Day one – a suite surprise

Our 2018 trip to Christmas Markets of Austria and Germany began with a very long, but relatively comfortable flight on Turkish Airlines, where we enjoyed multiple courses of pretty darn good airline food and lay-flat seats. (More on this later.) But the story of our trip really begins with a bang, when the concierge at the opulent  Hotel Imperial, Vienna surprised us big-time and upgraded us to the 5,000 euro-per-night Royal Suite! We had booked a smaller and MUCH cheaper room, but somehow, we got lucky. VERY lucky. Our suite was insane. Completely over the top. Chandeliers everywhere (including the bathroom), heated floors, 16th century artwork on the walls, 20-foot ceilings, the full royal treatment. This is as close as we’ll ever get to staying in a room at Buckingham Palace. We kept expecting them to tell us there had been some mistake and kick us out, but this did not happen during our two-day visit. Amazing.

Naturally, I shot hundreds of photos in this ornate, 145 year old hotel. Here are just a few.

Day two – sweet treats and schnitzel

After an early rise from our royal bed, we headed up the Ringstrasse to see what we could find. We hadn’t gone very far before Kelly found an entire store devoted to Creed fragrances. I probably don’t have to tell you how this ended. Suffice it to say that we should both smell fantastic in 2019.

We poked our heads into St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and stopped into the popular Sacher Wien, the hotel we originally booked for this trip, (long story…) but found it too crowded for a taste of their famous torte, so we headed back to the Imperial. (The salesmen at Creed told us that the Imperial Torte was better anyway. After tasting it, we both agreed that it would be pretty much impossible for anything to taste better.)

The trip had been perfect up ’til now, so it came as no surprise that on queue it started to snow, allowing me to make one of my all-time favorite photos of Kelly.

Kelly in the snow on Vienna’s Ringstrasse. It doesn’t get much better that this!

In the evening, we sampled traditional Viennese faire at Lugeck. The schnitzel and beer were a perfect finish for another amazing day.

Day three – tending to the bucket list

Watching Lipizzans perform from a front-row seat at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School was definitely a bucket list item for Kelly. The performance turned out to be quite a spectacle, even for a non-horse person. I feel confident in saying that you cannot find anything quite like it anywhere else. Beautiful! (Of course, photos were not allowed during the 70-minute performance.)

After the performance, feeling incredibly lucky and more than a bit tired, we strolled the wet, chilly streets radiating out from Michaelerplatz and just let it all soak in.

All aboard!

Later in the day, we joined up with our ship – the S.S. Beatrice. Our suite on the ship was 10% of the size of our previous accommodations, but we found it to be just fine. After a quick bite, we were off to explore Vienna again. Our first stops were at Christmas markets. It was at the large market near the town hall where we caught our first (and last) glimpse of sunlight on our trip. Later in the evening, we were shuttled to the Klosterneuburg Monastery. There we saw the intricate goldwork of the Verdun Altar dating from 1181. Afterward, we were treated to a private concert. The seven-piece chamber orchestra of top-notch musicians performed Strauss I and II and even a little Mozart. They were joined by a soprano and a tenor who dazzled us with their sensational singing and kept us laughing throughout. Bravo!! This was definitely one of the trip highlights.

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