Vienna Vacation

6 - 15 July 2002

Revised 25 July 2002,
Photos & Text © 2002 by Len Schwer

  I attended in a conference in beautiful Vienna (Wien) and brought my son Augie to add to our long string of father-and-son vacations. Becky and I had recently spent 3 days in Vienna in late April as part of our European River Cruise, so she was not too disappointed to not be making this 'Boys' trip. Augie and I traveled with my friend Jim Gran and met several other friends in Vienna.

  We departed San Francisco (SFO) on Saturday 6 July at about 11 AM, changed planes in New York (JFK) and arrived in Vienna (VIE) on Sunday via Austrian Airlines at about 13:00 hours. The weather was quite warm and humid during our entire stay. We met our friend Ben Thacker at the Pension Suzanne on Sunday, and Paul Senseny arrived on Tuesday.

  We toured most of the sights of Vienna together before Paul left on Friday and Ben and Jim left on Saturday, 13 July. Augie and I stayed until Monday, 15 July, as Augie was traveling on a free ticket and that was the first return flight with seats available for Mileage Plus Award travel.

  Eight days is more time than needed to see the sights of beautiful Vienna, so we made two excursions out of Vienna to the nearby Danube River cities of Melk and Linz.

Note: Some of the photos were contributed by Jim Gran (JG) and Ben Thacker (BT) and are used here with their permission.

Click on a picture to size full size view in floating window.

