Last weekend, I traveled to Vienna, Austria with four other exchange students from the United States. This was a different side of Europe, which I had not seen before. Austria was very different from eastern Europe. Many things were more modern, while at the same time the architecture was classic and beautiful. However, the infrastructure, such as the subway system, was advanced and modern. Even the hostel that I stayed in was nice. While it was significantly different from Bulgaria and Greece, I am still glad that I chose Bulgaria as my study abroad destination. Also, if I had been in Austria all semester, I would certainly go bankrupt, as everything is far more expensive.
I did enjoy the luxuries of experiencing some gluten-free food while I was in Vienna. In eastern Europe, such a thing does not exist, because hardly anyone is gluten-free. Celiac disease is deemed a “Northern European” disease. I was unable to eat the breakfast offered at the hostel, so I went along with a friend to McDonald’s, not feeling optimistic that I could eat anything there either, but hoping to just get a coffee. However, much to my surprise, McDonald’s in Austria has gluten-free bread! They also give you Nutella with the bread, so I ate here for breakfast all weekend, and I am not ashamed to admit it.
Although Austrian cuisine is not traditionally gluten-free, there is much more diversity of cuisines offered in Vienna than there is in Bulgaria. There were a lot of Asian restaurants, one of which I ate at on Friday. Almost every restaurant I visited in Vienna has the same allergen code on their menus: “A” always meant that the food item contained gluten. This was such a blessing, because in Bulgaria they don’t usually provide any of this information on the menu, and usually get confused if you ask about it. However, this made my life so much easier, if only for the weekend.
In Vienna, we packed in as much sightseeing as possible. We saw two palaces, the Belvedere Palace and the famous Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens. At the Schonbrunn Palace, which is enormous, there are many gardens behind and a very large hill with a spectacular view of Vienna at the top. We hiked up, and saw breathtaking views and some other architecture at the top.
On Saturday, we also saw the National Library of Austria, which is ornately decorated inside. The amount of detail that went into the architecture inside the library was truly amazing. It cost money to get in, but we got a student discount and it was worth the price to see the inside. In addition, we visited the center of Vienna, as well as the famous ferris wheel Wiener Riesenrad, which is in Prater amusement park. On Sunday, we visited the Natural History Museum, which was free to enter, and also had amazing interior decor.
I was completely exhausted after this whirlwind weekend of sightseeing and walking almost 20 miles around Vienna, but I am so glad that I saw as much as I did. On Sunday, I had a different flight back from my friends, so I also had to navigate the Vienna subway system alone and find my way back to the airport, which was an adventure.