a perfectly serendipitous visit to Vienna

we arrived in Vienna after a long 23 days of travel, having not even intended to go to there at all. we were physically and emotionally exhausted. had no idea what the city had to offer. made no real plans. and ended up disembarking at the wrong train station, across the city from our hotel instead of within walking distance.

let me back up: a few weeks prior, while we were still in Turkey, the Istanbul airport bombing happened. we changed our itinerary to leave from Vienna after visiting Prague. I still have mixed feelings about this, but instead of going back to Istanbul we ended up with two days in Austria before departing for Taiwan. we settled on Vienna completely at random - only because it was the closest airport our airline used.

our time in Vienna turned out to be a very serendipitous thing.

not knowing anything other than "hey there's some museums in this area" Husband picked us out a nice hotel. really nice. with a breakfast spread that rivaled those we ate in Turkey, a quirky atmosphere, and the most awesome entryway wall mural. ever. Hotel Altstadt, you win. I'm trying not to develop an obsession with boutique hotels because they tend to be expensive, but staying in this place was a bit like sleeping in a modern art museum. which was really awesome. and kindof fit right in with the rest of our Vienna visit.

our stay went mostly like this: wander a random museum for a few hours until we get hungry or tired, stop for a glass of wine and some sausages or sachertorte. rinse and repeat.

we ended up seeing such a weird medley of things - just deciding "hey this looks interesting" and popping into a museum to explore. but I got to nerd out over Egyptian sarcophagi and scarab painted ceilings, snap photos of really cool murals, ogle dinosaur bones, and drink many many glasses of delicious wine. I don't think it's coincidence that in German, Vienna is Wien and wine is wein. by the transitive property: you must drink wein when in Wien.

there was actually a lot of synchronicity to what we saw. in some ways, I think it was fate that we ended up in Vienna. while we were in Turkey we visited Ephesus, where a large portion of excavations and restorations were being managed by the Austrians. it was the day after the bombing and I felt like I didn't really absorb much of what we saw. but in Vienna we saw an entire floor of a museum dedicated to Ephesus, and filled with statues removed from the actual site. it was almost like getting to go back for a second visit.

[sadly, the Turkish government shut down Austria's operations in Ephesus last month. this isn't the first time tensions have run high between these countries - at several points in history the Ottomans laid siege to Vienna. let's hope it doesn't come to that again.]

the connection with our time in the Czech Republic was even more obvious. without going too deep into history - Prague and Vienna have many ties through the Hapsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire. both cities spent time as the imperial seat, and while visiting the Imperial Treasury we saw crowns and royal robes from both periods of time [many boasting the Bohemian lion.] architecturally and decoratively the similarities between these cities were easy to spot. I guess that's what happens when you're all under the same rulers for three or four hundred years.

even though we didn't really plan, these coincidences just kept popping up during our time in Vienna. call it serendipity, synchronicity, or fate - it felt like we were closing the circle on our summer travels.

here's the list of recommendations I have for Vienna, based on our limited experience:
Hotel Altstadt // fun, funky, and walking distance to everything we saw and ate
Kunsthistorisches Museum // Egyptian antiquities [my favorite] plus Greeks, Romans, and paintings
The Neue Burg // Ephesos Museum, musical instruments, arms and armour
Natural History Museum // dinosaur bones! and a very impressive geological specimen collection
The Imperial Treasury // all the gold and sparkly things [along with imperial history]
Spanish Riding School // we stopped in the gift shop for Luke's equestrian-loving sisters
Cafe Bellaria // sachertorte and sausages since 1870
Gasthaus Sapa // seriously delicious Vietnamese. in Vienna. [don't question it]
TIAN Bistro // all vegetarian but you won't miss the meat

certain persons might mock me for missing out on all that Vienna has to offer. we didn't explore the city! you can see museums anywhere! not even once did we take public transit! but we did what we liked and it turned out just fine. I can't say I'm mad or disappointed with how we spent our time. especially because we could have missed THIS magical moment:

yes, those are two dudes wearing horse masks while playing accordions.

I think a lot of us travelers can become obsessed [ahem, myself] with planning out the details of our trip. sometimes "wasting your time" by wandering and stopping where things seem interesting is just the pace you need. while I'm still not thrilled about the reason we ended up in Vienna in the first place, it turned out to be the perfect city to spend a few days at the end of our travels.

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now it's your turn! this month I'm co-hosting the Travel Link Up with Emma and Angie and our topic is "a perfect..." you get to decide. just write a post following the prompt below and link up according to the instructions:


Kutná Hora and the Sedlec Ossuary bone chapel

an hour or so drive outside of Prague is a small village named Kutná Hora. and in that village is a World Heritage Site piled high with bones of the dead: the Sedlec Ossuary. this "bone chapel" is one of the more famous places in the Czech Republic - and seemed like perfect material for a blog post just before Halloween, don't you think?

[I may or may not be listening to "Thriller" on repeat to get in the mood while I write this.]

it might seem a bit macabre, with more than 40,000 skeletons located in the chapel. but it all started with religion. once upon a time, someone brought a jar of soil back to Bohemia from the Holy Lands. devout Catholics wanted to be buried in the cemetery containing this soil. a LOT of them. so many that they ran out of land, and had to store most of the bones in the ossuary under the actual chapel.

a few hundred years passed, and someone decided that the bones needed to be organized. they hired a woodcarver to do it, and he got a bit creative with his rearranging. sadly, the gigantic chandelier of bones was removed for restoration while we visited. but there were still some unique features - my favorite being the recreation of the Schwarzenberg coat of arms. on the bottom right is the depiction of a raven "plucking out the eye of a Turk."

gruesome, yes. but given that our two other destinations on the trip were Austria and Turkey it was oddly appropriate in that hey-this-is-all-connected kind of way.

our next stop in Kutná Hora was Saint Barbara's Cathedral. [doesn't it look a bit like the castle from Beauty and the Beast? maybe?] to be honest, I missed a lot of the history our guide relayed because I was too busy staring up at the cieling. but I did also find the treasure chest collection box and the pagan Green Man carved pews quite interesting.

our next stop was lunch. there's a traditional Czech restaurant in the village - the rest of our group seemed to enjoy it but there wasn't much for me and my allergies to eat. there WAS some delicious Moravian wine though...

afterwards, we walked through the village and back to our bus. the weather was beautiful - bright blue skies and cool enough for shorts with a light jacket. seeing as it's currently 93 F in Taiwan I'm just going to pretend that I'm back in Kutná Hora with more October-approproate weather.

[FYI we booked a tour with Sandemans to travel out to Kutná Hora for the day, though you could make the trip yourself with a rental car or some planning. we were just lazy.]

so there's your half-creepy whirlwind tour of Kutná Hora! have you ever visited an ossuary before? I think it would be fun to tour someplace like this around Halloween. do you have any "creepy" plans for the weekend?

linking up for Wanderful Wednesday with: Lauren on Location, Snow in Tromso, What a Wonderful World, and The Sunny Side of This.
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