Friday, April 9, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen Vienna

By Claire
Arriving at a sight early is the way to go. We were buying our tickets to tour Schönbrunn Palace at 8:40 this morning, alone with no one in sight (€25.80 total, including tourist tax). We were given one ticket for two people, something we've experienced only in Austria. Think of all the extra tickets that don't have to be produced. We grabbed our included audio guides and managed to make it through about three quarters of the tour of the Royal Apartments before we ran into tour groups, the bane of our travels. We’ve learned to just push our way through them to what we want to see—they tend to cluster together like an impenetrable wall, and the guides all seem to have loud, strident voices.

Schönbrunn Palace

The inside was magnificent, of course, and this was simply their summer place. But nothing was simple. In fact, it is Baroque on the outside and Rococo indoors. We loved it. The audio guide was great and it moved right along. I’m glad we went against Rick Steves’ advice of picking one or the other of the palaces if you’re short on time. We think both should be seen. Chuck was struck by how formal the “informal” family dinners were—especially since Mom and Dad rarely attended. Franz Joseph was too busy and Elizabeth didn’t eat. I’m pretty sure she was anorexic—in fact, she was treated for malnutrition at one time. She gloried in her 20 inch waist and exercised and weighed herself regularly. She was 5’8” and weighed between 90 and 103 pounds.

Wasp waist

Ankle length hair—who needs a scarf?

Empress Elizabeth

The actual tour lasted only 50 minutes; we toured the gardens, climbing the hill to Glorietta, a purely decorative monument celebrating an obscure Austrian military victory. It offers a great view of the palace and the city.

View of Glorietta

View from Glorietta

Empress Elizabeth was big on hiking and probably took advantage of the many trails available to her.

Schönbrunn gardens


Gazebo in the gardens

Neptune's Fountain

Imperial Green WC

We even found some Roman ruins.

Reading through our Vienna book, we decided to take in the Wagenburg Coach Museum, €6 each. It was fun to see the large collection of elaborate carriages, caleches and phaetons and well as the child sized carriages. We were especially enthralled with the funeral hearse, immense, and all in black with velvet tassels and a black velvet blanket draped over the coffin. The Cinderella style carriages were splendid in gold with velvet seats and they used mounted horse jockeys so that the passengers' view was not obstructed by a driver sitting on a box in front. One of the more amusing sport carriages was that used by Emperor Franz I. He was quite corpulent making it difficult for him to move around. A revolving seat was made for him so that he only had to rotate his body to shoot at the game—which was herded to him.

I’m so glad I was able to see Schönbrunn Palace. I missed it on my last visit to Vienna 21 years ago and have regretted it all these years. It was an easy U-Bahn #4 ride. Speaking of which, we noticed that the signs in the metro stations not only give the name of the stop, but the name of the streets up above with arrows letting you know which exit to take. How great is that?

Time for lunch, we decided to head back to the Naschmarkt for lunch. We hoped to find some traditional Austrian food but remembered that this place is famous for the many ethnic restaurants. We found a small restaurant that looked good and had the most important thing—beer! Turns out the food was great too. We each ordered the spicy chicken sandwich and a starter that included tzatsiki, humus, eggplant, beans and some kind of olive dip (we had to ask). What can I say? We scarfed it down.

We have been on the go for four days and our bodies were beginning to feel it. Actually, the truth is, we’ve been feeling it since day two. In spite of this, I wasn’t ready to head back to Homer. There is a park in the city that I really wanted to see, Stadtpark. It was a perfect spring day so we dragged ourselves over there—or I should say we hopped a tram using our day passes—and took a walk in the park.

Vienna is such an easy city and must be a wonderful place to live. There are bike lanes and walking lanes everywhere.

What surprised me the most though, is how much has changed since I was last here. I was looking forward to sitting in one of the cafés that I remember, just across from St. Stephens Cathedral. Those cafés are all gone. Instead there are modern shops. The few cafés are around the side and very modern.

Haas Haus, a postmodern building by noted Austrian architect Hans Hollein, finished in 1990. Austrians initially protested this sleek, modern building right next to their beloved cathedral. It is now a fixture of Vienna's main square. The rounded glass reflects St. Stephen's pointy architecture.

First, how do you carry it around. Second, what happens when it's overcast?

We took the convenient ring tram back to Karlsplatz U-Bahn station taking in the last views of the city.

Imitate the sundial's ways, count only the pleasant days. ~ Austrian Proverb


Karin said...

I was looking back at some of your pictures...and noticed in the Schonbrunn Gardens you have a picture of a gazebo...built in such a way as to remind me of the Gate of Ishtar going into Babylon! If you go to Berlin, be sure to put the Pergamom Museum on your list of "MUST SEE"! It is totally awesome. Anyway, this sweet gazebo made me think of it. I wish we had been in Berlin in Spring- all those gardens in bloom!....but winter was nice, too.

Elisabetta said...

Must say thank you for ur California-isms!! "How great is that?" ~ and yes I, too, "scarfed-down" some dinner tonight!
I think Karin has a book in her. Pergamom? It's spelled Pergamon here, I'm forgetting my Inglish.

At the Schonbrunn gardens, did you see the picnic benches with the watery sense of humor? The spouts which squirted water after the guests had been drinking a while? And was there also a puppet theatre which also relied on water-works?
Childhood memories ... what's really surfacing for your readers is that we re-live the scenes which never really stop enduring throughout the decades and even the centuries, through ur very American travels. Aufwiedersehen! Elisa

Chuck and Claire said...

Didn't see the water spouts and the puppet theatre was not open. It may be too early in the season.