Contiki European Vista Day 16: Bittersweet Symphonies
May 17, 2014 Another amazing breakfast this morning at the Comfort Hotel Munich Ost. I’ve gotta say, Eastern Europe definitely knows where it’s at when it comes to breakfast. Bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits…the works.
After breakfast, we hit the road. Today we would cross back into Austria to visit the country’s heart: Vienna. The views along the way were gorgeous as usual, but the weather was pretty crummy.
My absolute favorite thing about the bus rides through Austria were the rest stops. Oh…my…God. Each had counters and counters of some amazing looking food. Salad bars, breakfast bars, dessert bars, juice bars, seafood bars…these rest stops definitely do not deserve their name. I had an amazing salmon and veggie dish on the way to Hopfgarten at our first stop at one of these. On this day, I wanted to eat lighter, so I got a breakfast pastry and a fresh-squeezed orange/peach/mango juice blend. So good.
The dessert bar at this Austrian “rest stop.”
After this rest stop, we made our way into Vienna. Jon Snow and Kev pulled over at Schönbrunn Palace to give us a chance to stretch our legs and explore this beautiful former summer home to the royals.
After the palace, it was time for schnapps. Because of course it was.
Kev drove us to the Alt-Wiener-Schnapsmuseum, where we were given a brief history of the heritage of schnapps in Vienna, as well as a quick demonstration on how they’re made. Then we were taken to the tasting room, where they had all types of schnapps for us to try…ranging from creamy, sweet varieties like caramel cream, to Absinthe. After the tasting, I bought two bottles of the cream variety, as well as a bottle of “Vienna Gold,” an orange-flavored liquor with real gold flakes in it. I’m told that this is great to mix with champagne for a special occasion.
Those of us doing the evening activity had about two hours from this point to get as spiffy as possible for our fancy evening in Vienna. We would start with dinner at the Wiener-Rathauskeller, and then head to a concert hall for a classical music concert, featuring compositions by Mozart & Strauss. This optional extra would cost 64€, or $85 USD.
We walked into the Wiener-Rathauskeller and I was immediately impressed. The room where were would be having dinner was ornate and absolutely beautiful…the photo below really does it no justice at all.
Unfortunately, that was where the good stopped. We were served our dinner: Some sort of broth soup with fake, recently-frozen meat floating in it (maybe chicken? maybe veal?), dry chicken schnitzel, and some kind of odd dessert that I can’t even describe to you. I was so looking forward to this meal, and it turned out to be such a big disappointment. I don’t think I even ate half of what was served. The best part was the wine, which was not even that good. Boo.
Pat and I all spiffed up for dinner in Vienna!
After dinner, Kev coached us over to the concert hall, where we were seated for the orchestra show. Once again, the room was absolutely beautiful. It was the kind of ballroom I used to daydream about playing Cinderella in as a kid. I felt like someone should have announced each of us as we walked in, in true royal style. The ballroom was just that fantastic.
Unfortunately, the ballroom was the best part of the orchestra show. Now, I had to admit that I may be reviewing this unfairly, because I’m not a fan of classical music in general, and perhaps if I was, I would have loved this experience. As it was though, I was bored after only a few minutes.
It didn’t help that we had our own Contiki symphony going from the back of the concert hall. Our coughs were so bad by this point, that ten seconds didn’t pass without one of us hacking up a lung. We were trying to stifle them, but we got quite a few dirty looks from the “antique-ees” (Jon Snow’s word for older tour groups) around us. We ended up passing around cough drops like they were candy.
After the show, we had to make a mad-dash to the bus so that Kev could park in time to get his full legal break between now and when we left the next morning, since tour drivers in Europe must “clock in” and “clock out” on a device to ensure that they’re resting enough between drives. We ran through the freezing weather and cold Vienna rain (why did I wear a skirt??) as fast as we could, and finally made it back to the warm bus, and finally, the hotel.
Overall, this night was one of the few “optional extras” that I would not recommend. The food was bad and the concert was boring, though keep in mind, I’m not a classical music fan. I had fun that night, but only because I was spending time with awesome friends. If I could go back, I would have skipped this extra and headed off to explore Vienna on my own that night.