1 January 2016 – waking up to a snowy New Year in Vienna!
After fireworks going off all night (including just before 7am), the kids slept until almost 7.45am. Not ideal after a late New Years Eve, but somewhat of a miracle giving the large booming sounds that went on all night. We woke up to an Astrid bouncing about yelling about snow – ‘Mum, there is snow outside, snow!’ Snow had been forecast overnight and there was a good cover of the white stuff on the ground. Two excited little kids were peaking out the windows, and raring to get out into it.
We scrounged up some breaky supplies and convinced the kids to eat at least a small amount before we let them outside in the snow. It had been a long three weeks of travel, without yet experiencing the promised snow. We thought we’d have snow pretty much everywhere we went, but unprecedented warm weather had meant it had snowed everywhere after we left, usually the day after we left, or that afternoon, just to be really cruel! We eventually got the kids organised and took them out for a play in the street. We were definitely looking like tourists, making snow balls, and being excited about some annoying and slippery white stuff on the ground …..while the locals trudged out looking annoyed at having to shovel it off their cars.
The kids thought snowball making was pretty much the best new year’s present ever (and it made up for the lack of Christmas snow). We did have to eventually drag them back inside and get ready for the days planned activities.
Since it was rather chilly and there was a reasonable cover of snow on the ground we decided to leave the kids in their snow-suits (much to their delight). We headed out via the trains we had figured out the night before (and the much easier and quicker route) into Opera station, from our apartment out near Shoenbrunn Palace. Our plan was to walk around the ring road and check out the beautiful Vienna buildings.
There was not as much snow on the ground in the city, but as we were walking it started gently falling from the sky, cue massive excitement from the kids. Then there were lots of big flurries and we were having snow sticking to our coats and hats and hair. The kids were beyond excited and weren’t the least bit worried about it being cold and slightly miserable.
Once we got to the Hofburg palace complex and the snow was getting quite heavy. It had covered some concrete areas in a lovely icy layer that turned them into an ice skating rink, so we decided not to walk on some areas, for fear of broken limbs. The large flurries from the sky meant it was hard to take photos, and I had to crack out the rain/snow bag I had bought for my camera (which made it even more difficult to take photos but did stop my camera getting trashed). On the upside the snow was starting to settle on the ground and the frozen ponds were very pretty.
As we were getting a little cold and the snow was quite heavy, and a little irritating (yes were excited to have snow but were now wishing it would stop for a bit), we headed into The Imperial Butterfly House to warm up. As it was so hot in there we had to strip their snow-suits (and all our coats) off. It also meant we couldn’t take photos for the first 15 minutes as the cameras fogged up.
The kids liked the warm but weren’t sure about butterflies landing on them. Naturally they only landed on us or the kids when the cameras were fogged so I got no photos! There were actually a few varieties of butterfly but the spotty brown ones were the only ones willing to have their photo taken. There were a variety of tropical plants to look at and a waterfall. Not the best butterfly house we’ve ever been to, but a nice break from the cold and fun for the kids.
After hiding out in the butterfly house for long enough to see every butterfly twice, we headed out of the warm and back to snow. We walked around the large Hofburg complex some more, but decided not to go into palace. We did admire the vast numbers of large and ornate statues on display. There was nothing subtle about most of them.
Much to the kids utter delight, the area around the palace was horse and carriage central. I think we saw no less than 20 carriages go past us in under 5 minutes. We were hoping to let kids have a carriage ride in the snow, at some point, during the holiday. Of course, we stupidly thought we’d get plenty more snowy days and opportunities to undertake this rather expensive tourist trap of an activity, so didn’t bother with it that day.
We then discovered the stables for the Spanish Riding School. You could walk through and see all the lovely white horses poking their heads out. We would have taken the kids to a performance but Soren was under the age limit and we didn’t want tantrums if he missed out (since he loves horses) so it is on the agenda if we ever return to Vienna.
On the hunt for a possible lunch location we found some Roman Ruins outside the Palace and yet more horses. There were also a large number of beautiful buildings and it was getting hard to tell which building was which.
Our hunt for a lunch location took us back through the Palace courtyard, some pretty streets and through some very swish looking arcades, which Astrid had to pose and dance her way through.
