Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


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Exploring Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof Cemetery

I was definitely saving the best for last with this post!

Our visit to Vienn’a Zentralfriedhof cemetery was a highlight of the trip for my mom and I and we would have been happy to spend the entire day wandering the grounds and taking photos.

Vienna's Zentralfriedhof cemeteryThe Dr. Karl Lueger-Gedächtniskirche ChurchZentralfriedhof, ViennaRainy tour of Zentralfriedhof

Vince’s feelings on the cemetery I will sum up with this photo:

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Sacher Torte: Vienna’s Famous Sweet Treat

Historical Cafe Sacher
Vienna is well known for a few different foods, but Sacher Torte takes the cake (literally). The “Original Sacher Torte” (or Sachertorte, as it is spelled locally) is still served at the five star Hotel Sacher and the adjacent Cafe Sacher. Stepping through the front doors of this opulent café feels like stepping back in time; the period decor is beautiful and the white tie service was really fun to experience–although I felt very under dressed in jeans and a long sleeved shirt!

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Vienna Christmas Markets: Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz

We ventured out to Vienna’s city hall, Rathaus, after it got dark one evening to check out the largest Christmas Market in the city. The Wiener Christkindlmarkt was beyond packed but it was very festive and I am glad we got to see and experience it.

The market sits between the city hall building and the theater. The city hall is a beautiful building and setting and there are thousands of Christmas lights surrounding it and a huge illuminated tree in front, making it even more romantic.Wiener ChristkindlmarktVienna's Rathaus (city hall)Angel Christmas lightsRathaus Christmas Market

We decided to give the beer punsch a try this time around. It had whole berries in it and I liked it a lot more than the gluhwein we had at Schonbrunn palace. The mug was much more fun and Christmas-y as well. All in all, though, it’s just not my thing! Give me a mug of hot chocolate, and I’m good!

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Vienna Christmas Markets: Schönbrunn Palace

On our first morning in Vienna we set out for Schönbrunn Palace and its famed Christmas Market.

The 1,400 room palace was the long time home of the Hapsburgs and remains one of the most important and well known sites in Austria. The sheer size of it is staggering. While it’s a bit sparse in the winter, I think the gardens would be incredible in the summer months.

No visit to the city during the 4 weeks of advent would be complete without a visit to at least one Christkindlmarkt/Weihnachtsmarkt, as they are known locally. The city is brimming with them, both large and small, and the Schonbrunn market was my favorite of the two we went to.

The market sits directly in front of the grand palace and is packed with food stands and gift stalls.
Crowds outside Schonbrunn PalaceSchonbrunn Palace, ViennaOn the steps of Schonbrunn PalaceChristmas wares at SchronbrunnBecause we visited in the early afternoon there weren’t too many people about. I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so this was more than fine by me. It gave us the chance to wander the many stalls and admire the beautiful and charming holiday decor without having to jostle for a spot. I am absolutely in love with traditional German Christmas handicrafts, such as smokers and candle arches. We found a stand with the most adorable and unique smokers. My mom and I thought the prices were a little steep, but now we regret not buying any (luckily they have a website!).

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Two Thumbs Up for Vienna’s U-Bahn (Metro)

The S-Bahn into Vienna city center (Wien Mitte)

Vienn’s metro system, known as the U-Bahn, is awesome. So much so that I felt the need to write a post on it!

I’ve used public transportation in quite a few cities, but Vienna’s takes the cake. Or should I say, Sacher Torte!

The U-Bahn lines (of which there are 5) and stations are clean (some -ish), conveniently located, and easily connected to S-Bahn and tram lines. These connections made it easy to get to and from the {amazingly modern} airport as well as to more remote areas of the city.

Tram sign

There are no machines to stick tickets into for every trip or gates to pass through. After the ticket is validated, riders can simply get on and off trains as they please. The same is true for the tram lines (which are also included on the multi-day passes). We were never asked to show our tickets or provide proof of payment. That being said, I understand that the fines for not being able to show proper payment result in steep fines.

Mom...deep in thoughtThe hubs and I on the U-Bahn

We bought 48-hour passes, although we should have gotten 72-hours, for about € 12 each. Seeing as one-way journeys are € 2 each and using public transportation is nearly required to see different areas of the city, I think it’s a fantastic deal.

vienna_ubahn

One thing to note are the awesomely-German station names along the U-Bahn lines. It took a day or so to get used to them, but by day three we were practically pros at both pronouncing them–which we did with much delight and gusto–and going from station to station. Our hostel was located near Kettenbrückengasse and other favorites include Margaretengürel, Schlachthausgasse, and Rathaus. For those who are familiar with German, these surely aren’t as amusing as they are to people like me who don’t know their Spittelau from their Hütteldorf.

Kettenbruckengasse

Other than having a hell of a time getting a train back to the airport on Christmas Eve, we thoroughly enjoyed the city’s metro lines and trams and got great use out of them.

Basically what I’m telling you is that the metro is Vienna is the shiz and if you ever find yourself there and for some insane reason don’t use it, you are missing out!

W.

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Scenes from Vienna’s Naschmarkt

Whew! Another holiday season has come and gone. I’m happy to be home in Sofia and back to day-to-day life; which includes sharing my adventures and experiences with you all!

I hope your holidays were wonderful and you were able to celebrate with those you love most.

Vince and I were so happy to have my mom come from Utah to visit us here in Bulgaria. She is officially our first visitor from the states and definitely not our last (a friend is actually coming in just a few weeks!). We kicked off her visit by spending 3 jam-packed days in Vienna to get into the Christmas spirit. It’s a lovely city and we had a great time wandering the Christmas Markets, window shopping, eating good food, and exploring such an iconic European destination so rich in history and culture.

And Christmas is definitely the perfect time to visit. The city practically oozes festive charm.

Right across from our hostel in the 6th District was an open-air market called the Naschmarkt.

Naschmarkt, ViennaVintage glass ornaments and drawer pullsChristmas centerpieces

The large market was filled to the brim with food and drink carts, tables of antiques, gifts, flowers, clothing, and Christmas goodies. We had to wander through multiple times as it was set up right next to the metro station closest to where we were staying. It was all I could do to not go home with dozens of vintage trinkets and Christmas decorations. Alas, we were on a budget and I was too overwhelmed by the vast selection anyway.

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The Eagle Has Landed… But is Taking Off Again Shortly!

She’s here!

My mom made it to Sofia in one piece.

We’ve just spent the last few hours catching up and unpacking her stuff.

We don’t have much time to relax, however, because we’re all off to Vienna in a few hours to kick off the holidays by wandering Christmas Markets, drinking mulled wine, buying festive gifts, and eating Sacher Torte!

Next week our Bulgarian adventures begin. I can’t wait to show her around my new home and introduce her to the in-laws.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend and are spending it with the ones you love.

W.

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