Not only was this my first visit to the city of Vienna, but this was a brand new experience all together, having never been to Europe. Prior to my trip, the fears of international travel were outrageous, and looking back now, – honestly silly! “What if there is an emergency? I can’t even call home because I don’t know the Country code or how to make an international call.” “How will I connect with anyone at all? My iPhone and iPad will be uncharged because I don’t have that funny looking adapter and all the wall outlets in Europe will fry my electronic gadgets.” “How will I buy anything without Euro’s? I only have American money.” “If I get lost, who will help me find my way home since I don’t speak the language?” And best of all, apparently I have watched too many movies because my greatest fear was: “What if I am ‘taken’ and sold into sex slavery? Who will call Liam Neeson to come and get me?”
Thankfully, first and foremost, I am too old to be sold into sex slavery and secondly, my travel companion was not a European virgin, such as myself. When traveling in general, whether it be internationally or just a weekend trip up the coast, I always recommend the buddy system!
1. Austrians Don’t Hate Americans
Being a newbie to the land of Europe, I can’t say that the people of Austria are any friendlier than those in other Countries on this continent, but I will tell you, without-a-doubt, that all the people I met were genuinely friendly and welcoming. One of the first girls I was introduced to, hugged me and nestled my head right into her cleavage. That was a warm welcome that won’t be forgotten!
Every hotel, restaurant, museum, café, and retail shop that I visited, had English speaking employees that were happy to accommodate my need for translation.
2. It’s an Easy City to Navigate
Simply put, the “City Center” is obviously in the center of Vienna and is considered District 1. There is a “Ring Road” that circles this city center, and districts 1-9 surround the Ring Road.
Vienna’s ‘Ring Road’ (Ringstrasse) was constructed in 1857, and circles the city centre. This road sits where there was once brick walls, built to protect the city from invasion. I toured the Ring Road via bicycle on the bike path, which offers amazing views of monumental buildings like Hofburg, the Austrian Parliament, the State Opera House and the Museum of Fine Arts, along with the first public observatory Urania and Vienna University.
For first time travelers to Vienna, you’ll be happy if you find a hotel that is in walking or biking distance to the Ringstrasse (Ring Road), and most accommodations will specify what district they are located in. Stick with District 1-9 for those of you who are traveling without a vehicle.
3. Vienna is a Walking City
Not having to rent a vehicle, saves money and a lot of frustration. Being from New York and always in a hurry, I don’t have time to sit in my vehicle, behind a tourist, while they navigate their map and decide whether they should turn right or left. Well, I never stopped to think how frustrating it is for the person in the drivers seat of that vehicle in front of me, until I became an avid traveler myself.
There is no need to rent a vehicle in Vienna, as the major airport is only a 15-minute cab ride to Vienna’s City Center and most of the notable tourist attractions are located in district 1. A train ride will get you to the Alps mountain range, and many small towns can be toured as a day trip from Vienna and back. For all train schedules, visit www.oebb.at/en/ (this is the English language website). Just remember that “Vienna” is English for the German word “Wien” – I was in town for about 3 days before I figured this out.
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This article has been published in Connextions Magazine, Issue 12.