The weather here in Vienna has not been the greatest – cold and snowy most of the time. It was enough to keep me mostly inside for awhile. But on Friday, I decided that I had to get out and about, despite the cold. I layered up and ventured out. I did have some errand type things to do – had to exchange some money and I wanted to find the location of the Expat Center, so I knew where to go on Monday. (The Expat Center will hopefully help me figure out what kind of options I have as far as what kind of visa I can get to stay here longer than the allowable three months, but they close at noon on Fridays. It’ll be my first stop on Monday.)
I didn’t want to take the UBahn (subway) and decided that this would be an ALL walking trip. From where my apartment is in the 2nd district, it’s about a ten minute walk to the 1st district, which is the city center. My first stop was going to be to change some money, but after that, I was just going to explore! If you read my blog when I was here last year, you might remember that Kärntnerstraβe is a big pedestrian street with tons of stores and various shops. It starts at Stephansdom (the cathedral) and runs all the way down to the opera house.
Also starting at Stephandsom is the Graben, which is another pedestrian thoroughfare that runs perpendicular to Kärntnerstraβe.
Since it was super cold out, I decided to just browse the different stores, going into various locations to see what they had. There are certain chain stores that are all over the place here. One of which is Douglas, a cosmetics chain. H&M is really big here too. Both of these retailers have several locations just in this small area alone. Clothing here in Europe is expensive, but if I had to buy something somewhere, it would be at H&M, as the prices are actually reasonable.
What I also like is that these modern stores are worked into the skeletons of these old buildings, and some actually retain elements of the original old fashioned charm. For example, here’s the staircase in the middlle of the H&M on the Graben.
(I wanted to get a better shot of the stairs, but I only had a moment to quick get a photo while there weren’t people in the shot.)
After browsing the stores, I walked further out from the center of the 1st district. Here are some pics from along the way…
I made my way over to the area of the Rathaus (city hall), and saw the skating rink area. Now, when my landlady had told me about being able to skate there last year, I just imagined a regular ol’ skating rink area. WRONG! Holy cow, I am so going to come and skate! Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve skated, but growing up, we skated all the time on the pond. So I’m sure I’ll look like an idiot for a little bit until I find my footing again. But fortunately, it’s one of those things that when you learn young, you never forget.
The whole event/set-up is called the Wiener Eistraum (literal translation: Vienna Ice Dream). They have a big area set up with two skating rinks, AND a cool path that twists around the whole area next to it – that you skate through! My inner child was freaking out at the awesome-ness of it – especially the long cool twisty skating path! There are also several vendor stands set up all along the section between the two larger rinks, opposite a long stretch of lockers. Like most vendor situations at events, everything was way over-priced. But I’ve decided this will be a little splurge of mine this week. It’s costs 6,50 Euro to skate and another 6,50 Euro to rent skates. (I didn’t exactly pack my ice skates when I flew over here, so I’ll have to rent some.) But I have to do this at least once!
Here are some pics from the area:
Along the far end of the Eistraum area…
After leaving the Eistraum, I did find the Expat Center. Then I continued my walk to the Volksgarten, cut through the area in the palace and walked back to the Kärntnerstraβe.
This horsie was so cute! He kept bowing his head to me and lifting his foot the way a dog does when it wants to shake your hand….
I wanted to stay out longer, but by this time, I was really cold and uncomfortable – I’d been out walking for over two and a half hours. I quick went into a candy store to get some liquor-filled chocolates to take with me to Croatia next week, and then I walked back home.
Later in the afternoon, I went back into the old city to meet with the opera coach I’ve worked with several times at the Staatsoper. We met at the Starbucks across from the opera house, and I picked her brain a bit as far as being an American in Austria and what her specific situation had been like. She gave me some helpful info, and afterwards, I headed back, via the UBahn, and called it a night.