I decided to take a night train between Venice and Vienna. It cost about as much as a night in a hostel ( with my eurail pass ) so there wasn’t really any monetary savings, but there was a time savings. Training during the day would have taken up most of a day on trains. Doing it with the night train allowed me arrive early in Vienna and have the entire day to explore. I am doing this again from Vienna to Berlin in a few days.
It was an interesting experience. The beds are not large, and they are not particularly comfortable but they are passable and compare pretty closely with most hostel beds. If you are travelling a decent distance and have a rather crammed vacation this will save you a day spent travelling.
So I arrived at Vienna early. At hostels I have been waking up most days around 9 but that morning I woke up at 6. I was also starving. They had asked me if I wanted to order food at the start of the train but I assumed it was for that time and I didn’t want it then. It turned out I was turning down breakfast so that wasn’t great. But I got to the train station and bought a sandwich and tea for just over 5 euros. Not too bad.
Vienna may be one of my favourite stops so far. If I had a better hostel, and more time I think I would really enjoy this place. Unlike Italy, it is clean, never too busy, there are benches everywhere, food is almost always reasonably priced, and museums are priced reasonably as well. While the places I went to in Italy seemed like historical cities that later attempted to strap on the trappings of a modern city, and failed to fully do so, Vienna feels like a proper modern city that also has amazing historical attractions and lots to do. It feels more like London or Barcelona which is a good thing. I was getting tired of touristy Italy.
After checking into my hostel early I decided to go check out the War Museum. It was fairly close and I read good things about it on the web. I was not disappointed. It was 5 euros with an audio guide. It traced the history of the Habsburg Empire through the centuries largely through their military conquests.
The coolest part though was seeing the actual car that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in, along with his wife. You can see a bullet hole in the back of the car. You can also see some shrapnel marks from an earlier attempt. They also have his uniform where you can see the tiny bullet hole in his collar. For those who don’t know, this assassination caused a series of events that ended up with all the major powers in Europe declaring war on each other and starting The Great War. It is crazy to see how tiny these two bullet holes are. One tiny bullet was all that was needed to ignite a war that killed millions.
They also have a large World War II collection. Some of the most interesting pieces were bunkers with huge holes in the outside where artillery had hit them. That section had a very somber tone compared to North American museums I have been to. World War II is usually portrayed as a heroic overthrow of the evil Nazi regime. Obviously Austria was on the “wrong” side of that war so the war is mentioned almost passively. It’s more about the technology than a narrative of the war.
If you plan on travelling to Europe and only have time to stop at a few places, seriously consider Vienna. Cheaper than most of Western Europe and it has amazing museums, palaces, classic music and pretty much everything else. I wish I was staying here longer.