Vienna and Bratislava are two capital cities that present a unique opportunity. The two are so close to each other that it only takes an hour to travel between them, making it easy to visit them both in the same trip; something that I decided to do during our last reading week.
First up was Vienna and after landing, I immediately headed for the city’s museums. The former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city has been home to many remarkable individuals and I especially wanted to see the work of artist Gustav Klimt. The Belvedere Museum houses the largest collection of Klimt paintings, and your eye is immediately drawn to Klimt’s golden canvases. Reminiscent of Medieval icon painting, his use of ornaments reflect the buildings that constitute the centre of Vienna. However, I ultimately found myself more interested in the work of another artist – Egon Schiele. The Leopold Museum holds the largest collection of Schiele’s work, conveniently placed in MuseumsQuartier and it was my first stop the following day. A mentee of Klimt, this artist used bruised and broken bodies to convey both physical and emotional pain, making his work some of the most powerful I have ever seen.
Aside from the museums, I could not visit Vienna without frequenting one of the Viennese Coffee houses (which sounded like a very good idea, given how little I had slept). Unfortunately, my experience was a bit disappointing – you know a cake is bad when the slice you got from the hotel buffet was still nicer after spending six hours in a rucksack wrapped in napkins, than the one you
received from the cafe. Though, they served the best and most expensive cup of coffee I have ever had. Expense was undoubtedly my biggest dislike of Vienna. The museums, although wonderful, were all too costly – around 10 to 20 euros. Keep in mind that London’s museums are free and so are Paris’, for EEA citizens under 25.
I was pleased to discover that Bratislava was considerably cheaper. The coach trip was short and inexpensive, traveling for an hour through lovely Austrian countryside before crossing the border and arriving in Bratislava. The most prominent and famous feature of Bratislava is its castle, which offers perhaps the best views of the city, even on the foggy day I visited. It only costs a few Euros to go in, but I’m not convinced that it was worth it. Apart from what seemed like a good exhibition on the Celts (I say it seemed because I was tired and wasn’t really paying attention), there didn’t seem to be much actually there. I enjoyed having an hour in the Slovak Modern Art Gallery, especially given how little it cost to enter (think of it as the New York Guggenheim’s baby brother). The city as a whole felt like a pocket-capital, smaller than Vienna, but just as charming and easily explorable on foot.
In short, both are lovely and contrasting destinations and there’s no need to choose between them.
Pictured: Bratislava, Slovakia