Awake in Vienna

It’s 5:18 am and I’ve been up since 3. I thought this jetlag had passed, but apparently it hasn’t. Yesterday was a rough day, but out of the three of us, I thought I was the best off. My downfall was napping when Lila and Lance did in the afternoon. Those two hours were the deepest sleep I’ve had since we left home!

Well, we survived our long flight, layover and connecting flight from Frankfurt to Vienna. In some ways it wasn’t so bad, in others it was terrible. Lila was quite well behaved, but struggled to get any sleep.

That was written while I sat on the couch in our Vienna AirBNB rental in the wee hours of the morning. I was interrupted by a sweet Lila Baby who woke up chatting quietly to herself. Because we were both wide awake, we decided to start our day. I’ll continue the rest of what I remember from the flight and our time in Vienna below:

On the flight, there came a point that Lance and I were so exhausted that we naturally started to take turns taking care of Lila while the other lost his or her patience. Thank goodness one of us could keep it together while the other lost it! That always seems to happen with us — I think because the other feels empathy for Lila because she is just a babe; she doesn’t realize she’s being bad. But it’s not just with Lila. Throughout our marriage, when one of us is stressed, the other tends to be calm. It works. Its great.

Anyway, eventually Lila fell asleep in the bassinet (which was AWESOME) that was attached to the wall in front of us a few inches up from eye level as we sat in our chairs. We had to cover the entire bassinet with a blanket so it was dark and she wasn’t distracted, and once we did, she fell almost immediately to sleep. One of the stewardesses passed and was concerned that Lila couldn’t breathe, but we had left several holes for air and checked on her regularly so we told her Lila was fine. I told Lance I’m passed the point of caring that everyone around us is judging us, ha. Lila was so passed out that eventually when the plane was about to land and the stewardesses came by to pick up the bassinet, she stayed dead asleep in Lance’s arms. Total she slept about 3-4 hours. Craziness. It makes me tired just writing about it.

Interestingly, just so I don’t forget, the airlines in Europe had baby seat belts for Lila that attached to either my or Lance’s seat belt. I’ve never been offered one in America, and I wonder why not. It was small and easy to use, and it seemed like something America would usually consider not just optional but law.

Anyway, we made our way through the airport like a bunch of crazies with all of our stuff and no sleep. Lance wore Lila’s carseat wrapped in a blue bag/backpack on his back and pulled our two suitcases behind him. I pushed Lila in her stroller with my backpack on my back. Periodically I’d pull one of the suitcases so Lance could more easily maneuver through the crowds.

We found the right bus and boarded it for a quick 20 minute ride into the city. It was about 8 p.m. We got to our stop and walked in the wrong direction for a bit before finding the street we knew our rental was on. As we were walking, we passed a man who I thought could be Johannas, the rental’s owner. (I recognized him from his photo/profile on AirBNB) He must’ve recognized me too, because he stopped and asked if I was Keri. The fact that we were Americans with huge suitcases and a baby probably helped as well.

The apartment

He led us to the apartment building and showed us around inside. The rental was spacious, clean, comfortable and modern. Johannas included written instructions for all of the appliances as well as a map of the city. He admired Lila, congratulated us on our pregnancy and told us about his new grand baby. He seemed like a great guy.

Once he left, Lance ventured out to find us some food, as we still hadn’t had dinner and it was almost 10 pm. He came back with Greek street food, which we ate in the dark after Lila went to sleep. She had her own room, which was nice, and a nice comfy pack and play. There was a stuffed animal door stopper outside of her room that she adored and played with our entire three day stay.

Which reminds me, another side note, I realized a few days before leaving on our trip that I had booked four nights in Vienna, not realizing one of the nights we’d still be on the plane because we left on Aug. 28 and arrived on Aug. 29. So we paid for 4 and stayed 3. Bummer! Luckily thought it didn’t affect the rest of our rentals (which how terrible would that have been if I had gotten the dates off on each one!!).

The bed in the master wasn’t super comfortable, but it felt so great to lay down, stretch out and finally relax. We both fell asleep quickly, but each night (or should I say morning) would wake up and be restless from about 3 to 6 a.m. I never felt like I fell into a deep sleep while we were there, so it was hard when morning came and I felt like I’d only catnapped all night.

Still, it was a comfortable apartment and a good choice for us. It had one bathroom with a nice shower head that could be lowered short enough for Lila to easily shower. There wasn’t a microwave, which made things difficult to reheat, and though there was a clothes dryer, it took 1.5 hours to dry a small load. So though there were nice amenities, it was an adjustment to adapt to European standards.

We mostly bought groceries and ate at home in Vienna, or would buy a big lunch and reheat its leftovers for dinner. Breakfast included scrambled eggs and bacon, yogurt and pastries. Lunch and dinner were usually sandwiches, pizza or Greek food like giros. I remember waking up each morning starving!

My AirBNB review: “Stay here. This place is a gem! We’re a young American couple with a 2-year-old daughter. We stayed in Vienna for three nights in late August 2017. This apartment is clean, spacious, very comfortable, and well located. The area feels safe at night, and is within a short walking distance of tourist sites, shopping, food and public transportation. Johannes and Johanna are incredible hosts who have thought of everything — they included fans in every room, umbrellas, written directions on how to use the appliances etc. If possible, we would’ve spent our entire 2-week Austria trip here.”

