Saturday 9 August 2014

European Adventure: Day Twelve - Vienna, Austria

Years ago I proclaimed I would never visit the Maryland/DC again in July/August. As it was built on/around swamp lands, in the summer the area turns into a hot, humid nightmare... Well at least for me, a girl from Canada! Plus Brian never had AC when living there and my in-laws tended not to use the AC much due to the humidity being beneficial to Brian's dad. Hence the proclamation. 

Naturally it didn't stick and I have since been back during those humid months. So while I would like to issue a similar proclamation about Europe, I know it too would be broken if I got the chance to travel and it fell within those months. I love travelling too much to limit myself. However this heat is brutal. For me, this weather is lay by the pool weather; not traipse all over cities sightseeing and spending the majority of the day outside. This was not unexpected to me. Greece last summer was hot and that was end of June, and the scorching temperatures of Italy in August still haunt me from my trip back in 1997. So I did expect this... I just don't like it. 

Saturday in Vienna had beautiful sunny weather with awfully hot temperatures. Thankfully while I was running really low on clothes, I had a summer dress left which helped a little. Brian and Dad independently did breakfast while I slept. Dad's restaurant was over one way, Brian's was another and both said they enjoyed them. I however enjoyed my combination of sleep and Starbucks more!

The Opera House 

We walked to the opera house and bought two-day passes for the hop on sightseeing bus. We picked the yellow line and rode that first wanting to get Schönbrunn Palace done. The palace was packed - it took a half hour just to get tickets and even then our entrance time wasn't for another hour. They assign certain times that you can enter the Palace for the tour which is awesome because it evens out the crowd.

The Palace 
We bought the package that included 40 rooms of the Palace, the two gardens, the maze, and the Strudelshow. We did the latter first because it was on the way and starting just as we got the tickets.

The Strudelshow is in the basement of the Palace Cafe and involves a demonstration of how to make Austrian Strudel. It was a little hard to understand, but we were able to see the various steps and watch as it was made. They also gave us a price of strudel which was delicious and the recipe. It wasn't a long demonstration but interesting and I think that's the next desert Dad plans to make. The next meal is the turkey roll from Zagreb... so that will be an indulgent dinner.

We had water at the outdoor cafe and sat in the shade to cool down while we waited for our Palace admission time to hit. Once it did we made our way inside and picked up audio guides. Then we went at our own pace. I finished first, then dad and finally Brian. 

It was packed and you couldn't take photos, but it was a great thing to tour. The rooms are all well preserved and interesting, and the guide gave a lot if information on the history of the royal family. The palace was used as a summer residence for the imperial family and was completed under Maria-Theresa's reign in 1780. Maria Theresa was the only female ruler of the Hasburg's and was the mother of Marie Antoinette (along with 15 other children!) In the palace you could see some rooms which were decorated and used by her, as well as ones done by generations after her - mainly Franz Joseph I and his wife Elizabeth "Sissy". There was a definite contrast between some of Maria Theresa's rooms from the 1700's and those decorated in previous generations. The palace was stunning with beautiful wall coverings (okay, a few were kind of gaudy!) and amazing art work of the royal family. It was an awesome tour and I am glad we did it.

Some photos of the inside I found online

After finishing up the palace tour we walked to the back toward the gardens. There was a trolley train you could take around the grounds and we decided to do that in the hopes of seeing more. It took us the long way around and we passed the Palm House, the Zoo and a bunch of other sights like ruins, fountains and more gardens. All of these places were huge and beautiful. The zoo looked pretty cool as it had Pandas and Giraffes. We could have gotten a ticket that included admission to everything but we knew we wouldn't have time to really enjoy it all. I still can't believe how massive the property is - you could spend two days there and likely still not be able to see everything. And this was only a summer home! 

