Brno and Vienna
Brno is a beautiful city in its own right, but the whole day used to be spent at Devconf and we used to be dead-tired by the time we got back. Luckily, some guys from the local office volunteered to drive us around on the last day. Not having much time left, we decided to straight aim for some "touristy" sight seeing :)
This is a beautiful chateau built by the Lichtensteins in the 18th century over an area of about 300 square kilometres. It also has a well maintained park with trails and water bodies.
The castle had a tour of the interior, but that was in Czech! They provided english booklets for non-czech speaking visitors which was somewhat helpful. As you enter the main entrance, you are greeted by the huge chandelier that is hard to miss!
The green area surrounding the castle is huge with its own water bodies as well! We walked the trails for around an hour but still couldn't complete the whole thing. It was windy and chilly as well which made it all the more difficult.
Just outside the front entrance of the chateau is this small old building which I presume is an old church.
The next day, I had a bus ticket to Vienna but I have terrible motion sickness and I thought I should try the train. It was definitely more comfortable, but double the price of the bus ticket. When I reached Vienna, there was bad news. The Snow storm had gotten worse and it looked almost impossible to venture outside. I checked in at the hotel, got some lunch and straight went to sleep. I woke up early evening and the storm was still very bad, I decided to walk around nevertheless. My hotel was in the historic center, so a lot of landmarks were at a walking distance.
This is a triangular public square that has historical significance as early as the 12th century. There's a Deloitte office just to the right of Krauterhaus.
Just a couple of blocks away from the Freyung square is the Austrian Parliament building. The structure at the front is the Pallas Athene Fountain which is a very popular tourist attraction. The building was completed in 1883.
Just beside the Parliament building is the Rathaus or the Town Hall. It's very popular for its christmas market and a skating rink (apart from the structure itself that looks very striking). On top of the parliament building is the Austrian flag, you can actually see the wind blowing the snow around the flag due to the storm :)
Ten minutes away was the Hofburg palace built in the 13th century. Part of the structure is the official residence of the President of Austria. The other part is open to the public, there are even some offices and banks.
It was almost 9:30 pm now and I decided to head back for dinner. Vienna is famous for its cafes that has live music and I decided to try one.
Notice the beautiful architecture of the dome interior. This is the main entrance gate to the Hofburg Palace. The right picture is of Herrengasse, the street on which the hotel was located. It's also home to Cafe Central, the place where I had dinner.
Cafe central was opened in 1876 (you can see that on the front sign if you look closer) and was a popular hang-out place for "famous people" in the 19th century including Adolf Hitler! The food was not that great though :P I had a Viennese soup and Coffee with Almond liqueur. The right is the interior of the cafe. You can see the piano in the centre of the room, it was well after 10 pm, so they had stopped playing music.
The next morning, the weather was much better, so I decided to go to Stadtpark. It's a huge park of about 28 acres!
The park is divided by the Vienna river and there's a walkaway along the river(look at all the snow!) There's also a bridge to cross the river, and there were all kinds of locks on the railings. (I couldn't figure out the reason but it looked beautiful!). There was a woman walking her dog, and I asked her if I could take her picture. Unfortunately, she didn't understand english. I took the picture nevertheless :)
A group of Chinese visitors pass by the statue of Johann Strauss II, an Austrian composer. On the right is the bust of Andreas Zelinka, who was the mayor of Vienna from 1861 to 1868 and was the man behind the idea of building the park.
The playground was empty and was covered in snow, but you could see a few kids playing with the snow just nearby!
Later on, the kids formed a train and headed out of the park :)
I had brunch at the Meierei, a restaurant inside the park by the river. Heading out, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful flower shop and had to take a picture!
The next stop was Carinthian Street, a shopping street popular among tourists. Swarovski has a flagship store here that displays works by popular designers. And ofcourse, you find a Burger King almost everywhere!
On the glass panes of one of the offices on the street, you could see the reflection of St. Stephen's Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna. The interior of the church was grandiose! The church is also popular for the catacombs in its basement. Presumably, it's an honor to be buried underneath a church. This place was used as a burial ground till the 17th century, and you could tour the catacombs and look at the preserved human remains of famous personalities; bones and skeletons in sections that used to be graveyards. It was creepy and fascinating at the same time! Unfortunately, photography was not allowed :(
The church had two towers - North and South. The south had around 340 steps and the North had an elevator open to visitors for a fee. I opted for the latter :) The picture to the left is the view of the city from the top. You could also see the south tower to the left which is actually higher. The picture to the right is the Church of the Virgin Mary of Snow as seen from the North Tower.
This is Michaelertrakt which actually is a majestic gate to Michaelerplatz, a town square. There were horse carriages here for rent, to give a tour of the historic centre.
There are so many museums in Vienna that you need atleast a week to cover them all, not to mention, all of them are equally good. I just randomly picked the "Museum of Fine Arts" which itself was too big to cover in a day, let alone a few hours. The middle picture is a drinking vessel from the 15th century. The one to the right is an ancient Viennese astronomical clock.
They had a "Far East" section where I took the picture of this unknown mummy. They also had a "Roman" section which housed the busts of famous Roman children (12th century approximately)
Next, I headed off to Naschmarkt. It's 1.5 kilometers long and is Vienna's most popular market. But by the time I was there, it was too late and the street looked deserted.
The only places open were the numerous Asian restaurants. They had interesting displays in glass cases.
Vienna is famous for its operas, but it was hard to get a reservation on short notice. Alternatively, there were the Jazz clubs that are quite popular too. I went to one, where coincidentally, one of my favorite singer was performing. It was fun!
The trip was over and it was time to catch my flight back to Boston. This is an obligatory shot of the international airport in Vienna :P