I’m confident about getting to the Wombats City Hostel in Vienna. A 16 minute journey from the airport on the CAT train and then a couple of stops on the metro. How hard can it be?
Turns out I’ve been waaay too confident, and make it to Karlsplatz but get foiled by the Opernring and the Operngasse which lead me round in circles. In my defence I’ve been travelling for 7 hours, I’ve only had a handful of nuts and it’s 8.30pm at night. Still, it’s embarrassing.
The highlight of this small adventure is a delicious sausage in a bun called a Käsekrainer, which I buy and devour at a Bitzinger (kiosk) near the Albertina at about 9pm. (I find out later on a walking tour that this is the only Bitzinger in Vienna that sells champagne).
Eventually I make it to the hostel which is situated down a long, dark street with some kind of market that’s shut up for the night. Nothing shut up about the hostel though, it’s lively with music and laughter and people hanging out on cushions in the lobby.
An enthusiastic young guy with an American accent checks me in for the designated three nights. He wants to know if I have a student card. I tell him that won’t be happening, so he dutifully takes a copy of my passport instead.
I’ve been given a room on the 4th floor in the Pink Wing, which has 2 sets of bunks, so four beds, and there’s an ensuite bathroom. I immediately take a bottom bunk and spread out my stuff before seeing the locker tag hanging on the edge. I remember I’m meant to take the one without a locker tag. The only one left is a top bunk so I gingerly clamber up and make up my bed with the supplied sheets, duvet and pillow case. It’s a bit of a mission.
Then I try and figure out how the locker works. The instructions aren’t helpful, there’s a photo of a person holding an electronic box and putting their door key card next to it. After several tries of varying tactics I figure out the door key card acts as a lock when you push it down over the button. So to lock it you push the card down on the button to activate the lock, and vice versa to unlock it. I’m glad I had the Käsekrainer, otherwise this would not be making sense.
Next I try to connect to the WiFi, it doesn’t work. One of my roommates wanders in, a girl who’s in Vienna on a science conference and she says it doesn’t work for her either. Maybe there’s another trick. Giving up I head down to reception to speak to another guy who says it’s not me it’s them. The WiFi isn’t working for the whole building, but he lets me use his reception computer to send an email to Chris who’s probably wondering where the heck I am.
Though I’m left alone on the first night, the second night I’m visited by bed bugs, evidenced the next morning by a large red lump on my forehead. I know I’m allergic to them but I don’t panic, don a hat, put on my 1% hydrocortisone cream and hope that’s as bad as it will get.
The third night my right arm is attacked with several bites and swells up alarmingly so I guess in hindsight I should’ve asked to move to another room but I figured if they’re in one bunk there is no guarantee they wouldn’t be in another, and to be honest I couldn’t be bothered moving my stuff for one night. So I paid the price for this mistake by having to wear a hat for the next few days and itching a lot. Still, the fact the hostel has bed bugs at all is a sign it’s not particularly clean….
After an ok night’s sleep on the first night (it’s a hostel it was never going to be great) I head back down to reception to buy a breakfast ticket for €4.50. This gives you access to an all you can eat buffet which is usually wasted on me as I only have cereal and toast normally.
The breakfast room has an open plan seating area with white painted trestle tables in the main area and a carpeted lounge area with small white tables and green vinyl poufs to the left. I wander over to the staff area not exactly sure what to do, but I’m beckoned over by a staff member and given a plate, cup and bowl in exchange for my ticket.
I stake out a seat, and deposit my plate and cutlery and fill up my bowl with cereal and yoghurt. I’m quite late for breakfast and I think the feeding frenzy has already taken place judging by the lack of milk, bread and cold cuts. But I’m happy enough with cereal and discover that they have peanut butter (erdnussbutter in German) which makes me even happier.
The next morning I’m earlier for breakfast as I want to go on the free walking tour and there’s much more food available, though less seating options. It seems you have to choose your priority – food or quiet time.
But €4.5o is pretty good for a buffet breakfast so I end up eating there for the duration of my stay. There’s also a guest kitchen so theoretically you could cook yourself a meal if you wanted to with ingredients from the Naschmarkt.
Free walking tour
The free walking tour leaves every morning at 10.30am from the lobby and is taken by an official Vienna Tour Guide. Our one is called Barbara and she’s the perfect guide for a group of millenials (and one not so millenial), leading us on an energetic tour of the Naschmarkt (which turns out to be the largest food market in Vienna), then into the heart of the city with an aim to end up at St Stephen’s Cathedral.
On the way she gives us titbits about the Viennese culture, food, history and helpful hints like how to obtain €3 standing opera tickets, how to view the inside of buildings without paying for them and the iconic Viennese chocolate cake to try (Sachertorte). These titbits come in handy for later when I meet up with Chris.
The funny thing about the walking tour is that a lot of places look familiar and I realise I’ve seen them already in the dark when I was lost, so it’s good to know what they actually are in the daylight.
In the end the walking tour is not completely free as Barbara asks for a donation at the end and I only have a €10 note, but she’s been good value and totally worth it so I don’t mind paying it. I now know amongst other things, thanks to Barbara, that Weiner Schnitzel actually originated in Turkey, and that Adolph Hitler was rejected from art school in Vienna, had Jewish friends and spent two weeks in a homeless persons hospice because he couldn’t sell his paintings.
Pros & Cons
Would I Go Back?
For me the highlights of Wombats were the location next to the Naschmarkt, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for someone on a budget, and the walking tour which imparted lots of interesting and helpful information. The only drawback was the bed bugs which marred an otherwise great stay, so because of this I probably wouldn’t go back.