6-7 July Saturday & Sunday
  We arrived at JFK at about 20:30 hours and rode the red-white-and-blue terminal bus from Terminal 7 to Terminal 1 for our Austrian Airlines flight. We found the Lufthansa lounge after a false start looking near the gates rather than outside security. We had time for a few snacks and soft drinks before heading to our gate. To our surprise, and great pleasure, our Austrian Airlines flight was very empty and everyone spread out to have a row to themselves or share 4 seats across with one other passenger.
  The Pension Suzanne rooms were small by US standards, but typical size for European accommodations; our room in Paris was comparable in size. The location of Pension Suzanne is its best feature, very near the Opera House, and the low price of 89 Euros double, and 69 Euros single, with breakfast, is a plus. Unfortunately, Pension Suzanne, like most European accommodations, is not air conditioned. Typically this would not be much of a problem in Vienna as the overnight temperatures are comfortable to cool. But the week of our visit the overnight temperatures were quite warm. The window in the room opened, but there was no
way to get a cross draft without opening the door to the room. We did open the door, but after about 10 PM the hallway door, into a grouping of three rooms, was closed by the staff and that ended the breeze. The warm conditions were too much for my friend Ben Thacker so he moved to the Marriott after one night. There were nights when I wished I had done the same, but I kept thinking the heat wave would end and I could save about 50 Euro a night.
  After we registered for the conference, we did a little walking about through the Hofburg Palace, down the famous shopping street 'The Graben' and viewed St Stephan's Cathedral.
  For dinner we selected one of the restaurants that was recommended to me by our European River Tour guide Edith. The restaurant Pfudl (Bäckerstrasse 2) is near the Hilton and Marriott hotels. The food was good but a bit pricey at 30 or 20 Euros for their fixed menu of beef or chicken. It takes a day or two to get accustomed to the higher prices for dinning out in Europe, and to find the better bargain restaurants.
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8 July Monday
  Monday was the opening ceremony for the conference in a large hall of the Hofburg Palace. On the way to the Hofburg we walked past Burger Park and Jim took my picture next to the Mozart statue.
  We took a few pictures in front of the Hofburg Palace which gives you an idea of the size and beauty of this palace.
  The most entertaining parts of the opening ceremony were
Jim taking the podium before the proceedings and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra's performances.
  That evening we went to one of the famous Vienna Heuriger establishments for some wine and a buffet dinner. The dinner was quite good and there was plenty of wine. The evening was warm and it was perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the garden setting.
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9 July Tuesday
  We started every day with breakfast at Pension Suzanne. The simple meal consisted of several different types of breads, all quite good, with a selection of packaged jams. A soft boiled egg was an option that Jim enjoyed each morning.
  We started the morning with a U-Bahn ride out to see Schonburnn Palace, the estate became a Habsburg possession in 1569. We took the 22 room tour of the interior, where no pictures are allowed, and then walked about the grounds and gardens.
  In the afternoon I had a committee meeting to attend and Jim took the time to locate and visit his 92 year old step-grandmother. Maybe there are some positives to the "3/4 time" lifestyle of the Viennese? When I returned from my committee meeting, I found Augie already totally immersed in the Viennese cafe life style. I walked past this cafe near Pension Suzanne and noticed the book a person was reading
was in English, I then looked to see who was reading the book and it was Augie with one of his computer geek books.
  That evening I had two tickets to the Vienna opening of the Leibniz exhibit at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Augie was quite willing to give up his ticket so that Jim Gran could attend. As it turned out that was for the best, as the accompanying lecture was very boring and made infinitely worse by being presented in an un-air-conditioned room with over 600 people and no fans nor open windows.
  One Leibniz exhibit piece was a devise that demonstrated the fastest way for a falling object to reach a laterally distant point was to follow a catenary curve, rather than a straight line. Leibniz of course had worked out the mathematics, but this was a physical demonstration for the less mathematically inclined, and much more interesting than the derivation.
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10 July Wednesday
  Wednesday morning we rode the trolley around the 'Ring,' were the old wall used to surround the city, and stopped at the art (Kunsthistorisches) and natural (Naturhistorisches) history museums. We spent about an hour in the Kunsthistorisches museum, not nearly enough time to do it justice, but we needed to move along as our mini-symposium session was that afternoon.
  The museums were near the Vienna University of Technology, where the conference was held. As was our daily custom, we stopped at the University to check our email. Augie brought his laptop and was able to use one of the many internet connections provided. Us non-geeks had to use the desktop machines the university setup in an internet room.
  Just to prove that giving a presentation is not easy, Jim took this picture of me sweating at the end of my presentation.
The lecture rooms were air-conditioned, but when the room was full the effect of the cooling was minimal.
