The wheel is come full circle.
Here we are again at Karlsplatz. Across the street is the magnificent building of the Viennese Opera but we resist the temptation to examine it closely, and instead join a crowd of locals at Kärntner Ring tram station. The digital sign promises a 10 minute wait, but this doesn’t bother me: bright sunlight, colorful people and gorgeous architecture make up the perfect pastime.
Today’s itinerary is simple: do the ring. In other words, hop on tram #1 all the way up to Schwedenplatz, and then change to tram #2 to return to Karlsplatz to see all landmarks in the center of Vienna at a price of a single trip ticket. (Psst, there is a special tourist service called Ring Tram. It essentially does the same route at a higher price. Not recommended.)
An hour later and a circle in, we know exactly which stops we would like to revisit. First on the list: Museumplatz, a home of twin museums Naturhistorische and Kunsthistorische, separated by a magnificent monument of Maria Theresa. Torn between the exceptional choice of checking dinosaurs versus roman antiquities, I resort to the most reasonable alternative: posing in front of park statues. (A better way of combining art and history, anyone?)
Opposite Museumplatz is the entrance to Hofburg palace, and the National library. We pop in just for a couple of quick shots, and rush to the nearest U-Bahn station (Volkstheater) to hide from what appears to be a big rainy cloud. A station down, at Schottentor, there is no sign of rain, so we take a stroll along Schottengasse to explore the old town from a different angle.
We first stumble upon old Vienna in Restaurant Leupold. Authentic interior, and even more authentic clientele. And the food, oh my, the food is a-ma-zing. Definitely try the käsespetzle, it is worth every bite.
And while I am in food mood, let me get ahead of myself and tell you a word about Cafe Central, situated just some blocks away from restaurant Leupold. (At Herrengasse to be precise.) Once upon a time a meeting point of writers and intellectuals, now Cafe Central attracts people of all walks of life who admire great history and great pastries. To tell the truth, the lovers of pastries probably outnumber those of history in here, and there are some good reasons why.
Enough on food. Cultural hunger however still needs to be satisfied so we continue down Herrengasse to end up in Michaelplatz, and … the Hofburg palace. The main entrance, to be exact. (Little did we know earlier in the morning that we entered from the back.)
It is already late, and all exhibits are closed, so we leave the Sisi Museum for our next visit, and continue through a labyrinth of small streets through the different buildings that constitute the Hofburg palace. (I find interesting the mix of well-maintained facades on all main buildings against the shabby tatty walls of these same buildings when they are not exposed to tourist eyes.) On the premises is also the Spanish Riding School, but more interesting by far are the horses who are fashionably accessorized in the colors of their carriage.
We finish off the day strolling through Burggarten, a beautiful park behind the palace, and we slowly find our way to Karlsplatz. The circle is closed.