Vienna: Care to waltz?

Vienna is probably best known for its high culture: theater, opera, classical music, dance and museums. The center of the Austro-Hungarian empire for hundreds of years, we weren’t actually interested in seeing the cultural side of Vienna. Perhaps we’ve been in the “bush” too long, but I couldn’t really picture going to the opera in my chaco’s and convertible safari pants. Maybe that’s just me.Lucky for us there is a lot more to Vienna than it’s high culture.

Vienna is called a “green” city, and when you look at the map it’s not hard to figure out why. Our first day in Vienna we took a hiking trail, accessible by public transportation, which wound through mountains and into vineyards. Seriously. No more than an hour after leaving the city we were in the middle of the woods atop a mountain overlooking Vienna. Climbing Kahlenberg-Leopoldsburg wasn’t a technical hike, the steep trail was paved most of the way, but the views were spectacular and we had to remind ourselves we were in one the largest cities in Europe. We picnicked in a vineyard and watched deer steal a few grapes for themselves.

Not satisfied with a hike through the vineyards, we convinced our couchsurfing host to come to hike in the “viennese alps” with us. Hiking through alpine meadows up Schneeberg (snowmountain) was the highlight of our trip to Vienna. Especially when we saw the snow at the top. Let’s just say our African wardrobe was rather inadequate. Fortunately the alps are dotted with rest huts, which serve beer, schnapps, and even food.

We did get in a little musical culture while in Vienna. The Danube Island Festival, a huge annual 3 day concert with over 2000 artists, the Viennese really know how to throw a festival. It’s the largest outdoor festival in Europe. Crowds of people, from teenage punks to toddlers and grandparents roamed the island moving from stage to stage listening, dancing and rocking-out to the music. On one of the stages, we caught a German 1950’s rock and roll cover band, complete with hair gel and combs. Like Elvis the front guy doo-wopped across the stage, while his bassist and guitarist performed acrobatics with their instruments. It was like back to the future when Marty rocks the under the sea dance. Not exactly Mozart.