Grapevine Stories

‘Grapewein’s’ weekend in Wien – ‘…for the art, Lipizzaner’s, Schnitzels, laughs and – Glühwein!’

This is an overview of a Grapevine trip to Vienna. There were 13 of us and we partnered up with our partner, Venatour Sports Travel to have a wonderful few days getting us into the Christmas spirit. Apparently, Chopin once said “Vienna is a handsome, lively city, and pleases me exceedingly.” Well, I don’t think any of our members who joined us on this trip would disagree; it is, by any account, an aesthetic whirlwind and one which I’m not sure we were totally prepared for but absolutely loved.


We all met at sparrows at Heathrow on Friday morning and were steered through tickets and ‘admin’ by our patient tour organiser, Marc Blackford from Venatour Sports Travel ( and arrived by bus at our seriously fun hotel ‘25Hours’ in Vienna. 

There were 22 of us on the trip – and 13 of us were GV members; and, dare I say it, a fairly like-minded, gung-ho bunch we were.  To say that a lot of laughs were had throughout the weekend, would be a major understatement. The sign lighting up the outside of the hotel which read ‘We Are All Mad Here’ was really rather apt for us in hindsight.

After unpacking and doing a hotel recce we set off to get our bearing’s in Vienna.  I’m not sure how many of you have visited the city and, speaking for myself, I had no real preconception of what to expect but I have to say, I was completely blown away by the magnificence of the buildings, art, history, sculpture and architecture; it was a complete sensory overload – which is so hard to come by in these days of the internet and being able to see sights and images from all over the world from the comfort of your home. It was really quite astounding; plus, the pride and cleanliness is also almost inconceivable; the whole city is so clean, it almost looked like a film set.

Later on, that day, we had a guided walking tour with Susanne; a half Austrian, half Irish local with a good sense of both purpose and humour as we discovered! Unfortunately, it started to sleet rather heavily at the start and was utterly freezing but we forged through despite the cold (Susanne ignored pleas of Gluhwein stops to help warm us up!) and headed towards the Innere Stadt where we passed the main Parliament building – which as you can see, is an impressive intro to the city – plenty more where that came from!

Within the main area here, were a plethora of museums and art galleries; all exhibiting artists spanned over centuries – and with the location of Vienna in central Europe, a multitude of regional influences from its surrounding countries. There was so much info imparted on this tour that I can’t even begin to tell you all about it but in short, by the time we had finished, we were bamboozled, impressed, cold and slightly disorientated – our end stop was St Stephen's Cathedral; the tallest Cathedral in Austria which stood impressively at 136m in height – you could have easily spent a whole day just looking at the engravings, stonework and listening to the stories behind them in there alone; sadly, our early start was catching up with us at this stage, so we headed home and finished the day with a very jolly gathering at the hotel (it had a very lively rooftop bar which we made full use of!) and then retired to bed.


The next day, most of us headed back to the inner city where we visited the Kunsthistorisches? Museum where they are currently holding a ‘Raphael & Silk’ exhibition – huge tapestries of scenes filled with intricate detail depicting the life an acts of the apostles St Peter and St Paul for the Sistine Chapel in Rome which must have taken a lifetime to make; in fact, this theme is visible the whole way throughout the city – the attention to detail and the time and patience it must have taken these artists to complete their works is astonishing; it makes one wonder what we could achieve without TV/Netflix and the internet… oh, and more patience of course! 

More info on the Kunsthistorisches?Museum can be found here; it’s huge and full of fascinating artifacts; it should definitely be at the top of the list should you ever visit Vienna:

That evening, the more cultured members of the group went to the Vienna State Opera house to watch La bohème; (then I’m mildly ashamed to say that the rest of us went to a Mexican restaurant!) The opera experience was apparently amazing and was a whole new experience and they were glad that they had ventured into new territory.  On the flipside, I’m not sure the Mexican Team can claim such feats – we had a hilariously fun and delicious supper which finished with a sprinkling of tequilas; the rest as they say, is history…!


On Sunday we went to the Spanish Riding School in the Hofburg situated in the Michaelerplatz.  In keeping with the rest of the architecture, this was something of a marvel – the performance itself took place indoors in the baroque Winter Riding School at Hofburg Palace, built under Charles VI. They started off with a short performance from some of the younger Lipizzaner’s who were aged 4-5yrs old and were clearly on the right path but not quite there yet – they then went on with a variety of long-reining of the older stallions; the training and execution of the movements was second to none. We were talked through each performance regarding the history and their uses in war and the many years of training for both riders and horses. It is no mean feat and the commitment and precision along with the classical music and the setting was quite staggering!

After this, we had a private tour of the stables which was led by one of the Riding School students there – she too had a great sense of humour which enhanced what was already a very interesting guide.  The stables, tack and facilities were immaculate – two main points which stuck in my head were that they had a NINETEEN capacity horse walker – and they muck out every TWO hours – “What, even at night?  When do the horses get to sleep?” remarked one of our group – more like, when do the staff get to sleep?!

That evening the Grapevine team went to a lovely local restaurant where the waiters were very diligent at filling the glasses; so many laughs…the less said on that night, the better!


After our short lie down before breakfast, most of us hopped onto a tram (these are frequent and always on time – I think this contributes to why Vienna seems so laidback; firstly, they have a lot to soak in and appreciate as part of their culture, secondly, they have wonderful cake and coffee houses which are beautiful and entice you to stay and watch the world go by, and thirdly, my initial point – no rushing is required because there are always efficient transport back-up plans – which cost little to nothing to use; take note UK Department of Transport!) 

As a side note, a couple of us nearly didn’t live to tell our Vienna tale due to a seriously close shave with a tram that nearly took us out when not fully concentrating!

After two stops we got off and visited the Belvedere Museum which is in the Belvedere Palace; another eye opening nod to Baroque architecture and known to be one of the world’s most striking and significant museum’s and home to the largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings (‘The Kiss’ being his most famous; but there are many more to be admired) and other famous Impressionist artists.

Monet also has a significant presence here, as well as the renowned painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David – the list really is endless so I want go on with words; I strongly suggest that you visit it and see them all in their glory for yourself – I echo this for the rest of the city and experience as a whole – if you have never been to Vienna, then please do put it on your bucket list; you’ll not regret it.

When we all departed each other at Heathrow that night, in a flurry of hugs and exhausted laughter, Marc commented that it had been great fun and the Grapevine group were “more lively than most of the others we usually have” – slightly concerning given that he only saw the half of it!

Thank you to all who came and were involved – we shall start plotting our next venture with Ventatour very soon and will be sure to let you all know about it!

Ventatour do a huge variety of sporting trips so if you’re a keen Rugby, Cricket, racing or F1 fan, these guys are your people to go to.

*Side note/WARNING*:

Since returning from Vienna, I’ve discovered a condition called Stendhal Syndrome; it’s a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat confusion, and even hallucinations allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects, artworks, or phenomena of great beauty; it was invented by a 19 Century French author (Stendhal) after visiting Florence.  I think in our own ways, having been exposed to such vast quantities of art and culture in Vienna, we could identify with this notion – I’m delighted to report that no medical attention was required; the Gluhwein, tequilas and long lunches/suppers seemed restore us satisfactorily!

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