!

Belje Beach Club

We had a spare afternoon so spent time at this beach club which is right at the back of the Old Town.  You do have to pay for loungers and umbrellas and you will need your trusty rock shoes!

Lokrum Island

This was recommended to us by a number of locals and travellers we met on the day tours.  It was one of the highlights!  You pick up a boat to the island at the back of the  Old Town.  The boat goes every half and hour so you can get over or back whenever it suits.  The island has a park like feel with shady trees, great rocks to jump off into the sea, restaurants if you haven’t bought a picnic and even massages if you can afford them.  The picnic area under the trees wasn’t too crowded and had large rabbits and peacocks walking around between people.  There is also a little lake called a Dead Sea which you can swim in.  Overall a nice day out with a picnic.

So my summary about Dubrovnik… I think it is probably not what it was and it has got too big for it’s boots.  Yes it is still visually stunning but I would limit my time there.  The Old Town is picturesque but the crowds, cost and poor service take the shine off this Adriatic jewel.