Our second day started off with us having breakfast buffet in the Hilton Garden view Inn. I had some fruits and a waffle. There were many breakfast items to choose from but all of them comprised of either pork or eggs, none of which I eat. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to have our breakfast on one of the tables outside. It was a really calming ambiance. Birds were chirping around, the sun was shining bright spreading pleasant warmth, a light breeze passed through our hair – just a perfectly nice day.
We checked out of the hotel and went to the taxi. We were being transferred to a new hotel called ‘Hotel Sacher’ which is famous all throughout the world for its extravagance and for how long it has been running. It was built in 1876 and has made it through World War I and II. One of the most famous Austrian desserts is the Sacher Torte (pronounced as Saa-khar Tor-tay) was originally created here. It is a chocolate cake with apricot filling. The hotel is unique and stand-alone, operating only in Vienna. It is a member of The Leading Hotels in the World.
Stepping into the hotel felt like stepping into another era. Huge fancy chandeliers, vintage furniture, wooden-panelled walls, old paintings and sculptures. The hotel looked as if it was furnished for royalty. It had a huge bathroom, a small bed set up for me, grandiose furniture and and a balcony with a perfect view of the city. A small plate of sweets and an original Sacher Torte had been left for us by the hotel.
As we were making our way down, we saw countless picture of many celebrities hanging inside the elevator, near the stairs and covering almost every inch of the reception area. Turned out, many celebrities have been here. I liked the hotel, but its grandeur was a little overwhelming.
We had tickets for the big bus tour of Vienna. We could catch the bus right across the street of the hotel. We talked to one of the guides who told us that a walking tour would be taking place to show us the areas near the hotel. As a person who hates any kind of physical activity, I was very averse to the idea but my parents loved walking around while learning new things about the city. So off we went, on the walking tour.
Our guide was an old man called Siegenfried. We started our tour in front of the Viennese Opera hall. Siegenfried told us that the hall was very old and that it had been bombed during World War II. It had been restored later. Huge gates were built for hauling in gigantic stage props. Siegenfried went on to tell us further about a ball held at the Opera Hall around Christmas. It is a very prestigious event and the ticket prices for this ball are sky high.
Cafe Mozart. The guide told us that in traditional Austrian cafe’s, there is no system of waiters. There is one specific person called obér who takes the orders and serves the food, but an ober is not to be confused with a waiter! The ober is the one who decides when he needs to take your order and will not respond if you call him. Earlier, only men could be obers but now there are many places with female obers too.
In Austria, coffee is traditionally served along with a glass of water. No one is completely sure about the origin of the tradition but the guide believed it helps in metabolism.
Next, we went ahead to a place with a few structures of different materials. The first figure we saw was of a stone bock in which multitude of people with terrified expressions on their faces had been carved. It was a Holocaust memorial. All the structures in that area were Holocaust memorials. We saw a man crouching on the floor with much pain on his face. The figure was that of a Jewish man who had been forced to sweep the streets while the other people just watched him and laughed. It was a reminder of the hardships Jews had gone through. Siegenfried told us that a few insensitive tourists thought that the pained expression on the man’s face was funny and sat on it to take funny pictures. So the artist who had made the figure added a spiky, metal wire around the statue, to remind people that it was a tribute to the Jewish community and also to keep people from sitting on it. Quite an effective solution.
We walked across the yard and passed two big stone blocks. We were informed about the belief that if you walk between the blocks, you will have bad luck for a year. I wanted to walk between the blocks, just for fun, but then I thought, I am going to have my Board exams this year. Better not risk it. We saw another memorial, which had the names of all the people that had died in the Holocaus t. It was filled from top to bottom. That is when the I realized the severity of World War II. And I realized, not much has changed. The prejudices still exist, although they are a bit more subtle. It would take a lot more memorials to list all the people who have died due to prejudice.
We came across a famous art museum called Albertina. We couldn’t really stop to go in there, since we had many other places to visit. Siegenfried informed it was really old and had a large collection of different kinds of art pieces. It had been damaged by bombs during the World War II.
Siegenfried was a nice person. He was well versed in the history of Austria and world history, very much in love with his country. His jokes were hilarious. He was also extremely remorseful about the role played by the Germans in World War II.
The next hour passed in a blur. We wove through the colourful streets of vienna and saw innumerable buildings. The Congress building, a public library with really old books, the Spanish riding school, a treasury and many more that I can’t remember . At the end of the walking tour, I was much more knowledgeable than I had been a few hours ago. We stopped in what seemed to be the city centre of Vienna – restaurants and shops in every corner of the streets.
Since it was almost 2, we looked around for a place to eat lunch. After checking out many restaurants, and roaming through the streets for about fifteen minutes, we ended up at a Burger King. We had a glorious lunch of a single burger, fries and Coke.
Mummy wasn’t hungry, surprisingly, I was not hungry either, so papa was the only one to gobble up the burger. Mummy and I half-heartedly chewed a few fries and drank the Coke.
We roamed around a little and finally found our way back to Sacher hotel. We crossed the street and caught the Big Bus tour bus. I got out the Big Bus brochure that I had got from one of the tour guides earlier. I figured that we were on the Blue route bus, so I looked up all the places on the Blue route. The first stop was Hofburg Museum, and since I like museums, I decided to stop. The outer part of the museum was beautiful. Exotic gardens, elaborate fountains and a majestic building. We didn’t go inside. We read a bit about the museum and decided to skip since time was ticking away. We just hopped on the next BIG Bus with no particular destination in mind.
Photographs by Insha Faridoon