Day 1: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We arrived in Vienna around 7:30 am, well before the 8:30 am E.A.T., as the jet stream was on our side, giving our plane that extra push. Our flight home takes longer because of the opposite effect of having winds in your face instead of against your back. My first impression of Vienna is through the airport, which is clean, orderly, and efficient.

We arrived at Falkensteiner Hotel Palace in Vienna shortly after thanks to a quick taxi ride provided by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. We checked into our respective rooms, showered, and rested for a quick moment. Steve had two meetings to attend, but I had the day to myself and grandiose plans to tour Vienna in five hours or less. So around 11 am I left the hotel and began walking towards downtown Vienna, taking about a billion pictures en route. Something I noticed and loved immediately is that wine can be sold on the street!

I started walking towards St. Charles Church, or Karlskirche, which is consecrated to the patron saint, Saint Charles Borromeoso. The church is located in Karlsplaz, a beautiful plaza complete with a reflecting pool, and amusingly, palm trees.

The church was gorgeous inside, gilded gold with painted ceiling, typical Baroque style. I took a special elevator to view the painted ceiling up close. Visiting St. Charles Church first is a lovely introduction to Vienna.

Next, I went to the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna, or Wien Museum, which is THE place to visit to learn about Vienna’s complex history. The only thing missing from the museum was a friend to talk to about everything I saw, such as Roman artifacts, Turkish spears, complete wooden models of the entire city, and much more. I especially enjoyed the exhibit on fashions from Austrian eras past.

After the museum, I stopped at the Café and Wine Bar “Sacher Eck” at the Hotel Sacher Wien for a slice of their famous chocolate with apricot filling Sacher-Torte and cup of coffee with a dallop of unsweetned whipped cream on top. This café is a favorite tourist stopping point.

After my break, I visited the Gothic St. Stephan’s Cathedral, or Stephansdom, which was built in 1147 AD. Here’s an interesting fact: Mozart was both married and had his funeral here. The cathedral is breathtaking in it’s design and aged beauty. Again, the Stephansdom, not far from the Hotel Sacher, is in high-traffic tourist zone.

I spent the rest of the day photographing interesting sights, visiting a few more churchs, of which there are many in Vienna, and gleefully strolling through this spectacularly beautiful Austrian city. In total I spent five hours walking here, there and everywhere. My calf muscles made me pay for this later, but visiting Vienna on foot was well worth the physical exhaustion.

I had to be back at the hotel for a 6 pm departure to the Heuriger Zahel in Vienna for a get together featuring Viennese wines. This was our first time meeting as the Wine Summit 2009 group, a group which was comprised of journalists, critics, sommeliers, and more from 35 different countries. We spent the evening introducing ourselves, being welcomed by the AWMB director, Willi Klinger, drinking refreshing local wines, and dining on traditional, filling and delicious Austrian fare.

The bus was scheduled to depart at 10 pm and 11 pm, but a small contingency took a special early bus (ahem…myself included considering I was dead tired from my Viennese marathon that day) at 9 pm back to the hotel. A wonderful night’s sleep was a store before Day 2 of the Austrian Wine Summit 2009: Burgenland!

Please check back soon for more on my amazing time at Austria Wine Summit 2009: Discover Wine Wonderland Austria!