Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vienna and Venice

 Stephansdom in Vienna: weird light effects, but it sure does look cool

So, apparently free Wifi doesn’t exist in Italy. Here in Venice, the only place there is free Wifi is, you guessed it, McDonald’s! I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever been to McDonald’s, but right now I find myself here for the third day in a row (luckily you don’t have to order anything to use it—it really is free!).
St. Mark's in Venice

A lot has happened since I last posted: two cities and another one tomorrow! We arrived in Vienna last Tuesday. We all stayed in that night after an epic bar crawl on our last night in Prague (details withheld on purpose). The next day we did a bit of exploring of Vienna and I was immediately in love. It’s such a beautiful city, and it definitely felt the most “European” of any of the cities we’d visited. Of course, now we’re in the western European portion of our trip after visiting Hungary and the Czech Republic, so that probably has something to do with it.
St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna: the central altar

Much of our activity in Vienna was in the center of the city, around the Ringstrasse, a circular street that encloses the heart of the city. There, we took in the architecture of the city, which is extremely diverse. Gothic, baroque, neoclassical, and modernism are all represented. It really is a cool and diverse city.

My favorite place in Vienna was the Belvedere, though. The Upper Belvedere is a former summer pleasure palace and now serves as an art museum. The grounds around the palace are the real sight, though. I can’t imagine how beautiful the gardens at Versailles will be now!
Belvedere: the gardens (top) and Upper Belvedere (bottom) 
All around, Vienna is my favorite city of those we’ve visited so far. It’s modern and laid-back, but has tons of places to go and things to see. We were staying in a quieter part of ton outside of the city center and one night ventured just a few blocks away to a local bar where the drinks were good and cheap and talked for hours, one of the few patrons there.

Of course, the entire past few months I’ve been eagerly anticipating Italy (oh, Italy!). Had I done any more research prior to this trip I probably would have been less surprised at the type of city Venice is.

Let me just be straight: Venice is an absolute tourist trap. It’s filled with people. People everywhere, walking, shouting, trying to get you to buy something, anything! Venice is also very expensive. Our hotel is down a sketchy little alleyway and our rooms are one step above from hostels. But it’s Italy! And the less nice the hotel is, the more time you’ll want to spend out in the city exploring.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Yesterday it rained most of the day and I took the opportunity to go out and explore some of the shops and sights. Naturally, I’ve been most interested in the food and pastry shops, one of the few things in this city that actually feels authentic.

I’ve fallen in love with marzipan. It’s not too expensive and I get way more pleasure from a small piece of marzipan than a scoop of gelato (I’ve never really been much of an ice cream person). So marzipan will be my Italian vice. So be it.
The good news is that I’ve been able to walk a lot in Venice (and on the trip in general; it’s really not uncommon for our group leaders to take us far from the hotel and then leave us to our devices to find our way back), where there are literally no cars anywhere. I’m not sure I’d call the city pedestrian-friendly because there are just so many people, but walking over the bridges and seeing the water and canals is a great experience.

I’m not sure I’d call Venice beautiful (it smells here, the water is gross, swarms of people everywhere), but when you look up, it really is nice. The stucco is rainbow-colored and the flower boxes are always full and blooming. And at night? At night, Venice is truly lovely.
Tomorrow we head to Florence, a city I’m extra excited for. Unfortunately we’ve got our midterms on Friday, but I’m not going to let that spoil the experience. I may need a few glasses of wine shots of espresso to stay up!
Villa Rotunda in Vicenza

Venice by night


  1. Yay! Love hearing your stories - can't wait until we can Skype and I can hear more! My favorite gardens on the whole trip were the ones in Florence - I forget where we went - but it was absolutely incredible! They definitely beat Versailles! xo

  2. i'm sitting at my desk wishing i could spend 6 months in france

  3. so great to hear from you...again, such gorgeous photos! hope florence doesn't disappoint (I had no desire to visit venice anyway!)