Austria Adventures: Hostels, shopping and relics in Vienna


We’re back from our last school excursion … well, at least for two weeks. We spent Valentine’s Day weekend in Vienna, Austria. This was our first experience with overnight travel in a hostel, and it was so much fun. I think it has been my highlight so far.

We began the excursion by attending Mass at the Francis Friars Minor, which is the only active monastery with running vocations in Austria. After a quick walking tour and lunch together, we all checked into the youth hostel.

Now, if you’re like me, you have no idea what to expect from a hostel. I have never traveled through any part of Europe, nor have I ever experienced a hostel. I was fairly apprehensive.

In my mind, I imagined it to be small, cramped and not-so-clean.

But luckily my imagination proved itself to be incorrect! The hostel was very modern and clean, and the staff was very friendly.

As for Vienna itself, I absolutely loved the city! My group of friends and I saw everything, from the balcony where Hitler gave his famous “Anschluss” speech in 1938 in the Hofburg Palace (former Hapsburg Palace) to the city farmers’ market (Nashmarkt) to a popular nightclub!

Vienna is full of tall buildings and a wide variety of shopping venues, and it gives the city an almost New York-esque vibe. But the difference is that, despite the plethora of stores and people, it seems more relaxed, in a sense. Think New York grandeur but without all the crazy stress and rushing people. It was fantastic.

The other thing about Vienna that I love is the fact that right smack in the middle of all these highbrow stores (Gucci, anyone?) are a variety of Catholic churches.

We saw at least three and each was more amazing than the next. The architecture and ornate detailing in these churches (and all the churches in Europe, really) is just absolutely breathtaking and simply cannot be put into words. If you want an idea, look up St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.

All I can say is that after attending Mass and adoration and just walking through all these churches, I will be sad to have to leave and go back to churches in the States.

Finally, the crowning jewel for most students was visiting the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer or the Imperial Treasury.

Within the Schatzkammer lies the largest collection of relics in the world — surpassing even the Vatican. The Hapsburgs were the former ruling family here in Vienna decades ago and were also committed Catholics for the most part. So they amassed a large collection of relics over the years from various other rulers of the time.

Included in this collection is a tooth from St. John the Baptist, a portion of the lance which pierced the side of Christ and the loincloth he wore on the cross.

Everyone who was able to view the relics said that it was utterly amazing and they were very moved after praying in the presence of such relics. I myself was not able to see them, but I am hoping to return to Vienna for a day trip later this semester.

And that wraps up Vienna. We will be preparing for Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday here in the Kartause this week as well as excitedly preparing for our first free travel weekend on Thursday!

Study Abroad Tip #1: Always make sure to stay with your group or at least one other member of your group and set times to meet when separating momentarily. It seems silly, but you will wish you had when you get lost and wander around in a panic for 40 minutes looking for any familiar face.