We got off the train at the very back of the grounds which is were the Gloriette was. This is a structure with various statues carved into it and provides a view of the gardens and city. The view was amazing - and it was a gorgeous area. There was a place in the Gloriette that you could climb up to the top of and get photos but only Brian did that, I opted to wander further down toward the main house. Apparently this was where Maria Theresa liked to take her breakfast when staying at the palace. It now houses a cafe and restaurant which was packed. This area and the gardens have been on many shows and movies like James Bond and Amazing Race. Brian decided to walk back down through the main gardens and Dad and I took the train. It was nearing mid-afternoon and the heat was getting intense.

The Gloriette

Back view of the Palace

Dad and I got back before him and got a table at the on-site restaurant and waited . When Brian arrived we sat outside and had lunch which was yummy. We shared an appetizer that had the best buffalo mozzarella that I have ever tasted. I am finding that the dairy products taste much better here - mainly some of the cheeses and milk. I think that's why the Chai lattes are amazing! 

Brian and I walked through the small privy garden which was styled like a small English garden and had the famous tree enclosed walkway. The leaves were all green and it was pretty, but I have see pictures of it in the fall when all the leaves are changing colours and it looks magnificent. If I ever come back to Vienna that's when I want to visit because I imagine the whole city would come alive with the fall foliage. We didn't do the maze partly because we were starting to run out of time and because of the heat. 

After finishing up at the Palace we picked up the yellow bus and took it back to the Opera House. We went past the Military Museum and Belvedere Castle which both looked like interesting stops. Dad ended up going to them both the next day on his own and enjoyed then. He only went onto the grounds of the castle and wished he had had time to go inside. I also wish I had had a chance to see that because the photos looked amazing.

Once back at the Opera House we got on the red bus line and looped it around. This gave us a chance to see the various sights and possible places to return to. Immediately I knew I wanted to back to the square as well as the parliament building because those places were stunning. I am not one for architecture (Dad is the one who loves that and takes millions of photos of doors and windows) but I was impressed by these buildings. They are all different styles with some baroque, Gothic and others more modern. It is an interesting mix which works well. 

We passed by the museum quarter which had a ton of museums on various subjects. All of us agreed that Vienna was a place you could spend a week in and not see everything. The bus line pointed out the Freud museum as well as various parks and places relating to Mozart. There was also an awesome looking shopping area a few blocks over from where we were staying. 

We finished the bus line just before 7:00 and since we had had a late and heavy lunch we skipped dinner and went back to the hotel. Dad decided to go to bed whereas Brian had gotten us tickets to see his favourite Mozart piece - Requiem - preformed in a church. A Requiem is a mass in the Catholic Church which has musical aspects that go along with it. There is probably a lot more to it then that, but that's the short version. Mozart's requiem was left unfinished because of his death and his wife had colleagues assist in completing it. I am not really into classical music - I could probably sit through a performance if the music was upbeat, well known and interesting, but this was not my thing. Don't get me wrong the opera singers and the musicians did a great job, but it was hard to sit still. I swear I was probably as fidgety as Adam was during his confirmation! It wasn't a happy piece (it's a mass!) and the singing was all in Latin. But Brain loved it (when he was in a choir at Hopkins they performed this) and I can at least say I attended a musical event in Vienna. Still it's not something I am in any rush to watch/listen to again - sorry Brian!

The church it was performed in was packed and it was a beautiful old building. Everyone else seemed engrossed in the music but I kept looking around. Something that made me fight hard not to burst into laughter was these two twenty-something tourists who not only had their shoes off but were using one of those arm extension devices to take selfies. I am all for a good selfie, but buying a device for that purpose is a little much.

After the Requiem ended (Finally was my initial opinion) Brian and I walked back to the hotel along the lit up streets of Vienna. It really is a beautiful city with so much to do. We talked about getting a drink or coffee but I was pretty exhausted so we just went right back to the hotel . Something we both love about all these cities we have been to is all the adorable little outdoor cafés and bars that line the streets. It's such a different atmosphere to what we have at home. If ever in Europe I recommend just sitting outside at one of these cafés and taking it all in. It's worth it. 

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