Amongst the very posh (and somewhat expensive cafes in the area) we found an Austrian cafe that looked interesting. We had a very efficient, if bossy waitress, who constantly waved at us and told us she ‘would go and fix something for us’. Lunch was, of course, schnitzel for the boys with a side of potato salad. The kids were more than happy to share in the schnitzel, although they shared mine and Anto’s hot chocolates rather than the beer. I was provided with a vegetarian salad and spaetzel (the German/Austrian dumplings with a cheese sauce). It was what the waitress had ‘informed’ me I was having, after her discussion with the chef.
During lunch Soren was acting like a rather tired toddler. We were hoping some walking around post-lunch would send him to sleep in the ergo. Anto wasn’t feeling the best so had decided he would head back to the apartment for a rest, and the remainder of the group would spend the afternoon continuing our wander around the ring road. So many beautiful buildings and statues, it was hard to know where to look.
We happened past one of the new year markets near the Rathaus, which again was a rather impressive building. Lots of people selling food, warm drinks and big screens to watch orchestras for the ‘recovery’ concerts.
As we dragged ourselves away from the delicious smells of the markets, we did walk past some gardens with a thermometer showing it was still zero degrees. The apparent temperature was even lower so it definitely felt like a Winter’s day!
We continued our walk and found the Parliament building (and its many statues) not far from the Rathaus. With so many impressive buildings around, all with ornate mouldings and statues it was hard to tell which building was which.
We ended up back around the front of the Hofburg Palace complex, which looked entirely different to what we had seen that morning. There were several museums, a library and even some apartments in the area. It was rather hard to tell what was an ‘important building’ and was just a regular old building. We did a lot of ‘oh look that must be something important’ then consulted the sign or google to find out it was a library building or someone’s residence!
By 3pm Astrid was pretty tired and asked to be carried in the ergo, we’d covered a fair few kilometres on foot so figured it was fair enough. Soren was still asleep after 1.5 hours, so had obviously been tired after a big schnitzel lunch! With a bit more walking we looped back to where we had started the day, the Opera building. The again had the screens showing the concerts of the day, and quite a lot of well-dressed people selling opera tickets for the many performances over the new year period.
With a now awake Soren in the ergo and a fast asleep Astrid in the other ergo, we walked back to Stephansplatz to check out St Stephan’s in daylight (we’d seen it all lit up the previous night for the NYE festivities). We had a quick look inside, a very impressive Cathedral again. We swear that Astrid did not want to see the building as every time we went near it she fell asleep.
Stephansplatz and the city area were packed with people, out enjoying their New Years Day. We did see all the stages, concert areas, and TV broadcasting gear used the night before being packed up.
About 4pm, and all weary from a big day of walking in the cold, we headed back to apartment, via train, to meet up with Anto and let kids have a rest. Note, a ‘rest’ not actually sleeping, just us sitting down for a bit while they ran rampant around the apartment..
By 5.30pm we decided we were hungry and we head out for dinner. We found a traditional Austrian eating house not too far from our apartment. It had the usual smoking and non-smoking rooms, but annoyingly we had to go through the smoke-filled chamber to get to the back non-smoking areas. Our poor German ends up in a weird drink order, and the kids get sparkling water, which they love and Soren then chants about ‘bubbles, bubbles’ for the entire meal. I also didn’t end up with the wine I thought I ordered but it was both good and cheap, so it worked out for the best. Mikl and Alan had their usual beers.
I ordered some vegies with fried egg, which didn’t sound that exciting but was delicious (and as a bonus contained actual vegies). Alan had a pork fillet with rice in pepper sauce. Mikl decided to try the boiled beef with baked potato and apple and horseradish sauce, a Viennese speciality that was appearing on lots of menus. His conclusion was that it tasted like boiled beef, and did not need to be ordered ever again. Anto had the roast pork with sauerkraut and a dumpling, which was vastly better than the boiled beef.
We happened to stop past a still open cake shop on way back to our apartment and picked up some dessert. The lady in the stored apologised for her ‘catastrophic English’ which was still considerably better than our appalling German. Turning on the cute, the kids scored free biscuits.
Statistics for the 1st of January 2016 in Vienna, Austria – the minimum temperature for the day was minus 5 degrees, and the maximum temperature was 1 whole degree. The mean was minus 2, and felt even colder! Not the kind of weather we get in Australia on the first day of the year. The total walking for the day was 13.75km. A good way to warm up in the cold! The forecast for the next day was again looking chilly, and we were hoping for more snow as we explored the Shoenbrunn zoo, palace and gardens.