To start off the first day as a group, we headed downstairs to enjoy the breakfast offered by the hotel.
Here is some of what they had to offer:
I thought this pumpkin seed bread looked so good, so I cut some for myself and enjoyed it with a hardboiled egg, some cheese and tomato.
But I couldn't resist the sweets! In fact, there was one there I had been eyeing in in the bakeries, so I took one to try.
It was nice and light, filled with something like apple butter. I liked it!
Next, the we boarded the bus and headed for Hofburg Palace, and the surrounding area. Our group leader showed us some of the area, along with some history, and then turned us loose.
This is the statue of Maria Theresa, who was a major shaping force for Vienna as it is today.
This is Hofburg Palace, which is where the Habsburg family lived while ruling the empire for many years. This included the time of Empress Elizabeth, who was married to Franz Joseph.
Notice that I am wearing a fleece jacket. It was a lot colder than I expected it to be in Vienna.
Lovely statue of the Titans.
Here I am with some of my tour members: Mike and Patricia (they are married), then Keri, and I am on the end. We are sitting outside an art museum, so from far away, the steps we are sitting on make a painting.
More statues. Actually, this is a sculpture, but I missed the backstory because I was taking that photo on the stairs.
There was a holiday going on, or so someone had said, and given the massive amounts of people dressed traditionally and participating in a parade, I would have to agree.
When I stopped for coffee by St. Stephens Cathedral, I spotted these yummy treats. Too bad I was still full from breakfast.
We passed by the Spanish Riding School, but we decided not to go watch a training session.
In an effort to escape the rain, we ducked into the Hofburg Palace museum, which housed the collection of dinner service ware, the Sisi museum, and then the Imperial apartments.
I took tons of pictures, but I won't bore you with all of them. Here are just a few of the exquisite collection of fancy service ware from the Habsburg family.
While it is at a really bad angle, you can get an idea of what it would have looked like set up and ready for dinner service.
They had some crazy napkin folding skills!
Next we headed up the stairs and into the Sisi museum, which was the section dedicated to Empress Elizabeth, known as Sisi. I am not sure about you, but the Habsburg Empire and the history of this region is not something I ever remember learning about in school. As a result, I was really fascinated, and enjoyed learning a lot about this area over the years.
After the museum, we headed Cafe Sacher to try out the world famous Sacher Torte. This is the cake created by accident when they needed to make a cake last minute and the chef was not able to be there. It was a last minute thing and a very young man stepped up to take on the challenge. He created this cake, which is chocolate with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle. It was so popular at the party where it was served, that they continued to make it, and still do today using the original recipe from 1832.
The cafe was very elegant, and packed with people, although we managed to beat the rush. The menu was so cute (although my eyes are shut, which is not as cute!).
I started off with a coffee, which by the way was delicious.
For lunch I enjoyed the smoked salmon sandwich. It was served open face, and was absolutely delicious. Keri ordered the same thing because it really did just sound so good.
Then we ordered one piece of the sacher torte to try.
Here goes nothing!
It was really good. I am glad we took our guides recommendation and stopped in for lunch and to try the cake.
After lunch we did some souvenir shopping, starting with some chocolate.
Before we knew it was time to head to our next museum, which we decided earlier in the day would be our final sight before boarding the bus.
Look how cute these little tour busses are:
The other museum we picked was also highly recommended by our tour guide (or group leader, whatever you want to call him). Here we are at the Museum of Natural History.
Here we were met by more marching bands.
This is the inside of the museum. Very grand!
Since this was the Museum of Natural History, we found many different animals (stuffed) inside.
Everyone has to have a stuffed bear. Classic pose!
There was an interesting exhibit, and my best guess was that this was an art display.
Here we are with some band members, who were kind enough to pose with us for a picture.
Some where along the line I used the ATM and wound up with a 100 Euro bill. The point is not that "hey, I have 100 euro", but rather that in all my years of living in Europe, which is only 2, but still, I never got a 100 euro bill, especially not from an ATM. Even if I took a lot of money out, like to pay the rent. So I had to take a picture with my 100 before I had to give it up as proof that it really exists.
Our last stop for the day was something that was optional, but I signed up to do. I certainly wasn't going to pass on the Schnapps Museum, which came complete with samples.
The owner was a funny man with many stories to tell. This company has been in his family for many generations, and they still use the same recipes. The office in the front is even the same as it was in the early 1900's. In fact, he told us they use it for movie sets that need something from the time period because it is already in place.
They are still even using the old cash register that they keep in the front office.
Then we headed back to get the details on their many products. Trust me, they had a lot of products to tell us about.
See, I wasn't kidding, there are lots of different schnapps and liquors here.
Then we headed into the next room for some samples.
This is their new mixed cocktail that is made with their absinthe. Notice that is it green, and on the bottle is a fairy. It was really tasty.
After the museum, and a few shots, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for another optional part of the trip. This was dinner and a concert at Schonbrunn Palace.
It is a very large palace, and although we didn't see anything inside, we did get to take some pictures outside before heading to an area of the palace where there is a restaurant.
Here I am with Esther, Keri and Carly.
This is some of our group enjoying dinner. I am all the way in the back.
For dinner, I was served a tomato soup to start.
Everyone else had this beef soup.
The main dinner for everyone was chicken schnitzel.
Obviously for me I had something else. It was 3 variations of a savory pastry.
Dessert was probably the highlight. We were served a delicious piece of apple strudel.
After dinner we all attended a Mozart concert in another area of the Palace. They gave a great performance. It was a small group of musicians with one female and one male singer, as well as a couple that danced. It was a nice, intimate performance.
I know you must be thinking I am exhausted by now, and I am, but I was coaxed into heading out to a bar. I thought this would be the a good time to try a local Austrian beer.
Look at us ladies having a fun evening.
I didn't stay out too late, but it was long enough to enjoy some time with my new friends.
Up next: We cross some borders and are in 3 capital cities in one day.
QUESTIONS: Did you study about the Habsburg Empire in school? Are you familiar with schnapps? Have you ever been to an alcohol related museum? When was the last time you hung out with your friends at a bar?