So, what do you do when your wife is presenting at an international conference in Vienna? Well, if you’re a Digital Nomad (like me!), you pack up your office (which comprises a laptop, smartphone & various electrical cords & chargers) & you go with her!
We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, the day before my wife needed to report in to conference organisers & participate in her “Familiarisation briefing” & two days before the conference proper was starting.
First thing was to check in to our hotel. We caught a cab from the airport, which we don’t normally do, but we wanted to settle in as quickly as possible. Our hotel was located right in the heart of the city – only a few minutes walk to St Stephen’s Cathedral & the old part of town – a fabulous location!
We arrived a little after 1pm – check in went smoothly &, after settling into our room, we decided to go for a walk to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. One of the first things we discovered was the Capuchin Church, diagonally opposite our hotel & home to the “Capuchins’ Crypt,” – resting place of the family that was the Habsburg dynasty dating back to the early 1600’s.
The church was very nondescript by European standards &, apart from a small display poster at the entrance you wouldn’t know it was there! It was really interesting though, to be able to wander around the underground complex that houses twelve emperors, 18 empresses, and 113 other members of the Habsburg family.
From there we ventured into the streets & alleys surrounding St Stephen’s Cathedral to find somewhere for an afternoon snack (lunchtime had been & gone whilst we were exploring the royal crypt!). We settled on a quirky hamburger joint & got a little more than a snack! The décor was amazing (one of the factors that led us to choose this place) with sculptures & artwork adorning not just the walls but the ceilings, oh, & the burgers were pretty good too!
Once we were fed it was back out to the streets. We headed out of the main city area to visit Hundertwasser House in Vienna – it’s one of Austria’s architectural highlights. The house was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser who was more than a little eccentric & this block of apartments he designed reflects that! Very unusual colours & shape with a real emphasis on sustainability.
By the time we had finished exploring the place & the museum adjoining it & headed back to the city, the afternoon was fast being replaced by the early evening & the street & shop window lights were starting to take over from the sun as it slowly gave up its duties for the day.
Wandering through the streets & seeing the numerous horse pulled carriages that are a feature of this area was quite magical – close your eyes & listen to the sounds of horses hooves “Clip clopping” over cobbled streets & you could imagine yourself in another century entirely!
We headed back to the hotel a little before seven. No need for dinner tonight after our late afternoon burger. Back in our room – which was almost like a suite, very spacious – I fired up my computer at the desk that formed part of the “Office” in one corner of the room whilst Iris went over some of her conference presentation notes. Tomorrow, Iris needs to check into the conference & participate in the presenter briefings.
Thursday morning comprised a leisurely start to the day, beginning with a delicious breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Late morning we ventured outside for the first time &, after a bit of a stroll around the immediate area it was time to head for the Metro train station so that Iris could get to the conference venue. We had scouted the station entrance the evening prior – it was only a hundred metres or so from the hotel & wasn’t hard to find.
Iris’ conference was being held at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) which also serves as the campus and building complex hosting the United Nations Office. Easy to get to by Metro train – all we had to do was catch the U1 & 10 minutes later, you’re there!
Once at the VIC station though it did take us a few minutes to figure out which building was the conference venue – it’s almost like a rabbit warren with buildings dotted everywhere!
Having figured out, through trial & error, which building we needed it only took a ten minute walk from the station to be inside the right venue. Once Iris was there & made herself known we said goodbye to each other for the afternoon – no point in my hanging around whilst she is off doing her “Thing”
I headed back to the city on the U1 & explored a few more of the streets around our hotel, as well as looking for the famous Sacher Hotel where the renowned “Sacher Torte” cake delight was first created. It wasn’t hard to find &, once discovered, how could I resist the temptation to sample the famous cake?!
It’s a popular place – there was a queue to get inside and sit at one of the Hotel’s café tables. I could have got a table at one of the many outdoor street cafes around the hotel & had some “Sacher torte” but I wanted to enjoy this taste experience in the Hotel café where it was first created, so I patiently waited in line to get a table inside.
I only had to wait 10 minutes in line before I was escorted to a table & given a menu. There were all sorts of variations on the ways the cake could be served. I opted for the Sacher Torte with fresh cream & a cappuccino. I must admit that I felt rather special to be here in Vienna, at the Sacher Hotel & about to experience my first taste of a “Sacher Torte” at the birthplace of its delivery to the world!
And I was not disappointed! It has to go down as the best tasting chocolate cake I have ever tasted – the coffee was amazing too! From the smiles of the people around me I knew that I was not on my own in my appreciation of the experience. The husband & wife next to me were from Yorkshire, in England, on an extended weekend getaway – their first trip to Vienna.
His desire to sample this culinary masterpiece was so strong that he was ignoring his condition as a diabetic so that he could enjoy the experience – and he said it was more than worth it!