  After the mini-symposium, most of the speakers followed my invitation to what is now my favorite Vienna restaurant "Zur Alten Kaisermuhle Alte Donau" (Fischerstrand 21A, 1223 Wien). I found this restaurant while visiting Vienna last April and staying at the nearby Crown Plaza Hotel. Not only is the food unique, Viennese Bar-B-Q, but is very good with large portions and relatively cheap. Everyone, except Augie, order the ribs and had two beers for about 20 Euros per person; thanks to Paul Senseny and FM Global for the dinner treat!
  Going around the table from left-to-right are Pat Roache, Bill Oberkampf, me, Ben Thacker, Paul Senseny, Mike Giltrud, Jim Gran, and Augie. Note: all Schwer's sit with their arms folded like that after a meal while waiting for the others to finish.
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11 July Thursday
  The building with the green exterior is the Technical University of Vienna where the conference was held. As noted above, we stopped every day to check email and waited until everyone was done before moving on to our next agenda item.
  We decided to purchase tickets near the Opera House for the Vienna Line Hop-on Hop-off bus tour to cover some of the sights in a relaxing air-conditioned bus. Just how relaxing the ride was is evident by the pictures of Ben and Paul. There are 3 circuits that the bus follows and we had to wait at the Opera House stop for the last bus circuit.
  After the bus tour, which lasted a good part of the day, we split up with Jim, Augie & I going to get information on train schedules and Ben & Paul heading back to their hotel to "dress" for the conference banquet that evening.
  The Mercedes 'Smart Car' next to Paul was parked on the street corner near the Pension Suzanne for most of the week. You see a number of these cars in Vienna, and Europe, but I wonder how they passed the frontal crash requirement.
  We went to the Landstrassa U-Bahn station, near Stadt
Park, for the train information and decided to walk back to Pension Suzanne through the park. Jim was intrigued by the alien like head forms on the bridge that crosses the Vienna River at the north end of Stadt Park. He also could not resist hamming it up in front of the Strauss statue.
  As you can see Ben & Paul did "dress" for the banquet. We had noticed most older men wearing their suit coats over their shoulders and Jim coaxed Ben & Paul into putting on European airs. Airs is probably accurate, as I think the reason for wearing suit coats in this manner is to provide a little more air flow near the body.
  The banquet was held in the city hall (Rathaus) in a very elegant hall and setting; obviously Paul & Ben were the only 2 of our group that was suitably "dressed," although Augie did wear long pants and shoes, rather than shorts and thongs.
  We walked around St Stephan’s Square (Platz) for awhile and had some ice cream for dessert. On the walk back to Pension Suzanne, Jim saw the sign "Gute Farht!" which means 'Good Trip,' but is pronounced fairly close to "Good Fart!" and wanted a picture. I volunteered the idea, and butt, to include a more graphic misinterpretation of the sign.
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12 July Friday
Map image ©
  Paul departed at 7 AM on Friday morning so we were down to a touring band of four. Having seen most of the sights that Vienna has to offer, I suggested we venture out of Vienna to the nearby Danube River valley and the quaint town of Melk with its famous Melk Abby (Stift) or the 'Baroque Pile' as one of the guide books unkindly turned the phrase.
  We took the U-Bahn to the West Banhoff (train station) and bravely bought one way tickets using an automated ticket machine. Immediately upon arrival in Melk we purchased return tickets from the station agent, which curiously were cheaper than those from the machine. I think we might have got a group or family rate from the agent?
  Melk was the fist stop on my European River Cruise last April and the first of a long list of very picturesque and quaint Austrian and German towns we would visit. Melk is quite small and with the Abby high up on the adjoining hill you only need to stroll toward it and navigate the few curving streets.
  While wondering down the street I spotted the pictured weather station with temperature, pressure and humidity. The temperature was about 25C or 77F with a 70% humidity; the pressure of about 1025 is measured in hPa which we all guessed is hecto-Pascals, i.e. 102,500 Pa is about 30.27 inches of mercury.
  The Abby was restored between 1970 and 2000 and thus is presently in very nice condition. The most beautiful room in the Abby is the Marble Hall, the room where Jim is pictured. Interestingly, the only real marble is around the door frames; you can tell if it is fake by placing your hand on the marble and sensing if the surface warms to your touch, real marble remains cold. The views of Melk and the start of Danube's Wachau valley from the twin tower terrace of the Abby
are worth the price of admission. Perhaps the 'Baroque Pile' phrase was inspired by visiting the church that is part of the Abby. It is quite overwhelming trying to take in all the ornate decorations, but I do like the circular opening in the ceiling to the dome.
  On our walk back to the Melk train station we stopped for lunch at a very small restaurant that served pizza, gyros, and Austrian luncheon specials. We all had one form or the other of a schnitzel special for lunch. Of course we arrived at the train station shortly after a Vienna bound train had departed, so we had about 30 minutes to kill with soda drinking and ice cream eating. The train we boarded was nearly empty, so we spread out and made ourselves comfortable. When we read the train schedule in the Melk station we thought we had boarded a direct train (only a few stops) to Vienna, but after about 10 minutes at the first stop of St. Pollen, the conductor came by and said we needed to change trains as this train was returning towards Melk. The Vienna bound train we boarded next was packed and we stood in the passageway for the 35 minute ride back to Wien.
  We walked past St Charles Church (Karls Kirch), the picture with Augie and the green dome, every day on our way to the Technical University. The beautiful flowers and cirrus clouds on this day demanded to be photographed.
