Thursday, May 28, 2009

Waltz into Wien

The Geezer avoids endorsing services and products (except for his own books!), but the situation in Vienna cries out for a recommendation. The historic city describes itself as “the capital that looks like a capital,” and it does. Cathedrals, palaces, theaters, museums, government buildings, and parks were designed and built on a grand scale in the days the city was a center of empire and the arts.

Unfortunately, Viennese prices are equally grand. You can skimp and put you and your spouse, lover, or good friend into a modest hotel room for a night for 150 Euros ($198) or treat yourselves to more upscale lodgings for a mere 400 or so Euros ($529 or so). Be sure parking comes with your room, because spaces are hard to find in the central city and carry a hefty price tag (up to 40 Euros for a long day). Some guidebooks suggest lodging costs are mitigated because tourists can take a walking tour from downtown hotels to the major attractions in a single day. Hogwash. Olympic sprinters might make it, tourists never would.

You can, however, get a good overview of Vienna in one day and cover all the important places in three days, and have a few Euros left in your pocket for several glasses of the acclaimed local wines. Do that, or have coffee or tea if you prefer, because Vienna’s sidewalk cafes are great places to people-watch. Just be a visitor who does not stay. Stay in Baden.

Specifically, stay at Pension Elfy, at No. 11 Karlsgasse ( There, you will find immaculate rooms, some with kitchens, a patio for enjoyable breakfasts in good weather, a lovely garden from which you can clearly see remains of an ancient Roman viaduct, and a fine hostess. Elfriede Pusitz, will load you up with good food at breakfast and lots of information on what to see in central Vienna, which is only about 12 miles away.

Take the train for a few Euros. You will disembark right behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of the tourist attractions. Then, making sure your driver speaks English if you don’t do German, rent a horse-drawn carriage for about 10 Euros per person. That may seem extravagant, but it gets you around to the main attractions efficiently, and you’ll get good insights about what to return to later for detailed explorations. Besides, clattering over cobblestones in a carriage is a lot of fun.

For lunch, do what the locals do. Walk to the flea market and buy bread, pretzels, cheese, sausages, and something to drink from a huge selection. You can feed four people in style for about 12 Euros, less than the cost of one lunch at most Viennese restaurants.

You might want to hang around for a bite of dinner if the mid-day meal has left any space for that, or visit a wine tavern for a sing-along (those haughty Viennese don’t frequent beer taverns). Or, you could return to Baden to dine where Frau Pusitz will assure you of finding plenty of good food at good prices.

Baden, a spa city in Roman times, itself is an interesting place to visit. It provided vacation homes for Austro-Hungarian imperial families and such artists as Johann Strauss and Ludwig von Beethoven, who was inspired to write most of his Ninth Symphony there. Nowadays it serves the same function for wealthy Viennese, but you don’t have to be a wealthy tourist to stay there.

In mid-April, we paid 60 Euros for a first-class double room at Pension Elfy, breakfast, taxes, and good advice included.


Anonymous said...

My, what an attractive couple in the photo!

Dick Klade said...

They would be our son Lee, who was wearing Lederhosen to make himself more attractive, and his fiancee Karen, who is attractive with or without that nice smile.