Vienna By Day and Night with Emerald Waterways
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star sailed into Vienna this morning, marking our arrival to our third city and our third capital, not to mention our third UNESCO World Heritage Site on this trip.
After breakfast, I began my day like I have every other morning: with a trip up to the Horizon Lounge for a Café Latte. The automated coffee machine onboard Emerald Star is nothing short of space-age; it makes six different kinds of drinks in three different cup sizes, caffeinated or decaffeinated, and it prepares them as well as any barista. This is no coin-operated syrup dispenser; this thing is the real deal, and more than one person I’ve met has admitted to having a bit of a love affair with the machine’s rejuvenating beverages.
Today, Emerald Waterways included a Panoramic City Tour of Vienna, utilising four busses. Running from 0830 until 1230, it is part bus tour of Vienna’s historic Ringstrasse (ring road) that encircles the city, part walking tour, and part free time.
Because the Danube doesn’t flow through the core of Vienna, ships must dock approximately 20-30 minutes outside of town, and guests must be bussed to and from the city. Because most guests opted to take the tour this morning, there were no shuttle busses available to take independent guests into town, though the afternoon had no less than four departure times from the ship into Vienna.
Since I’ve been to Vienna previously, I was eager to do my own thing today – and our docking location made that remarkably easy to do by taking the metro, or U-Bahn. I talked to our Cruise Director, Daniela, to get the information on the exact location of the station and what line I should take, and she assured me it was super-easy – and it was indeed!
If you’re curious on how you can accomplish this, allow me to walk you through it:
From our docking location near St. Francis of Assisi Church, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Vorgartenstrasse U-Bahn station (which will be listed as Vorgartenstraße on maps due to the special character in place of the double ‘s’). All U-Bahn stations are marked with a blue square with a ‘U’ character, making them easy to find on maps and in person.
To get to Stephansplatz in the heart of Vienna, take the U1 line bound for Reumannplatz and get off after the fourth stop, not counting Vorgartenstrasse where you boarded. Announcements can be hard to hear, but most trains have digital displays announcing the next station. Alternately, you can get off one stop earlier at Schwedenplatz and be right on the Ringstrasse next to the Altes Rathaus, one of the oldest buildings in Vienna.
Total time from boarding the U-Bahn to getting off: perhaps 10 minutes, at most. Total cost: just €2.20 for a single trip. Ticket machines are marked in red, and their text can be changed to English using a button located on the lower left corner of the screen. Purchase the number of tickets you require and, if you plan to use them immediately, have the machine validate them. Otherwise, validate your ticket using the small red boxes just prior to entering the track area.
Vienna’s traffic is legendary, and the U-Bahn subway is far faster than the bus. If you want to get in and get going – and feel like a local doing it – I highly recommend the subway as your mode of transportation for increased flexibility.
From Stephansplatz – in the shadow of the imposing (and still under extensive restoration work) St. Stephan’s Cathedral, I made a beeline for Café Central, one of my favorite Viennese hangouts. Apparently it was a favorite hangout for many noteworthy characters from history, including Sigmund Freud, Leo Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and – eerily – Adolf Hitler, all of whom actually were patrons of the Café a century ago. The Café on Herrengasse 14 just a few blocks from the Hofburg Palace was so badly damaged after the Second World War that it did not re-open until 1982.
I am a creature of habit, so I ordered my Wiener Melange and a cup of plain yogurt that has become my go-to dish for a little light, late breakfast. Wiener Melange is literally coffee with steamed milk, but it sounds a lot more elegant. Wiener, of course, is derived from Wien – which is how “Vienna” is referred to in German.
Service is a bit uppity, but you can’t be deterred – this is, after all, Vienna. People here are nice; they’re just not outgoingly nice. However, a few words of German and a genuine smile will go a long way – as will a lot of patience. Show the people you interact with that you know and love the Wien they inhabit, and you won’t go wrong.
Afterwards, I finally got to do something I have wanted to do each time I’ve visited this fantastic city: visit the Sigmund Freud Museum on Bergasse 19, just a few blocks northeast of the University of Vienna.
If you’re looking to see Freud’s famous therapy couch, you’re out of luck: it’s on exhibit in London. In fact, most of Freud’s personal belongings ended up in London when he fled Austria and his Bergasse practice in 1938. He left quickly, but not so quickly that he couldn’t properly pack. A top-hat and a coat-hanger are some of the few things still in Vienna, along with a few pieces of furniture.
