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Tuesday Travel Diaries: Vienna, Austria

17 July 2012

{a bi-montly guest post series}

Hallo und Guten Tag! This is Holly from Comedic Grievances. Oh man - I am THRILLED to be writing for Emmy June! When I stumbled upon her blog, I spent a pretty good portion of my afternoon sifting through stories about Australia as well as stories from Tuesday Travel Diaries. I love the TTD concept and am stoked to be sharing my experiences and memories with you. If you couldn't tell by the use of my extensive German knowledge there at the beginning (I know the alphabet too...whoa, right?), I'm going to talk about my European travels, focusing specifically on Vienna, Austria.

View of Vienna from the top of the Donauturm

The basics: where, when, & how long?
My study abroad group's homebase was located in Vienna, Austria. We left in September of 2008 and lived in Vienna for 3 months, returning in December 2008.

What route did you take? And how much was the flight?
The program is based out of Oklahoma Christian University (my alma mater) in OKC, Oklahoma, so we drove from OKC to Dallas, Texas, then flew to London. We traveled around London for a couple of weeks then flew to Vienna. I'm not 100% sure about the cost since this trip was technically included in my college tuition, but I believe it was somewhere around $2000 round trip.

Who did you travel with?
My group consisted of students from Michigan, Oregon, and Oklahoma - 55 of us total, which yes, made for a fantastic amount of drama as you can probably imagine. For obvious reasons, if I was on a 10-day free travel (country hopping), then I would travel with a group of 4 to 5 friends at most. If I was just going out and about in Vienna, I would travel with a larger group.

My friend Michael and me at Schönbrunn Palace

Neptune Fountain

Tell us where you stayed.
We lived in a castle (sweet, right?) called Schloss Neuwaldegg. It was built in the early 1700s, believed to have been used (at some point) by Maria Theresa as a summer home. Living there was pretty amazing except for the gargantuan hill it sits on. Coming back from 10 days of free travel only to be immediately faced with that beast of a climb was truly terrible. On the flip side, we were able to walk off all the gelato we had ingested which was an everyday occurrence.

All 55 of us! I'm the small girl on the left in the red jacket, posing awkwardly.

Schloss Neuwaldegg

Did you encounter anything unexpected?
Oh yeah. When you're living with 54 other people and country hopping on and off for 3 months, something unexpected is guaranteed to happen somewhere down the line. Unfortunately one of the more unexpected events was actually my own fault. You see, I have a few weaknesses: coffee, Coke, and chocolate. If any of those three things are within my sight, it's gone. So. There I was in Vienna - surrounded by those 3 weaknesses on a daily basis, and I couldn't control myself. When I wasn't drinking coffee, I was eating a Milka bar (you HAVE to have a Milka bar!). When I wasn't eating a Milka bar, I was grabbing a Coke from the nearest kebab stand. If chocolate wasn't readily available to eat, I ordered hot chocolate. I went nuts. After a while I noticed my heart rate didn't feel quite right. It was racing and eventually got to the point where I thought I could actually hear it thumping against my chest. I would lie awake at night just agonizing over my sudden heart condition. Then finally, after a coffee and chocolate break one night in Switzerland, my heart had had enough and I fainted. When I got back to Vienna the next day, I was taken to the hospital to see what the deal was with my crazy heart rate. The doctor did a bunch of tests, looked at the results, frowned, sighed heavily, and said, "Uhm, you're fine. You've ODed on caffeine". I was super embarrassed and didn't touch anything caffeinated for weeks. I gave in eventually, but I was sure to include water in my diet as well. So that's the time I went to the hospital in Europe. (A second visit happened a couple years later...Another story for another time.)

My traveling mates and I in the Swiss Alps, celebrating our climb with chocolate (the afternoon before I overdosed)

How accurate are the stereotypes?
As far as Vienna is concerned, I hadn’t really heard any stereotypes in a negative light. I had heard and found to be true that the Viennese appreciate foreigners who attempt the language (German), so I always tried to use the German I learned as much as possible. As far as European stereotypes go, yes, you have to ask for ice in your drink, and often you have to request that your water be “still” instead of “gas” (not carbonated or carbonated). Several countries do charge extra for ketchup, refills, and visits to the restroom. And yes, European chocolate is amazing (See: Did you encounter anything unexpected?)

Tell us about the food.
Viennese food is fantastic! One of the more traditional meals you can eat in Vienna is Wiener Schnitzel (fried pork or veal) and Pommes (German word for fries). You can also visit the kebab stands and get yourself, well, a kebab for starters, which is essentially a wrap filled with shaved lamb meat, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and sauce that tastes kind of like ranch dressing. Breakfast is a necessity in Vienna and often consists of various meats, cheese, breads, cakes, and coffee. Then of course, there's gelato.

