Vienna, Austria, for Parsimonious Persons

Being a San Diego native can give one a shortsighted perspective of history. Besides the Portuguese tuna fisherman, Children’s Pool and Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego is limited for the most part to the sights of a modern world.

To get a firsthand view of antiquity, one must either visit Mission Hills Convalescent Care or catch a flight to Vienna, Austria.

Stepping off the airplane at Vienna International Airport, travelers are welcomed by a trial by fire – or ice. Plenty of flights are available for reasonable prices from destinations all over Europe. That’s how I arrived, traveling from the South of France to the Austrian capital. I recommend Austrian Airlines. They speak five languages onboard, including English of course, and give out free wine or beer. How many airlines give free booze nowadays?

Anyway, I say trial by fire, ice actually, because one steps directly out of a stuffy airplane cabin onto the tarmac into a -1 degree Fahrenheit Viennese winter (obviously why the liquor is free). One can’t complain; Austrian whisky isn’t bad, and viola, you’re in Vienna, center of Middle Age enlightenment and inspiration. The birthplace of Sigmund Freud, Mozart, Empress Sisi and countless others who have changed our world forever.

A quick tip: lodging in Vienna is expensive. Therefore, do what I say, and what I do. Meet a Viennese tourist in your hometown, be very hospitable and friendly, and I will guarantee (not really) that they will repay the hospitality tenfold. Or if you’re not the outgoing type, check out the website couchsurfers.com. It’s a great resource for meeting locals in foreign communities who may let you crash on the couch. Plus, as any globetrotter will tell you, the best way to really see a city is by accompanying its residents.

Whether couch-surfing or five-star-hotel hopping, Vienna is all about the city center. Therefore, charge a camera battery, bring some water, good shoes, and get ready for some sightseeing. There are hundreds of sights to see in Vienna, all of which are described in any travel guidebook. So I’ll stray away from the Lonely Planet recommendations and provide some real Viennese insight.

First and foremost, wiener schnitzel is Austrian. Not the franchise, mind you, but the meal. And I completely recommend it. If you like country fried steak, you’ll love wiener schnitzel. Second, to score some affordable (three to four Euros) concert tickets at the world famous Vienna State Opera House, arrive two hours ahead of time, go to the left of the large main stair entrance, look for a door that says standing room only (in German), and voila. You have seats — well, actually a pew — to lean on. But hell, seat tickets can be upwards of 500 Euros, and after all that schnitzel you’ll need some time on your feet.

One can spend years in Vienna, but I recommend three to five days. Take lots of pictures, and remember, don’t ever trust chubby men who wear wigs. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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