The German spelling of Vienna is:
Wien (on all the road signs). The Hungarian road signs had: Bécs-Wien.
We arrived in Vienna about 2 p.m. on Sunday, 16 December 2001. Immediately it started to snow. After checking into the Hilton Hotel, most of our group walked to the theater (Wiener Konzerthous) to see a musical Bolschoi Don Kosahen - it was a great show with male choir, musicians, and dancers. We made the reservations, using our tour guide's cellular phone while on the bus from Budapest. After the show there was still some light snow falling. It looked beautiful as we walked through Stadtpark back to our hotel.
The next morning there was a tour of Vienna. Some facts from our local guide: Vienna population is 1.6 million, Austria population is 8 million, Catholic 78%, English is mandatory in school with about 50% of population speaking English. The tallest building in Austria was pointed out to us as we crossed the Danube River. We stopped by the Hundertwasser House to see some interesting architecture and the famous "flower toilet" just for the tourists.
Our first stop on the tour was Belvedere Palace (most capital cities on this tour had a palace by this name). Then on to the Hofburg Palace. The palace grounds consisted of many buildings. Included was the Spanish Riding School with the famous Lipizaaner horses. We were able to look into the exercise rink.
The bus drove around the central city so we could get some sense of direction. I took some pictures from the bus window of a magnificent church - name unknown. We were then off on our own after being dropped off by St. Stephan's Cathedral (14th century). We then wanted to take the subway to the Naschmarkt - an outdoor food market that is over 100 years old. We did buy some great freshly baked bread loafs for around 25 cents each. That evening we all went to the famous Figlmüllers' Restaurant to have the largest schnitzel I have ever seen or eaten. It covered a large dinner plate and the edges were still drooping over the sides of the plate. It was definitely an experience.
The next day Kirsten and another lady went on the tram around the Ringstrasse to see the sites. When she returned we were off on the Metro to the UN buildings on the other side of the Danube River, passing by the Giant Ferris Wheel. We also stopped in the local shopping center. We were back on the Metro to the Schloss Schönbrunn. It was the Hapsburg Dynasty palace and a must see if anyone is going to Vienna. We enjoyed the Christmas market on the palace grounds. That evening we returned to the Rathaus on the Ringstrasse for the famous Advent in Vienna (Wiener Adventzauber) and Chriskindlmarkt. The Votive Church was only one block from the Rathaus.
The next day, Wednesday, we found our way to Notre Dame Kindergarten for a marionette show. Our local guide from the first day made reservations for us. About 120 children attended plus about 8 of our group. The usual performances on Friday and Saturday were sold out, so we went to the school. The play was about the birth of Christ.
That evening we had a wonderful dinner in the Vienna Woods with roaming musicians and the kitchen staff coming to talk with us. It was a great experience.
Return Home: Then the next day, 20 December, we fly to Heathrow Airport then on to Philadelphia. We stayed overnight at the local Marriott Hotel and flew home to Tucson the next day. We were glad to be back to warm weather and blue skies in time for Christmas in Arizona.