Nic and I eating gelato in Stephansplatz. Flavor recommendation: Biscoto!!

Were there any must see’s?
Where do I even begin? Definitely go see ALL of the palaces and their gardens – Schönbrunn, Belvedere, Hofburg. Vienna is filled with museums, churches, and cathedrals so I highly recommend going into as many as you can (Stephansdom is one of my favorite cathedrals). If you’re just passing through, then without a doubt, go to Stephansplatz. Stephansplatz is in the center of Vienna and is filled with shops (TWO H&Ms and a THREE STORY Forever 21), street performers, cafes, gelaterias (highly recommend Zanoni & Zanoni), and many, many Mozarts (stay away from them, it’s a tourist trap!)

Street performers in Stephansplatz (awesome ones)


Beethoven's grave in Zentralfriedhof

Do you have any regrets?
I have one and only one, and I’m telling you because it’s very important to me that you don’t make the same mistake! While I was studying in Vienna, I dedicated a lot of my downtime to communicating with my boyfriend (now ex - Note: see my left ring finger) back in the States. Not that there’s anything wrong with keeping in touch with loved ones back home – that’s extremely important. However, there’s a distinct line between keeping up with your loved ones, and keeping up with your loved ones to the point that you don’t go out and enjoy your present. Thankfully this didn’t occur 'til the tail end of my trip, but regardless, don’t attempt to live in two places at once. Just live and enjoy where you are!

Belvedere Palace

Would you go back?
Studying in Vienna for those 3 months changed my entire life so much so that I LIVE here now. I always knew I would get back here some day, and after 4 years of waiting, my husband and I sold everything (except for our cat), quit our jobs, and moved to Vienna (with our cat). We’ll be here for at least 2 years – maybe more.

Husband and I preparing for our move to Vienna. Wiedersehen, OKC!

Enjoying a Kaffeepause (coffee break) at Café Central - very old and made famous by those who used to frequent here, like Sigmund Freud. Also Hitler.


Anything else you'd like to share about the trip?
The Christmas markets! If you're torn about when to visit Vienna, give yourself a huge Christmas present, and come to Vienna specifically for the Christmas markets. Picture the most beautiful Christmas decorations and lights you've ever seen - got an image in your head? Vienna triples that. There's music, warm punch, and lines of booths with homemade goodies and presents. It's the best.

Christkindlmarkt Rathaus (Photo credit: Wiki)

Friends, if the opportunity to study or travel or couch surf in Europe ever arises, take it. Don't hesitate, just go for it. Europe is rich with history and culture and will change your life forever. If you find yourself in Vienna and want some recommendations, contact me! I'd love to help a fellow traveler out.

Stephansplatz at night

You can read more about my life in Vienna on my personal blog:
as well as the Vienna blog I co-write with my husband:
or you can follow my regular Vienna updates on Twitter @hollykooi
Schönen Tag! Tchüss!


Emily here--Holly, thank you so much for sharing.  I love that you decided to move to Vienna
with your hubby after such a great study abroad experience.  I can definitely relate...having studied abroad in Costa Rica in 2004, and then returning in 2010 to marry my husband!  You are a great saleswoman for Vienna--the Christmas markets look amazing...and I, too, am obsessed with Milka chocolate.

Readers, if you enjoyed reading Holly's adventures in Vienna, please check out her blog.

If you're interested in sharing your own adventures on TTD, please shoot me an email.


  1. Awesome post! I'm stationed in Germany right now, and Vienna is going to be my last trip with a few friends before we all split up and head to different bases. None of us have been yet, and we're not really sure where all of the big attractions are, so I'm really glad to have run across this post! Thanks so much for sharing. I have a few good starting points for my trip now!

  2. Okay I'm sold! I definitely want to go there, but secretly always have since one of my favorite movies is the Sound of Music! Great post!

  3. Great post Holly! I love that you are sharing Vienna with the world!


    1) Vienna is at the top of my baby name list (and always has been, with a brief tie for first with Sydney).

    2) GERMANY. That is all.

    3) Christmas markets.

    Unfortunately, I've experienced the caffeine OD she talked about. No joke! Back when Red Bull first came out, all of my friends said it was the same thing as soda. We were partying one night, and I had to be somewhere to sing at 7:30am the next morning, so I laid off the alcohol. But I drank a lot of Red Bull. 7 cans, to be exact. It was a nightmare! Funny now, but it was scary shiz!

    P.S. Husband just swung by my office at work, and I showed him the photos. We love them!

  5. Kris Angel Vienna capital is great place to visit.!!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts and love!
Every comment makes me smile :)

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