This weekend, I explored the wonders of Prague, Capital of the Czech Republic, and through some crazy circumstances, I also got a day trip to the beautiful Vienna, Austria!
The trip started as a crazy roller coaster of events. Leaving from our home city in Florence, we had to go to the bus station much farther than we normally have to go to. Although we left from our apartment almost an hour before our bus departure, the ticket lines for the tram were super long. We realized we would be cutting it super close.
As we arrived to the bus station, we could see our bus just leaving the station. We tried to run after it, but it was too late. We had no idea what to do! We sat in the bus station, disappointed and confused, and started to weigh our options. We decided to wait in the station for two hours to see if we could get on the next departure from Florence to Prague for free.
When the time finally came, I went up to the bus driver and, completely in Italian, started to explain our situation. After a bit of persuasion, the bus driver offered to give us a ride to Vienna for only €40, where we could get a transfer bus to Prague, as opposed to paying the €114 online for the same ticket! We took the offer and decided that it would be super cool to spend our whole first day exploring Vienna. We hopped on the bus, excited, thankful, and knowing that we had missed to first bus for a reason!
On the ten hour bus ride, we researched all we could do in Vienna. My friend even found out that her friend Patrick from America was staying in Vienna for the weekend, and knew some locals there. What are the chances! Our bus finally arrived in Vienna, and we took a subway to the city center, right next to the stunning St. Stephan Cathedral. At 8 am the streets were still quiet and empty, but we were amazed at how beautiful and grand the buildings looked. We headed to a cafe and shared a Viennese breakfast.
After refueling, we met up with Patrick, his Austrian friend Christina, and her dad. They took us around to some incredible landmarks, like the Hotel Sacher, Hofburg Imperial Palace, Austrian National Library, beautiful public gardens, the Vienna State Opera, several churches, and more! They even treated us to Sachertorte, an incredible Austrian dessert composed of rich chocolate cake and layers of apricot jam. However, what I really appreciated was Christina and her dad’s lessons about the history of Austria and significance of each building throughout our tour! I was impressed how knowledgeable they were about their cultural and political history. Getting such a truly local experience and education was priceless to me.
After Patrick, Christina, and her dad departed us, we stopped for a late lunch before heading back to the bus station to go to Prague. We wanted to try some really typical Austrian food. We shared a combo of roast beef with fried potatoes and onions and veal Weiner schnitzel, which is flattened and crispy breaded veal. To finish it off, we got an apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. Everything was SO incredible.
As we headed to the bus station, we reflected on the lessons we learned (Always leave EXTRA time when traveling, Plan for the worst, Be open to changing plans), but we also thought about how grateful we were to experience another city and country we never even expected, in such a local and real way! Sometimes the universe works in strange ways…