  Dinner was at another of the recommended restaurants s' Mullerbeist (15 Seilerstatte, 1040 Wien) about halfway between Pension Suzanne and the Marriott. The food was quite good and reasonably priced, although I would have order something more expensive had I know Ben was picking up the check as payment for tour guide services. We ended the day with a stroll around St Stephan’s Square and some ice cream for a dessert nightcap.
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13 July Saturday
  Before Jim departed on Saturday, we rode the trolley to Belvedere Palace & Gardens on the southern edge of Vienna. There is usually a very nice view of the city, as Belvedere is on high ground relative to the city center. On this day the view was not that great as the humidity was high and a rain system was moving toward the city. You can see St Stephan's Cathedral spire in the background of the two pictures with the rather well endowed sphinx like lady. Shortly after Jim took the picture of Augie & me in front of the Palace, an isolated rain cloud passed over us releasing huge rain drops; we could hear the drops hitting the ground and trees in the distance before we felt the drops. We waited for the cloud to pass while huddled next to a building and then made a dash to the nearby covered trolley stop.
  Augie & I escorted Jim to the city bus terminal at the Hilton Hotel, via the U-Bahn. We wished were returning to the States with him. You can tell Augie was ready to leave by his expression in the U-Bahn photo.
  Augie & I decided to visit a few sights that he had noted during our wonderings. The fist stop was the so called Kunsthaus which is a museum dedicated to the art of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. We also visited the nearby Hundertwasser House which is a public housing building he designed. Hundertwasser disliked straight lines, claiming none are to be found in nature, so even the floors in his build and museum are not flat (straight) but rolling.
  We next rode the U-Bahn to the area north of the city where the United Nations has one of its three world headquarters. Our goal was the tall communications tower
know as Donauturm Danube Tower. They recently started bungee jumping from the tower and we saw that fellow dangling by his feet behind Augie, take the plunge. The main attraction of the tower is the view, but we picked a rather poor day as the high humidity and pending rain obscured much of the surroundings. We walked through some of the nice gardens and park that is part of this UN area as we headed for the U-Bahn station on the Old Danube (Alte Donau). [After we had left the UN area, I realized I didn't take a picture of the tower itself, but have a look at the above web site link.]
  We holed up in our room and watched some of the Tour de France on TV while the rain passed through the city. We ventured out to St Stephan's square looking for some last minute souvenirs for Augie. But as this was Saturday, most of the shops close by 4 PM and the few tourist shops that were open were packed. I did spot this interesting Air Quality display on the wall of a bank across from St Stephan's Cathedral. As you can see, only the ozone level was elevated.
  We had dinner at Konigsbacher a restaurant just across the street from the Pension Suzanne. Augie had noticed it was quite crowded each evening and we had seen a group from the conference dinning there one evening; there were members of this group that I know are a little particular and they were with a local Austrian, so that too was a good sign. The food was quite good and reasonable in price, also the menu include English translations. As usual, Augie found the best dish right off, a mixed grill of meats with potatoes, Austrian food at its best!
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14 July Sunday
Map image ©
  For our last day in Austria we decided to again take the train to the Danube River valley and this time visit the city of Linz, about a 2 hour train ride. This is a fairly large city with its own trolley system, and home to many Austrian industries. I could not remember if my European River Tour had stopped in Linz, but once I arrived and looked about nothing was familiar. Probably the reason Linz is not on the river tour is there really is not too much to see. The Fodor guide listed the Linz Castle, which has a nice view, of the city and the Danube, but is little more than a short stretch of ruined wall. Fortunately, the Fodor guide included a street map, so we could navigate from the train station to the castle and city center. As it was Sunday, all the shops were closed.
  A "must see" for me was Mozart Haus (17 Alstadt) where Mozart stayed while visiting Linz and composed the famous Linz Symphony. You could not enter this private residence, but Augie & I posed for pictures in front of the entryway.
  The old parts of the city offer some nice street scenes with the light pastel building and old architecture.
  We had lunch at a Fodor recommend restaurant, Papa Joe’s Grill-Kantina-Bar (Landstrasse 31). I had a Caesar salad, served Austrian style with large chucks of freshly cooked bacon. Augie had a curry stir fry dish. The portions were large and reasonably priced.
  The train ride back to Vienna was uneventful. We were lucky and caught a direct train that had been delayed somewhere en route and arrived in Vienna about 30 minutes sooner than if we had taken the local train. For dinner we returned to Konigsbacher just across the street from the Pension Suzanne.
  I don't have any pictures of our departure day, as I was more focused on getting back to the States than continuing to enjoy Vienna. Eight days in Vienna is too much by about 3 days. The excursions to the Danube River valley were interesting, but I would recommend the train to Salzburg (3.5 hours) rather than Linz. Vienna (Wien) is a very beautiful and friendly city, and well worth spending your vacation time and budget.
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Photos & Text © 2002 by Len Schwer