Thursday, May 18
As I was sitting on the tram today on my daily commute home, I heard this strange whooshing sound. I soon realized that ‘Holy crap! That’s the air conditioner’. The warm weather has finally come to Vienna, and it looks like it’s here to stay. No more rain, no more puff jackets, just a straight shot of sun from now on [UPDATE: I was very wrong, the rain came backL]. The vitamin D and warm breeze has transformed our Viennese landscape. For one, tourists seem to be coming by the hundreds now. Unfortunate. I know I’m not technically Viennese, but I’ve been here long enough to sympathize with the locals who sigh at the yellow Vienna Pass lanyards, massive cameras, and sidewalk blocking hoards.
The warm weather has brought new energy to all of us and we have been spending the last few days exploring everything around us. Without rain as an excuse to stay in, we’ve been clocking in at least 18,000 steps a day. Here are a few of my top activities:
Vienna is the only world capital that produces wine extensively within its city limits. We took the D tram toward Nußdorf until the last stop. This dropped us off in what seemed to be the heart of a residential neighborhood. You’ll immediately see a sign on the right that maps out the trail to the wine gardens. After about 15 minutes of urban hiking, you’ll reach the point where the dirt meets the concrete and you have to start trekking uphill. This brought us to some of the best views we’ve had of Vienna. You could see the entire city, including the Danube, from up there. The hike to the first wine garden took about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, this one was closed for a private party. There were maps along the way that directed us to the next closest winery, about 5 more minutes away. We arrived at a small wine garden with outdoor bench seating and a wooden cover, interweaved with leaves. We were brought two pitchers of crisp, white wine, fresh from the vineyards around us. All in all, this was a great way to escape the city, bask in the good weather, and drink some fantastic Austrian wine.
In the middle of the Danube is this long strip of land known as the Danube Island or Danauinsel. The U1 line stops in the middle of this island and long bridges also connect it to the main land. If you want to rent a free bike from city bikes (which I strongly suggest) get off a stop earlier to pick one up from a station then bike over the bridge to reach the island. The island is a green, gentle retreat from the busy bustle of Vienna, without actually going more than 100 meters from it. The island was barren compared to the main city and a path on both sides of it allowed you to bike next to the water. There were platforms floating in the water every few meter that you could lay out on to sunbathe and relax. In late spring/early summer, water sports such as windsurfing and kayaking will open for rent at the island. I biked for about 30 minutes in both directions and never reached the end of the island, so I question just how big it really is.
What I immediately noticed soon after it began getting warm is that the Viennese love to take full advantage of their many parks by just laying out on that lush green grass. Bring a few snacks and some wine from Billa, a blanket, and great company for a relaxing afternoon of free fun. Top park picks are Stadtpark, Burggarten, and the hill where the Gloriette sits at Schonbrunn.
Prater is one of my favorite places in Vienna. Something about the warm weather and flashing Ferris wheel lights brings my back to my childhood days of going to Six Flags every day. I think the best part about going to Prater is that there were never any lines. That all might change when summer vacation hits. Unfortunately, you do have to pay for the rides individually, each about 5 euros. What’s also great about Prater is that you’re not just going to relaxing, Ferris wheels but they have a full array of carnival-esque rides that flip, spin, and hit you with enough g-force to really make you want to Yak afterwards. After riding three of these in a row, I could tell you from experience. The number one thing you have to do here is go on the high swings. We came at around sunset time and so when we finally got to the swings. We were blessed with another breath-taking view of Vienna, this one definitely being the best one, 360 degrees around. It’s not scary, just purely blissful. Being up there, I could see all the places I had been. With the semester coming to a close it triggered the deepest wave of nostalgia, seeing how far I’d come and what I’d be leaving behind. In Gaelic tradition, they say that there are places where heaven and Earth are closer than usual, a thin place. This was my thin place.
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<p>April is a junior at Harvard University studying Neurobiology and Astrophysics. When she is not in the lab or looking at the stars, she likes to force her friends to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, get away to the beautiful beaches of Southern California, and plan spontaneous trips. April is studying in Vienna, Austria this spring to drink lots of coffee, learn some German, and finally learn how to Waltz.</p>