I’ve just arrived in Bratislava after a couple of nights in Vienna. I don’t recall if I’ve been to Vienna before or not (if I have, I was too young to take notice), but I was utterly awestruck when I first arrived.
I met a Viennese guy in Prague who suggested I go. Naturally I assumed his opinion was somewhat bias, however, he explained a few things which seemed interesting. For example, he spoke about how the government supports art quite strongly and how half of it’s area is green space. This seemed worthwhile checking out, it’s on the way to Bratislava and I could get a mega cheap but awesome bus there courtesy of Student Agency.
I’ve never really know what Austria is about. The French cook, Germans build things, Italians love, Swiss bank… but what about the Austrians? After seeing Vienna, I understand a little bit more.
Vienna is simply exquisite. It’s no doubt one of most beautiful cities in the world, but it’s also much more than that. It feels special when you’re there. It’s a difficult thing to describe, and I’ve been thinking for the last couple of days about how to put it into words… but I still may not do it justice.
The first thing that struck me was the buildings. I’d Googled the Hofburg so I knew that there was one huge palace that was worth seeing. However, when I popped out of the underground near it, I was faced with giant sandstone palace-like buildings all around me. I found out later that I was standing in Museum Quarter – behind the National Museum of History. I was pretty impressed, but was heading to a bar to meet a few folks, so didn’t walk around much.
I spent the next day walking around the city, finishing at the Belvedere Palace. The whole city is littered with buildings that could be mistaken for royal residences. They’re museums, theatres, banks, even houses and shops, and in some cases, actual palaces. In the middle of the city stands the magnificent St Stephen’s Cathedral. I nearly didn’t bother going in, but I’m certainly glad I did given the view of the inside!
However, alongside the magnificent architecture, what really struck me that day was they way the city felt. It felt luxurious, elegant, relaxed, warm, friendly and content, all at the same time. It’s evidently wealthy, but not flashy or ostentatious. Everyone looked healthy, well dressed, relaxed and happy with life. No one seemed like they were in a hurry or stressed. Now, maybe that was because it was a sunny Friday afternoon, or maybe it’s part of the culture.
When I got home that night, I didn’t have a bottle of water, so Googled how safe the tap water is to drink. That’s when I learned that Vienna’s water system is fed by natural spring water. People drink, shower and flush their toilets with alpine spring water! When I read that, it kind of summed up life in Vienna for me.
It’s only since I started writing this post that I’ve read that it’s been repeatedly voted the best city in the world to live in. What I find interesting is that I felt that from almost the minute I arrived. From spending a few hours walking around, I could see that there was something special about the place in the people living there.