I walk around Vienna all the time. My own two feet are my main mode of transportation (although I do love the buses, strassenbahns and U-bahns). I’ve read a bunch of guide books, visited the major sights (more than once), and was even given an evening tour of the Inner City by a 40+ year Vienna local (which was AWESOME). I’m not arrogant enough to think that I know everything about Vienna after living here for just a year, but I felt like I was pretty well versed about the biggest attractions, especially those in closest proximity to my home.
Yesterday, I learned a whole bunch of new stuff. A few weeks ago, I bought Rick Steves’ Walk: Vienna City Center for my iPhone. I’d been researching and buying several of his travel guides for upcoming trips, and saw that he had this walking tour of the center of Vienna — exactly where I live. It was $2 to download it to my phone, and I thought it might be fun to share with guests when they came to visit. So, I bought it. (We first “discovered” Rick Steves just prior to moving to Austria, and we’ve been dedicated fans ever since. Significant parts of our travel philosophy, as well as the priorities and itineraries for nearly all of our trips have been significantly influenced by what we’re read in his books and on his website).
Yesterday was a beautiful day, and I wanted to walk around the city a bit. I only had about an hour until it was time for B to come home from school, so I didn’t want to go too far afield. On a whim, I downloaded and followed the walking tour. It was fantastic. I learned something new about each of the places I visited. I learned details about Austrian history, long distant, as well as more recent. I was reminded that Austria was founded in the 10th century and I learned that a condition of Austrian independence after World War II was its promise of permanent neutrality. I found out that one of the main shopping streets in Vienna is one that the Crusaders marched down in the 12th century. I found a display of images showing the startling damage to (and impressive structural integrity of) St. Stephen’s Cathedral in 1945. And I did it all within about a half a mile of my front door.
I’m so glad I acted on a whim and took that walk yesterday. I had a wonderful time. It was really fun to be a tourist in my own backyard, and it was a humbling reminder of how massive the history of this city is, and of how little I’ve been exposed to. Rick Steves is awesome. He’s the best tour guide I’ve ever had. And Vienna is amazing. There’s still so much to learn.