and Zurich too! Yea, it was a lot for one week. My main purpose for this trip was to visit family and check out some spots along the way. My favorite aunt and uncle (who is Austrian), were spending a few weeks in Austria, and I wanted to see them since I was so close. The last time I saw them was 9 years ago in Beijing, right after I graduated high school. My uncle currently works for the Austrian embassy in Lima, Peru. In the past, they have lived in Beijing, Vietnam, Slovenia, New York, and other places, with a home base in Vienna.
My aunt and uncle live in the 21st district of Vienna called Floridsdorf, in the northernmost part of the city limits. They are for sure an interesting pair! My uncle started learning Mandarin at university, and he went to Shanghai in the early 80s to continue studying Chinese. Back then, he was probably the only Western looking guy for miles around, much less one that could speak the language. He found a job at the Austrian embassy in Beijing, and then met my aunt shortly after. My mom (her sister) had moved to the US with my dad around that time. After marrying him, my aunt moved to Austria without knowing a lick of German, and now she and my uncle speak a combination of Mandarin and German with some English and Spanish thrown in for good measure. It’s quite confusing at times!
So this was my rough and rushed itinerary: Vienna > Bratislava > Vienna > Feldkirch > Liechtenstein > Feldkirch > Zurich > Luxembourg. Given how quick each stop was, I’ll just share pics with a few notes.
Vienna / Wien
- I did a free walking tour and then ate schnitzel at the 3rd gen Figlmüller because the OG and 2nd gen locations were full or closed (respectively). Was delicious but slightly touristy.
- I waited in line to have the Sachertorte at the Sacher Hotel Cafe. Was very delicious, but very touristy and not worth the wait in the hot sun.
- St Stephen’s Cathedral: lovely square, beautiful roof, crowded
- St Peter’s Church: gilded and ornate interior, not as crowded as St Stephen’s
- Austrian National Library: pretty interesting Free Mason exhibit, beautiful old globes, statues, and painted ceilings
- Belvedere Palace and museum: looove Gustav Klimt, paid €15 for just the Upper Belvedere, then took a stroll around the palace grounds for free
According to the official Vienna tourism site, Vienna is “only metropolis that grows enough wine within its city limits to make it worth mentioning”. Lol. My aunt, uncle, my second cousin, and I walked from their house to a few vineyards nearby in Stammersdorf. This area is less touristy and where the locals go to Viennese “heurige” or wine taverns. The wine was inexpensive, the food was delicious, and the ambiance was delightful. 10 out of 10 would recommend.
Google Maps is mostly useless here for public transport and will have you walking 40 minutes to get anywhere because it doesn’t have all the tram and train information. Following my aunt’s advice, I downloaded the Wiener Linien app for ticket purchases and qando Wien for departure times and routes (available in English). I took almost all forms of transport: bus, tram, train, subway. It’s very easy to do, just validate your ticket once and you’re done for the duration of the ticket, no need to additionally swipe in and out of the subway. Vienna is super bike friendly. There are clear delineations for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, so don’t be caught walking in a bike lane!
6 hours in Bratislava
I took an hour long FlixBus for €5 each way to get to Bratislava from Vienna. It’s the cheapest way to travel around Europe, so it’s great if you’re on a budget and don’t mind spending a bit more time getting from place to place.
Hour 1: breakfast at Mon Dieu, coffee, got my bearings, and found a free walking tour
Hours 2-5: Be Free Walking Tour with Bratislava local, Martina
Hour 6: rushed around and tried to do everything Martina told me about on the tour
- Got some wine: Devín (white) and Dunaj (red)
- Climbed some stairs and saw the castle. It’s free to walk around the gardens and you can check out panoramic views of the whole city.
- Ate some food and drink some beer. Le Senk at the foot of the castle hill has craft beers and yummy goulash. Other pros were good views of UFO bridge and St Martins Cathedral. Plus, it’s right by the FlixBus stop 🙂
- Charming and underrated city with a ton of history
- Uniform apartment blocks from the Communist era are colorfully painted “Legos”
- Communist “scars” like the highway and bridge cutting through the middle of the old town
- Everything is close and easily accessible by walking
- Old town is full of embassies and consulates, but the USA one was the only one I saw with a fence and guards around it #MURICA
Feldkirch / Liechtenstein
My uncle’s hometown is Feldkirch, Austria, a beautiful 6 hour train ride away from Vienna. The three of us stayed at his sisters’ house, where I met my Austrian family for the first time. I have a large extended family, spread out among many countries, and I grew up only knowing my immediate family. It was a weird sensation to meet these people that I have no blood relation with, but felt such a connection to despite a language barrier. My uncle’s aunt (what does that make her to me?) was turning 100, so the family made a slideshow of a bunch of photos that she had taken throughout the years. She was a teacher and had one of the first cameras in the whole village. The pictures of my aunts and uncles as kids look like they are directly taken from the Sound of Music: haircuts, scenery, and all.
We spent the day hiking in Bewegungsberg Golm Montaflon, which was beautiful and covered in so many varieties of flowers. We got caught in some rain, but who can complain when you’re in the Alps?
In the evening, I biked around the Feldkirch town center. It’s a lovely little medieval town with a river running through it, but I stumbled upon a hipster weekend market that provided an interesting contrast.
My last morning there, I biked one hour to Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The border is only a 15 minute bike ride from Feldkirch, and you would hardly notice it unless you were staring at Google Maps every 200 meters like I was. I can’t say I did much in Liechtenstein because I had to turn right back around, but the bike ride was refreshing.
So there you have it. A glimpse into my family dynamic, and a load of pics and information.
Lessons and Tips
- You’ll see “wiener” everywhere in Vienna. Have a chuckle, then get over it.
- Download qando Wien to get around Vienna with public transport
- 6 hours in Bratislava is just barely enough time to frantically check boxes, don’t do what I did
- I wish I had more time to explore other towns in Austria like Salzburg and Innsbruck, but maybe next time!
- Go hiking in the Alps and biking around Liechtenstien
Photos taken with the iPhone 6s or Fujifilm X-E2s