14 August 2017

Visiting Vienna, Austria

I love Europe. There’s something about its cities and historical monuments and castles that excite me. Which is why, when I insisted to Hubby that our family take a vacation this year during the kids’ summer holidays, the only option I gave him was Europe. After all, Canada was good but the fares were just too much. And Philippines, well, it’s rainy season. Fortunately, he agreed and I set to work looking for packages from different agencies and researching on how to get a Schengen Visa.

The end result: we visited Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Bratislava in 8 days! That’s approximately 48 hours (more or less) in each city/country, so you can bet it was like an Amazing Race ☺

But we managed and we enjoyed. And I’m so thankful our girls didn’t get sick or suffer from exhaustion from all the constant travelling. I won’t share here yet about which travel agency we booked our package from, though; I’ll tell you the details in a separate post because it will probably be a long one.

Anyway, let's start, shall we? ☺

Flight to Slovakia and Train Ride to Austria
We were booked on the Fly Dubai flight to Bratislava on Saturday morning. There were no delays and no turbulence, so we all managed to get some sleep during the 6+ hour flight. The food was Vegetarian Croquettes with potato wedges and green peas, but since they weren’t very appetizing, we ordered sandwiches from their in-flight menu. As for our kids, they happily consumed the homecooked food we brought for them: rice, hotdogs, eggs, and leftover pancakes from breakfast.
Bratislava Airport wasn’t busy when we landed. At all! In fact, the passengers of flight FZ-785 were the only ones passing through the Police counter (for Passport Control/Immigration) and whose luggages were on the carousel that time.
Once we went out of the airport, we took a cab. It’s a good thing we showed the driver our travel documents, because although the paper stated we would be taking a bus to Vienna, he insisted that it was actually a train we would be riding. And of course he was correct.
The train ride took about an hour so we simply sat back and enjoyed the countryside views that we passed by. From the train station in Austria, we took a cab to Hotel Gabriel, where we stayed for the next 2 nights.

Hotel Gabriel, Vienna 
Hotel Gabriel is a 3-star hotel located not too far from the city centre. The room our family stayed in was quite spacious, although the furniture was a bit outdated. Unfortunately, there was no airconditioning, but we were provided a trusty stand fan, and we occasionally opened the windows for some cool air. In the mornings, we ate our breakfast at the garden. It was a fare of pork sausages, cold cuts, cheese, eggs, cereals, breads, yoghurt, hot beverages, and fruit juice. I can’t comment much on the service, but the staff we did encounter were friendly and helpful when we asked for information and directions.
Exploring Vienna 
Since we only had one full day in Vienna and we wanted to see as many of its popular landmarks as possible, we did the practical thing and took the Big Bus Tour. It gave us views of the city, while allowing us to learn interesting historical facts through the pre-recorded commentary.
Places we went down to visit (because just seeing them from the bus and taking pictures from afar was simply not enough) were the Schönbrunn Palace, Austrian Parliament Building, Maria Theresian Platz, and Mozart’s Garden.
We didn't get to go inside, but just by standing at the entrance, we could already hear the music being played in this Opera Toilet
Of course I couldn’t pass the opportunity to sink my teeth into the famous Sachertorte, and where else would we get it but the Café Sacher Wien at the Hotel Sacher.
Fortunately, Caila and Sophie didn’t find the tour boring. They liked seeing and meeting the live statues outside the Schönbrunn Palace, feeding the pigeons with bread, chasing bubbles at the Maria Theresian Platz, and blowing dandelions at Mozart Park.
Leaving Vienna the next day, we went back to Wien Hauptbahnhof for our train ride to Prague. This time it was a 4-hour journey where we all took naps, had a late lunch in the train’s restaurant, and our girls once again enjoyed the views of lush greenery, haystacks, sunflowers, and wind turbines on the way.
At the station in Prague, we were met by the travel agency’s representative who took care of our transportation to the hotel where we would be staying. But our visit in the capital of the Czech Republic is another story which deserves another blog post to watch out for ☺

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