It’s one of my firm convictions that all those 24, 36, 72 hours in this or that city guides are basically the subversive work of the devil trying and very likely succeeding at ruining your holiday, and probably the rest of your life, but that is another, more metaphysical matter, altogether. There is simply no way one can visit all those superb secret bars, Michelin star restaurants, statues of a man on a horse, eleventh wave coffee houses, boutique hotels tucked away in secret passages without becoming a nervous wreck. What if the exquisite bistro with stupendous fish is closed? What if the little craft shop has run out of typical porcelain rabbits? What if I am a slower walker than the general average and I simply won’t make it everywhere? And what if there’s a metro strike? Not to mention the biggest what if- what if everybody else read the same blasted guide and is there already? That’s not even a what if, it’s real, it’s happening and it’s the reason why the blog’s industrious co-photographer did not get to eat his cake in the famed Demel. Because everybody else wanted theirs and they were queuing basically all the way onto the manure smelling doorstep of the Spanish Riding School.
To counterbalance such acts of seemingly well intentioned sabotage, here is a helpful list of things you can’t do in Vienna in eight hours, which happens to be the time between the most practical morning and evening trains from, and to, Budapest. First things first, presently you can’t have breakfast in Cafe Drechsler, which I’d warmly recommended earlier this year, because it seems they are rebuilding their kitchen. Of this we were sadly unaware until we arrived on the spot, but of course Vienna is the last place on Earth where you’ll run out of coffee houses, so we went to Sperl instead, and then dropped in to Phil for some book browsing/shopping- you can’t however go to both and stay for drinks and cakes, because then you’d already waste half of your 8 hours for the day.
You will then face the tough decision of doing some shopping on either the stores of Mariahilferstrasse or at the Naschmarkt. Whichever you chose, it will be wrong, as you will then get to carry whatever you bought for the rest of the day, which given the array of goods on sale at the Naschmarkt will probably include a vintage East German refrigerator, several late 19th Century crystal chandeliers and a collection of dated encyclopedias in Gothic script, all a ridiculous bargain.
Encyclopedias in tow you decide it’s time to check out that most Viennese of phenomena, the crowning jewel of Things Sissi Lived In, Looked At and at Least Temporarily Owned, the Schönbrunn palace. This is an idea that on a glorious October’s day is shared by everyone ever, especially everyone in Japan and Russia, so God forbid you need to go to the toilet. Or worse still, you wish to check out the many rooms in which Things Sissi Looked At are stored. I am positive that most people who entered last Saturday noon are still stuck somewhere at room 76 inspecting a brooch Sissi almost lost while riding her favourite pony. (For a legend related to the Empress’s hairpin, you may or may not wish to brave through the 142 minutes of László Nemes’s recent Sunset.)
To be frank, we actually went for the squirrels, who are usually quite frantic come autumn. Well, there were no squirrels. Or at least no pesky critter wished to be seen and we had to settle for the fleeting glimpse of a furry tail. Suspecting a general squirrel conspiracy we first spent a very pleasant half an hour doing nothing on a bench and admiring the fetching panorama of Vienna and then embarked on the metro where we concluded that what you do get to see a lot these days in Vienna are dirndls worn quite casually around town, which is apparently not a unique phenomenon. Having returned to Karlsplatz we actually succeeded in having a very pleasant meal at the Resselpark Restaurant, probably because it contains enough locals to raise the suspicion that it has not yet been featured in a 36 hours in Vienna guide.
Next up, I didn’t get to visit the Frick bookstore on the Graben because we were running out of time, and then the Demel incident came to pass, so we hesitated between going for a bit of cloudy sturm, which is all the rage right now, and a bit of beer, because in eight hours you obviously can’t do both if you wish to avoid the E.R. We opted for the later and settled for the strategically positioned Bierhof, which besides stirring fond memories of the man with the best hair and headers in world football, Oliver Bierhoff, also seemed like a place where they would have many types of beer. What they had was Ottakringer, fundamentally blonde and dark, plus that very Germanic affair of pouring the two together and pretending it’s a third sort, namely a Gemischt. By the time we finished our beers, it was already time to depart to the station, and we concluded that in spite of not having done much, we still had a glorious time. Sometimes no guide is the best guide.