St. Stephen’s Cathedral, The Heart of Vienna

Finally, I saw it.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the famous landmark located at the heart of the city of Vienna. With its elaborately designed southern tower reaching for the heavens, it is such a formidable architectural masterpiece.

I was told that the view from the tower is very beautiful. I haven’t climbed the steps of the southern tower yet. For now, I am content just walking around the dome whenever I am in the Inner City.

Until I actually go up the tower, I could only imagine how it would feel like to see Vienna from the vantage point of St. Stephen’s tallest tower. From the peak of the heart of Vienna, you can see the surrounding streets and alleys acting as veins, showing you the life of the whole city.

Truly, the location of the cathedral is very strategic. You see, the structure of Vienna is quite logical. If you take the time to analyze a map or your path, you would realize that almost all of Vienna gravitates around the first district, the Inner City. Surrounding it are districts 2 to 9. The next few districts follow this order and are arranged around the city center. With this layout, you can walk towards any direction. If you get lost, all you have to do to re-orient yourself is to track down where St. Stephen’s Cathedral is. It shouldn’t be too hard to do because, unless you have gotten very, very far from the city center, you would most likely see the tip of the southern tower.

Go back to the center. It is a very important piece of advice to keep in mind when navigating the streets of Vienna. It’s a lesson I learned after having wandered in circles through the winding alleys and streets of the city.

If you remember, in my last post, I described the feeling of exploring the city alone. Now, I will share why I had to walk around by myself and what exactly happened.

It was a very busy morning. Many tasks had to be accomplished within the day (yes, no other chance but today, not tomorrow, not in the next few days) so my husband and I divided tasks amongst ourselves and decided to meet up at a certain place near the St. Stephen’s Cathedral at 2:00pm.

My husband volunteered to do all the difficult transactions, especially the ones that entailed riding the U-bahn, going to other districts or would require advanced German conversation. The tasks left for me to do were simple (meaning: can be accomplished using my German capabilities) and could be done within the Inner City (read: where most people can converse well in English… just in case my German proves insufficient). I had to buy tickets for our train and bus rides, buy a SIM card, and meet my husband at our designated meeting place at 2:00pm.

Buying the tickets should have been easy. I just had to go to a Tabak-Trafik. Unfortunately, the nearest one didn’t have the ticket that I needed. Still, the lady at the counter was kind enough to tell me where the other nearby Tabak-Trafik is located and gave me a landmark – Bipa, a beauty store.

I tried to follow her directions, but, at some point, the alleys and streets started to confuse me. Was I supposed to turn at a street or an alley? Not knowing the exact house or building number of the establishment I was looking for, I also didn’t know whether to go to the right or to the left of the street. I had no choice; trial and error was the way to go.

After a considerable amount of time, I found what I was looking for. I purchased the ticket and headed towards the mobile store. Finding the mobile store would have been easy from the first Tabak-Trafik I visited. But from the one beside Bipa, I was not particularly sure how to reach it. I tried to retrace my steps, but I retraced even my mistakes and made more mistakes, for I found myself in the Kärtner Ring, which was already considerably far from where I supposed to go.

Several times, I tried to find my way but I realized I was going around the same streets. At that point, I started to worry. I stopped walking, ate my packed lunch, and tried to think of the most logical way to get to the mobile store.

And then I saw it – the tip of St. Stephen’s southern tower. I realized that I wasted so much time trying to remember directions when I could have just headed toward the center. Oh well, at least, I still had time to redeem myself.

So I walked toward the direction of the tower and, after a few minutes, found my way back to the heart of the city. With St. Stephen’s Cathedral as my starting point, I headed towards the mobile shop and accomplished what I had to do. Then, I went back to the cathedral and went to our meeting place. Luckily, I made it there around 10 minutes before 2:00pm.

After this experience, walking around the city was never again very difficult. If I have to be in the Inner City, I always plan my itinerary starting at the heart of Vienna, and whenever I lose my sense of direction, I now re-orient myself by looking at the cathedral tower, standing high against the sky.

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