We crossed into Austria on the 17th May and over the mountains the bright green rows of grapevines across the hillsides appeared almost instantly.
I asked a girl we had met in Montenegro what her impression of Slovenia was and she replied “it is like Austria without the colour. I thought that was a clever way of putting it but Slovenia in Spring was not without colour.
Bad Waltersdorf near Graz was our first stop in Austria on the 17th May and we spent the night at the camping ground which had excellent facilities in a large house.

The farmers were out ploughing their fields and planting crops very late into the afternoon. We passed an entire valley growing beans.
We bought some white asparagus and delicious strawberries and cherries before we left to take the Autobahn to Vienna. There were large scale factories along the Autobahn but not a lot else to see but as it was pouring with rain we didn’t mind. We arrived at Klosterneuburg just north of
Vienna about noon and settled into the camping ground.
The imposing and enormous Augustine monastery was just five minutes walk from us and the bus and train services to Vienna a two minute walk away. It only took us about 20minutes on the train and underground into the centre where we ventured later in the day as it had stopped raining
although it was still cold – 10degrees. We changed from the train to the underground and one more change took us to Stephan’s platz in the centre of town. The church as churches go was beautiful and to give it a modern twist rows of mesh curtains had been places along the breadth of the cathedral  which gave it a very different appearance. We walked around for a few hours and down to the Danube which was not blue but a dirty brown colour after all the rain.

Much of Vienna is quite flat and there was a large network of cycle paths. A lot of people (even ladies in high shoes) were using foot powered scooters to get around which was a novel idea.

We had to try some of Austria’s famous cakes so I asked one of the church guards where a good and not touristy cafe was and he recommended one called the “Oberlaa” not far away. We tried an apple slice and a raspberry and custard cake which were delicious.

We returned by the very efficient underground and bus service to the van and had the tasty white asparagus for dinner with boiled potatoes and beans.
We awoke on the 19th to mist and decided to go to see the gigantic monastery and imperial palace wing of the monastery. We were the first in the door so as to beat the tourist buses and we toured the entire place by ourselves and then went on a compulsory guided tour of the history and religious art of the monastery. The scale of the entire building was incredible and it had been beautifully restored.
It had served as a Roman Fort and monastery as well as residences for the Hapsburgs. The Kloster was celebrating it’s 900th year. We had an excellent guide (it was in German) so Maurice and the only other person from the USA had audio phones in English which worked out well. The
scale of wealth of the church and of the royalty just in this one example was absolutely incredible.
There have been monks living there over the years since 1114 and the only time they were ousted was by the Nazis during the war. The monastery has a cellar of three storeys and is Austria’s oldest wine estate.
We wandered around Klosterneuburg’s neat little town and back to the van for a rest before heading back to the city. When we came out of the monastery the sun was shining, it was 24degrees and the sky was without a cloud in sight. We couldn’t believe the change in the weather!

We had the day before seen a sign for a photographic exhibition in the Jewish quarter of Amy Winehouse so went along to view that. It was about her and her family more than about her music and was very well put together by her brother.
I had missed out on going up to the north tower of the Stephan’s Dom tower so I just made it in time to take the lift up to the top of the tower. My virtigo kicked in and it was very windy up there so I didn’t linger long, just took some photos and was glad to get back on the ground.
We were to meet our Doctor friend Lena however she was held up seeing patients until late so we put of meeting until the next night.
We asked a kind shopkeeper where to eat good local (non tourist) fare. He sent us to the “Reinthaler’s Beisl” where we had a typical meal of roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut and palatschinken, (pancakes)and were not disappointed.

We wanted to explore the city further so we went back the next day and took tram number 2 which did a big circle around the inner city and we saw most of the historical and architecturally beautiful buildings of the 1st district.
The “vienna card” for 20euros for 3days unlimited travel on the buses, trams and underground was great value for us as we went backwards and forwards many times. We got off the tram and walked around the local streets of the 7th district and then caught transport back to the camping ground to have a quick rest and change of  clothes before going back into the city to meet our lovely doctor friend Lena (whom we had met in Udayagiri in India). We met at the Palmenthaus behind the Hofburg (another of the Hapsburg’s palaces) and had a nice dinner with her overlooking the gardens. The “Palmenhaus” original building was demolished and rebuilt later but in 1996-98 it was renovated at a cost of 13million euros. It is spectacular and it was so nice on  a warm evening to sit outside and enjoy the view of the Burgarten with our friend.

It was a nice warm day on the 21st so we took the bus and underground and were at Schoenbrunn palace at 8.30am when it opened. Again we wanted to beat the tour buses. We wandered around the stunning rooms of
the palace which were opulent but most not as ostentacious as the palace at Versailles. Maria Theresia unlike her French counterparts opened the gardens to the public in the late 1700’s. We spent 3hours there and walked
up to the “Gloriette” to have the panorama of the palace and Vienna city from the top.
The ticket price was 17euros (with a discount for having the Vienna card) which got us into the palace, the gardens,the orangerie and to the top of the gloriette.
It was a glorious day and we enjoyed it immensely. We did have to sidestep many workmen in the gardens who were preparing an enormous stage for the Viennese philharmonic who were due to perform on the 29th May.
We left as many of the tour buses loads of tourists arrived so were glad to leave and take the underground  back to Pilgramgasse to walk through the interesting suburban buildings to the “Naschmarkt” which is an enormous open market with every kind of food, cafe and restaurant on offer.
We had a bite of lunch (kebab for a change) and walked back to Karlsplatz and caught the tram to the “Volksgarten” which is a stunning garden of roses of every colour. This garden led through to the “Burghof” another Hapsburg palace which also houses the national library and from here we walked around the side of the palace to the  Burgarten and into the  butterfly house to see the lovely butterflies in their tropical setting.
We decided on a drink and cake at the Palmenhaus before walking back into the innercity and catching the tram, underground and bus back to Klosterneuburg.
We had a wonderful day but were exhausted from walking for about 7hours.

We had a leisurely morning the following day and the temperature was just what we wanted – 22degrees with a promise of 28degrees.
We went to visit Lena at her work where she gave me some more antibiotics (against flu and bronchitis).
She works with a Oncology professor who deals now with holistic medicine and he has a wonderful house specially set up overlooking the forest for
patients while they receive treatment. It is just on the outskirts of Vienna but in a very tranquil setting.
It deals with cancer patients and they have had great success with their treatments. Lena is a GP but has trained with accupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines and combines both her fields of medicines.

Lena suggested if we had time (which we have!) to go down to the “Wachau” an area west of Vienna which follows the Danube from Melks to Krems and is a major wine area. This we did and had a lovely drive along the river to
a restaurant “Jamek” owned by her uncle and run by her cousin. We had a great meal and delicious apricot juice (apricots are famous in the area)in the garden part of their restaurant by the Danube. We had not announced ourselves prior to the meal and the service and everything else was impeccable. We found her cousin after the meal and he gave us a jar of Apricot jam which Maurice will devour.
We then made our way north on the secondary roads passing many quaint small towns many with their “May poles” swaying in the breeze and onto our next destination of the Brno in the Czech republic.

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