“…and people think science students are nerds!”… this is how the our group of students of the Science Faculty was greeted by a local, barely a few hours after landing in the gorgeous Austrian capital, Vienna. I visited Vienna thanks to the initiative of S-Cubed Science Students Society, who meticulously planned the trip Vienna – The City of Dreams.
Vienna is full of life; a busy, lively city in which people from all around the world gather to experience the vibrancy and energy boost that it injects in you. Lying close to the Austrian-Hungarian border, it is the perfect place where one can combine history and politics, arts and science, leisure and shopping . Vienna is the home of the delicious sachertore (an Austrian traditional dessert), the world’s oldest Ferris wheel at Prater Park, the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud and some of the grandest palaces ever built, like Schonbrunn and Hofburg. If having the opportunity to visit Vienna is good enough, doing so with peers just got better! We all had high expectations for the trip, and we were more than satisfied about how this trip eventually turned out to be an experience of a lifetime!
The Ringstrasse is a walking trail at the heart of the city, with top attraction sites. Walking through it is a good introduction for any tourist. One can see the elegant museum quarter, past the majestic Imperial palace Hofburg, and the parliament, built in Greek-style architecture. A significant number of important buildings are built in Classical Greek style, a clear homage towards the nation that brought forward the concept of democracy.
We made our way through the innermost part of the city. While walking through its winding cobblestone paths, we heard how important the city was, and still is today. Vienna has been the home of millions of people for hundreds of years and it was once the capital of the great Austro-Hungarian Empire, founded in 1867 and demolished in 1918. The heart of the city is Stephansplatz, the square in which Vienna’s cathedral, the Stephansdom, lies. Stephansdom is a world cultural heritage site and is built in gothic style with characteristic naves supported by aisles on both sides, stained glass windows, abbeys and buttresses for support. Another important church is Karlsplatz. This church is built in baroque style, with elaborate paintings and sculptures.
Visiting the Schonbrunn Palace and its vast gardens is a must! The maze and labyrinth section within the gardens of the palace provide entertainment to people of all ages. Schonbrunn is probably the biggest highlight of the city, together with the interactive Zoo found nearby; whose highlights are undoubtedly the panda bears and the polar bears.
Another site which is highly popular for leisure, especially for people young in age is the Prater Park. This fun park is the home to the world’s oldest Ferris wheel, apart from other attractions. We also had the opportunity to visit the Vienna woods. Although the hike was very physically demanding, it was more than worth it. We walked up to a place where we had a panoramic view of the city and the River Danube, Europe’s longest river, which passes through Vienna. While walking through the woods, we had the opportunity to observe temperate forest biodiversity; both plants and animals which are not found in the Maltese Islands.
Furthermore, to link the holiday with our studies, a visit to the Life Sciences Institute was organized. In a particular experiment which was performed by the whole group, with the help of young Austrian scientists, each person extracted his own DNA from mouth cells. Above all, the aim of the visit was to learn how to communicate science to the general public. Being aspiring scientists, this aspect of outreach is our duty, to remove multiple misconceptions that people have of science.
Moving on, shopping in Vienna can be quite addictive! The famous Maria Hilfer Strasse is full of shops of all kinds, and the city centre is no less attractive for shopping lovers. A couple of bars and clubs with surrounding background music and billiard tables characterize the Viennese nightlife. The atmosphere is more relaxed than what is experienced in Malta. Transport is also very efficient, the people are extremely helpful and English is widely spoken.
By the end of our 5 day trip, we had made it a point that there is much more to science students than lab coats, and studying! I simply couldn’t be more grateful that I got to experience Vienna with S-Cubed and I thank everyone who contributed into making this trip an unforgettable one!
Jasmine Gatt | 1st Year, BSc. Biology & Chemistry