Once I had savoured every possible moment of my journey to this cake eating Mecca I headed back to our hotel – it was only a five minute walk – &, once in our room, fired up my laptop to do a little more work.
I was interrupted in this endeavour with the return of my wife from her conference presenter familiarisation. I made us both a cup of tea, over which she shared with me her experiences of the afternoon & I shared mine with her. She was jealous!
After a short rest we headed out to find a restaurant for dinner. There was no shortage of places from which to choose – in fact, the challenge was in making a decision on which place to eat at!
Dinner was delicious & an early night was called for – Iris has her presentation tomorrow & a clear head with a well rested body was called for!
Friday & we enjoyed breakfast a little earlier than the day before as Iris had to be at the conference early today. She will be travelling to the venue with a few of her work colleagues who are attending the conference as participants. I wish her luck (though I know she won’t need it!) & she heads off to the Metro station we used the day before. She is a little nervous as this will be her first presentation to colleagues & peers in a conference environment – it was one of her professional goals to achieve whilst we are living in Europe – & I am so proud of her for doing this!
I head back to our room, where I do a little work for a few hours. I love the flexibility of my “Digital” lifestyle & being able to work from virtually anywhere. A little after lunch I decide to head out & explore some more of my surroundings. Vienna is an awesome city, with a real atmosphere of “Casual excitement” – you get the feeling that there is always plenty going on but you feel no pressure to “Have to” do anything at all.
Late afternoon I head back to the hotel to await the return of my wife & to find out how her presentation went. I was only in the room for a short while before she returned. She was brimming! Her presentation went better than she had expected & the feedback from participants was very positive, with her ratings (these can be submitted in real time online) very high.
She gave me a summary of how the presentation went down, along with how the rest of the day went (she attended some of the other workshops & plenary groups). But then she had to get ready for the conference dinner which was to be held that evening. I could have attended but I thought it best not to as she would be drawn to stick by my side instead of mingling & networking with colleagues & new friends.
So, a little after 6pm I bid her farewell for the second time in the day, as she and her colleagues from the Strothoff International School headed into the evening for the conference dinner.
I, on the other hand, had far less glamorous plans to have a quiet night with a light dinner & then to finish reading my latest “Jack Reacher” novel in the comfort of my hotel room – which I was happily doing until a little after 11pm when I got a call from my wife to suggest I meet her & her colleagues in the hotel bar (which they were on their way to) downstairs for a nightcap.
How could I refuse? Drinks with a beautiful woman in Vienna, sounds perfect!
So, I made myself as presentable as I could & headed downstairs. Iris & her colleagues had beaten me to it – they were seated at a table in the bar & were several drinks ahead of me by the time I sipped my first Scotch!
Clearly, everyone had enjoyed the conference dinner. The venue was, apparently, spectacular, & the entertainment was far better than everyone had expected. Several drinks later we bade each other goodnight & headed to our respective rooms.
Saturday arrived way too soon. This was to be our final day in Vienna. Over breakfast Iris passed on some sad news to me that had come to her via a private message from the wife of a friend of ours. He had been diagnosed with Leukemia &, whilst no long term prognosis was yet available, it was serious.
We had spent a weekend with them only recently, sailing on their yacht in Amsterdam & he was full of life & energy. It was hard news to take he is only 50 & a more genuine & affable person you will not meet.
Our plans for the day change as a result. We will spend the day together, as opposed to Iris attending the final day of the conference. I outline to her what I had tentatively planned for myself & she is fine with my ideas so she lets her colleagues know that she will not be going with them to the conference which they all understood.
So, we first took a walk to the Spanish Riding School – it’s a traditional riding school for the famous breed of white Lipizzan horses & is Europe’s oldest riding school having started in the early 1700’s. It’s an impressive building but we don’t take in the show demo as we don’t have time (it’s also over €60 each!).
From there we head to the well known Vienna Naschmarkt, which serves as a food market during the week with the addition of bric a brac on weekends, today being Saturday we explore the bric a brac & the grab some lunch at one of the many market cafes.
Next, we head to the northern outskirts of the city to experience Heurigen – or wineries as we English speakers call them. We have been told of some good ones that have amazing city views, so we head to the Metro station for a twenty five minute ride, followed by a ten minute bus trip which should take us to where we need to be.
Unfortunately, and unbeknown to us, there is a marathon race being run in the area on the day we are there so we cannot complete the journey. We got as far as Grinzing, a quaint little village/suburb on the outskirts of Vienna. No views of the city but we did have a nice meal (& wine!) there!
Then we needed to head back to our hotel to pick up our bags. We had checked out earlier in the day but left our bags with reception as we wanted to explore before leaving Vienna.
It’s one of our favourite European cities but it’s not all bad news in leaving today because we are, in fact, catching a Flixbus to Bratislava where we will spend the next five days doing more exploring and experience collecting!
But that is entirely another story!.