Thursday, 7 July 2016

Trip Report: Vienna and the Austrian Grand Prix

Travel time, and a new country to add to my list, Austria, home of Wiener Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel! The reason for the this 3 day adventure? Partly for the travel, partly to see the Austrian F1 Grand Prix.

London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) to Vienna (VIE/LOWW) OS454 
Austrian Airlines Airbus A320 OE-LBX (Star Alliance livery)
Out outbound flight went like clockwork - security was swift, and despite a slight delay in departure, we ended up arriving bang on time. The sky was full of ominous looking showers which you can see in the video below, but we skirted round those! The service onboard was a free snack and drink, not bad considering that this was the cheapest option we could find to get to Austria and back (beating even Ryanair, Eurowings and EasyJet!).

The 2 hour journey was largely uneventful, apart from a 10 minute rough patch during the descent  - there were torrential thunderstorms later that night. Overall, I'd happily fly Austrian again. Here's the flight:

...and here's the routing, courtesy of flightradar24:

The Stay in Austria
Vienna is a large city, and Wien Hbf (the main railway station) is nowhere near the city centre! It's a good 30-40 minute walk, and I'd highly recommend getting a U-bahn (underground) day pass instead. For 6 euros, you get unlimited travel on the U for the that day. Alternatively, you could get the CAT train to Wien Mitte, which is more central (but further from the hotel we'd booked).

On the evening of arrival, it was 30 deg +, and so after gorging on wiener schnitzel...
we hid in a cafe and watched the Italy-Germany match! Unfortunately that meant we got caught in a downpour on the way back, but hey.

Day 2 was all about the race - we got up early and headed south with OBB railways toward Knittelfeld, near Spielberg, Styria, the location of the Red Bull Ring. The journey was interupted and we were told to get off at Gloggnitz - apparently, the rain from the night before had caused a landslide and the line was closed. To their credit, the buses were waiting as soon as we left the station. The issue was that the train at Bruck (to take us to Knittelfeld) was delayed by 1 hour... we flirted with the idea of a taxi (and met a nice group of New Zealanders!) but decided not, with fares as high as 250 euros. Luckily, the delay was 1 hour and no more, and we got there with plenty of time to spare.

The pre-race airshow got underway shortly after our arrival...

The insane flying bulls...

And then, it was time! Lights out and away we go!!

What else would you drink in a place like this?

A good view of the track from up here!

An epic win for Hamilton - being on turn 2, we saw Nico and Lewis approaching the bend side by side - they went out of view - and then they appeared, Lewis ahead, with Nico's car showering sparks! What a final lap!

After all that excitement, the 200Km journey back was sleepy, but despite another bus change, we weren't too late getting back to Wien Hbf. 

Day 3! Time to investigate the city of Vienna. My impressions were that it was very clean, the architecture was fancy, and some of the people were either unfriendly or trying to fleece you. For example - on the train back, a woman wouldn't move out our reserved seats, we were ushered out of a museum because "our bags were too big" (we had to leave entirely as they wouldn't fit in the lockers), some refugees conned us out 10 euros (for a rose!) and a waiter gave us a 5 minute lecture on why they're paid badly and should get a large tip. Suffice to say we didn't tip him. I'm sure most the folk there are friendly, and maybe a group of 4 'lads' gives people the wrong impression, but I have to say it was the least friendly place I've brexit feelings maybe?!

Regardless, the city itself was nice. We visited Demel cakes, the palace, and the aforementioned war museum. 

Alas, it was soon time to head back to Wien flughafen.

Vienna (VIE/LOWW) to London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) OS457
Austrian Airlines Airbus A320 OE-LBS (Eurovison livery)
The check in and security was once again rapid with no complications. I was disappointed to find that all the seats had been chosen and we were stuck without window places, but never mind! Once we got into the terminal 3 G gates departure lounge however, we had a nasty surprise - a 2 hour delay! I immediately took to flightradar24 to find out what our scheduled aircraft had been up to. That day it had flown Sofia-Vienna-Cairo-Vienna and had arrived on time from that last leg, so it wasn't our aircraft that was the problem. I looked at the Vienna arrivals, and there was one delayed arrival - from Larnaca - which was due 2 hours late. So that was it - the crew were late inbound! Interestingly, two other flights were also delayed by 2 hours, perhaps the Larnaca crew were going to disperse across them?

Once we started boarding, the reason was indeed given as a late crew arrival, and we set off for our night flight across Europe, landing at 23:45 BST (scheduled as 21:30). The service on this flight was 3 rounds of free drinks - to make up for the delay perhaps? The routing, with arrival on 27R:

Overall then, Vienna was a nice looking city, and Austria a nice country, particularly down in the alps. The F1 was certainly an experience, and with ticket+flight+hotel being the same price as a Silverstone ticket, it just made sense to go abroad to watch a race. Shame about the few unfriendlies we met, and the travel delays, although these were dealt with well. As for Austrian Airlines, like Aer Lingus, British Airways, Air France etc, they are decent flag carrier with competitive fares who I'd happily fly with again.

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