Leaving the Hotel Bristol at 08h15, I was at Vienna International Airport by 09h10. Passing through security and immigration was a breeze and I found myself at the Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge about 40 minutes before our scheduled boarding time.
A Tale of Two Lounges
The Vienna Airport Lounges are interesting to me. There is the Business Class Lounge and the Star Alliance Lounge. Each time I fly in Business, I am relegated to the Star Alliance Lounge. The only explanation I get is that I have to go their since I do gave Star Gold Status.
While this is indeed true, I am flying Business Class and think I should be allowed in that Lounge. The Star side is utterly packed. Each time I enter this lounge, I find that every single seat is occupied and people are just standing around like vultures, waiting for a seat to open. It isn’t relaxing. Usually, I’ll just pop over to the Priority Pass Lounge next door, which looks like a mediocre restaurant at a mall. At least I can sit though.
This time was different, I was admitted to the Business Class side of the lounge.
It wasn’t stellar, but I did get a seat. I also grabbed a pastry, some sparkling wine and the Monday edition of Le Monde.
I spent only about 20 minutes in the lounge then took the long walk to my gate.
Austrians Business Class Lounge is head and shoulders better than their Star Lounge, but it sure isn’t anything to arrive early for. Show up early enough to grab a newspaper and a glass of bubbles and call it good.
Which Lounge is your favorite in Vienna? Have you ever been relegated to the Star Lounge despite having a proper Business Class ticket?
The return home from my 68 Hours in Singapore afforded me the luxury of a night in Vienna. While I could have found an alternate route home, it would have cost more miles and eaten into my time in Singapore (or added a day to this trip). I love Vienna. This Vienna layover was short. I had 15 hours from the time the door on my inbound flight opened until my outbound door closed.
What would I do with this time? I had a a beautiful suite at the Hotel Bristol, so just relaxing in luxury was an option. There were no shows at the stunning Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), so that was out. I wasn’t in the mood for fine dining experience (shocker, I know!), so what is a guy to do?
The hotel recommended that I hop on a street car and head out to a huge park on the edge of the City. That’s where the Viennese go when it is hot (and it was 33C when I landed at 19h00). Splendid idea. The street car took about 25 minutes to reach the end of the line. The park was beautiful, very natural, with trails in various levels of manicure which led to a large lake. When I arrived it was getting dark, so not many people were left hanging out. I spent about 45 minutes walking around, enjoying nature in a fabulous city. It was starting to get dark and I was afraid I’d get trapped out here in the pitch black – there were NO LIGHTS in this park.
Heading back on the street car, I rode past my stop up to the Rathausplatz – City Hall Plaza. I figured I’d just walk around and make my way back to my hotel. What do I hear, once I’m off the Street Car? Music. Laughter. A crowd. Was this, what Chicagoans call, a Street Fest?
It was! But it wasn’t like a normal Street Fest. This Platz was not only lined with food and booze vendors, but there was a large screen strung up in front of the Rathaus. Surrounding the screen was bleachers. On the screen: A 2002 production of Swan Lake. Yes, a 16 year old recording of the ballet had drawn several thousand Viennese out at 22h00 on a Sunday night. The Platz was electric.
I’m not a huge ballet fan, but I do love warm weather, beer and dining al fresco. I grabbed a lager, walked around the crowd, yes, even watched part I’d the production.
The most fascinating food booth called to me. Wienerschnitzel. Made fresh while you watched. This culinary assembly line kept the crowd as enthralled as the ballet. It had been about 4 hours since I had the prelanding meal on Austrian, plus the beer, I was famished.
The Wienerschnitzel and Potatoes were amazingly perfect. Usually I think if this as a cold weather dish, it paired perfectly with the heat, the beer and the fresh air.
I had no plans for my time in Vienna, but stumbled upon this absolutely perfect evening. Music, dancing, food and drink. Who could ask for anything more? Have you ever come across a surprisingly great event like this before? What would you have done with your handful of hours in Vienna? Would you have relaxed in the beautiful suite or would you have gone out to explore?