I’m an unapologetic solo traveller. I find trips to new places with friends great fun – but the autonomous freedom to explore and do whatever you want whilst on holiday is what makes it a holiday for me.
Take my trip to Vienna. Over the long weekend I wanted to achieve a combination of the following :
- Keep expenses low. This meant taking an overnight train from Zürich to Vienna and sleeping stacked 3 storeys up in tiny a 6-man room shared with peroxide blonde Eastern European girls (cheap transport requiring one less night of accommodation).
- Take it easy. This meant sitting in the famous Viennese Coffeehouses for extended periods of time eating cake and drinking espressos, writing up my diary and people watching.
- Do the stuff I only ever do when I’m on holiday. Such as visiting art museums and staring intently at oil canvasses.
- Glam it up for one of the prestigious black-tie Viennese Winter Balls. This involved shoving a ballgown and platform heels into the bottom of my rucksack.
My hunch is that it would be rather difficult to find a person who would willingly meet all four of those criteria.
I’d heard a lot about Vienna and how amazing a city it is. Initially I wanted to get over there promptly, i.e., before Winter 2011. That was until I read up on Viennese Winter Balls…then I planned my whole trip around attending one of those in February. I’ve been ballroom dancing for 2 years, though I’m having a hiatus whilst I’m on the Continent. The prospect of an upmarket Ball in the grandeur of the Imperial Palace complex was hard to resist. I settled for the Rudolfina Redoute based upon the cheapness of the ticket, the clientale (organised by a student society I figured it would have quite a young crowd), the premise (women in masks until midnight) and the rules that stipulated that women could turn up unaccompanied (most Balls tend to assume that women come with a man in tow, I wasn’t necessarily in agreement with that…).
Vienna is an amazing city, by the way. Incredibly grand and ornate, although accessible too. Those world-famous coffeehouses (I visited some of the most renowned, Engländer, Sperl & The Opera House) are frequented by tourists and locals and business-men alike. Getting across the architecturally-stunning Innere Stadt takes less than 20 minutes on foot. Fast food vendors beside most large tram stops serve cheap stir fries, falafel sandwiches in addition to kebabs & fries. To a resident of Switzerland, Vienna is very reasonably-priced indeed.
It is a good city to get lost in. There are enough winding little alleyways and narrow streets in the old city to ensure that you (nearly)completely lose your sense of direction. There are plenty of glorious little details to look out for – a piece of architecture, a viewpoint, a quiet spot – as you explore, making a visit all the more rewarding.
The Rudolfina Redoute was very much my personal indulgence. Going alone as an outsider I missed out on what made the Balls such an enjoyable experience for others: the socialisation, the dancing (ballroom, latin, classical and jazz music was played throughout the palace complex) and the chance to sit down (table seats had to be paid for separately – otherwise you were on your feet). I stayed until midnight to watch the famous Midnight Quadrille, then headed back to the Hostel.