Arriving in Vienna at 06.30 I was able to access the OBB Railway lounge with my first class pass, so had a comfortable space, tea, coffee, snacks and Wi-Fi while I planned my day.
My hotel was within walking distance of the station and they kindly let me check in at 10.00. It was just a few minutes to the nearest metro station and a 5 minutes ride to Stephansplatz in the heart of the city.
A standard metro ticket cost 2.20 euro and concessions are 1.10 euro, which I assumed applied to me as we’re part of the EU. Just as on a previous visit, Vienna was packed with tourists, mostly large groups of Americans, Chinese and students. Tourists in horse and carriages are all around the centre area, slowing the traffic and creating a distinctly rural aroma – clearly Vienna’s version of a Venetian gondola ride.
I walked north to Schwedenplatz for the best bratwurst hotdog I’d ever tasted and was pleased it was just as good as I remembered (3.50 euro).
I often skip art galleries, unless they’re exceptional, because I find them dull, but Vienna’s Museum of Art Fakes is enthralling. A fabulous antidote to art snobs, providing a genuine insight into what constitutes ‘art’ – if no one can tell it’s a fake, is it as good as the original? The gallery is full of fascinating stories about famous fakers, crooked art dealers and how Michelangelo perpetrating the first recorded art forgery!
Master forger Edgar Mrugalla is documented as producing over 2,500 fakes including many Rembrandts. Diane Grobe, the museum’s co-founder, told me there are forgeries hanging in major galleries and museums around the world but to uncover them might cost the gallery millions – so they don’t always look too closely.
Some fakes can be worth a lot of money and bizarrely there is now a black market trade in fake fakes – that’s the art market for you.
The Vienna crowds drove me away from the tourist hotspots and I took to the back streets but still ended up at Michaelerplatz and strolled through the Hofburg Palace, home of the Habsburg’s, but resisted joining the crowds queuing for the Spanish Riding School and the Royal apartments tour.
I continued on through the Hofburg Palace grounds to the empty Volksgarten, then on to the Rathaus and finally to one of Vienna’s oldest (1876) and most famous cafes – Cafe Central. At the turn of the 20th century Viennese coffee houses became important meeting places for artists, writers and intellectuals, Trotsky and Freud were regular visitors although they play down Hitler’s occasional visits when he was an aspiring painter.
Now it’s tourists that fill the tables instead of artists and intellectuals, but the coffee and cakes are just as marvellous. Uniformed waiters in white shirt, black waistcoat and long white aprons serve guests at marble tables set amongst Romanesque columns, under a gilded and vaulted ceiling, illuminated by dangling wrought iron and glass chandeliers.
Cafe houses are a Viennese institution, echoes of another world, and you are really missing out if you don’t visit at least one.
I spent my evening away from the crowds near my hotel at the ‘Il Mare’ restaurant, I was the only tourist and the food was top notch and good value.
In the absence of a reliable recommendation, I always eat in non-tourist restaurants because there’s no artificial price hike, but even more importantly they rely on repeat local trade. That means their quality has to be good, unlike a tourist restaurant, where it doesn’t matter if you’re unhappy or feel queasy, because you’re unlikely to return anyway.
For more information visit www.austria.info/uk
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 1: London to Warsaw
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 2: Warsaw
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 3: Warsaw to Krakow
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 4: The night train to Vienna
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 6: Vienna to Salzburg
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 7: Salzburg
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 8: Salzburg – Sound of Music tour
• Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 9: Salzburg-Brussels-London