After such an amazing trip last year we couldn’t help but get back to Europe again. Last year we visited 7 countries and 9 cities in three weeks, and it was exhausting. One of our major take aways from last year was to not try and see all of Europe in one trip, so this year we visited three locations, Vienna, Rovaniemi, and Venice, spending around a week in each place.
Another key lesson we learned was to take advantage of the checked bag policy. In 2018 we carried everything on to the plane, five carry on suitcases and 4 backpacks, which we thought would make it easier to move around on the trains when we traveled across Europe. Plus we didn’t know what the luggage storage situation was going to be on the trains. We learned that there was dedicated storage for larger luggage and we would have been just fine with some check bags.
Our flight left Mumbai in the middle of the night, as usual, and we went through the paces of security and immigration. I have to say, after almost three years of travel from Mumbai the stress of getting through the airport has really gone down. I’m not implying that the process has gotten better, but we’re more aware of the process and flexible to the inconsistency.
After a quick stop at the lounge we headed for the gate where we met a few of our friends on their way to the United States for Christmas. The plane left behind schedule, as usual, which added some pressure to our quick 2 hour layover in Frankfurt.
This year we checked two bags and had two as carry on bags, which turned out to be a blessing because with the late departure of our flight we only ended up with 1 hour and 25 minutes to transfer planes … in an airport we’d never been to. As we ran through the airport, nine hours later and half asleep, we managed to find our way to the new terminal where we landed in a very long security line. We tried to talk with the security personnel, but none of them spoke English, which we’re used to at this point. Honestly, this probably turned out to be a good thing because in the panic we found an emergency fast pass line for people with short layovers. We quickly made our way through security and made it to the gate with enough time to grab a bite and annoy everyone at the gate with our limited patience and lack of volume control.
When we arrived in Vienna last year we took a bus to a location close to the hotel and walked the rest of the way, which turned out to be a little challenging with all our luggage and landing later in the evening when it was dark.
On this trip we booked a hotel closer to downtown, and around an hour of train ride if we took public transportation. We decided that walking with all the luggage wasn’t a good idea on this much sleep, so we scheduled a driver to pick us up. Upon arrival the van was in the parking lot waiting for us, and within 30 minutes we were at the hotel ready for check-in.
This year we stayed at the Vienna Marriott Hotel, and since we arrived early morning we had to wait for our room to come available. This gave us our first opportunity to experience what this week was going to be like … bliss.
We walked down the street to a local Vienna Brewery, 1516 Brewing Company, where we drank some amazing beer, and ate pretzels, sausage and chicken schnitzel. Pure heaven.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel and sat down at the hotel cafe to drank Irish Coffees, for your mother and I, and Hot Chocolates for you three while our room was getting cleaned and ready for us.
After getting into our room, we made our way to the lounge to check things out and start planning our days ahead. We had a very flexible plan for the week with a list of holiday markets and a few restaurants on our must visit list, and made decisions each day about where to go and what to see.
Day 1: Sunday December 15th, 2019
On our first full day in Vienna we headed to our favorite spots, Stephansplatz, Belvedere, and Michaelarplatz Christmas Markets. Oh, and the best Pizza place we found in Europe … at least so far, I mean we are headed to Italy after all.
The hotel selection ended up being our best decision for our time in Vienna because almost all of the markets were within walking distance, usually a 20 minutes walk. Sometimes it was a long way for you three, and it was cold at times, but the cold weather and fresh air were just too awesome to miss out on. I think Johnathon’s best day was 27,000 steps.
Day 2: Monday December 16th, 2019
After a very busy, but very satisfying first day, we decided to slow down on the rest of our trip. Also, the relative location to the markets made it easy to see almost half of the markets in the first day.
Our days turned into waking up when we did, which was around 6am for you three, getting breakfast at the hotel and heading out to our adventure around 11am.
Today we ventured to the Altes AKH market on the Vienna University campus. Last year we tried to visit this market, but got caught in the rain … and lost … so we didn’t make it. This year the weather was fantastic and we were a little better versed on the city so we found it with no problem. The farthest market that we visited on foot, this market wasn’t open when we arrived but had a playground that you three were able to use while we waited.
After the market, we headed to Mel’s Craft Beer & Diner for a quick lunch, and delicious beverages. Ok, we tend to hit micro breweries when we travel because it’s hard to get them in Mumbai.
When we got back to the hotel we took some time to rest in the lounge before heading out to dinner.
Day 3: Tuesday December 17th, 2019
After breakfast we hopped on the train, which was a five minute walk from the hotel, and headed to the Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market. The train system had apparently been under construction since our last visit because the station we stopped at this year was different than last year. They had really good signage this year though, so it was no trouble finding out way to the market.
Day 4: Wednesday December 18th, 2019
With such a productive Sunday we were running out of new markets to go visit, so today we visited the Rauthaus Market which was Vienna’s largest and busiest market. The walk there was idilic and I couldn’t help but take photos along the way.
After the market we decided to go back to the hotel and have a relaxing afternoon in the lounge reading books, reviewing the plan for Finland, and figuring out the laundry.
Laundry was another lesson we learned last year that we were bound and determined to do better this time around. Last year we did our own laundry, carrying laundry detergent with us on the trip. Not this year. This year I had already done research on our options for laundromats near our hotels. There happened to be several laundromats around five minutes from the hotel, so the boys and I took a suite case full of clothes and headed that way.
The location was easy enough to get to, and the reviews were good, but not stellar. When we arrived one lady behind the counter spoke English so we quickly figured out that they could get it washed by the following day as long as they didn’t have to iron and fold. Sold. It cost us around $35 to get that laundry done, which at the time felt pretty awesome because doing it ourselves takes a lot of time. That all changed a little when we heard our friends, who were in Thailand, got their laundry done for $3…oh well.
Day 5: Thursday December 19th, 2019
On our last full day in Vienna we visited the Maria-Theresien Platz Christmas Market, which we had passed on at least three occasions during the week to get to other markets. This market was small, but very charming. It took all of 20 minutes to make our way to all the stalls, after which we took the long way back to the hotel to take in the sights before heading further north the following day.
Day 6: Friday December 20th, 2019
Our flight from Vienna to Helsinki left in the early afternoon so we had time to get breakfast and finishing packing before heading downstairs to catch a car to the airport. While in Vienna we used Blacklane, which we’ve used before in Mumbai, and the service was outstanding. They included car seats for you three free of charge and plenty of space for our luggage. We highly recommend them.
Vienna continues to be one of our favorite locations to visit in Europe, especially around Christmas, and although we don’t have any specific plans to visit in the near future I know we’ll be back.
Mom & Dad