The sights

On our first full day in Vienna, we visited Schloss Schonbrunn in the morning. Our guidebook, The Lonely Planet, says this about the palace museum: “The Habsburgs’ overwhelming opulent summer palace is now a Unesco World Heritage site. Of the palace’s 1441 rooms, 40 are open to the public; the Imperial Tour takes you into 26 of these. Fountains dance in the French-style formal gardens. The gardens harbour the world’s oldest zoo, the Tiergarten, founded in 1752; a 630m-long hedge maze; and the Gloriette, whose roof offers a wonderful view over the palace grounds and beyond.”

We got to the palace by metro, and I remember while walking from it to the palace laughing so hard I nearly peed my pants. Apparently the night before I had awoken to hear Lila crying. I gently woke Lance (who is best at helping coax her back to sleep) and he woke up so ready to rescue me and/or her that I can’t help but laugh about it again now. I don’t know how else to explain it except that he was dead asleep one moment and then wide awake (with wide eyes) and jumping out of bed before I could even explain what was going on. So funny.

At the palace, we walked around the grounds for about 40 minutes before our tour started at about 11:15 a.m. I remember thinking the grounds weren’t quite as beautiful and lush as I had imagined. They were pretty, but mostly I remember the huge stretches of gravel walkways that separated the gardens, fountains, flowers and grassy areas. Obviously the place was used to handling large crowds. The only escape was the narrow(er) pathways lined by tall hedges or trees.

We didn’t know if then, but this palace was the most beautiful, ornate and interesting of all we’d visit on this trip. We pushed Lila from room to room in her stroller as we listened to an audio tour on our handheld devices. We were surrounded by other tourists doing the same, as well as groups led by live guides. It was interesting to read about the families who had lived in the palace — from their habits and quirks to their daily routines and figurative dirty laundry.

About halfway through Lila really started to grow impatient, so we took turns entertaining her while the other listened to the audio tour and then reported back. Fruit snacks, cookies and her pacifier were our saving grace.

After the tour, we decided to walk back to the ground’s main fountain we had skipped over on our first walk. I tried to get some family pictures in front of it and the palace, but that turned out to be a horrible decision. It was so bright (bad lighting), Lila was done, and Lance’s headache turned into a full blown migraine. Unfortunately I didn’t realize its intensity, so I was insensitive and kept insisting we try for more photos. In the end we left the palace grounds annoyed at each other.

Back at the apartment we put Lila down for a much needed nap, and we both fell into a deep sleep that we desperately wanted but shouldn’t have taken! I’ll blame that nap for our lasting jetlag, but it was just too tempting after our incredibly long day(s) before and Lance’s migraine.

When we awoke, we ventured out to the city’s public square where Pestsaule, a memorial statue, is located. According to the Lonely Planet, “Graben is dominated by the knobbly outline of this memorial, designed by Fischer von Erlach in 1693 to commemorate the 75,000 victims of the Black Death.” The walk from our apartment to the public square was more interesting than the statue itself. We passed several interesting buildings and churches, including a domed church I stepped inside. I enjoy European architecture — I love the ornate sculptures and carvings that make each building unique.

We ended at Stephansdom, a famous church “Rising high and might above Vienna with its dazzling mosaic tiled roof. The cathedral was built on the site of a 12th-century church its most distinctive features are Gothic. Only limited areas can be visited without a ticket. Entry is free for worshipers. A magnificent 16th-century Gothic stone pulpit and baroque high altar take center stage inside. Negotiating 343 steps (or with the help of an elevator) brings you to a viewing platform for a stunning panorama of Vienna from the 136.7m-high Sudturm. You can also explore the cathedral’s Katakomben, housing the remains of plague victims, and urns containing some of the organs of Habsburg rulers.”

We wandered through the church and thought it was sad, dark and scary (at least I did!). I can admire old churches’ ornate beauty — it’s amazing that such intricate artwork, statues, carvings etc existed way back when and have lasted so long — but nothing about these churches increases my faith or makes me feel the Spirit, close to my Savior, at peace etc. I don’t love the focus on death, darkness, pain, agony, bones and skulls, the Savior on the cross etc.

We decided not to visit the viewing platform yet, but instead to save it for early evening when we could catch the sunset and hopefully have beautiful lighting for photos. So we ventured out to the Naschmarkt, a food market I had read about in the guidebook that sounded yummy, inexpensive and interesting.

It unfortunately took us awhile to find the market, and so by then we felt rushed for time and a bit hangry. Though the book was right — there were stalls “piled high with meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, olives, spices and wine” — it wasn’t quite what I had hoped it would be. Many of the stalls were already closed, and there were more restaurants and cafes than I expected. Still, we wandered and enjoyed a yummy Greek giro and samples of candied nuts, chocolates, toffee, and cheese stuffed olives and peppers. We bought some grapes for Lila that turned out to have seeds in them, but luckily she didn’t care. We also almost got suckered into buying 6 Euros worth of candied nuts, chocolates etc because the “nice” man who helped us would not listen when we’d tell him we only want 5 pieces etc. Instead, he’d continue to fill up the bag. Finally we had to walk away as he and his coworkers yelled obscenities at us for tasting the samples but not buying anything.

Back at Stephansdom, we enjoyed beautiful lighting right at sunset. The church’s tiled roof was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was a good day and we surprisingly accomplished so much, so we felt fine turning in for bed early that evening.

What we missed

Though we covered a lot of ground and saw the most prominent sites, there were several things we missed because of my flight error. (I originally thought we got into Vienna on August 28, which gave us another day in the city, when in reality we got into the city on August 29. And because we missed our flight, we got into Vienna even later than our original flight would’ve.) Among the places I had hoped to visit were the Schloss Belvedere, a famous palace and gallery with supposedly gorgeous grounds and Prater, the city’s green space/amusement park. Luckily, I don’t have enough regret that makes me feel like we ever need to return 🙂

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