That would be arthr I-T-I-S. ( as in swelling of the arths or joints) You who follow me regularly know I have been hobbled (well I am always hobbled, but more so recently) especially the past few months due to increased travels and increased walking, so with the trip to AIT (Austria, Italy, and Turkey) coming up I sought the advice of my physician. I am on the strongest medication, she told me. Next step corrective shoes. Corrective shoes? I already wear supportive, un-flattering, old fashioned, old lady shoes and have for some time. I was ten days out from my trip and had no time for new shoes. This trip was one of the most extensive and varied yet of our travels and included several flights, connecting flights, train trips, bus trips, boat trips, LOTS of walking, exploring, and new experiences. Shoes? I would just have to suck it up!
I came home with Pharyng I-T-I-S. A sore throat, headache to beat all headaches, earache, cough, cough, cough, and complete lethargy. And over 3,000 pictures! So today I begin the tale of what we did in between the I-T-I-S’s. It was one of the best trips abroad! And so we begin!
This week the list for the Best Airlines was released. # 5 on that list was Turkish Airlines. There was no American airline in the top 20. We have never flown on Turkish Airlines, but booked it because the price was very reasonable and got us to our destination with the fewest stops. I was immediately impressed upon boarding to be met my a chef (big hat and chef’s attire and all) and to get to my seat which had a pillow, blanket, earphones, and slippers already placed in my seat. Did I mention our seats were not changed one time in the six months prior to departure and we actually boarded on schedule? When we were all seated (and we were in regular folks seating) we received a travel kit (which I can use over and over it was so nice) with earplugs, sleeping mask, toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm and knee high socks. Right after they served the Turkish Delight candy and the hot wash cloths they passed out the food menu and the drinks menu. Need I say more? I will. There were a bazillion channels for music, movies, news, kids shows and learning. There were plugs for all your electronic devices. And the seats were big enough for your fanny. Following a smooth ride, very tasty meals, lots of entertainment and excellent service we landed in Istanbul on time and ready to transfer to another Turkish Airlines plane to take us to Vienna. It was one of the best airline experiences to date! Please, keep them in mind when booking your flights. You won’t be disappointed.
Twenty four hours later (including time changes and connecting flight times) we landed in Vienna around 8pm. Tired and ready for bed we entered Das Tyrol, a small boutique-spa hotel located in a residential area on Mariahilfer Strasse just barely outside the old town’s RingStrasse.
The fresh invigorating spa fragrance as we entered the hotel quickly helped to rejuvenate us. What a relaxed feeling! Soon we had checked in, got a lay out of the land, ( including the spa area, breakfast area and lounge), and then took the tiny two people elevator to the Donald Duck floor. What a great room we had! We collapsed into bed and were asleep within minutes!
The next morning we were up early to the large buffet breakfast and then out the door to walk to the Old Town. The hotel’s location was perfect. Situated in the middle of a hill, at the top was the train station and metro station (inside a huge mall with great shopping and eateries) and at the bottom of the hill the tram that circled historic Vienna. We decided to do a Vienna City Walk that SB had mapped out for us before we left home. This way we we could get an idea where the major museums were in the area, before we decided which ones to go in. So we walked down the hill, turned right and crossed the street to the Opera House and Gardens.
Here there were many men dressed as Mozart encouraging you to buy tickets to a concert, every few feet.
We walked on pass them through the gates and then backtracked past the Opera Museum and the Albertinaplatz and the Monument Against War and Fascism.
Finally we came to corner where the red tour buses were parked and decided we would see another part of the city from the bus on another day. Here also was the Cafe Tirolerhof, a classic Viennese cafe with chandeliers, marble tables, smoke stained upholstered booths and waiters in tuxes. It’s was like stepping into an old movie and it was my first chance to taste the famous Viennese coffee.
Refreshed and relaxed we ventured on passing the Kaisergruft, a church filled with the crypts of Austria’s emperors, empresses and other Habsburg royalty, buried in pewter coffins. Check that for a come back to.
We make our way to Kärntner Strasse, a pedestrian only grand walkway, the same road that the Crusaders marched down as they left St Stephen’s Cathedral for the Holy Land in the 12th century. The street was bumper to bumper people, so many in fact that I could not see anything but the back of the head in front of me. What I thought would be a lovely old cobbled street was now a pedestrian mob of shoppers slowly moving along the shops of Gucci and Prada! There were people everywhere! It was Saturday I realized and the shops would be closed on Sunday so the shopping was a must!
I couldn’t wait to reach St Stephen’s hoping the crowd would thin out. Reaching the cathedral we have also entered the center of Vienna.
The church, built from 1300 to 1450, has a 450-ft tower and a colorful roof and is Austria’s national church. During WWII the stained glass window behind the high altar was dismantled and packed away. The pulpit was encased in a shell of brick. When the Nazi’s were fleeing at the end of the war an order was given to destroy the church upon leaving. Gratefully, the order was ignored, but the church did catch fire during Allied bombings and the wooden roof collapsed on the stone vaults of the ceiling. After the war each region of Austria contributed to the rebuilding of St Stephen’s, replacing the bell, the entrance portal, the windows, the pews and the floor. Today there is scaffolding where they are continuing to restore. Leaving the church I want to get off the main drag and away from the crowds. We find Dorotheergasse and a small grouping of tables outside Reinthaler’s Beisl where we sit and taste our first gulasch meal and apfelstrudel for dessert. The street is quiet and it is nice to sit and watch the world go by. We’ll stop here for now, but return soon to continue our walk. Enjoy!