Thursday, July 3, 2014

More Vienna

Let see...where were we? Ah, yes. We'd made it to Vienna...the Vienna Cemetery more specifically, after spending most of the day in Eisenstadt.

So dinner was the next order of business. Then checking into our that an old school hotel key or what? There was also no air conditioning in our rooms. A little uncomfortable, even if unsurprising. We did have a fan in our bedroom. And we opened the window to get the cooler air flowing. But unfortunately that exacerbated my hay fever. And while we're on that topic...what the heck? I don't normally deal with allergies much. But in Vienna? Something blooming there caused me great amounts of grief our whole stay.

It was still early evening and we decided that maybe some personal exploring of Vienna would be a good idea before we called it a night. Fritz hauled 8 of us plus Nicole into the city center in his big bus. And then let us convince him to join us for some gelato before continuing on to wherever buses and their drivers sleep at night. Nicole more or less dropped her official tour guide act and became just the girl from Vienna she really was, while showing us all her favorite spots in the city she grew up in. Vienna is a beautiful city, and incredibly magical at night. We quite enjoyed our ramble through the city center...and when we were done, we took the subway back to our hotel.

The next morning, Schoenbrunn Palace...the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. Also known as the know, Versaille being that crazy huge palace in France that King Louis XIV (aka the Sun King) built? Marie Antoinette was raised here, one of 13 children birthed by Maria Therese. And interestingly enough, Marie Antoinette grew up to marry King Louis XVI and move from the mini-Versailles in Vienna to the actual Versailles in Paris. Bad timing, of course. Because the French Revolution started shortly afterwards and she famously lost her head. Literally. This history lesson has nothing to do with our story in Vienna, obviously...but I am a history major, one who in college wrote a 20 page research paper about women in the French Revolution, so I digress. Sorry.
Ahem...Schoenbrunn Palace, yes?
It was amazingly beautiful. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace so you'll just have to imagine the opulence and grandeur. We're talking gold-leafed everything. But we were able to take an obscene amount of pictures of the outside of the building and the extensive gardens out back. (Not to be confused with actual obscene pictures, because other than various nude statues which my children may consider obscene, this visit was very G-rated. But once again, I digress....)

And what's a trip to a famous palace without a selfie that Katie actually caught me taking.

Mom and Shari and Barbara...this trio had such a great time being travel buddies. And oh, how I loved getting to know Shari and Barbara better. Three amazing women, right here.

 Another selfie... of Katie and Mom, caught this time by Melissa. I found it rather sweet.

After our palace visit we were left to our own devices...lunch was an obvious suggestion, but also any kind of sightseeing or shopping we wanted to do. I really quite enjoyed the balance of guided tours and free time on this trip.

We decided to lunch at a sidewalk hotdog vendor. And even this was quite an experience. After choosing which type of hotdog (who knew there were so many options) they took a big chunk of french bread and basically impaled it on a spike to make a hole down the middle. After squirting my condiments of choice down the hole, the hotdog was then rammed inside. It was the largest, most filling hotdog I've ever had...and perhaps also the yummiest.
We then headed back to St. Stephen's cathedral which we had cased out the night before in our late night city wanderings. But rather than immediately explore inside, we decided that we'd attempt the climb to the top of the right tower. We paid our 5 euros for the privilege and started our ascent. 343 skinny stone steps spiraling to the top. It was a little dizzy-making going in endless circles. I was grateful for the necessity of stopping and sucking myself into the wall every time we ran into someone attempting to pass us on their way down. Plus, it was nice to catch my breath...those were some steep steps!

I have to admit, when we finally got to the top and pushed open that heavy door I was a little surprised and somewhat dismayed to find...a gift shop. Really? For some reason it seemed like a bit of a let down, I don't know why. But the view of the city from the windows was awesome. I just can't get over those colorful rooftops!

 Going down the 343 steps was a lot faster than climbing up, even if you did have to watch your steps a little more carefully so as to not accidentally trip on the uneven stone and go head over heels down. Faster, certainly but less preferable.

We met back up with Mom, Shari and Barbara inside the cathedral, and after oohing and awwing over the interior we decided to fork out a few more euros and go up the left tower. This ascent had an elevator. My shaky jello legs appreciated that.
The left tower is not as tall as the right and this is because it is a bell tower. During WWII St. Stephen's Cathedral was bombed heavily. But in a classic lemons-into-lemonade move, during the rebuild they collected all the lead from the bombs, melted it down and formed it into a huge bell. It is so heavy that a taller tower wouldn't support it. As it is, they only ring the bell on Easter, Christmas and New Years Day because while it rings, the whole tower sways.

 Eventually we wandered our way back to a prearranged meeting spot at the Haus Der Musik.
This was a museum of any and all things music. From how you hear music, to instruments, composers, cultures and history. Appropriate seeing as Vienna is known as the City of Music. I found the place interesting. But the most entertaining part was an interactive display where you could attempt to lead the Vienna Philharmonic. It was tricky to get it quite right...and the Philharmonic would actually boo you if you didn't. Eventually most of us found our way here and then stayed...and laughed really hard. The place also had a ridiculously awesome gift shop. Just saying.

And then if the day hadn't already been filled with enough amazingness as it was, we capped off the evening with a dinner party at the home of Dr. Jutta Unkart-Seifert, a famous Austrian opera singer. Dr. Jutta is an incredibly gracious and classy lady who lives in a beautiful pent-house type apartment in an glorious old building in downtown Vienna. The food was very traditionally Austrian, and quite yummy. I was obsessed with all the art she had hanging on her walls and her eclectic and classy decorating style. Towards the end of the evening we sang a few songs for Dr. Jutta as we stood around the room. I found myself standing somewhat near her and at one point saw her turn to look at me when I hit a particularly high note. A bit later as we all filed past, shaking her hand and saying goodbye on our way to the bus, Dr. Jutta took my hand and then leaned in a bit closer and told me that I had an incredibly beautiful voice. It was so very sweet of her to say, and meant a lot to me. It was a simple evening, but for me, it was a trip highlight.

Believe it or not...there is a little bit more Vienna still to come but I don't want to overwhelm you, this is a long enough post as it is! Stay tuned...


shaddi said...

Nice pictures, seems like you got lucky with the weather :)

Which hotel did you stay on? If you want to try something different next time, you might have a look at a nice design apartment in Vienna. They usually rent from 1 week only, but it's worth asking.

And I'm missing a typical Schnitzel in the article, the hotdogs are more typical tourist stuff.

Sarah@The Best Stuff said...

No worries...we had Schnitzel as well. Just no pictures to document it. :)