The Austrians seem like a rule-following bunch, which fits the stereotype, I suppose. In Cork, even when the signal says “Don’t Walk,” if there’s a half-car-length space in moving traffic, most of the pedestrians will run for it. In Vienna, the nearest car could be a mile off and they’ll wait for the walk signal.

This need to follow the rules, even unwritten ones, extended beyond walking patterns. For example, we had asked the woman at the front desk of our hostel if she could recommend a nearby restaurant. She seemed reluctant to do so, first needing a list of the types of food we liked, a list of restaurants we had already tried, a list of professional references, a blood sample, a urine sample, a stool sample, and a paint sample. We never got a recommendation from her. Our first night, though, the man at the front desk recommended a restaurant right around the corner, and it did have great schnitzel.

Actually, all the food was good here, and quite a bit cheaper than in Cork. We did have a list of a few places Amy had found in a guidebook and online but often we just tried our luck, having bratwurst from a street vendor, gelato and drinks at sidewalk cafés (about twice a day), and dinner at wherever looked good. We were never disappointed, but there is something strange about sitting in a Greek restaurant in Vienna listening to “Sweet Home, Alabama” play on the speakers.

We didn’t follow an agenda, didn’t have a single thing that was on our “must-see” list, but Vienna is so spectacularly beautiful, we didn’t need one. Even wandering down little-travelled side streets, in what passes for a non-descript neighborhood in Vienna, we saw building after building that could have been moved to any city in the U.S. and become a showpiece.

We didn’t spend our entire time in the city. Yesterday was our nine-year anniversary, and we struck of to the nearby town of Baden Bei Wien. There, we had lunch, walked in the woods, and went to a large pool and soaked for a bit before heading back here to Vienna. In the evening, we went to dinner, a concert (a quintet playing Mozart and Strauss), a late dinner, and dessert at another café. Not a bad anniversary.

In an hour we board the train for St. Wolfgang in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. If you have to follow up Vienna, the Alps will do.

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