Austria Bloresrestostravels

Austria - Part 1

Sunday, May 22, 2016Me! In words

I was invited to be one of the delegates for the Austrian Wine Summit 2015. Organized by the Austrian Wine Board (AWMB), The Austrian Wine Summit is held once every two years. The event is spread over 4 days and brings together journalists, wine writers, sommeliers and wine aficionados from multiple countries together. In 2015, 68 countries were represented by approximately 170 delegates. I was fortunate to be one of the 6 that attended from India. The Summit was divided into 3 tours and I was part of the Discovery Tour, which is organized for those visiting for the first time. It is a tour that takes you through the entire gamut of Austrian wines, region by region.
The itinerary was hectic, with each day seeing us in a different region. Wine tastings began quite literally after breakfast, at a picturesque location. We tasted wines at palaces, at a monastery, a bird sanctuary, during a boat ride, at taverns, all of which were brilliantly organized, right down to the tiniest detail and executed to perfection. While I will include the wine tasting meals as links with this travel diary, these few posts are going to be dedicated to the sights and sounds of Austria over 4 days. 

I was offered a choice of itineraries by the AWMB and chose to fly Lufthansa through and through, via Frankfurt to Vienna, from Bangalore. The board took care of economy travel and I decided to stick through with it to experience it as it was offered. Of course, if I am invited to the next Summit, there are a few things I would do differently. 

My flight from Bengaluru to Vienna was scheduled at 3.00AM in the morning and excitement saw me at the airport, all checked in by 12.30AM. And the last thing you want to hear at that time is that the flight has been delayed by 45 minutes or so. So after wandering around aimlessly, I did what most other waiting passengers did, settle down to where I had a good view of the planes (I can watch planes come and go for an eternity) and snooze awhile.

Thankfully there was no further delay and once I was on board and settled in (I specifically requested an aisle seat), I geared up for a 7-hour flight. Considering my small stature, economy seats were fairly comfortable on this flight for me, but I could make out that they were a bit cramped for the two Italian gentlemen seated alongside me. Onboard, we were served a mid-night/early morning snack and I opted for the chicken croissant which was steaming hot and quite nice. Post that I settled in with a movie only to fall asleep with my headphones on. 

Perhaps an hour into our arrival at Frankfurt, the plane came alive, with breakfast being rolled in and passengers getting ready for their destination. Breakfast again was decent affair with bread, scrambled eggs, choice of beverages and fruit. 

The morning sky on our approach to Frankfurt

We landed in Frankfurt on a fairly sunny, bright morning at around 8.15AM, close to the earlier scheduled time, despite the delay. Knowing the vastness that is Frankfurt airport, I lost no time in heading out and across terminals to get to my Austrian Airlines connecting flight to Vienna scheduled at 10.50AM. This flight was rather uneventful with the plane being close to say, an Indigo Airlines experience in India. 

A view of Frankfurt Airport which belies how busy this international hub is

On arrival at Vienna, armed with the detailed information provided by the AWMB, I found their representatives outside the arrival lounge and was soon on my way in a cab to Falkensteiner Hotel Am Schottenfeld. At the hotel, checking in was a breeze since the board had everything taken care of. I was provided my room key, the welcome kit from the AWMB and was soon in a comfortable double room. 

My room though not really spacious was well equipped  - centrally airconditioned, TV, tea and coffee maker and a nice bathtub to soak in. 

The first meeting for the day was scheduled that evening at 6.00PM and so I had most of the afternoon to myself to wander around. A quick shower and an even quicker nap to pacify the slightly jetlagged me, I dressed up and set out with no particular idea on where I wanted to go. I had done a lot of research earlier on places close by and knew that the famous Mariahilfstrasse, a shopping street was in the vicinity. 

A chapel I walked into on the way to Mariahilferstrasse

Now anyone who knows me knows I can be quite directionally challenged, but somehow on international trips I seem to fair well. The good thing is that at the reception of the hotel you have massive tearaway maps placed on a stand. The staff is extremely patient in explaining how to get to a destination, complete with how to use the Metro lines (multi-use tickets for which were provided by the AWMB) and I was dying to try out. But since I was told Mariahilferstrasse was close by, I decided to walk it out. 

Cobblestone pathways are a common sight across Vienna

As with any European country, comfortable walking shoes are a must and of course the ability to navigate a map. Mariahilferstrasse turned out to be a little more than a kilometer from the hotel. A broad street that houses every kind of store from the branded to the popular. I walked my heart out here, picked up a few things for the family and a good hour later sat down on the many stone benches to catch my breath. One thing to remember here is that most shops tend to close by the 5.30pm to 6.00pm mark. 



It was now time to head to Österreicher im MAK at Stubenring. A restaurant with traditional Austrian fare, this was to be the first informal meeting place for the delegates of the conference. I found my way to MAK, as it commonly known, through the U-Bahn, the underground train system which took me straight from Mariahilferstrasse to Stubenring in less than 15 minutes. The maps outside each of these railway stations clearly demarcate how you can get from where you are to are to just about anywhere, and even to the directionally challenged like me, I found my way very easily. 

 The S-Bahn - The above ground train system in Vienna

The evening at MAK was a pleasant one, with socializing happening over glasses of wine, each of which showcase specific regions that we were going to get into over the next three days of the summit. Post dinner, with new friends made, I headed back to the hotel, via the U-bahn and short walk. And so ended my first day in Austria.

 Ã–sterreicher im MA
 For more pictures of the get-together at MAK click on the image above

Disclaimer: This trip to Austria was sponsored by AWB. The views expressed are personal and unbiased

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