) from Venice and quickly dropped off our bags at our hostel for a day of exploring. We started with a stroll around the center ring of the city, seeing many of the sights: the Opera House, St. Stephan's Cathedral and the Hofburg Palace. Since it was a Sunday morning, it was a peaceful, relaxing morning stroll. Luckily, the historic and elegant Cafe Sacher was open and we stopped in for a "breakfast" of café and Sacher torte, their famous chocolate cake consisting of two layers of cake with apricot jam filing and covered with dark chocolate icing. It was a decadent treat, but trust us, we weren’t the only ones enjoying chocolate for breakfast! After our stroll, we found our way to the Burggarten, a relaxing park close to the Hofburg Palace famous for its statue of Mozart and spent the rest of the morning relaxing with the sunbathing locals. We had lunch at Reinthaler’s Beisl, enjoying a break from pasta with traditional Austrian fare
. We then headed back to our hostel to check in and for a much-needed afternoon siesta after the night train. We awoke refreshed and ventured down to the hostel lobby for happy hour with the other hostel guests. There, we found out about the Danube Island Festival (Europe’s largest free outdoor music festival with 4.5 km of stages) that was wrapping up its final night that evening. With the bargain price of admission we decided we’d check it out, but not before dinner at a traditional Heurgiger (Austrian wine cellar). We then caught the subway to the Danube Island and followed the massive crowds towards the festival. Although we weren’t familiar with any of the bands playing that night, they definitely drew a big crowd. Creighton was disappointed we missed Billy Idol and Paul Van Dyke, the headliners of the two prior evenings. Still, we enjoyed listening to the different types of music and the energized crowd.
The next day, after a late night at the festival, we had a relaxing morning at the hostel enjoying breakfast in the patio garden and doing some much-needed laundry. We then walked to the Schonbrunn Palace, the second largest palace in Europe only to Versailles. We decided we were palaced-out and only needed to see the gardens. Looking back, this was a good idea as there was more than enough to see in the gardens alone. We walked around to the various fountains and rose gardens before stumbling upon the coolest garden experience ever, the labyrinth gardens. These gardens consisted of three different garden mazes and an adult-sized playground (see picture of Kelly in bird-swing). We spent a lot of time in the main maze – much longer than it probably should have – but were rewarded at the end with a male and female harmony stone which supposedly bring harmony to you and your significant other. After the mazes we wondered around the gardens some more and then grabbed a late lunch at the café directly outside the palace. There we enjoyed hearty Viennese salads and their famous apple strudel for dessert. That evening we went back to the Burggarten for dinner at Café Restaurant Palmerhaus before retiring back to the hostel.
We arrived to Wien (Vienna) early in the morning after catching the unpleasantly hot night train (the AC was