It’s befuddling to me when a person who has been to Vienna anywhere between one or several times tells me, “Oh, we don’t need to go anywhere. I’ve already seen everything.”
No, no, dear person, you have not. If the Viennese and Rick Steves haven’t seen everything, then there’s no way you have unless you’re Doctor Who – and you’re not. The company working to prove this very point is a fairly new one on my radar called Secret Vienna.
Secret Vienna is about the fascinating, historical, not widely known facts about Vienna. Their social media accounts boast a plethora of information and stories all of which could easily give you, the viewer, the upper hand should you find yourself in a history competition or trying to impress a potential significant other. The knowledgeable Vienna-loving men and women guarding these precious secrets offer a wide variety of tours both in English and German, giving you and me the opportunity to learn more about the city beneath its surface – sometimes literally depending on the tour.
I joined my in-laws on the Vienna: Behind the Scenes tour which began at Palais Harrach, a palace in Vienna’s first district. Our tour group was relatively small, English-speaking but diverse in culture, and sans an embarrassingly bright umbrella pointed high in the air for us to chase. Our guide, a Viennese man named Wolfgang, said we would just have to follow the white straw woven hat on his head – a strong hint this tour was the real deal instead of something rehearsed and kitschy.
One minute we were on a street I recognized and had walked down many times. The next, I found myself on a quiet side street I’d never seen. Behind the scenes, indeed. For two hours, Wolfgang led us through both familiar and foreign streets, alleys and courtyards, pointing out minute details that would have otherwise remained invisible to me. At one location, we briefly experienced what it was like to live as a family of fifteen four or five levels beneath the city’s surface. In short – unpleasant. At another, he pointed out the crypt of a gentleman who will remain nameless as it is a secret you’ll have to find out on your own, but when he said “X”, I responded with, “Whhaaaaat. That guy got a crypt?!”
We learned an extensive amount about Mozart’s life in Vienna, most of which I’d never heard or read before. The historical secrets we learned in Judenplatz, or the Jewish Square, were devastating, jaw-dropping, and fascinating all at the same time. And my absolute favorite secret is ironically located at Vienna’s famous Stephansdom or Stephen’s Church. Though I’ve toured the inside of the cathedral a few times, the secret revealed on the outside of the church was awesome. I don’t know if my fellow tour mates found the secret as interesting as I did, but man, the tour was worth it for that gem of information alone.
The tour did not disappoint. For the amount of time spent roaming Vienna’s streets and the knowledge I took away from the experience, I believe the tour is reasonably priced and well worth a try. It left me wondering what else I’ve missed or not known at all. I mentioned this to one of the guides who accompanied our group and he said, “I think if we did one of these secret tours every day for many, many, many years, then maybe we could one day say ‘I’ve seen everything in Vienna.’”
He’s right. It is next to impossible to see everything there is to see in Vienna, but participating in a tour such as this one will make you want to take on the challenge of seeing it all no matter how long it takes.
So the next time you bump into someone who claims to have seen everything this grand city has to offer, stare them down – with love – then grab them a spot in one of Secret Vienna’s tours and go ahead and snag yourself a spot as well. You’ll be glad you did.
This is not a sponsored post. Just wanted to share about a recent great experience!