Danube Discoveries: Day 1 (Getting to Vienna)

After a pretty lackluster night’s sleep at the Best Western, I hung out at the hotel till around 12:30 before checking out and heading to the airport.  I was actually quite surprised at the size of the International Terminal at O’Hare.  It felt small as compared to other US international airports that I had been at.  Due to the fact that my flight was scheduled to leave at around 4, I had about three hours to kill, which included the need to find some decent lunch.

After walking around, scoping the options, I settled on Tortas Frontera, a Mexican restaurant that focused on serving tortas (sandwiches).  Instead of a sandwich, I ordered a veggie rice plate that had mushrooms, zucchini and other wonderful things with some shrimps added, which was then smothered in a garlic sauce and topped with Cojita cheese.  I also ordered a plate of chips and guac and an amazing citrus cocktail.  It was very filling and quite satisfying.

I finally boarded at around 3:30pm and settled in for an 8-hour flight.  As per usual, I didn’t sleep much and instead spent the time watching movies and walking around the plane.  I was finally able to see: Hidden FiguresLogan and The Lego Batman Movie.  I really enjoyed Hidden Figures and Logan, and found The Lego Batman Movie charming but not as exciting as The Lego Movie.  The flight itself was quite comfortable, though I wish they served two real meals instead of just one.  Overall, it was a pretty easy flight and getting from gate to my pickup was quit efficient. It took maybe less than 10 minutes and felt very relaxed as compared to the American experience.  I ordered a cab online before I arrived and was met outside and was on my way within minutes.  It cost me 32 euros for a 20 minute ride which was really nice.

Unfortunately, due to my early arrival in Vienna, my room wasn’t ready for a couple of hours.  Naturally, I was also hungry so I left my luggage behind and decided to walk around and see what’s available. We were staying at the Hilton Vienna Plaza which is a 5-10 minute walk from the city center and just around the corner from the Parliamentary building.  Immediately, just walking around on this Sunday morning made me reminisce about the last time I traveled with such a carefree attitude.  With no agenda and no required places to be, I was able to take my time and enjoy what was around me.  Upon the hotel’s recommendation, I went to Cafe Landtmann, a fairly nice restaurant/cafe that has been around for maybe at least a century. I ordered a simple breakfast of coffee, eggs and bacon and some bread.  As I sat eating and people watching, I felt so at ease.  It was probably the most relaxing breakfast I’ve had in a long time.  After spending about an hour there, I walked along the road towards the Museum Quarter, where I just walked on the outside catching brief snippets of tour guides explaining the historical significance of each building and the treasures they held inside.  With this air of optimism, I continued walking around before stumbling back into the hotel lobby at around 11:00.  By this point, I was quite tired and earnestly hoped that my room was ready, which to my chagrin wasn’t the case.  So I just wallowed in the hotel till around 1:45pm when my mother and grandfather arrived at which the room was promptly done.

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After enjoying a much needed 4-5 hour nap, we went out for dinner at a restaurant called Medusa in the city center.  It was a very nice meal, where I ordered grilled catfish wrapped in guanciale (pig jowl) which rested on top of a spelt ragout and seasonal mushrooms.  It was very delicious and quite wonderful to dine al fresco.  We finally retired to our hotels at around 9:00, where we rest as we move onto Prague tomorrow via train.

I will probably try and update every couple of days with pictures and what not, but don’t expect extensive food reviews and glorifying essays of wonderful scenery and history.  I’m on vacation and I want to keep it that way.  I will say that my first impressions of Vienna is that it is amazing.  I love this historical architecture that envelops around the modern additions of store fronts and fast food chains.  It’s a touristy city but also one that feels like I could just get lost in.  As I was saying, those few hours by myself wandering, reminded me of my last trip to New York where I hung around with no real agenda.  As I travel with family along the Danube with tours and set agendas, I hopefully can still find time to just appreciate what’s around me and not just get carted off to each destination.

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