Travel - Vienna, Austria

As part of a trip organised by my university, a few weeks ago my friend Eleanor and I spent a few days exploring Austria's capital city, Vienna. Vienna is known for being the cultural heart of Austria, and what better time to visit than during the city's annual arts festival Wiener Festwochen. We wanted to explore Vienna's culture, while also enjoying the city's atmosphere.

On our first evening in the city we headed over to Schauspielhaus Wien to catch an electric multimedia performance art piece called MDLSX. The show was in Italian with German subs, but the imagery created by performer Silvia Calderoni, as well as the use of evocative music and intense lighting meant that I could pretty much follow the story which was being told. The piece centred around the life of a hermaphrodite named Cal, and Calderoni combined autobiographical elements with heightened fictitious ones to create a wild, engaging narrative which both shocked and engrossed the audience. Although this was very much not the sort of thing I would ordinarily see, it was a fascinating and inspirational piece nonetheless.

On day two we were up and out pretty early, partly to avoid the heat of midday (which was a lot more intense than I had expected) and partly so that we could make the most of our time in Vienna. We hopped on the subway and headed across town to the Belvedere Palace, home to the largest collection Gustav Klimt oil paintings, including his famous 1908 masterpiece The Kiss. The palace is so huge and full of spectacular artwork, and The Kiss itself is just otherworldly. 
I'm hardly an art expert (my drawings of dogs infamously look more like Brachiosauruses!) but even I could appreciate Klimt's masterful use of colour, and the emotion he was able to enmesh in the faces of  his characters. After marvelling at his artwork, as well as the other paintings displayed in the palace, we decided to move on. Having spent most of the morning inside, what better way to get a sense of Vienna's vastness than to take a ride on Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna's giant ferris wheel. 
I loved the fact that the ferris wheel and pods looked almost exactly as they did when it was first built in 1897, and the views from the top were wonderful! That evening we took time to relax and enjoy the city's chilled out nightlife atmosphere. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian I couldn't enjoy much of the traditional food on offer, but most definitely enjoyed a falafel sandwich purchased from one of the city's many Imbiss stands. When visiting Vienna, head to one of the small street food vending snack bars for a quick and easy meal.

On our third day we headed straight to the Natural History Museum. Honestly, it would've been easy to spend a day just walking around the museum, which seemed to have endless rooms spanning several floors. I was particularly interested in the vast collection of fossils housed at the museum, while the floor dedicated almost entirely to taxidermy was more unnerving than entertaining. Having spent several hours wandering around, we decided to leave and just walk around the city, enjoying the amazing atmosphere and beautiful architecture which makes Vienna such an iconic city. 
That evening we headed over to Volksoper Wien to see Anatevka, the German language translation of the classic musical Fiddler On The Roof. The production was dark and moody, with effective yet simplistic set design, lovely costumes and some brilliant surprises in terms of set pieces. The cast was first rate, with Austrian musical theatre star Gerhard Ernst leading the company as Tevye. Despite being a huge musical theatre fan, and being familiar with the 1971 film soundtrack, I had never seen the musical live before, and so didn't really know what to expect from the stage version. However, I was beguiled! There are so many brilliant and iconic songs to enjoy, and infact I enjoyed them so much that as soon as I got home I downloaded the 2016 Broadway cast album, which I can wholeheartedly recommend! 
Photo credit - Barbara Pálffy
On our final day in Vienna we decided that instead of wondering around aimlessly or spending our last day inside, we would hire a bike and cycle around the city. This was honestly such a brilliant decision as although navigating Vienna's cycle lanes is quite frankly terrifying, once we'd gotten the hang of it we were able to cover so much ground, enjoy the glorious weather and find loads of hidden gems that we'd missed by travelling via the subway for our entire visit. We took a walk around the Vienna Rose Garden before returning our bikes and heading back to the hostel to check out. 
Vienna is honestly one of the most grand, beautiful places I've even visited, and there is just so much to do there. We barely scratched the surface in our 4 day long visit, and I'd definitely consider going back one year to discover more of Vienna's glorious culture.