Still, the museum is well worth €9 admission just to briefly inhabit the same space where Freud practiced for 47 years, and where he came up with his theories on psychoanalytical thought. My visit was also surprisingly well-timed, as the museum was running a special exhibition on Freud’s love of travel. I don’t know much about psychoanalysis, but I do know about travel!
Initially, Freud feared travel. This was perhaps not surprising given the safety standard of the time in which he lived, particularly as it concerned rail travel. But Freud overcame his fears of travel and ended up visiting an extensive number of places for the time, including trips to the Mediterranean, Greece, Northern Europe, and even the United States.
Freud’s last trip was an unhappy one: he was forced to flee to England, via Paris, in 1938, to escape the Nazi Anschluss – or takeover of Austria – that had occurred in March of that year. A photograph shows Freud emerging from a taxi in London at the Hotel Esplanade after his arrival in England. He is hunched over and clasps his hands behind his back as he walks slowly forward. Within a year, Freud would be dead.
Fortunately, Freud’s work – and his residence in Vienna – lives on to this day, for all to see and learn about.
After my trip down the rabbit hole that is the psyche, I indulged my passion for good local food and beer with a trip to a café on Währingerstrasse 6-8 called Café Stein, almost literally across the street from the Votivkirche, a church constructed in 1879 at the request of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who wanted to honour Emperor Franz Joseph after an attempted assassination in 1853.
I didn’t have any real plans to stop there, but ducked in just minutes after Noon because their outdoor patio looked so inviting. I had a dark Dunkel-style beer brewed right in Vienna, along with a Club Sandwich made of grilled chicken, tomatoes, and lettuce and accompanied with French fries and ketchup. Absolutely delicious lunch; perhaps not as inexpensive as yesterday’s, but at €14 all-in, not bad either. I know it’s hard to pass up the delicious food onboard Emerald Star, but I really feel like eating at least the odd lunch locally really enhances your river cruise experience.
After lunch, the remainder of my afternoon was simply spent wandering the beautiful city of Vienna. This is one place that I just cannot get enough of. A few photos from my wandering:
This evening, I went with some fellow guests to enjoy an evening out in Vienna, dining as the locals do. We ate Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and even deep-fried emmenthaler cheese. It was a fabulous way to spend our last few hours in Vienna before returning to the beautiful Emerald Star.
Although I didn’t dine onboard ship tonight, I have to point out something another guest told me, and said I could print here. He is gluten-intolerant, and he had nothing but fabulous things to say about the staff onboard the Emerald Star, and how well they looked after his dietary needs. He stated that he and his wife had even brought a loaf of gluten-free bread from home to eat onboard – just in case – but they haven’t even needed to open the package. I think that speaks highly of how seriously Emerald takes dietary requirements, and certainly for this guest, that peace of mind has really enhanced his enjoyment of this cruise.
Finally, I want to close today’s report with a quote from Sigmund Freud, who wrote the following about travel:
“It seemed to me beyond the realms of possibility that I should travel so far – that I should ‘go such a long way’.’
Of course, places are only ‘such a long way’ until you’ve been there. Then, you hold them in your closest memories.
Emerald Waterways, Budapest to Nuremberg
|Saturday, July 12, 2014||Budapest, Hungary||Embark Emerald Waterways' Emerald Star in Budapest; Welcome Aboard Dinner|
|Sunday, July 13||Budapest, Hungary||Guided tour of Budapest including Fisherman's Bastion and Castle Hill|
|Monday, July 14||Bratislava, Slovakia||Old Town walking tour; EmeraldPlus excursion for tea with a local Slovakian family|
|Tuesday, July 15||Vienna, Austria||Panoramic "Ringstrasse" tour of Vienna; free time and optional Schonbrunn Palace Tour and Viennese concert.|
|Wednesday, July 16||Vienna / Durnstein / Melk, Austria||Guided tour of Melk Abbey; guided tour of Durnstein|
|Thursday, July 17||Linz, Austria / Passau, Germany||Walking tours & free time in Linz and Passau; Optional full-day tour to Salzburg, Austria|
|Friday, July 18||Regensburg / Weltenburg, Germany||Guided tours of Regensburg & Weltenburg Abbey; optional traditional Bavarian entertainment excursion|
|Saturday, July 19||Nuremberg, Germany||Disembark & onward journey home.|