A whistle-stop Viennese waltz
With Austrian Airlines offering among the most competitive fares to Europe, several tourists find themselves in the same situation TTN’s correspondent did: with half a day between connecting flights.
But eight hours in stunning Vienna is plenty of time to take the 20 minute train to the city centre where, if it's a fine day, the best way to see downtown Vienna is in a fiacre or horse-drawn landau that confers instant – if expensive – royal status on the passenger.
In a tradition that goes back to the 17th century, they offer a feel for what this artistic capital was like at its height. Our great coated and hatted driver, Anna, told us in accented English that we can only half understand because the wind carries so much of it past our ears, that the fiacre is to Vienna what the gondolier is to Venice – although much less of a cliché, of course!
Available downtown near the Stephansdom Cathedral with its old catacombs, they clop along a ring road that, for 40 euros and 20 minutes, will take the unashamed tourist past the obligatory building where Mozart played as a young man, past several traditional kaffeehauses, the State Opera and through the courtyard of the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace of Emperor Franz Josef and his beloved queen Sissy – which, of course, bling lovers can get away to have a quiet wander around on their own.
We chose, instead, to head down to a traditional kaffeehaus, Café Central, which we discovered after stopping by an upmarket – and alas, very multinational – product of globalisation. Pretty much like a living room in the heart of a big city, these kaffeehauses, some of which date back centuries, are where you stop for your sacher torte and apfelstrudel, which you can wash down with that sort of hearty coffee the Germanic people do so well.
Many also offer goulash, and if you look for the special dish of the day, it might even be the Wiener schnitzel Julie Andrews's Maria was such a lover of. Best of all, you're served with a politeness that Dubai's service trade would do well to learn from.
Right outside, a couple of gilded statue artists in the square made a pretty picture for our Facebook page, and a short walk away was enough trendy, idiosyncratic shopping to make us want to return – like, it seems, most GCC travellers do.
By Clark Kelly