My only stop in Austria was Vienna. I arrived by train on Friday the 29th of September around 4:00 p.m. Economy lodging is hard to come by in Vienna. I spent my first night in a hotel for $33, then moved to "Believe it or Not" Hostel and stayed in a crowded dorm room for two nights at about $10 a night. I then had to move to Panda Hostel because the somewhat ditzy woman in charge accidentally rented my bed to someone else. I was still sleeping in it at the time.

The hostels were crowded but tolerable and their prices were reasonable, but other prices in Vienna were a shock. While costs were typical for a major city in western Europe, they were much higher than in the Czech Republic. Vienna was also packed with tourists, much more so than any city I'd seen at that time. I had been doing my sight seeing at a leisurely pace; in Vienna I decided to pick up the tempo. There is a lot to see in Vienna, and even when moving quickly it takes a while, about five days in my case.

Here, in two pictures, is the thirteenth century Stephansdom, St Stephen's Cathedral. The third and fourth pictures were taken from the top of the Stephansdom tower, which is accessed by a spiral staircase in which you go round and round and round..... I was so dizzy when I came out I couldn't walk a straight line. No, I hadn't been drinking. The final picture is of the interior.

The next three pictures are of the thirteenth century Hofburg, the Imperial Palace. Inside are museums of musical instruments, Greek artifacts, and the armory. The armory is the largest and most interesting. There is a ridiculous number of pictures of armor, but there was a ridiculous amount of armor. I only photographed a small fraction of the collection. I was amazed at how much the Austrian emperors and their families were willing to spend on such frivolous items. Most of the armor was acquired centuries after it had lost all military utility. This stuff was made when even simple iron objects took a great deal of manual labor and were very expensive. In Austrian/Hungarian Empire and other feudal systems the peasants lived short, hard lives while their rulers had vast wealth to spend on pretty, useless things. This is the system that paid for most of the great monuments, palaces, and art of Europe. Many people thought this was a rational system; it allowed people of discriminating taste to accumulate all available wealth and spend it on high art and wars. After all, if the common people were allowed to keep the money they earned they would spend it on common things. I don't think this was such a great system. I think of this whenever America is criticized for its culture for the masses. That means the masses have enough economic clout to demand art and culture to our own tastes. Good on us.

My only other museum was the Kunthistorisches, the Fine Arts Museum. It mostly has sixteenth and seventeenth century objects and a large collection of Reubens. The art didn't blow me away, but the museum was nice.

The Hofburg has been enlarged many times over the centuries, resulting in a rambling complex of wings. On the back is the Spanish Riding School and the Lippizanner horses. Tickets for the shows are expensive and have to be purchased well in advance. However for about seven dollars you can watch one of their morning practices. I went for the practice, in spite of the long line in the rain. I watched the practice for about an hour waiting for something memorable to happen. All I saw was people in fancy uniforms riding pretty white horses and making them walk funny. While I was leaving I saw that the exit was unlocked, unmarked and unwatched; people were using it to enter and watch the practice without paying or waiting in line in the rain. I'll remember that next time.

Now for some random acts of photography--the City Hall, a temple in a city park (I don't know what temple or why it is there, other than to look cool), excavation of a Roman settlement immediately behind the Hofburg, and buildings and a cathedral I think looked nice but don't know what they are. I was trying to see Vienna in a hurry, I didn't take good notes.

One of the required sights in Vienna is the Schloss Schonbrunn, a 1440 room palace built under Empress Maria Theresa in the eighteenth century. It is an incredible palace, but the tour consisted of fighting my way through mobs of people. It was early October, which is supposed to be after the peak tourist season. Still there were way too many tourists. I wasn't able to take any pictures inside; I don't recall if photos were prohibited or if I just couldn't get a clear view of anything through all the people. After this tour the gardens were a welcome relief.

My last day there I went on a tour of the Vienna Opera House, purchased a cheap standing room ticket, went back to the Hostel and packed, then returned to the opera in time to see the last act of "La Traviotta". I didn't understand a word that was sung and had no clue what was going on on stage. Opera fans will be disappointed with me; I've heard one is supposed to "feel" opera and be terribly impressed. Sorry, it didn't happen. I went to the Vienna Opera just to say I did.

In reading the above I realize I'm giving a negative review of Vienna. That isn't my intent; Vienna is a beautiful city and the few people I met while rushing through my tour were nice. But it is expensive and the crowds of tourists are sometimes overwhelming. My summaries are more positive for places I enjoyed, and I have an easier time enjoying myself when I can afford to travel at a relaxed pace and without fighting crowds. Vienna is worth seeing, but it isn't one of the places I want to return to for an extended stay.

Intro --- Germany --- Poland --- Lithuania --- Russia --- Estonia --- Latvia --- Czech Republic --- Austria --- Slovakia --- Hungary --- Romania --- Bulgaria --- Turkey --- Greece --- Italy --- France --- Belgium --- Netherlands---End